A Triumph for Crowdfunding and Community-Owned Business

Nestled at the base of Teton Pass in Wilson, Wyoming, Hungry Jack’s General Store has been a community institution since 1954.

When the owner was ready to retire and move away, the community knew it had to act to keep the store locally owned.

A steering committee formed to raise community funding to buy and upgrade the business.  The Kassan Group drafted the investment documents and completed the securities filings that made it possible for over 210 investors, of all levels of wealth, to purchase over $7.5 million in equity shares.

On January 18th, the community-owed entity signed the closing paperwork to purchase Hungry Jack’s General Store!

Thinking about bringing together your community to purchase an important local business or real estate asset? Contact us to learn how we can help!

The Story of Indie.vc

The following is a summary of writings by Indie.vc and its founder, Bryce Roberts:

There are countless OGs including Qualtrics, Github, Atlassian, Mailchimp, and Spanx and a new guard like Calendly, Zapier, Webflow and Notion all with a focus on early profitable growth. Having spoken to many of these founders and CEOs, none would trade that early foundation of customer needs and profitable growth they were built upon.

This strong foundation stands in contrast to the Blitzscaling playbook we’ve engineered our entire startup ecosystem around. We optimize our blogposts, livestreams, and tweetstorms around how to raise as much money as possible as quickly as possible. Rather than a solid foundation, Blitzscaling is oft described as “throwing yourself off a cliff and assembling your airplane on the way down”

And the results of that model reflect it, with around .1% of companies who raise venture capital ever actually achieving venture scale.

Clearly, Blitzscaling is a viable blueprint for a select few to follow to grow their business and ultimately reach venture scale. But, it isn’t the only viable path, nor is it the only one we should orient our startup ecosystem around.

As Qualtrics’ experience and outcome demonstrate, not raising and burning piles of money doesn’t have to be a scarlet letter for the unfundable; rather, removing the distractions that come with the fundraising treadmill can be a superpower for many to reach venture scale without the pressure to Blitzscale.

. . . .

The Indie.vc Model

Traditionally, technology investors only get their money out when you sell out (another term for this is a “Liquidity Event”). An investment from Indie.vc doesn’t preclude you from selling, but in the event you stay independent, our investment will get paid out as distributions from cashflow over time.

The schedule for cash distributions will be based off the founder’s salary at the time of funding or, in the case of a founder paying themselves far below market, based on a market salary for founders in your area. Once the founder’s salary exceeds 150%, we will consider that excess distributions and begin to participate in those distributions. Initially, we will get 80% of those distributions while the founders take 20% until our initial investment has been returned 2x. At 2x the model flips to 80% to founders, 20% to indie.vc until we’ve received 5x our investment. Distributions to Indie.vc are capped at 5x.

Only if and when you choose to raise more money from traditional investors or sell out do we become shareholders in your company.

In the event you choose to raise money, our initial investment would convert into pre-money preferred shares (assuming you’re issuing preferred shares to the new, lead investor) in your company and we’d have a pro rata right to participate in the round to preserve our pre-determined ownership level.

In the event you choose to sell out, we’d convert into common shares at the pre-determined ownership level just prior to the acquisition.

So, what is this pre-determined ownership level?

Given that this is an experiment, we thought it only fitting to push the experiment one step further by trying something new. Rather than having us specify a minimum ownership level, we’re going to let the founders determine what ownership percentage they’ll contribute.

A simple summary of these terms can be found in the Google doc posted here.

Then, Indie.vc shut down: https://bryce.medium.com/what-ended-indie-76575463934d

Then on 12/23/22, Bryce Roberts sent out an email announcing its resurrection:

In a year where liquidity all but dried up for startups and investors, our indie-focused fund was able to return/recycle nearly 20% of the fund via scheduled equity redemptions and proceeds from acquisitions. One of our indie companies crossed $50M in revenue (having only raised $1M total). Today, that fund is posting a 45% net IRR.”

Despite many of the issues that ultimately led to indie’s demise, it’s working. Sure, some things needed killing or tweaking. But the core thesis and community were just fine all along.

So we’re rebooting indie.

After over a year of exploring and investing, looking for my next thing, I just can’t shake indie. It’s the only thing I want to work on. It’s the only way I want to invest.

