Cultivating a Diverse Regional Food Economy
In home kitchens and fledgling workshops across Portland, creative food entrepreneurs are working to get their ideas off the ground and out into the world. Whether it’s a delicious soup prepared from a cherished family recipe or an eccentric, taste-bud-provoking brew, they have a concept or a tangible product, but just need a little extra help to take it to the next level.
New Seasons Market is dedicated to cultivating these industrious makers through its New Seasons Partner Fund, a fresh initiative that aims to support underrepresented entrepreneurs and food businesses, including those owned by women, people of color, immigrants, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and social mission-based companies. Everybody deserves the chance to flourish, and New Seasons’ Partner Fund reinforces its commitment to leveling the food industry’s playing field through equal opportunity. Through this financing program, the Portland-based grocer aims to help smaller scale, local producers sow the seeds of success, spurring a more diverse regional food economy.
Each quarter, loans ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 will be granted to qualified farmers and other food-related enterprises in the communities New Seasons serves, giving a boost to up-and-coming producers who historically have faced challenges receiving a traditional bank loan. Each comes with a low interest rate and generous repayment terms, allowing for financial flexibility and viable growth. The “pay it forward” rates are set at a fixed percentage for the duration of the loan, with any interest paid being rolled back into the pool for future recipients.
To meet the Partner Fund criteria, proprietors must have been in business for at least two years, have less than 25 employees, and be looking to use the capital for development efforts. These include purchasing assets to increase current production, merchandise expansion, transitioning vendor formats from farmers markets or food carts to more retail-ready goods, developing advertising campaigns, or adding staff to augment sales.
On top of this monetary stimulus, New Seasons is partnering with local organizations, like Prosper Portland and the Inclusive Business Resource Network, to devote a minimum of five hours of business mentoring, while also offering each beneficiary access to a multitude of commercial resources, such as packaging and transportation support, balance sheets, or marketing guidance.
Customers can contribute to the Partner Fund by shopping for items from New Seasons’ house label, Partner Brand—as a portion of those proceeds will supplement the fund. Neighbor Rewards members can even earn double points on these purchases (and feel doubly pleased while doing it). Only businesses that meet New Seasons’ requirements for healthy food and the ethical treatment of animals, people, and the environment are eligible.
Anyone who meets the specifications and can share an outline of their business plan and financial fitness is invited to apply. For more information visit newseasonsmarket.com/partnerfund.