By Julie Fahnestock
310. $310,000, that is. That's the amount of money Californians have invested into a Direct Public Offering (DPO) for the soon-to-be eatery/market, Maker's Common. For the last five years, cheese lovers and founders of Mission Cheese and Maker's Common, Sarah Dvorak, Oliver Dameron and Eric Miller, have positioned their first business -- Mission Cheese, a wine and cheese bar in San Francisco -- as a seller of artisan, American cheeses and a hub for feedback and growth for the domestic cheese industry. Ask a few questions and you soon realize that domestic cheese is the product, but the why is empowerment of small-scale producers and the rebirth of a local economy. Enter Maker’s Common and a $600,000 locally-funded DPO.
Featuring America’s best cheese, beer, wine and charcuterie, Maker’s Common “pays homage” to the creators of artisan noshes. It's 70 percent eatery, 30 percent market. Imagine yourself, wineglass in one-hand, shopping basket in the other, as you peruse locally-cured meats and local beers. My favorite upcoming feature of Maker’s Common? Gourmet meals shared with friends around a big table. Dameron gave me a sneak peek at this family-style menu: roast pork loin with fennel pollen, polenta cakes, pea shoots, sweet pea pesto and spinach, and/or milk braised lamb neck with celeriac puree, charred rainbow carrots and broccoli flowers. Even my pescetarian taste buds are watering.
Dvoark, Dameron and Miller secured a space in Downtown Berkeley, California, for Maker’s Common -- just two blocks from the University of California, Berkeley -- last month. With high, airy ceilings and large windows, Dameron says they saw the vision for the Berkeley space as soon as they walked in the door.
“This space was made for Maker’s Common. We immediately felt like this was ours, and we are so excited to start designing,” Dameron says.
The build-out will take about nine months, which will give Dameron and his team enough time to hire 20 new employees and make decisions about how to expand to their purchasing power.
“We love our cheesemakers, and we want to buy more of everything we currently source at Mission Cheese. We want to support to them at a new level, offer new categories, and help food and beverage makers have a sustainable business,” Dameron says.
Nine months also gives Maker’s Common enough time to raise a $600,000 investment. Fully funded by a Direct Public Offering (DPO), Maker’s Common will open its doors through the $1,000+ investments of Californians. Investors receive a guaranteed return of 4 percent per year and their principal investment back in seven years. A year ago, TriplePundit’s editor-In-chief, Jen Boynton, dissected the legitimacy of this community investment model in an interview with Dameron. In the interview, he explained that there is arguably less financial risk in the stock market, perhaps because few of those companies go out of business, but what’s never accounted for with those companies are their social and environmental externalities.
“For the most part, people interested in community investments like this one also care about the health of that community and its economy. In other words, it’s not just about comparing returns and risk side by side. Community investing creates an economic resilience, a defense again the unpredictable crowd psychology (sometimes lunacy) of macroeconomic policy,” Dameron explained.
Risk aversion for investors in Maker’s Common hasn’t been an issue. To date, 114 people have invested $316,750. In order to open their doors in nine months, however, Maker’s Common needs to reach its $600,000 goal. Investment directly funds the build-out, design and grand opening of Maker’s Common. In addition to the 4 percent financial return, founding investors will also receive invites to special investor-only events and field trips; their names engraved on a wall in Maker’s Common; annual reports informing them of the company status and future plans; and special access to the Maker’s Common founder Facebook page.
Where else can you shop, eat, celebrate with family over dinner, support the small-scale artisan AND put money back in your pockets? Mission Cheese and Maker’s Common are two of the special places in this country where you can have your cheese and eat it too.
Julie Fahnestock is the founder and sustainability storyteller of B Storytelling, a content development company dedicated to strategically discovering, creating and telling the stories of for-profit, for-mission companies. She's also teamed up with TriplePundit on a monthly content membership model called the Content Shop. When Julie isn't chronicling the coolest stories from the world's most awesome change agents, she's surfing, snorkeling and loving life in the sun in West Palm Beach, Florida. Contact Julie at email@example.com or @juliefahnestock