A Crowdfunding Bootcamp Aims to Help Veteran Entrepreneurs in North Carolina

Raising money is difficult for any entrepreneur, but veteran-owned small businesses in particular tend to struggle with capital raising. A new program in North Carolina aims to help.

INVESTinNC, a Wilmington, NC-based crowdfunding education company, has launched an investment crowdfunding program specifically for veteran entrepreneurs. The company is recruiting six veteran entrepreneurs looking to raise at least $250,000 to take part in a cohort-style program where they will create their offering documents, launch, and market their investment crowdfunding offerings at the same time.  The deadline to apply is November 15.

The Veterans 6-Pack program, as it is called, is the first of a suite of programs designed to help underserved entrepreneurs such as veterans, women, and minorities gain access to capital, says Seth Jacobsen, VP of Sales and Marketing for INVESTinNC’s parent company LogicBay, a sales and marketing software provider.

2018 Flourish Prize from Aim2Flourish

A project that I worked on during my time at the Bard MBA in Sustainability, in collaboration with fellow students Alistair Hall and Sven Thiessen, has been awarded a 2018 Flourish Prize from Aim2Flourish.

AIM2Flourish is the world’s first higher-education curriculum for the UN Sustainable Development Goals and “Business as an Agent of World Benefit” – our words for positive and profitable business. Using the UN SDGs as their lens, students research and identify an innovation and interview a business leader about it. Their stories live on the AIM2Flourish.com platform as sources of inspiration for others.

About the Project:

Global Goal #17 — Partnerships for the Goals: Greyston Bakery
Read the AIM2Flourish Story: Helping the People of Yonkers Thrive

Based in the United States, Greyston Bakery makes brownies so that it can hire people, not the other way around. Their Open Hiring™ model creates access to employment for those facing structural barriers, enrolls new hires in programs to support their greater fulfillment both within the workplace and outside of it, and partners with the local community to deliver services essential to greater overall prosperity. Greyston’s triple-bottom line approach to business has innumerable positive impacts, both within the organization as well as on the community where it is located. In support of the UN Global Goals and the B Corps Inclusion Challenge, Greyston is now developing a program to share the Open Hiring model with other organizations.

Professor: Kristina Kohl at the Bard MBA in Sustainability in the United States

Embarking Upon a New Venture

Last night, I found myself at a networking event attempting to explain to a local business owner what I was working on currently and my career trajectory. His takeaway went something like this:

“So let me get this straight. You founded a bunch of local organizations and initiatives but that wasn’t big enough for you so now you’re going national?”

He’s not altogether wrong. After years of working on grassroots local economic development projects, I decided to go bigger. I wanted to find ways to scale up the impact of these projects, which was one of the reasons why I enrolled in the Bard MBA in Sustainability.

Through a fortuitous series of events, I connected with the team putting together the National Coalition for Community Capital (NC3) last spring. NC3 was doing exactly what I wanted to do, so I eagerly joined on. I now find myself working directly with many people whose careers I have looked up to for years (Michael Shuman, Amy Cortese, Arno Hesse, Marco Vangelisti,  Cutting Edge Capital, and the Sustainable Economies Law Center, to name a few) as well as many folks whose work has been hugely influential in their local communities and states (Janice Shade, Amy Pearl, Angela Barbash, Chris Miller, and so many others).

The task that we have set for ourselves is daunting: to catalyze the movement of wealth into local economies, shifting money from Wall Street to Main Street. To do this, we must reach investors, entrepreneurs, local governments, economic developers, lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, NGOs, community organizations, and everyday citizens.

Right now, we are still on the starting blocks. NC3 plans to launch its first programs in 2018 so we’re busy planning and scheming about what’s to come.

I, for one, am enjoying the opportunity to dream big. NC3 has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country, teaching them skills that they can use to improve their communities from the ground up. With that many people investing in their communities — putting money into small businesses, schools, real estate, co-ops, parks, municipal projects, and community-owned assets — the potential impact is staggering.

Want to follow the journey? Click here to sign up for NC3’s email list and stay tuned to learn how we can help your community invest in its future.

Photo courtesy of Hatch Innovation, from the 2017 ComCap Conference in Monterey, CA. 

Jump-starting Intrastate Crowdfunding for the Future of Small Business Finance

When the JOBS Act was passed, it sounded like a dream to many business people: laypeople would be able to invest in start-ups and reap the benefits of their rapid growth just like a venture capitalist can. We would jump-start the creation of thousands of companies that would bring jobs and wealth to everyday Americans. That dream, however, has yet to become reality. The so-called “Regulation Crowdfunding” made possible by Title III of the JOBS Act has been slow to catch on. In addition, many of the businesses making offerings on national crowdfunding portals are not flashy startups with high growth potential but small local businesses looking for operating capital.

Why are these small local businesses conducting nationwide searches for investors?

