Nearly 50 individuals gathered at Rosetta’s Buchi Bar for a Slow Money NC: Financing our Foodshed meeting on Sunday, Aug. 24. Attendees enjoyed a casual family-style dinner, networking breaks, and a series of short presentations (less than five minutes each) by several local food entrepreneurs.
Carol Peppe Hewitt, cofounder of the NC chapter of Slow Money, travels the country promoting sustainable food venture investments at the local level, and she was impressed with her reception in Asheville.
“I thought tonight was very successful,” remarked a glowing Hewitt. “We had an excellent turnout and tremendous enthusiasm for the idea of community financing in the greater Asheville community.”
Hewitt hosted the evening by introducing guest speakers from the likes of Fifth Sun Specialties, Riverbend Malthouse, Smiling Hara Tempeh, Jack’s Nut Butters and Riddle Farm Bed and Grocery. A representative from each organization briefly updated the group on past or upcoming crowdsourced projects, and according to Hewitt, several members of the audience also approached her to share project information after the speaker series.
Co-hosting the event was Accelerating Appalachia, another power house in community financing for sustainable food businesses. The Asheville-based organization catalyzed six loans its first year of operation, bringing investments of $505,000 to WNC businesses. Sara Day Evans, CEO and founder of Accelerating Appalachia, attracted dozens of local investors and entrepreneurs to attend the event, which contributed to a palpable sense of engagement among the crowd.
“Asheville really stands out in the area of entrepreneurship,” says Hewitt, who cited both the quantity of entrepreneurs in the area and the community’s general support for entrepreneurship as major contributors to Asheville’s food industry excellence. “I have no doubt that when these community sourced capital campaigns launch, that they will get funded, because this community cares about its small businesses.”
Slow Money NC has already paired 90 lenders (providing 125 loans) with 58 farmers and food businesses in NC, bringing Slow Money NC’s loan total over the $1.2 million mark — but Hewitt says there is much work to be done in the form of more outreach. The crowdsourcing specialist remains hopeful that the Asheville community will continue to advocate for local-level food investing through word of mouth networking – the tool she claims is the best way to spread Slow Money’s mission. “The power of word of mouth is huge. Because this is a close-knit community, that will work.”