Opportunity knocks for start-ups

Local organizations provide capital for start-ups and existing businesses alike

  • The Local Crowd has raised money for local projects including raising funds to bring a muralist to Peterborough to paint a honeybee mural on the Peterborough Community Center. Staff Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • Artist and The Good of the Hive founder Matthew Willey was brought to Peterborough in part through funds raised with assistance from The Local Crowd of Jaffrey.  Staff Photo by MEGHAN PIERCE

  • Since starting in 2017 Our Town Capital has backed three projects including the development of the old stone barn on Old Street Road in Peterborough into the Village at the Stone Barn condominium and “agrihood” currently underway.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Since starting in 2017 Our Town Capital has backed three projects including the development of the old stone barn on Old Street Road in Peterborough into the Village at the Stone Barn condominium and “agrihood” currently underway. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, February 20, 2019 10:38AM

Getting a start-up from dream to reality takes ingenuity, hard work – and capital. In the past year, two local funding organizations are helping to get aspiring entrepreneurs that third piece of the puzzle. 

“The need for this has always been clear,” said Roy Schlieben, who manages Our Town Capital. “There are people with good ideas, or businesses they’ve already started, who just need a little investment.”

Our Town Capital was formed in September of 2017 and is a group of local investors willing to put their money behind projects, particularly those that stimulate the Peterborough economy or add jobs. 

Since its formation, the investment group has backed three projects: The development of the Village at the Stone Barn condominium and “agrihood,” the expansion of Nuttin Ordinary, a manufacturer of cashew-based cheese, and NH Tap in Jaffrey, which does water analysis and produces water filtration systems.

“Our focus is looking for investment opportunities that create jobs,” said Stan Fry, one of the investors in Our Town Capital. “That’s our main criteria. What’s this going to do for the local economy?”

Fry said the group has no upper or lower limit for how much they invest, and whether or not a project is funded depends on the individual investors. The group consists of about 15 potential investors, and none of them are required to invest in any particular project. For the three they’ve done so far, Fry said, the majority of the group has put forth funds, but the mix of investors and how much they’ve invested has been different for each project.

Our Town Capital isn’t the only investment group who has assisted local business owners with developing investment capital. 

The Local Crowd, once an offshoot of the now-defunct Monadnock Buy Local group, piloted a program to see how crowdfunding could be used to provide capital to rural businesses and nonprofits, said program manager Jen Risley. 

After a successful pilot run, the program is now opening up to larger communities to help raise small to moderate amounts for start-ups, expanding businesses, or individual projects.

The program is now independent after Monadnock Buy Local dissolved in January. Risley, who was also the director of Monadnock Buy Local, a network dedicated to encouraging the shop local movement. Risley said the organization had “hit the wall” in terms of what it could do and was struggling with funding and manpower.

The Local Crowd, however, was finding traction and will remain.

In its first year, Risley said, The Local Crowd raised about $35,000 through crowd-funding for local businesses and had about 227 supporters.

This year, that number grew, and The Local Crowd raised $58,000 from 500 supporters to fund a total of 10 campaigns.

Our Town Capital has helped with larger funding requests, Fry said, from $30,000-$100,000. Upper and lower limits are only limited by what the group’s investors are willing to contribute, he said.

Risley said The Local Crowd, because of its crowd-funding model, has mainly taken on smaller goals, generally under $10,000. 

The Local Crowd has contributed to local agricultural pursuits, such as helping Archway Farm in Keene raise money for a food truck to sell its sausage at local events and raising funds to build barns at Stonewall Farm in Keene and Village Roots Permaculture in East Alstead. Some of their other projects include raising funds to bring a muralist to Peterborough to paint a honeybee mural on the Peterborough Community Center and raising funds for the co-working space at the shared office space of MAxT Makerspace and the Cornucopia Project.

Both Risley and Schlieben said projects have a better chance of being selected if the entrepreneur has a specific use for the funds backed by a solid business plan. 

Risley said TLC has a connection with the Small Business Development Center in Keene, which will work with businesses to develop business plans and strategies, while the investors of Our Town Capital have mentored applicants to develop their ideas.

The idea, Schlieben said, is to ensure young business owners stay local, and invest their ideas in the local economy.

“We have resources in Peterborough. We just need to put them in one place, which is what Our Town Capital does,” Schlieben said.

For more information about Our Town Capital, visit www.ourtown.capital/. For more information on The Local Crowd, visit thelocalcrowd.com.


Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.