Jacksonville businesses receive tens of thousands from the community.

Murray Hillbilly co-owners Raffaella DeGracia and Lindsay Cooper are excited about what the future could bring for their business after a successful investment fundraising campaign.

“We plan to improve our back porch,” DeGracia said. “We want to make it a place to have events and more seating. Our building is old so we want to update the electrical so we can run more efficiently.”

If enough is left over, Murray Hillbilly plans to get a mobile trailer.

These options for expansion and improvement were achieved with the success of the restaurant’s campaign, which ended on August 8, DeGracia said, raising their minimum goal to a total of $45,000.

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Honeycomb Credit facilitated the campaign, said Honeycomb Chief Operating Officer Topilzin Gomez. Honeycomb is a fundraising platform that helps local businesses raise money from their community.

“Small businesses are the reason we exist [can have] Difficulty getting bank loans,” said Gomez. “The amount of debt is increasing from time to time. If banks don’t lend to businesses, members of the community do.

Gomez described the system as similar to kickstarter or GoFundMe, but community members “become the bank” instead.

Honeycomb has launched foreclosure campaigns in 26 states and is seeing an increasing presence in cities in the Mid-Atlantic region, including Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Washington, and more interest in the South.

In Jacksonville, four businesses have opened and completed campaigns – Cravegan’s, Murray’s Hillbilly, Airy Diner and Culture Kitchen & Catering.

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Regard Libations recently launched its campaign, Honeycomb’s fifth in the area, with a minimum of $20,000. He reached half of that minimum goal in the first three days of the 45-day campaign.

“Honeycomb works really well for retail businesses, restaurants [and] Breweries,” Gomez said.[These establishments have] They have a community of people eager to invest, and many traditional lenders shy away from them.

Cravegan’s first Jacksonville campaign launched in early May and has raised more than $51,000 from 35 investors, according to the campaign results website.

Latasha Kaiser, owner of Cravegan in Orange Park, said she wants to use the money to expand her company’s line of vegan sauces.

“I didn’t want to do a GoFund Me,” she said. “Not what I thought was professional for my business.”

When Honeycomb Credit contacted her, she thought asking community members would be a good platform to grow her business through investment rather than donations.

“Instead of paying off a bank loan, we’re paying back the community and our followers and supporters,” Kaiser said.

Cravegan didn’t meet the $200,000 high goal, but like other local businesses that used Honeycomb to campaign, he did meet the minimum, which was $40,000.

“We can achieve our goal of redesigning the labels and getting the capital to order the pots and bring them to the shelves,” she said. “I appreciate people who support my brand on purpose. I can create whatever I want, but if the public doesn’t come and participate, it’s just a paid hobby for myself.”

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Gomez said there tend to be three types of Honeycomb campaigns: expansion campaigns, working capital or financing campaigns or line-of-business campaigns, according to Cravegan. Especially in the current economy, he said, he’s seen small businesses with lots of good ideas but not enough cash or bank loans. He called the community as a “winner” to do business in the way of domestic investment.

“Many businesses want to lock in fixed loans and avoid variable loans,” he said. “We’re seeing investors looking to lock in these higher, higher rates. If their money is sitting in a bank account, this is a way for them to earn some income on their investment.

Honeycomb investments start at $100, making it more accessible for the average person to become a small business investor.

According to Gomez, the average investment is $1,000, and people are looking at this as part of their investment portfolio. Many investors are in their late 20s or early 30s and “love Jacksonville and want to invest in the area.”

“If you’re going to panic about the stock market in the coming years, this is a good way to do it differently,” Gomez said. “At the same time, many local people like to shop in their local economy. There is a big local shop, eat local movement, but there is a limit to how much we can use locally, and there is not much available in the local investment economy.

There is also a third type of investor.

The Jesse Ball DuPont Fund has created a fund to invest five figures in small businesses running Honeycomb campaigns.

Chris Crothers, director of impact investing at the Jesse Ball DuPont Fund, said there was a gap in the lending ecosystem that the firm is working to address, particularly in Northeast Florida.

There is information out there that says too many people can’t get affordable loans. “Fintech lenders have exploded, so people don’t qualify in these traditional programs, and they often go to predatory places, which are often intentionally placed in neighborhoods of color.”

As a result, Crothers said his firm is working to plant a large tent in Northeast Florida for impact investing — leading to greater local opportunities through grants and traditionally invested capital that aligns with grants and missions.

Crozers said JX’s microfinance fund is designed to attract capital to small business owners, and Honeycomb was at the top of the list for online platforms to partner with.

“While we’re not limiting the fund, we want to emphasize loans to women and people of color,” Crothers said. They are looking for businesses that meet our criteria. Our agreement is the first to support those businesses since the JAX Microfinance Fund campaign was launched.

He added, “Having an organization like Honeycomb that understands where we’re coming from [to protect and improve our communities] It was very important. “

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DeGracia’s biggest surprise of the campaign wasn’t how much they raised for Murray Hillbilly, but the number of investors.

“It was really comforting that they believed in our restaurant and our concept and supported our operation with their own money,” she said. “We have two other projects in store. We are also looking to open a second location.”

For now, Murray Hillbilly is trying to fix up the back porch in late fall to start some mild weather events.

Gomez said this is the first honey comb campaign in the area, but it won’t be the last.

“We’re looking to find small businesses that want to grow,” he said.

Kaiser added that this partnership opens up opportunities in two different equity platforms.

“Our horizons have expanded, and I’m very grateful for that,” she said. I have a lot up my sleeve for 2023, and we need a lot of support to make that happen.

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