Well the IGG campaign is over, but this journey is just beginning. We are continuing with our founding member campaign at our website www.thegrainmillwf.com/grow
Thanks to everyone who donated their resources towards getting this capital campaign kicked off properly!
Last year at this time, Grain Mill of Wake Forest customers were excitedly buzzing with the rumor that Whole Foods Market might be moving into the old Kroger location off Capital Blvd in Wakefield Commons. A call to Whole Food's Austin, TX headquarters confirmed that unfortunately, they would not be adding a second North Raleigh store.
Now I like shopping at Whole Foods a lot. I love the atmosphere and unusual product line, but I'm not especially fond of Whole Food's prices. So I thought,
"What's keeping residents from doing it themselves? Why do we spend time driving into Raleigh, sending our local money to Austin, Texas, when we could develop something ourselves that could theoretically better meet the needs of our community?"
I'm David Bissette, proprietor of The Grain Mill of Wake Forest. For the past three years, my wife Mitzi an I have been operating this unique business, filling a very special niche market in central NC, selling whole grains by the pound and affordable bulk food by the bag. The Grain Mill also specializes in long term food storage solutions for those on a budget.
During that time, The Grain Mill has grown from a gathering of friends buying grain, to one that carries nearly fifty different natural foods in bulk, twenty-five types of loose leaf tea, and sixty spices, as well as a line of essential oils and botanical herbs.
The logistical infrastructure is already in place to create something special for locals, with locals, by locals. Imagine it like this: A Whole Foods style shopping experience on a Trader Joe's budget
If you have questions, please contact me at David@TheGrainMillWF.com or via telephone at (919) 526-4573.
The Grain Mill of Wake Forest has operated debt free since it opened in June 2010. During then, the business has expanded to include more than 5000 special order bulk items.
By operating frugally and questioning every business related purchase, The Grain Mill has managed to and will continue to keep prices down for our members.
This campaign's goal is to raise $130,000 by asking a large group of people to contribute small amounts, rather than groveling before bailed-out bankers or venture capitalists for a small business loan.
As you'll read in the next section, member economic participation is a key principle of cooperative businesses. By helping fund this community driven venture, you'll contribute to the local economy of NE Wake County, rather than fund a VC's summer vacation to lovely Cancun.
Open and voluntary membership
Co-ops do not limit, for any social, political, or religious reasons, who may join and become a co-owner of the co-op. Co-ops are open to anyone who can make use of their services and is willing to accept the responsibilities involved.
Member economic participation
Members provide the basic capital (money) to start and operate the co-op. Surplus resulting from the operations of the co-op belongs to the members, and they control how it will be distributed.
Democratic member control
All co-op members have equal voting and decision-making power in the governance of the business, on the basis of one vote per membership.
Autonomy and independence
Cooperatives limit the influence of outside agencies or business partners to ensure their independence.
Education, training, and information
Co-ops have an obligation and need to educate members about co-ops. This mandate also encompasses educating the general public, young people, and community leaders about the nature and benefits of cooperation.
Concern for community
While member needs are their primary concern, cooperatives also work for the development of their communities.
The Grain Mill's 2013 Cooperative Donation and Membership Campaign and Its End Results
A Larger Bulk Food Selection
Would you like a local source for natural cocoa in bulk? Does the idea of saving packaging wastes and buying only what you need appeal to you? Your investment in The Grain Mill in any amount will help the business to quadruple in size, expand the product line five times over, allow for the addition of more organic and gluten free products, and create the local, natural market shopping experience you've been waiting for!
And for each product by-the-pound, I hope to have at least two whole bags available for immediate pick up as well, so no waiting or preordering on many of our bulk food items. Imagine an entire pallet of red wheat or oatmeal...
I like Ocean Spray's craisins. One pound sells for $7.36 a pound at Lowe's Foods in Wake Forest. The exact same product is available in bulk from The Grain Mill for $3.86 a pound! When you start to examine the costs of gluten free and organic food, the savings are even more significant. The infographic at the bottom of the page has more information about the cost savings of buying bulk (click here).
Yes, that would mean moving The Grain Mill to another location. At this point, there hasn't been any activity on scouting a new location. Don't fret through. It will still be somewhere in NE Wake County.
Members will receive discounts at the register and access to special "at-cost" pallet sales on popular items.
A Teaching Kitchen Classroom
Since opening, education has always been a primary focus of The Grain Mill, It's my hope that you would leave the store knowing something you didn't know when you came in. Part of the membership campaign expansion would build a kitchen classroom environment similar to your high school Home Economics classroom. It would be available for instruction on baking, cooking, canning, candlestick making, etc.
As the kitchen would be inspected by the NC Ag Department for low-risk foods like breads and pastries, members could make and sell their own goodies directly on site!
Members receive a reduced rate (TBD) on kitchen classes and rentals.
A Bulk Dry Goods Cannery
The Grain Mill will be one of only two dry pack canneries in North Carolina. The other cannery, located in Greensboro, has a three month waiting list and a list of 20 available products. Grain Mill Cannery visitors will have access to 250 on-hand products and thousands of bulk dry items if they give advanced notice before their visit.
You're walking down the aisle of the new Grain Mill pushing a rolling cart, 8 to 10 cans in section of a three level stainless steel flat top cart. As you go through the aisles, you fill them with the bulk food you want, in the amount you want. After filling and labeling your cans, you take a trip back to the cannery for oxygen absorbers and hermetic sealing.
If it's your first time in the cannery, you will be asked to watch a short video prior to using the equipment. After sealing, pay and you're out the door with exactly what you wanted, in the exact amount that you wanted, canned and easily stored for long term (or short term) without worry of insect infestation.
All founding members will receive free access to the cannery and grain mill.
