Socially Responsible Business Archive


Legalize Local Investment!

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Author Michael Shuman thinks Wall Street isn’t just greedy — he things it’s a bad investment too.

He’s an advocate for keeping your investment dollars close to home, in small local businesses.

Nothing controversial there, but did you know that certain types of investment structures for small businesses are illegal?

To find out more, read Shuman’s latest blog post over at the Post Carbon Institute. Here’s an excerpt:

For decades, we’ve lived under an oppressive system of investment apartheid. The 1% who are millionaires (known under federal securities law as “accredited investors”) are free to invest in anything they choose. With the referees in their back pockets and all kinds of home-court advantages, it’s easy for them to win the wealth-accumulating game. The other 99% of us are stuck with the slim pickings of the Fortune 500 public companies listed on Wall Street—the companies least connected to the well being of our communities.

Before small businesses can accept investment from the 99%, they have to spend many tens of thousands of dollars on legal, accounting, and government filing fees. While most of us would like to invest in small businesses in our community, practically speaking, securities laws make it impossible.

This is a far more extreme big-business bias than exists in banking, where we can easily move our money to local banks and credit unions. Worse, we have four times more money in Wall Street investments – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds, and insurance funds – than we do in banks . We are the ones fueling the multinational companies we distrust.

If we could overhaul securities laws that we enacted during the early Jurassic Period, local businesses could be fabulous investments. They are the most important job producers in the economy. They account for more than half of private sector jobs. They are increasingly competitive—so much so that their their share of the national workforce actually growing. Stunningly, sole proprietorships are three times as profitable as C-corporations.

For the first time in decades, reform is finally possible. A remarkable coalition has emerged bringing together leaders of the Tea Party and the Obama Administration. They agree that investment apartheid should be abolished. Republican Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina is leading the charge in the House to legalize small businesses raising money through large numbers of small investments (aka “crowdfunding”), with minimal paperwork, for companies raising less than $1 million. Recent changes in his bill (HR 2930, The Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act) actually make it very similar to reforms President Obama proposed in his jobs package in September.

Exciting!

Michael includes links in his post to a petition and list of representatives for you to contact personally.

And stay tuned here to find out more about his forthcoming book, Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity!

Slow Money, an Antidote to Wall Street?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

This article by Beth Buczynski, about two topics near and dear to our hearts, was reposted from Insteading, where you can read the original.

The Occupy Wall Street movement turned one month old yesterday. Despite the exponential growth of this international protest, there are some who still say that the action is doomed because it doesn’t have a leader or a succinct list of demands.

Personally, I love the fact that #OWS has resisted pressure from the media and political critics, and allowed the movement to remain as inclusive as possible. What’s most important right now is that Occupy Wall Street participants continue spreading the word and the message of the 99% in all its forms. Over the weekend there were 1,500 protests in 82 countries, but the numbers need to be bigger–especially in the United States–if the Government and the 1% are going to start taking the movement seriously.

Assuming that protests continue growing both in size and number, there will come a time when they will take the movement seriously. And in that moment, Occupy Wall Street better be ready to clearly articulate what it wants–from the Man and from itself.

I don’t presume to know what’s best for the thousands of disenfranchised people now sleeping in parks and plazas all around the country (or the millions that wish they could join them), but in researching principles of the Slow Money Movement, I found ideas that definitely overlap.

Basically, the Slow Money Alliance is an organization for those who are tired of watching banks invest millions of tax-payer dollars into companies and politicians that work for profit rather than “We the People.” Sounds familiar, right?

Slow Money focuses a lot on investing money into sustainable food systems and communities, which has become a common rallying cry in the Occupy Wall Street rhetoric lately.

Here are some more Slow Money principles that I think might serve well as a framework for creating a workable, practical list of goals for Occupy Wall Street:

I. We must bring money back down to earth. 

II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down — not all of it, of course, but enough to matter. 

III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence. 

V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living. 

The best thing about incorporating Slow Money principles into the Occupy Wall Street list of demands is that it provides a way for those with disposable income to get involved and catalyze change. Occupy Wall Street is more inclusive than you might think, but other than carrying a sign that says “Tax Me” and donating to progressive causes, it can be hard for the upper classes to see how they can get involved.

