Cooperative Principal (CP) 001 started off the new year at the Eastside Food Cooperative’s juice bar. Getting a taste of the juices, coffee drinks and hors d’oeuvres at the co-op’s new cafe, club members got a chance to see the in-progress renovations of the store’s new building. “We’ve got to check out what the co-op did with our money,” members joked as we walked through the soon-to-be refrigerator and dry goods storage area before settling down for business in a temporary office behind the store.
This investment club, founded in conjunction with a nonprofit by the same name, offers average folks the chance to learn about and collectively invest in cooperatively run businesses. Despite the meeting being filled with technical business topics like a “Financial Review of Investments Outstanding and Portfolio” and “2015 Tax Reporting,” members were making wisecracks and jokes, turning a dry agenda into a fun and lively conversation.
Seventeen people gathered around a large table at the Impact Hub MPLS on a Thursday to explore investing for a better food system. Attendees came from an array of backgrounds--some as interested citizens wanting to invest more consciously, others were financial experts, and still others were budding food and agricultural entrepreneurs. Together, we sat down with Joe Riemann of Cooperative Principal who chatted us through the nuts and bolts, and the possibilities and limitations of a method he’s found to be a fun and fulfilling way to move money: investment clubs.
The model is straightforward. It’s a group of people, setting aside a certain amount of money each month to collectively invest. Through regular meetings, the group decides where its money should go. By pooling their resources, members can fund larger initiatives, minimize risks, and educate each other on investing. As Joe explained, since their beginnings in the 1800s these clubs have become increasingly popular through the ‘90s. Folks enjoyed a chance to come together to “beat Wall Street.” That is, until the recession hit and investment clubs “just weren’t fun anymore.”
On a lovely summer evening in June, 150 people came together for the kick-off of Slow Money Minnesota. The event came about because of the energy and interest bubbling up locally around how Minnesotans can do more to support a healthy local food system. The gathering provided an opportunity to learn about investing in food and farming, as well as sampling delicious local fare.
While Slow Money conversations have taken place in Minnesota, and some Slow Money-style investments have occurred, the timing was right to broaden the dialogue and leverage efforts. The event was designed to set the groundwork for expanding the flow of funds to promising and growing businesses, provide people at various levels of wealth to be able to invest locally, and, as a result have more successful farm and food businesses.