It’s cool to be square

Brynn writes:

This is a post that I’ve had sitting in my draft queue for more than a week. I meant to get it published as soon as possible, but unfortunately other stories bumped it. Now that we’re up to the deadline, I figured better late than never, right?

Matt Albee, owner of Eleven Winery on Bainbridge Island, is trying a new way to get capital for his winery operations. Instead of going to a bank and taking out a small business loan he’s asking the community to be his lender. It’s an idea created by former Bainbridge Graduate Institute graduates who started a business called Community Sourced Capital in Seattle.

The concept behind Community Source Capital is that small businesses, like Albee’s winery, ask the community to support them instead of going to a bank and being tied down by loan requirements. The idea is to get the community behind small businesses to see them succeed. If you contribute money, you will be paid back within the year, it’s not a donation.

Albee is using the money to pay for the large-scale bottling he did last week. He used to bottle by hand and it took a long time (he could bottle one case per minute; the bottling truck does five cases per minute). This year he hired a company with a large bottling truck to come in and do the work.

“The benefit to us to doing bottling this way is we get a lot more done at one shot,” he said. “I can focus on other things, I don’t have to be bottling one weekend a month.”

Because the bulk of his wine was bottled all at once, Albee had to have all the bottles, corks and other necessary materials available. That means he needed $20,000.

“Having the money isn’t a problem for the business, but it’s having it all at once,” Albee said. “The cost of the loan is about the same as if I went to the bank, but I really like the idea of involving the community in what we’re doing. It’s a way for us to build community and get people involved in the winery, as well as get the cash together that we need to improve our processes.”

Instead of becoming a “shareholder” of Albee’s business, if you contribute you become a “Squareholder.”

“You put $50 in to our project today, great things happen, and then you get your $50 back in a year or less,” Albee said in an email.

So far 132 squareholders have contributed $17,350 toward Albee’s $20,000 goal. Eleven’s campaign to gather community-sourced funds ends tomorrow, as in Friday, June 7.

If you’re interested in learning more, or contributing to become a squareholder, visit the Community Sourced Capital page dedicated to Albee’s campaign: www.communitysourcedcapital.com/eleven/.