One of the main missions of Slow Money is connecting  slow food entrepreneurs and investors from across the country, as well as incubating intermediaries and investment products offer ways for investors to begin slowing their money down.

The Occupy Wall Street movement turned one month old yesterday. Despite the exponential growth of this international protest, there are some who still say that the action is doomed because it doesn’t have a leader or a succinct list of demands.

Earlier this month Slow Money fans from around the country met in San Francisco for the third annual National Gathering. Lindsey Block has compiled a great set of photos from the event over at Elephant Journal. Check them out!

Woody Tasch: As the 99 Percenters Gather, 1 Percent Could Make a Difference

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

This article was reposted from Grist.

I’ve been watching the protests on Wall Street for the past few weeks with some interest. I’m all for speaking out and, on occasion, for putting your feet to the pavement and taking to the streets in peaceful demonstration. There is more than a little to demonstrate about today on Wall Street and in Washington.

But when it comes to anger, scapegoating, and class-warfare-baiting, I say: Put a fork in it. No, better: Put your hands in it. Put your hands in the soil — literally and metaphorically: the dirt from whence your dinner comes, and the soil of the economy, as in the small, local businesses that are vital to the economy.

How do we do this? We take some of our money out of ever-more-complex and volatile global financial markets and put it to work in things that we understand and that contribute to our communities.

If we get over a little of our fear and frustration and look around our hometowns, we will find plenty of entrepreneurial opportunities to begin fixing our economy and our civil society, from the ground up.

I’m talking about the prospect of a million Americans taking 1 percent of their money and investing in small food enterprises, near where they live.

I’m not proposing this because local food is the next trend after organic, or the next stop for Prius drivers who’ve just joined their local CSA. This is not just about a libertarian impulse to take our food supply back from corporations that seem eager to fill our food with GMOs and to empty our Main Streets of small food enterprises.

This is about rolling up our sleeves and doing something that at first seems inconsequential and risky, but soon seems rewarding and impactful — and about as conservative as conservative can get. I’m talking about investing with your friends and neighbors in small organic farms, grain mills, creameries, small slaughterhouses, seed companies, compost companies, restaurants that source locally, butchers and bakers and, sure, a bee’s-wax candlemaker or two. Take 1 percent of your money out of the stock market and put it into food hubs, community kitchens, community markets, school gardens, niche organic brands, makers of sustainable agricultural inputs, and more.

I’ll see your derivatives and raise you a grass-fed beef company. I’ll see your few thousand Masters of the Universe and raise you 1.9 million earthworms (the number found in an acre of fertile soil on Thompson Family Farm in Boone County, Iowa).

Protest is good. Protest is necessary. But even more necessary is a new way of investing that reflects the structural problems of the economy and the realities of the 21st century.

Let’s fix our economy and our culture from the ground up — starting with food.

Slow Money’s third National Gathering comes to San Francisco, Oct. 12-14.

Woody Tasch is president of Slow Money and Chairman Emeritus of Investor’s Circle, a nonprofit network of angel investors, venture capitalists, foundations, and family offices that, since 1992, has facilitated the flow of $130 million to 200 early-stage companies and venture funds dedicated to sustainability. He lives in northern New Mexico.

Slow Money Conference October 13-14

Friday, October 7th, 2011

“The gathering was life changing!”
– Paul Tryba, The Farm, Longbeach, CA

“We need Slow Money, fast.
– Mardi Mellon, Union of Concerned Scientists

“One of the Top 5 Trends in Finance for 2011.”
– Entrepreneur.com

Slow Money national gatherings are quickly emerging as a significant new venue for field building, investing and social change. More than 1000 people from 34 states and several foreign countries attended our first two national gatherings, and more than $4.25 million has been invested in 16 of the presenting small food enterprises. Since last year’s event at Shelburne Farms, Vermont, 11 local Slow Money chapters have begun investing around the country.

Register now for the 3rd National Gathering, October 13-14 in San Francisco!

JOIN US at historic Ft. Mason for what promises to be a special few days on San Francisco Bay – from thought leadership to entrepreneurship, from global vision to local food and music, from deal-doing to relationship building. Be a part of this emerging community that is working together to fix our economy from the ground up… starting with food.