We’ve closed around $20M of our $50M target. Individual and institutional investors seem much more inclined to lean into the indie story today than the last time around.

We have a long way to go, but my hope is that we’ll be relaunched and making new investments in late Q1/early Q2 of 2023.

— Bryce

Excuse us while we kvell

A Celebration of Our Clients

kvell (Yiddish / verb) to be extraordinarily proud


With over $10 million raised — not to mention accolades, newly launched spaces, and more impact than we can measure, we are dedicating this month’s newsletter to the reason for our existence: our amazing, mission-driven clients. The following are a few highlights of our clients’ 2022 successes:


All Learners Network, a business that promotes math learning for all, received a $100,000 investment from Housatonic Partners, as well as investments from several members of their community.

Kasaba found their ‘pioneer’ investor and are finalizing
 their flagship location in Portugal, getting all of the agreements, loans, and contracts in place to get started with their co-living/working ecovillage.

New Use Energy Solutions was featured by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for providing mobile power solutions to areas with intermittent power in Ukraine.

Pink Bench Distilling launched their investment crowdfunding campaign in December and they are already one-third of the way to their minimum funding goal!

Polestar Gardens, an educational non-profit, raised $2,300,000 toward developing their 20 acre intentional neighborhood in Fort Collins, CO.

Renews.us launched a new nonprofit, ReNews Context Services, which will build a context journalism newsroom and will be led by journalism heavy hitters including W.A. “Chip” Cronkite.

Stonehedge Gardens completed their investment crowdfunding campaign and entered their implementation phase! They are currently holding meetings with investors and other stakeholders to develop the 2023 program schedule for their beautiful holistic learning center in Tamaqua, PA.

Working Fields completed 2022 achieving its goal for the year on their capital campaign. The multi-year goal was $2m and entering 2023 they have $400k left to raise! This funding will enable them to grow their mission-driven staffing agency which helps those in recovery from substance abuse addiction to find meaningful work.

2022 was a transformational year for many of our clients, and we’re excited to support them to help make 2023 even brighter.

Could a perpetual purpose trust be right for your company?

The Perpetual Purpose Trust – could the Patagonia model apply to your business?

In 2017, I was hired by the Organically Grown Company in Oregon to help with the process of transferring a portion of the company’s ownership to a Perpetual Purpose Trust (PPT). This was the first transaction of its kind in the United States.

Since then, a few more companies in the U.S. have chosen to incorporate a PPT into their ownership structure.

What is a PPT? It is a mechanism that allows an organization to ensure that it is managed in perpetuity consistent with enumerated purposes. Unlike other ownership structures which are relatively easy to change and can lose their mission when new owners / investors join, PPTs ensure organizations remain purpose driven forever.

In 2022, Patagonia, a global outdoor clothing brand, completed a transaction in which all of its stock was transferred to a nonprofit and a PPT. The PPT has 100% of the voting power in the company.

PPTs are relatively simple to set up and so can be used at any stage of a company’s development. I would like to share an example of a client we are currently working with and how they are using the PPT to preserve the company’s independence and purpose in perpetuity.

The Walker Group, an IT consulting firm based in Connecticut, is wholly owned by Kate Emery. Under her leadership, the company has made a strong commitment to contributing to its community through support of social entrepreneurs and other innovative leadership efforts aimed at solving local and global issues.

Kate is contemplating retirement soon and would like to exit in a way that ensures the preservation of the company’s commitment to social good.

The Kassan Group is helping Kate transfer her ownership of the company to a PPT pursuant to a trust agreement that contains a detailed description of the trust purposes such as ensuring that The Walker Group continues to provide financial and volunteer support for its community. The trust is governed by a stewardship committee that is constrained by the trust purposes. There is
also a provision for a trust enforcer who is responsible for ensuring that the trust stays true to the purposes in the trust document. Kate will be paid for the value of her stock over time out of company net revenues.

If you’d like to include a PPT in your organization’s structure, please contact us for a consultation!

How a purpose-driven distillery is innovating for a thriving community in Montana

Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Pink Bench Distilling is a business on a mission. Started by wildlife biologist Kristina Boyd and rural development specialist Shawna Kelsey, this social enterprise is innovating to address three of rural Montana’s most persistent concerns: conflict with bears over backyard fruit trees; creation of jobs on local farms and forests; and inclusive community development around innovative growth.

