What is Local Investing?


For years, top financial advisers on Wall Street urged Americans to invest their hard earned money in huge corporations promising returns to guarantee a relaxing retirement. But what about Main Street? What exactly is local investing? And will it provide profitable returns?

Local investing occurs when residents of a community with capital invest that capital in local projects or small businesses. Small businesses are the backbone of this country. As of 2011, 27.5 million companies classified as small businesses by the Small Business Administration. These companies contribute half the national private sector GDP and “are responsible for more than two out of every three jobs created” according to author Amy Cortese.

Investing in these small businesses and their local projects can occur in a myriad of ways including loans, preferred stock, and royalties. The main barrier with local investing, however, is who can invest. Right now, it is difficult for the everyday American to invest in the business that operates less than a mile from his house. Due to SEC securities laws, investment is limited to friends and family, accredited investors, and few other exemptions.  Hopefully this will change soon and allow the public to support their local communities.

Thanks to human ingenuity, however, committed individuals have found a way to invest locally while obeying the law. There are investment strategies for almost any small business enterprise and any type of investor. Some strategies include crowdsourcing like Kiva Zip and co-ops which include the outdoor store REI.

Investing in your local community is rewarding both through monetary returns and building the community in which you choose to live. Supporting your local community can give you profitable returns but also that investment stays in the community as opposed to buying stock in corporations who operate overseas to save money. If you want to learn more about investing locally, check out the Investment Toolkit on our website at HERE.

Additional Reading:

Locavesting: The Revolution of Local Investing and How to Profit from it by Amy Cortese


Self Directed IRAs and Supporting Local Investment

Excited for retirement? The golden years mean relaxation, travel, and no 9-5 schedule. But everyone knows they need to save to guarantee their desired retirement. Even as a child, I was told to start saving early – as in the moment I got a job I needed to start putting money away. It’s a smart idea, as studies have verified that saving a few years earlier could mean tens of thousands more for retirement as shown in this image from Business Insider illustrating the power of compounded interest:



compound interest


Now the only question is: how do I save? There’s the traditional 401K model, but there’s also a lesser known model called a self-directed IRA.

A self-directed IRA allows investments in previously unavailable markets such as real estate or tax lien certificates along with the benefits of the traditional IRA, namely tax-free investment. A self directed IRA shares most of the same qualities of a 401k including the same rules to cash out. But you will be in charge of your own investments and have the freedom to invest in businesses or people you know and personally believe in. Take for example, Meghan Williamson’s self-directed IRA. She helped local business owner Karen Lawrence by investing her savings in Karen’s business to help her get out of debt. Essentially, Meghan loaned some of her savings from her self-directed IRA to Karen as an investment. It was a mutually beneficial experience because Karen repaid her debts and Meghan earned interest on her investment.  


Using a self-directed IRA allows you to invest tax free in businesses you trust to better save for that long awaited retirement. Through investing locally, you help your community thrive while watching compounded interest transform your savings into a hefty sum. With self-directed IRAs the world is your investment oyster, so to speak.

Additional Reading:





A conversation with the Rutts: Smart local investing, re-purposing, and revitalization

1484415_1052340968126190_7084642744377046456_nThe goal of local investing is to encourage new business growth, help your fellow neighbors succeed, and see your community thrive. For Celia and Jim Rutt, that is exactly what they set out to do when they began their local investing endeavors. Self described as a teacher and former entrepreneur respectively; the Rutts have invested multiple times in the community hoping “to see more activity economically for [the Augusta County area].”

Metal Craft Brewing Company was just what they were looking for. Slated to open in 2015, the new brewery will be located in the old Virginia Metalcrafters building in downtown Waynesboro. It will be the first brewery in Waynesboro but also adding to the slew of breweries and wineries dotting the area.

The Rutts knew about the Staunton Creative Community Fund programs and heard about an equity investment opportunity with Metal Craft Brewing Company. They liked the idea of “repurposing an underused resource” and were also intrigued in bringing a new food business to Waynesboro.

While the brewery is not yet open, the Rutts are satisfied with their investment thus far. They say there have been little to no problems other than the back and forth of contracts and dealing with investor language. The owners of Metal Craft Brewing have been good with giving updates to the Rutts and keeping them in the loop, which is important with local investments.

Because of their success with past investments and commitment to building a better community, the Rutts say they would invest again in a local business if they saw a good plan and were interested in their mission. They advise anyone who is interested in local investing to really do their homework. Know the business, know the plan. It is imperative to understand the risks and be proactive in keeping updated with how the business is operating. Jim wisely advises never to invest more than you can afford to lose.

Hopefully others will soon follow in the Rutts’ footsteps and invest in their beloved community. This area has a lot to offer and everyone can do his or her part to bring more businesses launch and grow.

For more information on SCCF’s Invest Local initiative, contact courtney@stauntonfund.com. Take a minute to explore the Invest Local Toolkit and other resources here on Invest-Local.org

Local Food, Local Fuel, and Local Finance

Local Food, Local Fuel, Local FinanceBuilding a vibrant local economy requires many interlocking pieces — from local food, to local fuel, to the local finances to bring these initiatives to fruition. 

Authors Carol Hewitt and Lyle Estill haven’t just been writing about these interlocking pieces of local economy, they’ve been building them. Carol founded Slow Money NC to help investors connect with local food entrepreneurs and community projects, and Lyle (author of Small is Possible) doubles as an alternative energy entrepreneur.  Read more

Local investing eases small business credit card debt

Editor’s Note:  This story is part of an ongoing series of essays written by the participants of Invest Local projects.  By presenting their stories in their own voices, we hope to build a better understanding of the importance of local investing through the lenses of the entrepreneurs, lenders, and supporters that make it possible.  

Karen Lawrence, owner of KLCreative Media, at the Staunton Earth Day celelbration.

Karen Lawrence, owner of KLCreative Media, at Staunton Earth Day.

By Karen Lawrence 

I don’t think my business start-up story is unusual.

I was under-financed and overly optimistic in my ability to turn a profit quickly. And even though I was aware that my personal situation coming out from under several years of upheavals, relocation to Virginia, and a new career direction was going to make financing a new business problematic, I took a leap of faith anyway. I felt I could beat the odds.

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Introduction to Local Investing Workshop

Local Investing workshop flierWe’ve been doing our research and now we’re ready to share!

This Thursday, October 16th at 6:00pm we’ll be talking about how local folks are using tools developed around the country to democratize capital and invest locally — and how you can too!

We’ll explore using self-directed IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) to divest from Wall Street and into our communities, small business and peer-to-peer loans, as well as other strategies for investing locally.   Read more

Success Stories: The Urban Farm Company grows from local investments

Slow Money loan recipient Bryant Mason starts seeds to help grow community gardens.

Slow Money loan recipient Bryant Mason starts seeds to help grow community gardens.

While looking for example success stories of small businesses benefiting from local investing, we were lucky enough to get the chance to talk with Bryant Mason, the founder of the Urban Farm Company of Colorado. The Urban Farm Company of Colorado does some amazing work, which in their own words “is focused on increasing the number of gardens in communities and decreasing the time, knowledge, and confidence barriers preventing people from growing their own food. Our entire service is designed to make gardening easier, less time consuming, and more fruitful for the average person.”
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