Conversations with Marion: A Commonsense Approach to Creative Financing

IMG_0616As part of our ongoing series to profile Invest Local projects and opportunities, we sat down with Marion Ward of Regenerations, L.L.C. to talk about her approach to enhancing economic wellbeing for family, friends, and community without being reliant on traditional sources of finance.  

 

 

 

Thanks for talking with us Marion!  We know you’ve done a lot of local investing, both as a Project Maker and a Project Supporter.  Can you share some examples of your projects with us?

Marion's off-grid cabin in Maine was one of her first experiences with peer-to-peer loans.

Marion’s off-grid cabin in Maine was one of her first experiences with peer-to-peer loans.

Of course!

As a borrower, I set up a loan a number of years ago with dear friends to help me cover my purchase of some land and off-grid shelter in Maine. They were looking for a safe place to park some money and I wanted a reasonable way to secure the property.  I put up a third of the purchase price, and they loaned me the rest. We used the land as collateral to secure the loan – that way, they were assured of repayment should anything have happened to me. We set up regular payments and it was a great tool for both parties for a couple years.

As a lender, I have assisted a friend who was purchasing and renovating a commercial property to expand their business. Several of us made modest 6-month loans to help bridge the purchase.  It felt really good to be a part of this important next step in the venture.

My business, Regenerations, L.L.C. has also used local investing to help renovate historic Staunton buildings. For example, this same local Staunton business, later made a loan to my L.L.C. to complete one of my renovation projects. She earned much more interest than just leaving funds in the bank. Although the loan was made to Regenerations, L.L.C. it was personally secured by me. Not only did she get a better return, but she also got site tours to enjoy the renovation process, to be proud of our contributions to a worthy investment in our City, and regular breakfast meetings for brainstorming and mutual support.

"The Saloon" was renovated by Regenerations LLC in downtown Staunton, and earned a Virginia Downtown Development Award in 2004.

“The Saloon” was renovated by Regenerations LLC in downtown Staunton, and earned a Virginia Downtown Development Award in 2004. Photo by Bruce Snyder.

Are your local investments always loans, or do they take other forms too?

There are all kinds of options if you think creatively!

I am also a partner in two different L.L.C.’s formed for the purpose of purchasing and renovating historic properties in downtown Staunton.   Each property was “distressed” and would not qualify for typical financing.    With multiple partners we were able to make a cash purchase and pay for the renovations as we did them.    Typically my partners have more financial resources than I, so they hold larger percentages of the corporations, but my company, Regenerations, L.L.C., will get a set compensation upon ultimate sale of the property for designing and serving as general contractor of the project.   One partner is our “manager” and handles all bills, records, and rental arrangements. Another partner is an attorney and draws up any legal documents (L.L.C. operating agreements, etc.), generating 1099s, coordinating tax documents, and offering valuable legal and financial guidance.  By working together, we’re able to do far more than any of us as individual investors could.

 

Would you share with us some of the principles or guidelines that you use in your local investing activities?

  • I’ve only done this with people I absolutely and trust and care about.
  • I will only enter into an agreement if I know it genuinely helps both parties meet their real needs and present circumstances.
  • I will only borrow funds if I have the ability to repay with other resources should the need arise.
  • I will only invest or lend money that I can currently, happily and comfortably do without.
  • All transactions are legally documented. Any specifics and details are clear and binding. The parties can always renew and renegotiate but there is always a default status in order to avoid unnecessary ambiguity or awkwardness. A handy tool is a promissory note.
  • Each party has her or his estate plans in good order, so neither is in jeopardy should one or the other become incapacitated.
  • Generally, one of the parties has a background in finance, law, accounting, or we run it by a person who does.
  • The most important thing of all, is protecting the relationship so I will NEVER consider anything that would or could potentially put that, or either of us, at risk.
  • Both parties believe in and celebrate the goals for which the transaction is entered into.
Regenerations is using local resources, local talent to bring back this cottage in the Newtown historic district of Staunton, VA.

Regenerations is using local resources and local talent to bring back this cottage in the Newtown historic district of Staunton, VA.

Do you think Local Investing is consistent with your overall business strategy?

The philosophy behind local investing is directly related to my business philosophy. Regenerations is dedicated to renovating one-of-a-kind properties in an ethical, sustainable fashion. I hire local craftspeople, follow the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, use small owner-operator businesses, and we recycle everything possible back into the project or pass it along to others.  That means I think a lot about community, relationships, sustainability and the real cycling of resources in a community.  I ask the same questions as Invest Local:  How do we use local resources to meet local needs?  How can our economy represent mutual support rather than just methods of extraction?  How can people work together rather than relying on non-local, corporate institutions?  Investing locally isn’t just a tool of my business, it’s an integral part of my business philosophy and how I live.

 

To learn more about Marion Ward and Regenerations, L.L.C. you can visit her website at http://regenerations.info or contact Marion at marion@regenerations.info

 

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