Pink Bench Distilling is currently raising via investment crowdfunding, with the goal to open in spring 2023. (Learn more about how you can invest here!)

This purpose-driven distillery crafts small-batch spirits with ingredients sourced from the farms and forests surrounding Troy, Montana. Pink Bench Distilling’s brandies will use the overabundance of local fruit that attracts bears to people’s backyards, and its gins and liqueurs will use specialty crops and local forest botanicals, creating growth opportunities for small local farms, flexible jobs working in the woods, and economic incentive to conserve the many habitats where wild things grow.

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

Jenny Kassan: Collaboration, knowledge-sharing, innovation, and cross-fertilization are essential components of the regenerative economy. How has Pink Bench Distilling built its network and enlisted the support of mentors and investors to succeed?

Kris Boyd: We have used literally every entrepreneurial resource in Montana to start this business, so we truly understand and value the business mentorship ecosystem in Montana.  From the beginning of our journey, we reached out to other distillers for advice. Many took the time to have great conversations with us, and a couple have even brought us in to learn the ropes behind the scenes — in particular, Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits and Headframe Spirits.  Other organizations in our business network include The Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Center, Accelerate Montana, University of Montana, Prospera Business Network, Center for Community Ownership, Crowdfund Montana, and The Kassan Group.

We’re also focused on sustainable wildcrafting, local agriculture, and wildlife management. So our network of mentors broadens to encompass people from organizations like AERO Montana, USDA Rural Development, USDA Forest Service, local Tribes, the Native Plant Society, Montana Wildlife Society, and Montana Wildlife Federation.

These partners have given us constructive feedback, worked with us on business development, and connected us with others who value our business for its character. And, of course, we have many other people who are enthusiastic about investing in our business because they know our character, are inspired by our vision and are vocal cheerleaders for us. We see the act of investing as a huge show of support in itself – people don’t put their hard-earned money to work just anywhere. And our investors are going to help us bring more people onto our team to keep all the lines connected as our network grows.

JK: How do you encourage and empower your constituents — investors, policymakers, customers — to move our world toward a regenerative economy by taking action that contributes to the greater good?

KB: Prior to launching Pink Bench Distilling, Shawna and I both worked for many years in the public and non-profit sectors on solutions to the issues our business focuses on. We have a good sense of where the strengths and weaknesses of those sectors lie, and how our business can bridge those weaknesses and bolster those strengths.

This business is just starting out – but we aren’t. Entering the arena with a mind and mission toward doing the best we can for our ecosystem, our communities, and our business helps us from day one. We can plan and build our business systems on our extensive knowledge and values, rather than retrofit them in hindsight. For investors who are in the market for social change, we are there (along with so many others) to show them there are businesses custom-built for a regenerative economy by master crafters of mission-based work, and we need their support to more deeply integrate.

We have seen how our business can also motivate policymakers. Most people in the policy sphere gravitate there specifically because they want to create change for the better. The people we have worked with have been genuinely delighted to learn about our business and listen to how we are building it, what roadblocks we are encountering, and work with us to break through to them. People have voiced to us their inspiration and satisfaction when they have helped facilitate change within their policy role.

Customers are similar – people try the best they can to do good under the constraints of their lives. And it feels good to be able to make a choice that fulfills a purchasing need and also contributes to solving larger economic, social, and environmental issues. As consumers ourselves, it is inspiring to have a growing world of choices we can make that support a regenerative economy. And as business owners, it’s exciting to think that we will be one of those choices available to others.

JK: How do you see the practices and core values of Pink Bench Distilling as distinct from the “business as usual” status quo? What do you do to resist the pressure to “fit in” to the old economy paradigms?

