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Fund Milwaukee: Small investments with big impacts

By Anna Lardinois

Startup Storyteller

Investors looking to dip a toe in the startup funding pool have a new option to invest small amounts in local businesses. Fund Milwaukee connects Milwaukee investors with local small business owners.

Fund Milwaukee is run by a board of volunteers whose goal is to “increase local investment opportunities, with a focus on local businesses that measure their success against all three pillars of the triple bottom line – economic, ecological and social.”  The organization connects local investors and entrepreneurs to fund loans, which average around $15,000.

These small investments have a big impact on the community. According to Fund Milwaukee data from 2018, the investments generated from the program have created 187 jobs and connected 26 local businesses with grassroots funding, including Outpost Natural Foods, Purple Door Ice Cream, and the Bobblehead Hall of Fame.

Periodically, interested investors join a Fund Milwaukee hosted Zoom meeting to hear from two Milwaukee businesses looking for investors. The entrepreneurs present their pitch deck to potential investors, with a focus on financial predictions and the investment terms, including the interest rate at which the entrepreneur agrees to repay the loan.

Fund Milwaukee’s February Viral Pitch meeting occurred on Tuesday, February 8. The first pitch of the evening was from Rooted MKE owner, Ashley Valentine. Rooted MKE is a BIPOC children’s bookstore and maker’s space that will offer tutoring and literacy instruction. The CEO is a former MPS teacher with a master’s degree in Exceptional Education & Literacy Instruction. The Vliet Street location is scheduled to open in March.

Valentine, who already has a full slate of tutoring clients, is seeking $10,000, with $5,000 dedicated to purchase retail inventory and $5,000 for working capital. Rooted MKE’s minimum investment threshold is $500.

The second pitch of the evening was from 1700 Pullup, a local soul food restaurant that currently offers catering and carryout meals. With special like “Turkey Leg Thursdays,” and “Soul Food Sundays,” local chef Rosetta Bond has developed a tremendous following in the city. If the name sounds familiar, it is because Bond has been in the headlines lately. She is the chef that won the Tandem Restaurant giveaway, taking over the location vacated by Caitlin Cullen, and is a recent Brew City Match winner.

Bonds is seeking $50, 000 to make repairs in the former Tandem and offset operating costs, with invests starting at $1,500.

The graduate of MATC’s Culinary Arts program is an alumna of the Green Bay Packers Protégé Program, and notes that both Jennifer Bartolotta and TrueMan McGee are both mentoring her on the launch of her first brick and mortar location. Bond anticipates opening the restaurant in time for Mother’s Day.

After the entrepreneurs pitch to the investors, Fund Milwaukee steps back and allows the deals to be worked out between the business owner and funder. Like all investment opportunities, a profit is not guaranteed, and may result in a loss.

You can learn more about Fund Milwaukee and how to get involved here.

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