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Episode 58: Raising Capital for Co-ops with Greg Brodsky

Episode 58: Raising Capital for Co-ops with Greg Brodsky

In this Capital Insight Podcast episode, hosts Jenny and Michelle chat with Greg Brodsky, Founder and Co-Director of Start.coop, an accelerator for shared ownership companies. Greg shares his journey raising capital for co-ops and his focus on promoting socially just business funding.

Greg shares what he loves about the co-op model: “People are able to tackle really unique social problems, and do it through a cooperative solution that expands voice to people who typically don’t have a voice, and expands financial return to people who might be coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

His extensive experience in the space has helped him identify a key challenge for these businesses: struggling to raise capital. “For cooperatives, it’s a real missing gap in the ecosystem,” says Greg. “Some of the business models we see are fantastic. If they were just a regular corporation looking for investors in Silicon Valley, it might be really easy for them. But because cooperatives are not designed to IPO or to sell in five years to Google or Amazon, it’s harder to raise the capital.”

To address this challenge, Greg’s company created the Equitable Economy Fund, a small impact fund available to accelerator participants. “We may not be able to cut the biggest check, but if we can act like the lead investor and work with the entrepreneur to come up with the right term sheet, then it’s easier for them to go out to other people and say, ‘Look, now we have a structure and our first investor.’ We’re giving them a little bit of guidance and the confidence that there are people that want to invest in these models.”

His company also works to educate investors on the benefit of working with these unique businesses. He emphasizes the importance of connecting with potential investors on a personal level, ensuring they understand not just the monetary value, but the social return of their investment. Listen to the full episode below to learn more about Greg’s work.

Greg is the Founder and Co-Director of Start.coop, which is the nation’s premier accelerator for shared ownership companies. Greg brings a powerful background of financial strategy, tech, and entrepreneurship. Greg’s work has ranged from business development to strategic planning for multiple cooperatives. Prior to launching Start.coop, Greg founded and led the Bike Cooperative, a division of CCA Global Partners, and also helped to launch the nation’s only purchasing co-op for craft breweries. Greg also previously served on the board of the Cooperative Development Institute for 10 years and was board chair for 3 years. Greg also convenes the Equitable Economy Fund, an impact fund convening angel investors who are interested in shared ownership.

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The Capital Insight podcast intro and outro is voiced by Marina Verlaine. She can be contacted at reel.peach.vo@gmail.com

Episode 57: The First Step In Raising Capital: Clarify Your Goals and Values

Episode 57: The First Step In Raising Capital: Clarify Your Goals and Values

In this episode of the Capital Insight Podcast, cohosts Jenny Kassan and Michelle Thimesch explore the first step of raising capital on your own terms: clarifying your goals and values.

When raising capital, identifying your business values will help you target the right investors and lay out terms that make the most sense for you and your business’s mission. Jenny notes the importance of always planning for the future of your business, referring to each step as a “seed” that will help grow your business to its full potential: “You’re planting seeds all the time — everything you do in your business is planting seeds for the future.”

Knowing your goals and values from the start will help you stick to them as you grow your business. It’s the best way to keep your mission intact. Michelle states, “It’s not just the money — it’s the right money from the right investors that helps you succeed.”

Plan out the future of your business carefully to ensure you can reap positive results later, and remember that your values should always be non-negotiable when searching for funding options.

Curious to learn more? Sign up for our free email series and discover the 6 steps to finding values-aligned investors to help you achieve your goals! Sign up here!

Subscribe to the Capital Insight podcast on your favorite streaming platform! 

 

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The Capital Insight podcast intro and outro is voiced by Marina Verlaine. She can be contacted at reel.peach.vo@gmail.com

Brite-Liter: Lighting the Way to Literacy for Every Child

Brite-Liter: Lighting the Way to Literacy for Every Child

Innovative business models enable entrepreneurial solutions to the world’s problems. Brite-Liter is a simple tool with a huge mission: Building foundational literacy skills by keeping the students’ visual focus, especially those who face learning challenges.

 

When his youngest son experienced reading challenges, entrepreneur and Pennsylvania College of Technology instructor Benjamin Kranz began looking into ways to help him improve his reading comprehension. After researching a variety of proven literacy educational techniques such as the Orton-Gillingham approach, Benjamin developed a simple tool he thought might increase his son’s ability to focus on words as he read. Within just seven weeks, Benjamin’s son experienced vast improvements in both his reading comprehension and enjoyment. 