KB: The business of distilling was born as a local enterprise. It truly is an art form to turn grains and fruits that would otherwise rot into a calorie-dense, storable form of food that is a pleasure to experience. The distilling industry lost this local artisanry in the U.S. with prohibition and its aftermath, when large industrial distilling became the business model. The paradigm in this industry was, and still is, the production of low-to-moderate-quality alcohol for mass consumption. The legalization of craft distilling has done a lot to bring the artisanry of distilling back. This has also allowed small businesses like ours to use the craft to solve local problems – in our case, those are fruit trees attracting bears into people’s backyards, a growing disconnect with the diversity of life in our forests, and a lack of economic diversity in our region. In order to tell the story of why we’re building our business and why it will be so successful, we have to talk about our values. This, too, was a big no-no in the old economic paradigm and still is among many in our rural area of Montana.

In our business partnership, we have a lot of long conversations that may start out with a simple business problem but end up revolving around our experiences, our values, and how we stay true to them and express them. To be clear, we do arrive at a solution – and it’s the right solution for us. It really is this supportive partnership that helps us to keep moving the boundaries of the status quo and pushing for change that will benefit our human and wild communities, and our business.

JK: What are three habits you use to stay focused, healthy, and ready to take on the world?

KB: While Shawna and I obviously have a love for good alcohol, we don’t drink on a daily basis. We’re both very focused on giving our bodies good food, plenty of water, and enough rest. And we are both extremely attached to our checklists, for both personal and business organization. It not only keeps us on task, but it’s a great endorphin rush every time you get to check something off! All that said, we’re actually quite different people. Practicing an appreciation of the beauty and potential in every person’s individuality benefits the business and our own lives.


About Kristina Boyd

Kristina Boyd provides Pink Bench Distilling financial planning, scientific, technological, and logistical expertise. She conducts market and product development, maintains written communications, and interacts with local natural resource agents and wildcrafters. Kristina was born and raised in Los Angeles. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Humboldt State University with an M.S. in Natural Resource Management. She has 23 years of experience working in all aspects of natural resource research and management, from repairing broken-down field trucks to building complex databases.

About Shawna Kelsey

Shawna Kelsey provides Pink Bench Distilling with business planning, networking, and marketing expertise. She conducts market and regulatory research, fulfills operations estimates and purchasing, and maintains the face of the organization with local government officials and business owners. Shawna was born and raised in Troy. She worked as a carpenter through high school and during summers in college. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Montana with a B.A. in Anthropology, minoring in International Development. She has 15 years of experience working with local and regional businesses, governments, and schools on community development projects.

About Pink Bench Distilling 

Pink Bench Distilling crafts small-batch spirits with ingredients from the farms and forests of far northwest Montana. Like those who have relied on these lands for generations, Pink Bench Distilling relies on the health of our ecosystem, and its mission is to offer products that embody, honor, and champion far northwest Montana’s lush natural heritage and intrepid people. Brandies will use the overabundance of local fruit that attracts bears to people’s backyards. Gins and liqueurs will use many specialty crops and local forest botanicals. And Pink Bench Distilling will create growth opportunities for small farms, flexible jobs working in the woods, and economic incentive to conserve the many habitats where wild things grow.

Episode 63: Raising Investment Funds for Inclusive Financial Services with Andy Posner

In this episode of the Capital Insight Podcast, hosts Jenny and Michelle chat with Andy Posner, Founder and CEO of the nonprofit Capital Good Fund. The fund’s mission is to create pathways out of poverty and advance a green economy through inclusive financial services.

Andy launched Capital Good Fund (CGF) in 2009 to combat predatory lending and the climate crisis by providing more equitable lending options to underserved communities. In this episode, Andy shares his journey developing CGF, CGF’s inclusive consumer lending programs, and how he raised millions of dollars from investors to fund this amazing work.

14 years after its founding, CGF now operates in 10 states. “We’ve lent out over $26 million to almost 11,000 families with a 97% repayment rate. And we’re growing really quickly,” says Andy. Listen to the episode to learn more.

Andy Posner founded Capital Good Fund in February of 2009 while earning his Master of Arts in Environmental Studies from Brown University. After reading Banker to the Poor by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus, also known as the “Father of Microfinance,” Andy quickly recognized that equitable financial services could unlock the potential for underserved communities just as they could for clean energy technologies. As the financial crisis of 2008 began to unravel the economy and devastate low-income communities, Andy decided to take action. He launched Capital Good Fund with an eye toward using financial services to tackle endemic poverty—first in Rhode Island, and then nationwide.

