Entrepreneurs Talk Expansion at Slow Money Showcase
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, October 23, 2016, by Caitlin Ashworth
NORTHAMPTON — About 110 years ago, Joseph Serio started selling fruit and vegetables off the streets of Northampton. He went from crate to horse and wagon, until he had a heart attack and could no longer take his business mobile. Serio then set up a stand outside his home to keep the business going.
In 1950, he opened a Serio’s Market on 65 State St., a popular store that is still selling locally-sourced goods some 66 years later. But Jaimie Golec, general manager of her family’s business, said the shop is struggling to stay alive.
With fierce competition from corporate stores, the local market is looking to alter its business model from a grocery selling locally-sourced goods into an eatery.
To do that, however, Golec needs help. So last week, she pitched her idea to a group of individuals, investors and philanthropists who are interested in supporting the region’s local food economy.
Golec was among six entrepreneurs that presented their businesses and goals for future growth at event hosted by the nonprofit Slow Money Pioneer Valley at Smith College. The workshop’s aim was to bring investor and food system supporters together with local farm and food businesses interested in support.
Slow Money was started in 2008 by Woody Tasch, an Amherst College alum, after he published the book “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered.” The group now has 18 local networks and 11 investment clubs.
Krya Kristof, a member of the local chapter’s steering committee, said Slow Money helps startups with business plans, networking and resources. The group works in collaboration with PVGrows which focuses on ecological and economic sustainability and vitality of the Pioneer Valley food system, according to pvgrows.net.
The Pioneer Valley chapter hosted its first entrepreneur showcase in 2014. The showcases give businesses an opportunity to share their stories and what is needed for economic growth.
A one-man brewery
Take Stoneman Brewery, for instance. This small, one-man brewery is located on a 74-acre farm in Colrain, where owner Justin Korby does most his business based on the model of a beer CSA, or community supported agriculture. That means he uses almost entirely locally sourced ingredients.
Driven by high demand for the beer he brews, Korby hopes to expand production from his farm in the hills to the center of town and wants to upgrade his equipment from a one-barrel to a 10-barrel system, which would expand the CSA membership as well as distribution to stores.
“I constantly sell my beer faster than I can brew it,” he said.
Korby seeks to make his brewery sustainable by bringing in people to help brew and distribute the beer. He is also looking into purchasing an old church in Colrain to house the brewery. Korby said the business investment would lead to revitalization of the town as well as a possibility of a restaurant collaboration with his brewery.
Other business presenters
Bree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden started in 1968 with two cows on 20 acres of land, according to Randy and Angie Facey. The Facey’s say the dairy farm now has about 300 cows on over 500 acres of land.
“We still know them all by name,” Angie said.
However, the business still needs investments to grow. At the showchase, the Facey’s said they would like to invest in a robotic milking facility that would allow the cows to voluntarily milk themselves without human interaction.
Nutwood Farm, a startup by Sara Tower and Kalyan Uprichard focused on hazelnut production, also sought investment support. Tower and Uprichard said they have planted over 350 nut trees on 1.5 acres of newly plowed land in Cummington and will continue to plant over the next four years.
The farm will harvest its first hazelnuts in 2018. In 10 years, they expect to harvest 10,000 pounds hazelnuts annually. Tower said residents of Massachusetts will then have the option of purchasing cost competitive, locally grown and locally processed nuts and nut products.
To expand their business, the farm wants to invest in a solar greenhouse and facilities for drying and storage.
Still, some investors are looking to help in ways that go beyond money.
Sadie Stull, a resident of Plainfield, said came to the event to show support and said she invests her personal time helping soil the land and planting trees. Stull said her form of investment is “much deeper than money.”