Real Food Connections is moving closer to hitting an investment goal that willallow the Fredericton-based business to expand into Saint John and create a local food distribution network in the province.
Real Food Connections is trying to raise between $220,000 and $290,000 through local investors by using the Small Business Investor Tax Credit program.
But the business has run into a series of barriers, mainly because of red tape associated with signing up investors.
Levi Lawrence, the store’s owner, said the process, in order to get investments of between $1,000 to $2,000, has become “a real mess.”
“We’re spending, on average, four or five hours of time for each $1,000 or $1,500 investment,” Lawrence said.
“For us, we really want that team behind us when we have a new business. But for any other small business trying to raise money from local dollars, it would be a huge barrier. It wouldn’t be worth the time or effort.”
The Fredericton businessman was hoping to wrap up the investment period this week, but he has extended the deadline for investors to come forward until Nov. 14.
As of Tuesday, Real Food Connections had raised about $180,000 but it requires $220,000 for the project to move to the next phase.
The extension will also allow the business to attend an organic farmers’ conference in Nova Scotia next week.
The investment funds will be used to open a new retail location in Saint John and help expand distribution of local food in New Brunswick.
“The goal is to prove that local food in restaurants, retail and distribution is viable, economic, it provides a return, it's profitable,” Lawrence said.
Real Food Connections already has a following in the Moncton area. While the store does not have a permanent location, its local food boxes are delivered each week to customers.
Amanda Hache is one of the Moncton residents who orders her weekly food box from Real Food Connections.
She and her partner have already invested in the company's expansion.
“We don't have a lot of money, we both have student loans, but we care about food,” Hache said.
“We believe in Levi and his team, and it's $500 each so it was a no-brainer for us.”
Hache said she considers it an investment in the environment and sustainability.
“I think that can put us on the map, create jobs, and get us eating healthier,” Hache said.
It is people, such as Hache, that Lawrence said he is hoping to attract as investors.
He said it is important to have people, who will benefit the most from the business’s expansion, to have a stake in the project.
“So we were looking for farmers, the consumers, the retail owners, the restaurant owners, to become the investors, because they are not only going to love the potential return on their investment,” he said.
“But they are really going to like the fact that in their community in the next year we'll see five jobs, another million dollars spent on local food most likely.”