Andy firmly adheres to Dr. Yunus’ dream to put poverty into museums; or, as Andy says, put poverty out of business. He is the former Treasurer of the national Board of Directors of the Credit Builders Alliance, and a member of the Board of the Community Reinvestment Fund—one of the largest nonprofit lenders in America.

Andy has published his ideas in Huffington Post, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Chronicle of Philanthropy, his own newsletter (Be The Change), and nearly a dozen poetry journals. He was also selected as a 2011 Hitachi Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneur and a 2013 American Express Emerging Innovator (one of 45 globally), and a 2015 Rhode Island Foundation Nonprofit CEO Fellow. Andy was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Poetry Prize for his piece, The Machinery of the State.

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

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

Developing Regional Fiber Systems to Build Ecosystem and Community Health

Rebecca Burgess is the Executive Director of Fibershed, a non-profit organization that develops regional fiber systems that build ecosystem and community health. Fibershed’s work expands opportunities to implement climate benefiting agriculture, rebuild regional manufacturing, and connect end-users to the source of our fiber through education.

Among Fibershed’s incredible community-based programs are the Fibershed Producer Program and the Fibershed Affiliate Network. The Fibershed Producer Program is a membership-based network of farmers, ranchers, designers, sewers, weavers, knitters, felters, spinners, mill owners, and natural dyers living and working within the North and Central regions of California. Through the Fibershed Affiliate Program, Fibershed has stretched beyond its California roots to bring its mission to communities worldwide. The Affiliate Program comprises 58 affiliates actively working in their home communities to create decentralized textile systems rooted in regeneration.

In this conversation, The Kassan Group founder Jenny Kassan chats with Rebecca about the work Fibershed is doing to develop regional fiber systems and drive the development of the regenerative economy.

Jenny Kassan: Regenerative economies must be innovative, agile, and meet the challenges of the day. In what way has Fibershed responded to a shifting landscape?

Rebecca Burgess: We’ve stayed true to our mission by localizing our primary work within 51 counties in California. Fibershed’s purpose is to build regional economies based on soil regeneration, and that unfolds in many forms as we continue to implement place-based work in our home community. By virtue of our geography, we stay grounded.

JK: Collaboration, knowledge-sharing, innovation, and cross-fertilization are essential components of the regenerative economy. Who are your mentors?

RB: I learn from many non-human mentors. I learn from grasslands; I learn from our pigment garden; I learn from the predators that are predating on things we try to grow; I learn from the weather patterns. My main mentor is the influences of the ecosystem. I extrapolate out and try to understand human nature as best I can through the lens of what’s natural and what’s the baseline for our psychological, physical, and spiritual situation. What has our evolution on this planet looked like? What has that brought forth? I try to understand the systems we’ve evolved in to give me an understanding of who we are and how to be in this world within a human network.

JK: As the Executive Director of Fibershed, how do you motivate policymakers and community members to be part of the change they want to see in our economy and society?

RB: We are always developing a set of public comments and documents to influence legislative decision-making at the state level. We also continuously support a framing conversation around international environmental footprinting by participating in coalitions such as Make the Label Count and the California Food and Farming network —both of which help advance our work, politically speaking.

I think the motivation for policymakers and community members comes through our communications platforms, thanks to Bark Media, who helps us get out inspiring stories about the producer community. We uplift their stories and collaborations in our newsletters, social media, and podcast to model what we want to see emulated.

JK: A regenerative economy fosters healthy and resilient communities and regions. As we collectively face challenges on a global scale, to what extent is your work “borderless”? To what extent is it hyper-localized?

RB: Our work is borderless in that we have 58 Fibershed Affiliate communities across the world operating at the grassroots level. Our work is reflective of what other communities are doing philosophically. And then, kind of didactically, it takes on a very placed-based form. So the work looks different depending on where you’re uplifting a regional fiber system.

The process is hyper-localized based on need. Let’s say the design community wants access to local cloth. You define how much local cloth production you can generate in an economically viable way by working with growers and asking very practical questions. How many growers are you going to need to make it through these mill minimums? What kind of textile constructions can you make from this supply? To navigate the process of making real cloth and connecting farmers and the design community demands a hyper-local perspective.