Benjamin knew many other children experience reading challenges similar to those his son had faced. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 65% of fourth graders fail to score proficiently on reading evaluations. Benjamin wanted to share the prototype he’d developed for his son with other students, families, and teachers. Thus in 2019 he and co-founder David Boyle launched Brite-Liter, a company offering a simple yet effective high-tech aid made to enhance children’s reading experiences.


In this Q&A, Benjamin shares the story behind Brite-Liter and the mission to change how we can improve literacy for all in education. 

 

Would you please briefly explain what the Brite-Liter tool is? 

Sure. It’s designed to gently stimulate the visual cortex using a focused beam of light to place emphasis on letters, phonics, words, or entire lines of text. By projecting light in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, Brite-Liter helps hold a child’s attention as they read. We designed the tool to help encourage reading of printed books over screens, maximize reading retention in minimal time, and support shared reading experiences for kids and their families.

 

Why did you develop this company? 

After I created a prototype of the tool for my son, we started using it for 20 minutes every night during our bedtime reading. In just seven weeks, we saw a major improvement in his reading capabilities. He not only felt at ease reading, but he also rose from the bottom to the top of his class with this tool. Seeing his experience, I wanted more students to be able to use the tool. 

 

What educational expertise did you bring to the project?

We spent a year collecting input from a wide variety of professors and literacy experts who specialize in eye-tracking methodologies. We didn’t specify that the tool was for the special education sector, but rather conducted a broad information-capture. 

 

Can you share about your one-for-one donation model?

Sure, for every Brite-Liter purchased, we donate one to a community, group or school in need. It follows a similar model to companies such as TOMS Shoes. Our donations focus on local causes and assisting schools, libraries, and organizations that have literacy initiatives in underrepresented areas.

 

What are your hopes for Brite-Liter going into the future? 

Studies continue to link increases in children’s screen time to language delays, behavioral problems, and poorer overall cognitive development. Through Brite-Liter, we hope to empower students and their families, and to offer a useful tool in fighting the literacy crisis many people are facing. 

 

Brite-Liter was highlighted in one of our recent Changemaker Showcase events, an hour-long session featuring five entrepreneurs who transformed their ideas into business realities without compromising their vision or values. To learn more and get inspired by some of today’s most passionate and innovative changemakers, watch the webinar recording!

 

Are you a mission-driven entrepreneur looking to grow your business? Sign up for Raise Capital on Your Own Terms: Build it, Fund it, Grow It, our virtual training on November 2-4. This three-day workshop will help you explore the structure, techniques, and insights to find the right investors and fund your business on your own terms. Register here! 

 

Meet Our 5 Social Entrepreneurs from the July ‘22 Changemaker Showcase

Meet Our 5 Social Entrepreneurs from the July ‘22 Changemaker Showcase

Changemaker Showcase

Webinar Recording, July 14, 2022

 

The Kassan Group hosted a free virtual event to showcase five social entrepreneurs who are holding true to their vision and values as they build businesses founded on cutting edge ideas. Presenters included: 

  • Melissa Hanson of Kelpful, sustainable products harvested from the sea;  
  • Dr. Veronica Jow of Avid Sports Medicine, a platform to access the same level of holistic healthcare provided to elite athletes; 
  • Bennet Harvey of ReNews Media, an innovative model for the future of American news media; 
  • Benjamin Kranz of Brite-Liter, a parent-friendly tool that promotes early childhood literacy; and 
  • Dr. Manijeh Motaghy of Perfectly Here, an institute that promotes mindfulness as a tool for transformation.

In this one hour session, the speakers shared valuable insights about their mission-driven business models and demonstrated how they are creating positive social change in their communities. To learn more and get inspired by some of today’s most passionate and innovative changemakers, watch the recording below!

LVNGbook CEO Shaun Chavis: Delivering innovative recipes to enable healthy home cooking from diverse food traditions

LVNGbook CEO Shaun Chavis: Delivering innovative recipes to enable healthy home cooking from diverse food traditions

Shaun Chavis is a longtime cookbook editor with degrees in culinary arts and gastronomy. After a friend felt overwhelmed by a health diagnosis that required a significant change in diet, Shaun was inspired to develop a business that would help people feel more confident about eating well in ways that fit who they are. 

She interviewed more than 100 people and discovered seven out of 10 feel stressed by lists and meal plans they receive from doctors and hospitals. She decided to create LVNGbook, a platform that combines good food, nutrition, behavioral science, culture, and technology to make healthy eating for medical conditions easier, accessible, affordable, and enjoyable. 