Speakers include (click to read their bio):

 Register soon, the conference starts next week!

Economics Unmasked

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

by Herman Daly (reposted from the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy)

Economics Unmasked: From Power and Greed to Compassion and the Common Good by Phillip B. Smith and Manfred Max-Neef, Green Books, UK, 2011.

Manfred Max-Neef is a Chilean-German economist noted for his pioneering work in human scale development and his threshold hypothesis on the relation of welfare to GDP, as well as other contributions, for which he received the Right Livelihood Award in 1983. Phillip B. Smith (deceased, 2005) was an American–Dutch physicist with a devotion to social justice that led to an interest in economics. Smith died before this collaborative work was completed, so it fell to Max-Neef to finish it, respecting what Smith had done. Although this results in differences in style and approach between chapters, Max-Neef informs us that they both read and approved eachother’s contributions, so it is a true collaboration. These differences between the physical and social scientists are complementary rather than contradictory.

As clear from the title, the book argues that modern neoclassical economics is a mask for power and greed, a construct designed to justify the status quo. Its claim to serve the common good is specious, and its claim to scientific status is fraudulent. The latter is sought mainly by excessive mathematical formalism to the neglect of concrete facts and real values. The mathematical formalism is in imitation of nineteenth century physics (economics viewed as the mechanics of utility and self-interest), but without any empirical basis remotely comparable to physics. Pareto is identified a villain here, and to a lesser extent Jevons.

The hallmark of a real science is a basic consensus about fundamentals. There is no real consensus in economics, so how can it claim to be a mature science? Easy, by forcing a false “consensus” through the simple expedient of declaring heterodox views to be “not really economics,” eliminating history of economic thought from the curriculum, instigating a pseudo-Nobel Prize in Economics, and attaining a monopoly on faculty positions in economics departments at elite universities. Such a top-down, imposed consensus is the opposite of the true bottom-up consensus that results when independent minds all bow before the power of the same truth. “Mathematics was simply built into the laws that describe the behavior of the atomic nucleus. You didn’t have to impose it on the nucleus.” (p.67). The same cannot be said of people, even atomistic homo economicus.

The authors give due attention to the history of economic thought, drawing most positively on Sismondi (for statements of value and purpose), Karl Polanyi (for his treatment of labor, nature, and money as non commodities that escape the logic of markets), and Frederick Soddy (for his thermodynamics-based analysis of money, wealth, debt, and the impossibility of continuing exponential growth of the economy). Negative references are reserved mainly for Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman, with a mixed review for Amartya Sen. While I understand their antipathy to Hayek I found their case against him less than totally convincing. More convincing and fruitful is their building on the neglected work of Sismondi, Polanyi, and Soddy. That effort cries out to be continued by others.

Their criticisms of globalization, free trade, and free capital mobility are well founded. Economists must remember that the first rule of efficiency is to count all costs, not to specialize according to comparative advantage, especially if that “advantage” is based on a standards-lowering competition to externalize environmental and social costs. Indeed comparative advantage is irrelevant in a world of international capital mobility that gives priority to absolute advantage. While specialization according to absolute advantage gives gains from trade, they need not be mutually shared as in the comparative advantage model.

Chapter 10 provides a summary of the basics of ecological economics as “the humane economy for the 21st Century,” as well as a review of Max-Neef’s insightful matrix of needs and satisfiers.

Of particular interest is Chapter 11 on “the United States as an underdeveloping nation” — the process of development in reverse, or retrogression in the U.S. is chronicled in terms of unemployment, wage stagnation, increase in inequality, dependence on food stamps, bankruptcy, foreclosure, health care costs, incarceration, etc. Not happy reading, but a necessary reminder that gains from development are not permanent — they can be squandered by a corrupt elite employing a self-serving economic model to fool a distracted populace.

As a teacher of economics I was especially glad to read Chapter 12 on “the non-toxic teaching of economics.” I concur with the authors’ view that the teaching of economics today is a scandal. Reference has already been made to the dropping of history of economic thought from the curriculum — why study the errors of the past now that we know the truth? That is the arrogant attitude. And we certainly do not want any philosophical or empirical questioning of the canonical assumptions upon which the whole superstructure of mathematical deduction teeters. Growth must not be questioned because it is by definition the solution to all problems — even those that it causes.