JK: How do you see the practices and core values of Fibershed as leading a new movement away from the “business as usual” status quo? How would you encourage other organizations to resist the pressure to “fit in” to the old economy paradigms?

RB: Most people are still going to a grocery store; they’re possibly using some form of transportation that utilizes fossilized carbon, or they’re relying on goods and services that are relying on fossilized carbon. We still have a racial wealth gap that’s very stark. We still have an underrepresentation of diverse cultural perspectives in many of our industries, if not all of them. So we’re all experiencing the old, but I think it’s critical to maintain an understanding of that framework for how we got here and what the future thinking looks like, and then find steps to actualize the new frameworks.

Getting excited about these new frameworks is the key to staying motivated. Begin by asking yourself,  ‘What’s one thing I can do, what’s one thing my organization can do, to head in this direction?’ I’m a student of history, and I love listening to new economists. I really appreciate how we got here and that these are human-designed systems. We can absolutely redesign them because we’re the ones who got ourselves into this, and no one else is going to get us out.

JK: What lifestyle habits do you use to stay focused, healthy, and ready to take on the world? What would you recommend to others?

RB: Keep your hands in the soil, and learn the art of cultivation. Learn plant and animal names. Connect and be in relationship with ecosystems in a very hands-on way, because it rearranges one’s neurology. A lot of people are working on a computer all day. I think it’s important to break away from that and make sure we cultivate in soil, and we cultivate on Earth and in Earth Systems. That is the teacher, the mentor that will keep us grounded and making healthy decisions.

It’s also important to be in community in those spaces. How do we work together to connect and stay grounded to soil? How do we share in community meals? How do we share in community cloth making? I mend my clothes. I spend a lot of time with my hands in the soil when I’m not on a computer. Those are the lifestyle choices I’ve made to infuse my energy into the new paradigm; it’s repair, it’s cultivation, and it’s art practice.


About Rebecca Burgess 

Rebecca Burgess is the Executive Director of Fibershed. She has two decades of experience working at the intersection of ecology, fiber systems, and regional economic development. Rebecca is the author of the best-selling book Harvesting Color, a bioregional look into the natural dye traditions of North America, and Fibershed: Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists, and Makers for a New Textile Economy. She has taught at Westminster College, Harvard University, and California College of the Arts. She also holds a board position at the Livestock Conservancy and serves on the leadership council of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems at Chico State University.

About Fibershed

Fibershed is a non-profit organization that develops regional fiber systems that build ecosystem and community health. Fibershed’s work expands opportunities to implement climate-benefiting agriculture, rebuild regional manufacturing, and connect end-users to the source of our fiber through education. Fibershed transforms the economic systems behind the production of material culture to mitigate climate change, improve health, and contribute to racial and economic equity.

Advancing Global Food Security Through Fish Farming

Sara Davis is the founder of Synergy Farms, Inc. (SFI), a social enterprise supporting small farmers in communities around the world. SFI is on a mission to improve global food security and reduce poverty through profitable aquaponic fish farming.

A native of Nashville, Tennessee, and a graduate of Fisk University, Sara launched SFI in 2013. Before founding SFI, Sara served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and Belize, working in rural economic development and advising small businesses. Sara currently serves as Director of SFI and Synergy Farms Namibia (SF Nam) in Windhoek, Namibia.

SFI, based in Nashville, Tennessee, is a social enterprise, supporting small farmers in communities around the world. The goal is simple, yet big—to end global poverty through small business enterprises. SFI empowers local farmers to improve global food security using aquaponic technology. SFI is growing locally: from Southern Africa to Rural Tennessee, SFI is expanding local farm production for better access to nutritious foods.

In this conversation, The Kassan Group Founder Jenny Kassan talks with Sara about the work SFI is doing to drive the development of an inclusive, regenerative economy.

Jenny Kassan: A new economy that yields equitable outcomes implies approaching business with “new” or different tactics. How has SFI adapted to meet the shifting challenges of the day?

Sara Davis: We stay agile by approaching our work environment from a non-traditional lens. SFI is based in Nashville as the parent company to SF Nam, our venture aquaculture farms in Southern Africa. SFI is responsible for management and directing operations abroad. SFI’s workspace is virtual. Tasks and responsibilities carried out by the executive team are implemented from the comfort of each person’s space. Our executive team is made up of shareholders who are committed to focus capital investments toward growing our production and maximizing profits. Our goal is to effectively contribute to creating a food-secure world.

