A Deeper Focus


Slow Money SLO quietly shifting the financing landscape in San Luis Obispo

It was Tuesday evening at the SLO Grange Hall and three local businesswomen were pitching their products and services. Uta Birkmayer, owner of Functional Gourmet, described how her company works in synergy with health care providers to help patients implement complicated dietary changes into their daily lives. Virginia Marum explained how her company, Vert Foods, provides handcrafted nutrient dense meals already prepared in a weekly box. Amanda Gerard of Benefit Foods provided samples of her product, VBar, a vegan, gluten-free energy bar, which is being marketed in San Luis Obispo County and St. Louis, Missouri. Each of these business owners is seeing funding to grow her company. But instead of going to a banker, they are hoping to take the Slow Money path by finding local investors. And sitting in the Grange with Uta, Virginia and Amanda are possible investors, invited by Jeff Wade, who is currently heading up the SLO Chapter of Slow Money.

Slow Money is a movement inspired by author Woody Tasch in his book of the same name. It provides a meaningful alternative to our current out-of-control financial system. The Slow Money SLO chapter connects local, small food and farm enterprises in need of support to individuals who are interested in providing financial and business development support. These entrepreneurs in the food industry typically cannot obtain traditional funding, but are nonetheless very important to increasing the availability of quality food to local consumers. Investors and other entrepreneurs who attend Slow Money meetings have an opportunity to learn about interesting food businesses and perhaps decide to loan money or provide other support in the form of consulting or connections that may help the business. All financial arrangements are between the business owner and the individuals who choose to support them.

Already Slow Money SLO investors are backing the move and expansion of the Natural Foods Coop and the initial startup of Vert Foods. Meetings are held the first Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the SLO Grange on Broad Street. Mr. Wade will be a panelist for the workshop Access to Capital for Small Farmers: Financing the New Food System Economy at this year’s Central Coast Bioneers Conference.

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