Guess we blinked as it is already December, Christmas is less than two weeks away, and Slow Money NW is finding itself with a full year behind its growing efforts.
So what are the accomplishments from this crazy year? We work with the reality that all of our time is sweat equity so we strategically work quietly but deliberately, start small but start something, build a track record, then build on that. Upon reflection of the past year I am excited to report that we have accomplished quite a lot, and I am eager for next year to begin.
The demand for healthy, regional food continues to grow even in this lousy economy. Some farmers and food businesses have had a tough year, mainly due to wild weather and labor conditions, but overall there is market stability in this sector. As one colleague mentioned “flat is the new up”.
The economy still has a heartbeat. There is money out there with regional financing entities, it is just tough to access due to tightened rules around lending. Besides, the need is about more than money, and our Angel Professional networking has succeeded in connecting business experts to food entrepreneurs that need more than financial assistance.
Two of our Food Investor Network presenters have secured all or partial funding, some directly as a result of our last meeting. Willapa Hills Cheese is moving forward with expansion plans and thanks Slow Money NW and Whole Foods for helping them secure funding. Hot Cakes has enough funds to secure the lease on it’s new space, and is still looking for the last funds to move on their plan. Farm Power continues to move forward as well and will soon break ground on their new Enumclaw digester. Congrats to all businesses for expanding in this economy!
SMNW engaged 10 businesses this year with a combined revenue of $31.5 Million and a need for $4.9 Million. Four of these businesses were referred to Angel Professionals for further development and we are still engaged with most. Our goal is to help get all of these businesses ready for formal presentations and/or engaged with regional partners like Whole Foods and One PacificCoast Bank. We believe that SMNW members and event attendees have made investments totaling over $430,000 over the last two years.
Slow Money NW (SMNW) continues to grow. We have over 100 emails on our list serve with the vast majority from the Pacific NW. 49 of these people are accredited investors. This year we connected with more northwest citizens beyond our Seattle core. We now have contacts in WA, OR, ID, MT, and BC. Our hope is that we can identify motivated entrepreneurs in different regional communities to lead satellite efforts around the region. The ultimate goal is to have Slow Money NW act as an incubator to Slow Money Portland / Boise / Missoula / Spokane / and elsewhere. We have already begun the networking to hold a meeting in Portland in early 2012. If you have ideas of who should attend this event, or want to consider a Slow Money meeting in your community, please contact us.
This fall National launched a formal member campaign so we have nationally-sanctioned members! Now anyone can sign up to become members of both the national and regional efforts. Please do so since we have strength in numbers and because half of your contribution flows back to here. Contact us directly if you would like to make a direct contribution. Currently everyone involved with SMNW works without financial compensation, and every dollar contributed helps spur growth in our regional food economy.
SMNW received validation and support for it’s innovative efforts. Our Angel Professional innovation fills a gap within the business development / finance spectrum and compliments existing efforts well. Our last year of tech assistance with specific businesses mirrors similar efforts in Vermont, Massachuetts, Wisconsin and Illinois. Our accredited investor meetings seem to be unique among regional Slow Money efforts but in line with what our early adopter individuals and businesses seek, and the meetings seem to be paying off. This work has garnered precious support via donations that fuel our efforts and passion; thank you to all who have helped! If you would like to add your support you can double your impact by signing up at national to become a member.
Our sister project Viva Farms won SVP’s Social Innovation Fast Pitch. This award for Viva Farms was exciting not just because it is from Social Venture Partners, but also because it shows that food is an important area of social innovation that is of interest to more than just foodies.
As we head in to our next year we have begun work on the next level of activity: development of a topically focused investment club that engages accredited and non-accredited individuals with businesses. Please let us know if you are interested in this work.
Finally a big thank you to Ethan, Kathy, Jon, and Jim for all of their hard work on the Management Committee. We have kept this train moving forward and it continues to gain momentum. I am excited for what lays ahead in 2012.