LVNGbook partners with retailers and health organizations to help people eat in ways that prevent or manage chronic conditions while strengthening personal confidence, cultural ties, and social connections. With a registered dietitian who creates guidelines and approves each recipe, LVNGbook uses a recipe API to license healthy recipes for conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Its diverse team of recipe developers specializes in creating easy, family-friendly, tasty recipes that reflect a variety of cuisines. 

In this conversation, The Kassan Group founder Jenny Kassan chats with Shaun about how LVNGbook is doing the work to drive the development of an inclusive, regenerative economy. 

Jenny Kassan: One of the hallmarks of a regenerative economy is the ability to be innovative, agile, and meet the challenges of the day. What practices do you use to ensure that your business is flexible enough to adapt to a changing environment while staying true to your foundational principles?

Shaun Chavis: This is one of the reasons I started LVNGbook. I used to work for Time Inc. (now Meredith). The recipes they licensed were usually a few years old, and the persona most publications and recipe developers use as they create content around home cooking is dated and doesn’t reflect the increasingly culturally diverse U.S. population. 

Large publishers also aren’t using their influence to make environmentally sustainable eating mainstream. Magazines such as Cooking Light and Eating Well talked about it in feature stories, but didn’t build it in as a part of everyday cooking. In 2021, Epicurious announced they were going to stop writing beef recipes. That’s at least 10 years too late. Right now they should be helping consumers who eat meat learn how to buy it from restorative farms.

I felt I could do it better. Being able to adapt quickly is important because the environment and international conflict both impact the price and availability of food. These changes are rapid and unpredictable. I listen to our customers and ask about how they’re talking to their end users about healthy eating, and I listen to end users about the challenges they have putting healthy meals on the table.

JK: Can you give us an example of an environmental factor that influences your recipes?  

SC: Sure, here’s a good example: For years now I’ve been in the habit of checking in with Seafood Watch frequently because best practices for eating seafood in a sustainable way change regularly. Over the years, the species that see recovery or experience jeopardy constantly shift. Or there are new practices to support, such as restorative ocean farming. This kind of change will happen with many foods, and we’ll all need to keep an eye on what and how to eat in light of environmental change. In fact, it’s happening now. I just read about a man who is working to create a market in the U.S. for African vegetables that are more drought resistant, such as Nigerian spinach.

JK: Moving our interdependent world toward a regenerative economy means empowering participants to contribute to the health and well-being of the larger whole.  That seems particularly relevant for LVNGbook with its focus on individual health being supported through a network of professionals and providers. How do you motivate customers to take ownership of the change they want to see?

SC: Storytelling is powerful. People are 22 times more likely to remember a story than they are facts and figures. It’s important to tell stories in a way that enables people to see themselves in the narrative.

I usually start the LVNGbook story with an experience almost all of us can relate to: Going to the doctor and being told to eat for better health. Most of the time when people approach me after I give a presentation, they tell me about their own struggles to eat for good health. That tells me they’ve put themselves in the story, they understand the pain point, and they see how LVNGbook could make their lives better. From there, it’s easier to talk about that on a larger scale, and the impact our solution could have in improving health outcomes and lowering health care costs.  

JK: As we collectively face challenges on a global scale, to what extent is social entrepreneurship “borderless” in your view? 

SC: It’s only borderless if we make it so. It has to be borderless in our mindsets first. There are so many stereotypes in our society that keep us from recognizing intelligence and innovation when it comes from marginalized people. You might have a brilliant solution for something with a solid business model and traction, but if you don’t look a certain way, some people have a hard time believing you’ve created something valuable—even when they’re staring right at it. 

We need to change this mindset. It’s holding the whole world back. The answers we need are coming and will come from everywhere. With climate change, health disparities, infectious disease, and other challenges, many solutions will come from people in the marginalized communities who experience the impacts first.  

JK: How do you see the practices and core values of your business as distinct from the “business as usual” status quo? 

SC: Compared to mainstream food media, we hire more people of color to develop and photograph healthy recipes that reflect a variety of food traditions. Studies show that mainstream media does a poor job at hiring professional recipe developers who are people of color to write and create about their own food traditions.

It’s important to us to develop recipes that people recognize and feel good about incorporating into their regular repertoire at home. Science shows that people are more likely to stick to a long-term diet change if they can eat food that’s similar to what they’re already familiar with. People are also more likely to stick to diet changes if everyone in the home is eating similar food. And we know that certain chronic conditions impact people of color disproportionately. So it means a lot if we can give people healthy recipes for things they eat with their families, like ropa vieja or collard greens.