As late as the 1960s economics students could study approaches other than the neoclassical — there were the remaining classical economists, institutional economists, the Marxians, the Keynesians, the Austrian School, Labor economics, Fabian Socialists, Market Socialists, Distributists, etc. Now there is a cartel of elite, expensive universities, “the Big Eight” as the authors call them (California, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, Chicago, Yale, and MIT) to which we could add Cambridge, Oxford, and a few others. They all teach the same growth-oriented, globalizing economics. The IMF and the World Bank hire economists from many countries and pride themselves on their diversity. But the diversity of nationality and color masks homogeneity of viewpoint since 90% of these economists graduated from the Big Eight, and are comfortable with both their position and their economic views. One wag succinctly described a frequent career path as: “MIT-PhD-IMF-BMW.”

Further evidence of the corruption of economics arrives daily. The documentary film Inside Job exposed the complicity of some Big Eight faculty in the financial debacle of 2008. I recently read that the Florida State University economics department has accepted a grant from the right-wing Koch Brothers to hire two prestigious economists with acceptable views, no doubt products of the Big Eight, whose presence on the faculty will raise FSU a step on the academic ladder. All corruption in academia cannot be blamed on economics departments, but the toxicity level there is high, and Max-Neef and Smith are right to accuse. One good way for honest economics professors to fight back is to recommend this book to their students!

The book ends with a hopeful review of some concrete, real world, bottom-up, human-scale development initiatives. The World Bank and the IMF are necessarily absent from this final chapter’s discussion of moving from village to global order. Might it be that after globally integrated collapse we will move to village reconstruction, and then to a global federation of separate national economies under the principle of subsidiarity?

Why the Slow Money Movement is Speeding Up

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

For most Americans, the word “slow” is anathema.  When tied to “money,” the slow money movement hasn’t exactly chosen a brand that will have positive connotations to the majority of the population.  However, the slow money message is increasingly making sense to those fed up with the waste and apathy with which nationalized chains operate in local communities.  With precepts loosely similar to the slow food movement, slow money proposes to support the next generation of small food entrepreneurs who are simultaneously rebuilding local food systems and economies.

The Vision

While the underlying factors and causes that generated the recent, and some would say ongoing, global recession are ambiguous; it is clear that the interconnectivity of markets on a global scale has gone from being an asset to an uncontrollable, devastating force.  One area in which the ramification of a global import/export system has become particularly apparent is the global food supply.  With food prices lingering near an all time high, rebuilding the economy from the ground up takes on a greater precedence, and new meaning.  Slow money emphasizes a localized approach that recognizes the need for a focused economic approach that embraces carrying capacity, care of the commons, and a dedication to changing economic practice from extraction and consumption to preservation and restoration.

The Approach

Slow Money has strategically placed itself at the intersection of food activists, concerned citizens, and environmentalists while appealing to the entrepreneurial, small capital spirit of most Americans.  Put simply, Slow Money addresses the economic stumbling block often faced by proponents of Slow Food.  The primary goal of Slow Money is “One million people investing 1% of their money in local food enterprises, within a decade.” However, Slow Money organizers are not just waiting for money to spontaneously be donated.  Local organizations have been developed to generate seed money, with unlimited options for deals including loans, equities, and credit extensions.  Bartering is also a strong component of many groups. Essentially, Slow Money applies organization to the vision behind current local food movements.  For example, many cities have local farms that have set up CSAs or farmers a market, which begins to keep the money local, but Slow Money shifts the scale of occurrence and provides the organizational resources small groups need.

How to Leverage Slow Money

The disdainfulness progressives traditionally associate with capitalism and entrepreneurial spirit have no place in Slow Money.  The foundation of Slow Money is built upon investment, promoting the idea of an exchange of money to build local economies.   Although the movement is centered on supporting local entrepreneurs, investment opportunities for larger corporations are obvious.  Any corporation supporting sustainable initiatives and locally sourced options is presented with a prime opportunity to invest in a legitimate establishment to establish a community presence and demonstrate involvement in localized regions. As ongoing government restructuring continues to undermine the EPA and Department of Energy (the two main federal determinants of environmental policy), national nonprofits will continue to acquire legitimacy and support from consumers.