It could be because they aren’t aware of other options. In much of the country, locally focused investment crowdfunding has yet to gain traction. To date, over 35 states have passed intrastate investment crowdfunding laws that enable businesses to conduct local securities offerings (either via online portals or on their own). Of those states, many are still muddling through the administrative rule-making process. In several of the states where these rules have been finalized, there aren’t yet any state-level portals up and running, nor are there lawyers or professional service providers who know how to conduct such an offering.[1]Continue reading →

Communicating Across Divides

On several occasions in the last year, I’ve found myself in the position of being asked to interpret the south and so-called “middle America” (i.e.: the parts of our country that are located outside of large metropolitan areas) for those living in self-described “liberal bubbles.” First, let me state that I am extremely uncomfortable with this role. I grew up in a liberal bubble in a traditionally conservative state, and (with the notable exception of five years spent in Boston during college) have spent most of my life in such communities. Yes, I was born in the south, but I am the child of two northern transplants which I’ve always felt cheapened my status as a southerner.

I do not feel that I am qualified, in any way, to interpret the experiences of others. That said, I have traveled extensively throughout the Southeast and my own extended family currently includes much of the American political landscape. As such, I’ve chosen to redirect such requests into conversations about how we can communicate across divides (whether those divides be real or perceived). I’m sharing a few of the lessons that I’ve learned, in the hopes that you, in turn, will share your ideas and communication strategies with me.Continue reading →

Status Update

It’s been a few months since I last posted. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

I finished my MBA in Sustainability through Bard College, where I was part of their 4th graduating class.

The Bard MBA Class of 2017
The Bard MBA Class of 2017, with members of our esteemed administration.

I also had the privilege of sharing the Bard MBA’s student leadership award with two amazing women (Jen Shelbo and Reagan Richmond).

I went to DC to connect with some awesome people wanting to expand the power of local investing. Together, we’re starting the new National Coalition for Community Capital.

And I attended the Local Sustainable Economies Conference, presented by SBN Mass, AMIBA, and BALLE, where I co-presented with Michael Shuman and Amy Cortese. I had a great few days in Boston talking about community capital, getting cash into the hands of entrepreneurs, investment crowdfunding, and moving capital to jump-start local economies.

All in all, it’s been a busy and exciting few months! Next up, I’ll be relocating back to North Carolina where I’m excited to dig in to a few new projects. Follow me on Twitter to learn more about my work and future speaking engagements.

Localization vs. Globalization

Is localization inherently anti-globalization?

I recently came across this video from Local Futures, an international NGO advocating for localization, that pits the two against each other:

Going Local: the solution-multiplier from The Economics of Happiness on Vimeo.

I find myself conflicted by this polarized messaging. On the one hand, improving our communities is in everyone’s best interests and should have mass-appeal. The places that we live are our most immediate realities and we should act to protect them.

I’m unconvinced, however, that globalization is the enemy. Our communities are complex places, made up of a multitude of social, environmental, and cultural connections. And globalization’s effects on those three facets of our society are not all together bad.Continue reading →

Providing Access to Capital for Local Businesses

Prior to enrolling in the Bard MBA in Sustainability, I founded and led a shop-local program in Durham, NC and worked with Slow Money NC, a small non-profit organization that leads a peer-to-peer lending network to finance North Carolina’s local food system. These experiences, along with coming of age during a recession, led me to develop an interest in economic democratization. I saw firsthand how difficult it is for people to obtain the necessary capital to start and expand their businesses.

In short, I was witnessing the consequence of one of Thomas Piketty’s primary observations in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century: economic inequality grows when the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of the overall economy. This reduces the incentive for the holders of that capital to distribute it and, thus, makes it harder for those without capital to obtain it. Given that our economic system functions thusly, I began to explore how these limits could be circumvented.

One such method is to work outside traditional capital markets entirely, via community financing. While community financing can take several forms, I have chosen to focus on opportunities for equity investments via community-owned businesses.Continue reading →

Community Ownership Project Featured on Independent We Stand

Independent We Stand recently featured the community ownership project that I’m working on with the American Independent Business Alliance

“Community-Owned Businesses Bring Local Residents Together For More Than Profits

It’s the time of year when communities come together – to celebrate the holidays, to bring warmth to neighbors in need and to look ahead to a new year. While important, that community togetherness shouldn’t be just a seasonal thing. Community-owned businesses bring local residents together all year long in a shared approach to supply and demand.

Continue reading →

Talking with Wendy Gordon about Behavior Change for Sustainability

I sat down with Wendy Gordon recently for the Bard MBA’s Sustainable Business Fridays podcast to discuss methods that can empower people to change their behaviors and habits for the better. Wendy runs PIPs Rewards, which stands for “Positive Impact Points,” a gamified app that encourages people to make changes in their daily lives that positively impact themselves and the world around them. Continue reading →