Growth factor: Asheville-area investment pool grows every year

If there’s a word that every Mountain BizWorks investor uses to describe why he or she invests in Mountain BizWorks, it’s “local.”

According to Stanley and Colette Corwin, “We invested in Mountain BizWorks because we wanted to invest locally, and to help create and grow local businesses that create jobs and build a resilient local economy.”

Investors like Douglas Wingeier see local investing as an alternative to Wall Street. “I invested in Mountain BizWorks to aid local small business, and to have confidence in where my money goes and how it is being used,” says Wingeier.

Such investors have helped Mountain BizWorks to increase its pool of loan funds, which has doubled over the past five years, from $2 million to $4 million. But the growth of this capital is primarily the result of investments from government entities such as the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Treasury. So as demand for Mountain BizWorks loans among local small businesses increases, as it has over the past five years, the nonprofit will rely more on local investors.

Of the $4 million currently in BizWorks’ loan pool, 8 percent comes from Western North Carolina investors. Their investments range from $1,000 to $85,000, and, together, total about $330,000.

Mountain BizWorks aims to increase its pool of loan capital to $5 million by Dec. 31. The bulk of these additional investments of capital will come from institutional investors, such as private foundations and banks. But local investors will still play a pivotal role in increasing this pool of funds, and our goal is to increase the amount of loan capital invested by local individuals from $330,000 to $500,000 by the end of the year.

This isn’t just another fundraising goal, or a call to donate. It’s an opportunity for individuals in WNC to do something good for our local communities while earning a financial return on their investment. Investors like the Corwins and Wingeier came to Mountain BizWorks because they saw there was a demand for our loans, and that their money would be put to use. That demand is rising: From 2011 to 2012, we experienced a 40 percent increase in the number of loan requests, and our annual loan production has increased by more than 50 percent over the last three years.

If you’re interested in putting your money to work to help meet the demand, consider investing in Mountain BizWorks.

• Invest as little as $1,000.
• Choose terms as short as one year or as long as 10 years.
• Receive an annual, fixed-rate simple interest return of up to 3 percent.

You’ll see your money put to work immediately. Investors Katie and Steve Breckheimer tell us, “It felt good to put our money someplace where we could actually hear about what happened to it and see the good it was doing in the community.”

That’s the benefit of local investing — you actually see the result of your investment. You can drive down the street to see how entrepreneurs like Luis and Maria Soto have used Mountain BizWorks loans to turn a struggling bakery into a successful business that employs six people. The Sotos acquired their bakery in August 2010 and renamed it Los Nenes. They invested their own savings in the business and were approved for a term loan and line of credit from Mountain BizWorks. In 2011, after a profitable first year in business, the Sotos came back to Mountain BizWorks for a loan to purchase the butcher store adjacent to the bakery — La Piedrita, a well-known establishment in West Asheville. The young couple comes from a family of entrepreneurs, and they see their business venture as an opportunity to achieve the American dream. They are investing in their future, as well as their local community.

Mountain BizWorks is poised to help more entrepreneurs like the Sotos launch or expand local businesses, but this will require additional investments from individuals in WNC who want to make a difference in our local communities.

— Nathan Harlan is director of development and communications for Mountain Bizworks, which
helps small businesses start, grow and create jobs through loans, classes and coaching. To learn more, visit www.mountainbizworks.org.

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