The Triple Bottom Line

Although the truth of Mark Twain’s “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore” may have changed (Dubai), the essential fact that humans are entirely dependent on the land to survive has not. Investing through the slow money approach changes making money from the credo of the capitalist pig into a sustainable activity that will maintain local communities.  Although Slow Money is not the first organization to support the idea of investing in local food systems and economies, it is the first to provide a structured approach that addresses the ideological concerns of multiple groups; thereby gaining a diverse support base.  The continued long-term success of Slow Money remains to be seen, but the opportunity to achieve the elusive triple bottom line makes a Slow Money investment a gamble worth making.

Emily McClendon is an environmental marketing specialist currently working at NeboWeb. She has a B.S. in Applied Biology from Georgia Institute of Technology and is currently pursuing her M.C.R.P. in Environmental Planning, also at Georgia Institute of Technology. She believes that communication and shared knowledge are the most important facets of conveying environmentally friendly practices. After participating in biological research, inter disciplinary planning, and interactive marketing, she is convinced a comprehensive approach is the only solution for creating a sustainable economy.

This has been reposted from Environmental Leader.

To find out more about Slow Money, join the National Gathering October 12-14, 2011 at Ft. Mason in San Francisco.

Slow Money, Anyone?

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

The 3rd Slow Money National Gathering - is taking place in San Francisco, CA on October 12-14, and Chelsea Green Publishing is a proud sponsor of this important event.

Slow Money is the national network that was sparked by Chelsea Green author and board member Woody Tasch and his book Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered

 

Since we published that book in 2008, over 15,000 people have signed the Slow Money Principles, 2,000  have joined the Slow Money Alliance, and more than 1,000 have attended the first two Slow Money national gatherings, investing $4.25 million in 16 small food enterprises that presented at these events.

 

 REGISTER BEFORE AUGUST 12 FOR EARLY BIRD RATES

 To celebrate the Slow Money Gathering, we’re placing our “slow money” themed books on sale 25% off until August 29th – see below for more information.

 

 

Slow Money Gathering Book Sale — Now 25% OFF

 

 WOODY TASCH

book Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money:
Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered 

 

Presents an essential new strategy for investing in local food systems, a vision for investing that puts soil fertility into return-on-investment calculations and serves people and place as much at it serves industry sectors and markets.

Is it a movement or is it an investment strategy? Yes.

 

 ON SALE NOW at 25% off

 

THOMAS H. GRECO, JR.  

BOOK ON SALE NOW at 25% off

 The End of Money and the Future of Civilization provides the necessary understanding to implement approaches toward monetary liberation, by building economies that are sustainable, democratic, and insulated from the financial crises that plague the dominant monetary system.

 

“Maybe you’ve noticed a slight bit of turmoil in our national and global financial system? This book cuts to the very core of the trouble–and points toward several pathways that might allow us to slowly climb out of the pit into which we’ve stumbled.”
-Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

  

 JOAN DYE GUSSOW

FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE SLOW MONEY ALLIANCE 

 

BOOK

This Organic Life: Confessions of an Urban Homesteader

 

The gutsy instigator of the nation’s food fight, Gussow thinks deeply and eloquently about food, and asserts that locally grown food eaten in season makes sense economically, ecologically, and gastronomically.

 

Read the incomparable book from the acclaimed nutrition educator who teaches us the ways she discovered how to nourish herself, literally and spiritually, from her own backyard.


ON SALE NOW at 25% off

 

 

 

ELIOT COLEMAN
FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE SLOW MONEY ALLIANCE
  

 

BOOK

 

ON SALE NOW 

25% OFF 

The Winter Harvest Handbook

 

The definitive guide to year-round harvests of fresh, organic produce-with little or no energy inputs.