JK: As a business owner, how do you motivate investors, policymakers, and customers to take ownership of the change they want to see in our economy and society?

SD: Launching a for-profit social enterprise was a brave and sometimes lonely endeavor. Prior to producing in Namibia, as founder, I first focused on building a support network of individuals I could rely on for encouragement throughout the long and arduous journey. Many of those who support me also work in spaces focused on social improvement, however in the non-profit or religious realm. It has never been a hard message to impress upon others that profits can be generated while doing the good, necessary work. For SFI, staying persistent, creating small successes, and celebrating those transformations along the way have encouraged our investors and customers. Being visible in spaces where other profit-driven business models do not exist has encouraged support from local policymakers, confirming that our presence and approach matter and is valuable.

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

SD: In my view, no environment is absent of challenge and world experience. The bond among justice fighters has no end; “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

JK: What are three lifestyle or professional habits you use to stay focused, healthy, and ready to take on the world?


  1. Schedule time to rest. Working endlessly is learned behavior. In the development space, there is no end to solving problems. Sufficient rest and reduced pressure allow me to maintain my creativity.
  2. Be intentionally non-competitive. Some social environments create the false sense that one is better than the other versus all are valuable. Seeing each other as brothers and sisters holding hands to accomplish goals, and recognizing that there is room for us all in abundance, helps me approach any market as an achiever.
  3. Encourage others. The energy that I put out returns to me. My desire is to offer positive reinforcement and likewise want to receive positivity.


About Sara Davis
Sara Davis is the founder of Synergy Farms, Inc. (SFI), a social enterprise with a mission to improve global food security and reduce poverty through profitable aquaponic fish farming. A Nashville native and Fisk University graduate, Sara launched SFI in 2013. Prior to founding Synergy Farms, Inc., Sara served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and Belize, working in rural economic development and advising small businesses.

Sara worked for First Tennessee Bank in small business banking and retirement planning, and later at State Farm as a Property and Casualty Sales Manager. Sara received intensive training in commercial aquaponic farming as an apprentice in 2014 at Growing Power Inc. in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Will Allen, a founder, farmer, philanthropist, and MacArthur Foundation “genius” Fellow, shared his knowledge in sustainable agriculture aquaponic production with Sara, and he continues to serve as a close and trusted advisor. Sara currently serves as Director for Synergy Farms, Inc. and Synergy Farms Namibia in Windhoek, Namibia.

New to direct investing? Get your questions answered!

Don’t Shy Away from Being Empowered with Your Investments!

I’m not sure I can do this – I’m not an investor.

Actually, if you’re like a majority of the US population, you are an investor!  You may not think of yourself as an investor, but if you have retirement accounts, bank accounts, mutual funds, etc., you are an investor!  And you have options about where you can put your investment dollars.

I thought it was illegal for small businesses to ask for investment from regular people.

It is true that the laws governing investment in the United States (called securities laws) are complicated and can limit who can invest in certain investment offerings.  However, there are many legal pathways that allow regular folks to invest directly in small business.  If a small business offers you an investment opportunity, you should ask them whether they have received counsel from a competent securities lawyer.  If something is not done correctly from a legal perspective, the risk is on the business, not the investor.

What should I know before making an investment?

Wherever you invest, whether in a mutual fund that holds publicly traded stocks or in a small business, you need to be aware that there is no such thing as a risk-free investment.  You should not invest more than you can afford to lose.

Beyond that, it is up to you to decide what information you want to ask for to help you decide whether to invest.

