By Geeda Searfoorce | The Charlotte News
Vermont’s small businesses are poised for big wins thanks to a new partnership between the Charlotte-based company Milk Money and VSECU, a Vermont credit union. As Vermont’s first and only third-party equity crowdfunding portal, Milk Money will leverage the credit union’s support to carry out its mission to empower entrepreneurialism and drive local business development.
Janice Shade and Louisa Schibli founded Milk Money, a Charlotte-based company, in February 2015 with a mission to put the means for creating new businesses, a strong local economy and personal wealth within the reach of all Vermonters. The two seasoned entrepreneurs identified a hole in the early stage capital market and created a solution that takes advantage of the Vermont Small Business Offering regulatory updates of July 2014. Vermont entrepreneurs can post fundraising campaigns on MilkMoneyVT.com to solicit equity/debt investments from any Vermont resident. Prior to VSBO, such investment opportunities were available only to accredited investors—individuals with $200,000 annual income and/or net worth over $1 million excluding their home.
“Janice and I founded Milk Money to help drive local investment, giving entrepreneurs access to local capital and strengthening Vermont’s local economy,” said Schibli. “And our new relationship with VSECU accelerates our ability and capacity to meet those goals.”
As a not-for-profit banking resource for everybody who lives and works in Vermont, VSECU offers a full range of financial products and services to its member owners. But this partnership marks the first initiative under VSECU’s newly launched vision, focused on maximizing the credit union’s social, environmental and financial impact throughout Vermont.
“Our mission has long been to improve the lives of all Vermonters, and our new vision is really a renewed focus on that mission in a very literal sense,” said Rob Miller, CEO of VSECU. “With our large scale and reach across the state, we are in a very unique position to bring people together and empower the possibilities to help tackle some of Vermont’s economic and social challenges.”
By making an equity investment in Milk Money through VSECU’s wholly-owned, independently operated subsidiary, Vermont Heritage Financial Group (VHFG), the credit union will leverage its scale, capacity and cooperative principles to foster social, environmental and financial prosperity throughout Vermont. “Credit unions were the original peer-to-peer lenders, and with Milk Money’s focus on supporting local investment at the individual level, it was a natural fit,” said Miller. “One of the most significant ways we improve the lives of our members—and all Vermonters—is to help strengthen Vermont’s economy. This investment supports those efforts by fostering a healthy, locally-grown entrepreneurial ecosystem, connecting Vermonters with Vermont business and growing the Made in Vermont brand.” VSECU members will benefit from the relationship through increased access to investment and entrepreneurial educational programs, as part of this new partnership.
Schibli said, “We are thrilled to not only have VSECU’s support and encouragement, but to also benefit from its scale and reach to make more Vermonters aware of local investment opportunities and how they can make an impact in their communities.”
Governor Peter Shumlin, at a recent press conference announcing the partnership, lauded the union for its potential to exponentially impact the state’s economy. “This is exactly the type of collaboration that makes Vermont a very special place to grow a business or an idea,” he said. “With a community by your side who believes investing locally is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do, Vermonters are tackling economic and social challenges head on in the most creative ways.”
Entrepreneurs and investors—regardless of size or current net worth—can get ready to capitalize on that creativity starting now.