  

“If we are going to create a good, clean, fair food system, we’ve got to learn how to grow affordable, local food year-round and make a living at it. Eliot Coleman knows more about this than anyone I’ve met.” -Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA

 

“I have been a devotee of Eliot’s for years, fully agreeing with his methods for growing in winter, spring, summer, and fall, tasty, nutritious produce with a minimum consumption of fossil fuels. Congratulations on another volume of useful, practical, sensible, and enlightening information for the home gardener.”-Martha Stewart

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Ray Anderson, a True Pioneer

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

When sustainable business pioneer Ray Anderson penned the preface to his game-changing book Mid-Course Correction, he talked about having three lives. His first, he said, spanned his first 38 years of life and led him to create the company that eventually became Interface, Inc. “The second life began with that act of creation,” he wrote, referring to the trials of building a billion-dollar company.  The third life, launched two decades into the company’s history, is what Ray became most known for. In it, he transformed Interface into a cutting-edge sustainable business. He broke new ground in environmental stewardship and social responsibility. And in the process he became a passionate advocate for businesses everywhere to play fair with the environment and with people.

Sadly, Ray Anderson died on Monday, August 8. But he will have an enduring impact as one who took it upon himself to show other business leaders how you can do good and still do well.

Ray was a true friend, and an inspiration, to Chelsea Green, helping us to build our sustainable company and partnering with us to distribute Mid-Course Correction. Ray often said that one of his own true inspirations was Amory Lovins, author of our upcoming Reinventing Fire, which shows how U.S. businesses can lead the nation away from oil and coal by 2050. That admiration worked both ways. Lovins has dedicated the book to the memory of Ray.

If you have never heard Ray Anderson speak, take a moment now to hear this TED talk.  He is one whose vision and leadership will indeed be missed.

A Look at a Slow Money Restaurant: Gather (VIDEO)

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

The article below was originally posted by the marvelous folks at Civil Eats about Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered. Take a look!

What does it look like to start a values-based business with members of your community? Gather is a sustainable restaurant that serves as a successful model. Located in downtown Berkeley, California and catering to conscious foodies, the farm-to-table eatery keeps thriving with an vegetarian and omnivore-friendly menu and steady reservations. Esquire magazine named it one of the top restaurants of 2010 with Sean Baker its Chef of the Year and New York Times described it as a “Michael Pollan book come to life.”

When owners and mountaineering guide-friends Eric Fenster and Ari Derfel developed their business plan ten years ago, they had no formal culinary or business training. It was smart planning, relationship building, and a new way to raise funds that made their vision possible.

Derfel considers himself an “unusual entrepreneur with unusual motivation.” An inspiring public speaker at the recent TEDxPresidio Business 3.0 convergence and a role model in the green movement, Derfel embarked on a year-long project to collect his garbage–mostly food packaging–during 2007 to challenge himself and learn. This gained him media coverage everywhere from the San Francisco Chronicle to CNN and resulted in an art piece at the 2009 Greenfest festival.

Then during a period of 18 months from 2008 and 2009, Derfel explains how he spent countless hours “tirelessly networking” to open Gather in the new David Brower building–a hub for environmental and social action organizations under one roof, built with cutting-edge green design techniques. The goal was to raise $2.5 million, during what he calls “arguably the worst economic climate during our lifetime.” By creating a long term goal to grow their outdoor adventure company, and later their organic catering business Back to Earth, Fenster and Derfel built the credibility to garner investments and open Gather within their ten-year plan. But building the restaurant from scratch  using environmentally-friendly design proved to be very expensive. Though help came from a community bank and a lending institution, relationships with values-driven investors made the difference in the final push.

Over 65 investors and their partners were drawn to the idea of funding the community food system close to home. Derfel describes Gather’s 100+ co-owners as “an incredible mix of people who wanted to build an institution together.” The vast majority live in the vicinity, invested anywhere from $5,000 to $400,000, and will receive 95 percent of the profits until they are paid back. Together Fenster, Derfel, and Chef Sean Baker own 50 percent of the LLC as managing members with decision-making authority, meeting with co-owners once to twice a year.

Today the restaurant serves as one of the first and best examples of the tenets of Slow Money, a new model of investing in small, local food enterprises that connects investors to projects that revive economies and build healthy communities. Based on author Woody Tasch’s book Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, the movement’s principles hinge on shifting investments from fast profit to those that build relationships, accountability, and a better ecosystem over a longer period of time.