Here are some things to keep in mind when evaluating whether to make an investment in a small business:

  1. Look at your whole portfolio and remember that diversification mitigates risk. If almost all of your investments are in the stock market, investing in a small business whose success is not tied directly to the ups and downs of the public markets can be a good way to diversify your portfolio.  Think about it – almost all of most Americans’ investments are in giant multinational public companies.  But 99% of US businesses are small private companies that account for half of all employment and half of all production.  Why put all of your investment dollars in only half of the economy?
  2. The stock market has been likened to a casino – it has become increasingly opaque, trading is often conducted by sophisticated algorithms, and financial instruments have become so far removed from the real economy that it is hard to trust that it will continue to be a safe place to put your nest egg.
  3. Warren Buffett’s advice? “Never invest in a business you cannot understand.”  Most investors not only don’t understand the businesses they’re investing in, they don’t even know what businesses they’re invested in!  They just let fund managers make all the decisions and hope for the best.  Why not invest in some of the businesses that you know and understand?
  4. Most of our investments are made through intermediaries (often more than one) like stock brokers, fund managers, and investment advisers. When you invest directly in a business, you eliminate the fees and percentages taken by these intermediaries and there is more transparency about what you are actually investing in.
  5. A business is all about the people who run it. When you invest in a small business, you’re investing in the founder based on your opinion of their commitment, integrity, and abilities.  A small business owner is generally going to be much more committed to their business’ success than a CEO of a multinational public company.  CEOs move around from company to company and get their golden parachutes when they leave.  Entrepreneurs usually start their businesses to express their most dearly held dreams and passions.  Their business is their baby so they will stick with it through thick and thin.
  6. When you invest in a business based on your relationship with the owner, that owner is going to feel personally responsible for your investment dollars. The last thing they want is for someone they know to lose money by investing in their business.  They will do almost anything to avoid having to tell their investors that they have lost their money or are unable to pay them as much as promised.  When you invest in a faceless multinational corporation, there is no similar feeling of personal responsibility to the investors.

Besides the financial returns, what are the other benefits of direct investing in small business?

When you invest in a small business, you often get benefits that go beyond purely financial returns.

These vary depending on the particular investment and business but they often include

  • Having the pride of knowing that you helped a business that’s important to your community
  • Being able to tell your friends and colleagues that you invested in a business they may know and love
  • Being part of a community of investors with similar values
  • Having the opportunity to learn from the business owner about the details of the business
  • Providing support to the business owner when she needs it – advice, contacts, business referrals, etc.
  • Having some ability to affect the success of the business as a customer and a source of referrals
  • Being invited to special events
  • Being recognized publicly as a supporter of the business
  • Discounts and perks
  • Knowing that your investment dollars are supporting something that is having a positive impact in the world

Remember, all investments have an impact – what impact do you want your investments to have?  When you invest in a mutual fund of public company stocks, does that create any positive impacts in your community or on things that are important to you?

Investing in small businesses allows you to invest in the real economy in a business that employs people and provides useful goods and services.  When you invest in public company stocks, your money doesn’t even go to that company – it just goes to the previous owner of the stock!

Why not use some of your investment dollars to invest in things that are important to you?  Community gathering places, alternative energy, businesses that create good local jobs, etc.  Imagine if everyone moved just a small percentage of their investment dollars to small businesses creating a positive impact in the world – we could create a better world by simply being more mindful about where we put our money.

Episode 62: Driving Community Investment for Sustainable Agriculture with Rebecca Busansky

In this episode of the Capital Insight Podcast, hosts Jenny and Michelle chat with Rebecca Busansky, Senior Program Manager at Franklin County Community Development Corporation, about her role in supporting local investing in farms and agricultural businesses in Western Massachusetts.

The PVGrows Investment Fund pools investments from community residents and supportive institutions to provide low-cost loans to farmers and food entrepreneurs in the Pioneer Valley.

In this podcast episode, Rebecca shares how the PVGrows Investment Fund is democratizing impact investing in regenerative agriculture.

Since the fund’s launch in 2015, it has raised over 2.2 million dollars, helping finance 55 farms and food system entrepreneurs with zero defaults. Listen to the episode to learn more.

Rebecca Busansky is a Senior Program Manager at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation where she manages the PVGrows Investment Fund (PVGIF) and Mass Food Trust Program (MFTP). PVGIF provides financing and technical assistance to farmers and local food entrepreneurs through community investments. MFTP provides healthy food financing to underserved communities. Rebecca joined the Franklin County Community Development Corporation team in 2015 to launch PVGIF, with a focus on developing and maintaining relationships with local food system entrepreneurs, community investors, and collaborators. Rebecca has an undergraduate degree from Brown University in American Civilization and has worked in the community economic development field for more than 25 years.

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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