Swimming and diving: an update from the team

What does it take to pull off Community Sourced Capital? A wide range of talents and an insatiable passion for using finance to enhance communities. No big deal.

We share this story with you because we want you to see the kind of topics we’re thinking about in addition to everything we produce. It’s one thing to start a business, and it’s another to share that experience with our network of supporters.

Following the official launch of our first “live” community lending campaigns, we brought our entire team together last week for a full weekend “hang out” and a one day “retreat” at our Hub Seattle headquarters. Brent flew in from Roanoke, Meryl came up from Denver, and Alex, Casey and Rachel enjoyed short bus rides from their homes in Seattle. We also had the incredible opportunity to have the entire team meet with our amazing mentors: Jon Kroman, Todd MacDonald, and Carol Sanford.

Todd led us through a morning exercise of exploring how our team’s interactions ripple out and affect our customer relationships; the core of our team operations will show up in our everyday interactions with non-team members, and those interactions could even show up in our customers relationships with their customers. Whoa. It was an exciting reminder of how important a healthy team is for running a healthy company. And ultimately, it re-enforces our core purpose of building community through trust-based relationships.

In the afternoon, Carol took us down an incredible path of exploring how we engage with our customers and Squareholders in order to create systems of constructive dialogue instead of just asking for “feedback” and seeing what shows up in the inbox. We want to invite our customers and Squareholders to conversations that reward everyone involved through real conversations. “Feedback” often misses this target by a longshot. We hope you hold us to this challenge.

At the end of the day, we’re still swimming along, creating and growing our community finance platform. Our team retreat was a reminder that we should never hesitate to take deep dives into re-exploring our company’s essence, what we do, how we do it, and who we are when we do what we do.

Here’s to swimming, diving, designing, playing, and inviting people to learn alongside with us, all at the same time.

The state of small business on the eve of the election

Small businesses are the heart of our communities and the life-blood of our economy. Few politicians would disagree with that.

Every day, small business owners roll up their sleeves and bring you and me some of our most basic services, often with a smile from a friendly face. They make our lives better by creating spaces where we can enjoy coffee with friends and by making delicious food when we’re too busy to make it ourselves. They create jobs. Small business owners are some of the hardest working and most creative Americans. Every politician agrees with this.

So how do we “vote” for small business? Both the Republican and Democratic Party platforms say we need to make the tax code friendlier to small business. USA Today recently published an article, Q&A: Looming Small Business Tax Hike Explained. It’s an ominous headline, but, in fact, all the looming tax hike has to do with is raising personal income taxes for people earning over $200,000 a year. This possible tax hike might affect as much as 3.5% of all small business owners, maybe—probably fewer. Most small business owners just don’t have that kind of income. That means, when they need to grow, they can’t afford to just cut a check.

I’m worried about what’s happened to access to capital for small business. Bank lending in the smallest sized loans, loans under $100,000, has plummeted. Overall lending is starting to improve for larger loans, but these “micro-loans”, the size most often needed by our neighborhood businesses, continue to decline precipitously. A recent Federal Reserve study says small businesses identify “access to capital” as the greatest impediment to creating new jobs. I want my neighborhood businesses to create jobs for my neighbors, and they need access to capital in order to do it!

So while the presidential candidates focus on tax codes, how can we, we the people, help our neighborhood businesses get what they need?

I don’t believe we need to wait around for banks or government to solve these problems for us. We can start by making appointments at the locally owned hair salon and frequenting the locally owned coffee shop (an easy task for Seattle). We can recommend neighborhood businesses to our friends and start to build local economies that are less likely to tank when Wall Street tanks. But that’s not the whole story.

We also need to ensure that small businesses have access to financial resources; they need the capital to start, run, grow, and improve their businesses. Banks simply aren’t lending to small businesses like they used to. Let’s put our money to work where it can do our neighborhoods some good!

Crowdfunding puts financial power in the hands of many people, but its application to small-business financing is still new. Kickstarter, the most well known crowdfunding website, recently helped a business on Bainbridge Island raise nearly $20,000 to help start their business, but Kickstarter was designed to help artists fund creative projects with donations. That’s why my company, Community Sourced Capital, was designed from the ground up to meet the needs of small business through crowdfunding. We’re so passionate about it that we decided to become one of the first Social Purpose Corporations in Washington State. That means our corporate charter includes a mandate to help small businesses and local economies thrive. You can count on us to live up to that mission!

This election year, we aren’t focused on the power of the politician. We’re focused on the power of the people. We should never forget that we the people are what elections are really about. We hold the power to collectively make decisions, and when we aren’t voting for politicians and policies, we can vote with our dollars by supporting small businesses with our purchases and our investments. We don’t need politicians to help us with this step. We can roll up our sleeves and put our money to work to fund the world we want to live in, today.

Generative design and local living economies

Last week, Casey and I returned to our Alma Mater, the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, to talk about Community Sourced Capital with about 20 MBA Students studying Local Living Economies in a class taught by sustainable finance expert Stuart Cowan. Continue reading “Generative design and local living economies”