“Fast money made sense when corporations were small and the world was big, when resources and places for waste disposal seemed infinite, when mass production was first being tapped to fuel higher standards of living,” writes Tasch. “We must now find new ways to mark our progress.”

Slow Money’s mission is to create billions of funding for restorative environmental projects, beginning with food. Now a non-profit organization with Derfel as its Executive Director, it has helped funnel over $4 million to small food businesses throughout the U.S., including Gather.

Although Derfel and Fenster had received most of the funding when Derfel presented at the first Slow Money conference in 2009, an additional amount from like-minded investors helped open Gather within the ten-year plan. The money came from folks who not only shared the vision for Gather, but also believed in allowing that money to grow in wealth over time.

This group of evangelists is one of the many “intangible gems” that Derfel refers to as a return on investment in the Gather business venture.

“The beautiful thing is that those people are now the best marketing one could ever hope for, because they constantly tell anyone and everyone to come and eat at this restaurant,” he goes on to say.

Since opening, Gather has created 75 new jobs, helped support several local farms, cultivated a tight knit staff, and started a chain reaction of restaurants opening in the area. The restaurant has its own dedicated half acre of produce grown at Lindencroft Farm, which includes heirloom varieties of produce, chiles and herbs. Its menu appeals to both vegetarians and omnivores. Benches covered in sleek, re-purposed leather belts, a mural in the bar made from reclaimed packaging from the restaurant’s construction, and elegant salvaged wood are just some of the features that make it stand out in innovative, environmentally-friendly design.

According to Derfel, “Not only is Slow Money possible, it’s happening. Every one of us is an investor, and we all need to begin investing our money like this.”

And it’s growing these relationships, rather than just the profit, that Derfel says has made Gather worthwhile.

“What we needed was money,” adds Derfel, “what we got was a community.”

The First Slow Money Northern California Regional Showcase takes place this weekend in San Francisco on Sunday, June 12th at Fort Mason. If Civil Eats readers are interested, you can register at 50 percent off of general admission with the code: civileats. The Third National Conference is scheduled for October 12-14, 2011, also happening in San Francisco.

Watch for a taste of the restaurant:

A version of this article was originally published on Shareable Design

Vera Churilov is a freelance writer and video producer who focuses on sustainable food, community innovations, and green living. A health educator and nutrition counselor, she guides people toward making healthy food choices with her Green Smoothies ebook, local classes, and coaching programs. visit www.nourishthespirit.com

Business Alliance for Local Living Economies Conference June 14-17

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Business Alliance for Local Living  Economies (BALLE) upcoming conference in Bellingham, WA has a great lineup of speakers and events this year, especially around “community capital.”  Join the BALLE conference and learn how to build the businesses we need for a new economy — by reconnecting eaters with farmers, investors with entrepreneurs, and businesses with the communities and eco-systems they serve.   Even if you can’t attend share and circulate to others who you think might be interested!

BALLE Business Conference, June 14-17 in Bellingham, WA

The premier socially responsible business event of the year, the 9th annual BALLE Business Conference is just around the corner.  This don’t-miss event brings together more than 600 independent business owners and innovators, local living economy entrepreneurs, community investors, government economic development professionals and sustainability leaders to spotlight the most innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to growing healthy, resilient local economies.

 The conference will feature:

  • 80 speakers
  • 6 plenary sessions and off-site celebrations
  • 4 interactive sessions
  •  local living economy tours
  • living Economies Expo
  •  pre-conference workshop intensives

 For more information and to register, please visit: http://www.livingeconomies.org/conference-2011

Why You Should Attend:

   If you are an entrepreneur

   If you are an investor:

  • Support grassroots innovators, what is working on the ground from nonprofits and businesses forging the new economy.
  • Build local investing networks, how to grow one in your area to support social entrepreneurs and help the local economy thrive.
  • Attend the all-day Accelerating Community Capital workshop using place as the lens to understand how to meet regional needs with regional resources, and identify the kinds of capital needed to get there.
  • Join a private reception for foundations exploring their role in catalyzing the emergence of a new economy; contact BALLE to learn more!

   If you are a network leader or economic development professional:

For more information and to register, please visit: http://www.livingeconomies.org/conference-2011


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