In the near future, we’ll work on how to write recipes so they’re accessible to people with different physical abilities. For example, if a recipe says it can be made in 28 minutes, whose 28 minutes is that? If you experience fatigue frequently or if you have joint pain, it might take you longer. Or a recipe might ask you to test the doneness of steak by touching it, but what if you have neuropathy? We’re working on language to make our recipes accessible.  

JK: What do you do to resist the pressure to “fit in” to the old economy paradigms?

SC: I don’t feel pressure to fit into the way traditional media works because the way we reach our goals is different. We’re not selling magazines or ads. I’ve heard from a number of doctors who want what we’re offering because they don’t have other resources to give to patients who are Black American, Mexican American, Middle Eastern, or from other nationalities and cultures. Even U.S. regional recipes matter, such as healthier clam chowder or gumbo recipes. I believe the diversity we offer will be an important asset in value-based care.

JK: Who inspires you in the social impact world and what is the one question you’d like to ask them?

SC: Hamdi Ulukaya, the CEO of Chobani. I’d like to talk to him about how to create a vision for supporting employee well-being, how to collaborate with employees in creating that support, how to work through all the practical steps to make it a reality, and how to talk to investors about it. 

JK: What is your theme song as a social entrepreneur?

SC: I have several: “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness, “Do My Thing” by Estelle, and pretty much the entire Black is King album by Beyoncé.  

About Shaun Chavis
Shaun Chavis (she, her) is the founder and CEO of LVNGbook, a recipe publisher in Atlanta that licenses healthy recipes to health companies, retailers, and other clients. 

Shaun is managing editor of Found Health, a company that offers evidence-based solutions for weight management. Her career includes 20 years as a journalist and media professional for organizations such as ABC News / The Walt Disney Company and Time Inc. At Time, she was the inaugural diet editor for Health, and later became a development editor in the book publishing division, specializing in healthy cookbooks for brands like Cooking Light and Weight Watchers. Shaun’s work has won two Luce Awards (Time Inc.’s highest honor), a James Beard Award, and made the New York Times Nonfiction Bestsellers list. She’s also been a cookbook judge for the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Shaun co-founded FoodBlogSouth, which became the largest food blogging conference in the Southeast US. She has a culinary degree and a Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy from Boston University, and has taught in Boston University’s avocational culinary program and at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Atlanta. 

About LVNGbook

LVNGbook helps people eat to prevent or manage chronic conditions in ways that strengthen personal confidence, cultural ties, and social connections. We license healthy recipes for conditions like heart disease and diabetes to B2B clients through our recipe API.

LVNGbook is an AARP Innovation Labs Portfolio company and a member of the AgeTech Collaborative by AARP. LVNGbook has also won support from the Microsoft Black and African American Partner Growth Initiative, the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund, and WeWork Labs. LVNGbook was in the entrepreneurs showcase at SOCAP20. 

Episode 56: Economic Democracy through Community Capital with Mica Fisher

Episode 56: Economic Democracy through Community Capital with Mica Fisher

What would it take to achieve economic democracy? On this episode of the Capital Insight Podcast, hosts Jenny Kassan and Michelle Thimesch chat with Mica Fisher, the Managing Director of the National Coalition for Community Capital (NC3) about how to create a healthy economy for all.

Mica’s journey to economic democracy started with food justice activism in college. This work eventually led to her role as managing director at NC3, which works to educate, advocate, innovate and activate community capital. “We see community capital as a set of strategies that brings the power of investment back to regular people,” Mica says, “whereas right now, it’s normally just sectioned off to accredited investors or very wealthy and powerful people.”

NC3 views community capital through the lens of four principles: it is inclusive, provides wealth-building opportunities for all, empowers and serves all stakeholders, and facilitates shared prosperity. Explains Mica, community capital “provides opportunities for people of all levels of wealth and all demographics to fully participate in the economy as investors.”

Mica advises that getting involved in local cooperatives and investing circles can be a great tool for diversifying your investment options and gaining knowledge of the organizations in your community. Listen below to the full conversation.

Mica Fisher is an organizer and advocate for economic democracy living in New York City. She is the Managing Director at the National Coalition for Community Capital (NC3), which aims to educate, advocate, and activate community capital, a set of tools that allows people of any economic status to invest in their own community. Prior to joining NC3’s staff, she managed NYC’s Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative, the most significant municipal investment in the country to support the development of democratic, worker-owned businesses. There, she also helped launch Owner to Owners NYC, a hotline and technical assistance network to connect existing business owners with the resources they need to sell their business to their employees.

Subscribe to the Capital Insight podcast on your favorite streaming platform! 

 

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The Capital Insight podcast intro and outro is voiced by Marina Verlaine. She can be contacted at reel.peach.vo@gmail.com