by Sydney Boral | September 14, 2018
The Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts is beautiful during this time of year. The arrival of autumn signifies to the rich agricultural economy that it’s time for harvest. For PVGrows and their partners, it’s also a season of celebrating three years since the launch of their investment fund.
PVGrows is a network of agricultural businesses, consumers and stakeholders that are committed to the “sustainability and vitality of the Pioneer Valley food system.” They are dedicated to the growth of connections within the surrounding community. We worked with PV Grows when they chose a direct public offering (DPO) strategy to set-up an investment fund. We caught up with PVGrows Fund Coordinator, Rebecca Busansky, to reflect on what her team has learned during their DPO and what they are planning next.
What is the mission of Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund?
The mission of the PVGrows Investment Fund is to build a food system that supports thriving farms and provides healthy food to all residents.
Why did you choose to do a direct public offering (DPO) to raise capital for the fund?
We believe in the importance of democratizing capital. We created a community fund so that the community that cares deeply about sustainable agriculture and local food could invest in their values. We opened it to accredited and non-accredited investors so that a wide audience could participate in mission-driven investing. Our borrowers’ customers are also our investors in many cases.
In October 2018 you’re celebrating 3 years since the fund launched. What have been some of the biggest highlights/ successes during that time?
We are very proud that we have raised over a million dollars and invested in 25 local farm and food entrepreneurs over the past three years. Our borrowers represent a wide range of the food system – hard cider made from local apples, a wild mushroom farmer, a port-a-potty company that services farms to meet the Massachusetts GAP standards, and much more. We also have a handful of borrowers coming back for a second or third loan from PVGIF. Our investors are also a range – we even have a church and a private school investing in PVGIF.
How much have you raised and how long did it take to raise that amount?
We have raised just over $1 million dollars in the past three years. We are celebrating this accomplishment and ushering in the next phase of PVGIF which is to raise an additional $1.5 million in investments.
What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Developing a strong pipeline of potential entrepreneurs was a challenge we faced when we first opened our doors. We worked hard to outreach and leverage our partnerships to spread the word about the PVGIF. The other challenge is that the majority of potential borrowers are in need assistance with getting finance ready and/or the business side of farming and food. We had strong partnerships, so that was a benefit to being able to provide the technical assistance necessary.
We also learned a lesson from taking investments at the beginning. Since it took a while to make loans and disburse funds to entrepreneurs, we ended up paying interest to our investors and losing some money in the process. In retrospect, investors should have pledged their investments at the start.
What were your favorite aspects of the DPO process?
Could you share 3 pieces of advice for other groups considering a DPO?
– Take more pledges especially on the larger investments in the beginning.
– Make strong partnerships, provide lots of business assistance for your borrowers.
– Get good legal advice!
How do you hope to see PVGIF grow in the next few years?
We are starting to finance smaller projects and figure out ways to reach further into disadvantaged communities to help all of our communities create a stronger food system.
How can people get involved/ support you and the companies in which the fund has invested?
To learn more about the PVGrows Investment Fund, go to pvgrows.net/investment-fund. We have information for potential borrowers and investors available on our website. For questions, email Rebecca Busansky at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re interested in direct public offerings or transitioning your business into a worker-owned co-operative, fill out our contact form here or email us at email@example.com.