A Farm-to-Fork Cooperative Shopping Experience
Ultimately while outside of the scope of this capital campaign, The Grain Mill of Wake Forest desires to cooperate and interface with local producers to create a “farmer's market" style shopping experience several days a week.
Locavores (people who try to eat foods produced within a certain distance of home) would have a place to go for food that is responsibly raised and processed. The Grain Mill would act as an intermediary agency, ensuring quality and accountability for both the farmer and the consumer.
One section of the store would be dedicated to herbals, botanicals, and holistic remedies.
Your investment in The Grain Mill of Wake Forest is not a tremendous gamble or exceptional risk. The business has operated consistently in the black for three years in the most unlikely of conditions; a 700 square foot retail space in a hard-to-find location, on a one way street, with bad parking and no advertising budget to speak of.
The Grain Mill of Wake Forest was a long shot that has proven to be successful. I've been told that there is no business concept like this operating anywhere between here and Atlanta, Georgia. Customers who have moved to large cities like New York or Washington call in their orders, and have their husbands take a side trip to Wake Forest when they travel on I-95.
The Grain Mill's busines model does not require a retail storefront with main road frontage. Five dollars to seven dollars a square foot annually for “flex space" is much more sustainable than fifteen dollars per foot for a retail location! Plus, my family and I have been unloading pallets of grain by hand since we opened in 2010. Moving tons of food with a pallet jack, instead of on our shoulders, would be a beautiful thing!
Residents of NE Wake County, Franklin and Granville Counties, have been anxiously awaiting the addition of a cooperative business like The Grain Mill of Wake Forest. You might be one of those residents. Let's make it happen!
Click the infographic below for a larger version.
It seems like all good crowdfunding campaigns have some kind of great perks.
$1 Washington donors... thank you! Every bit counts and low fruit is still fruit! You get recognition on TheGrainMillWF.com's "High Five" page with your name and a quote (Keep it clean please) of your choice!
$5 Lincoln donors will receive a Virtual High Five and a laurel, and hearty handshake via a postcard sized refrigerator magnet, as a memento of their donation.
Donors giving at the $15 and $25 level, I have a really neat item for you. A few years back I wrote and illustrated a set of chicken coop plans that have become one of the most downloaded plans on the internet. You can read more about them at www.CatawbaCoops.com.
- If you donate $25 to the project, I'll send you a printed version with a customized inscription via USPS with a refrigerator magnet.
- $15 will receive the booklet delivered via email as an Adobe PDF document.
Founding Members - One Time Only Gifts from $75 to $500
- Individual Membership - $75
- Family Membership - $125
- Business / Individual Membership - $350
- Business / Family Membership - $500
Membership in The Grain Mill's cooperative business is an easy investment for a lifetime. Your one-time gift gives you access to a variety of member benefits.
- 5% offin-store purchases and 10% off bulk purchases in-store and online at www.TheGrainMillWF.com starting April 15th.
- Your name and a personal quote mentioned in the member's section of TheGrainMillWF.com
- Free access to milling and canning facilities.
- Reduced rates on kitchen facilities.
- Quarterly newsletter with special promotions for members, educational opportunities, and a list of "at cost" daily in-store specials.
- Desk calendar once the schedule is approved by the advisory board.
- Ability to cast votes in the decision making process for the business.
- Opportunity to serve on the business advisory board.
- A special perk I'll tell you about later in the campaign.
Founding Patrons - One Time Only Gifts of $501 and above
Patrons are givers whose gifts have allowed specific needs to be met. All patrons will receive:
- The benefits of membership
- An embroidered polo shirt in your choice of white, blue (shown here) or black.
- A hands-on bread baking class for you and five of their friends, taught by Mitzi Bissette in the kitchen classroom once we open.
- Patrons at certain levels receive naming rights to particular business items.
Impulse Sealer Patron - $650
Certainly donating $650 is no impulse and should be carefully considered. But as an "impulse patron", you have donated an electric impulse bag sealer to the cannery. Your name can be located on a plaque on the sealer. You can even call it "my sealer" when you come into the store. - Plus member perks for you, and a hands-on bread baking class for you and five friends.
Convection Oven Patron - $1500
Your generous contribution purchases one of the convection ovens in the kitchen classroom. You can use your oven for your bread baking class. Those friends of yours will likely be impressed when they see your name plaque announcing you (or person / organization of your choice) as a Convection Patron.
Cannery Patron - $2000
Donors at this level will be the benefactors of the cannery, and will fund one of the canners in the cannery. As with the impulse sealers and convection ovens, your name will be forever immortalized, with your permission of course, on a canner.
William A Perry Award Recipient - $7286
At the highest level of patronage, the kitchen classroom will be named in your honor. Your donation provides glass front, reach-in, 3 door refrigerators for the teaching kitchen.
But Dave, I'm not comfortable putting my credit card information on the internet, and I don't have a Paypal account. How can I help?
I can accept your donation in the store or via telephone at (919) 526-4573. While it won't show up in IndieGoGo, I'll provide you with a copy of your receipt.
In the fortuitous event that we overreach the amount needed to open the new Grain Mill location, here is a phenominal secondary project I think you might like to hear about.
My friend Andy Lepper and his wife Susan go to church with me, and operate a non-profit business called No Longer Orphans. As of May, they will be the directors of the Shiloh Children's Home in Alwar, Rajasthan, India. The orphanage is home to 30 orphaned boys.
It's important to help Andy and Susan create a source of income where they were not consistently involved in fundraising and constant trips back to the United States. Jesus' brother James writes, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress"
Susan grew up in Kerala, India and makes a curry sauce that is beyond famous throughout our church. She calls it Curry in a Hurry and is the best curry sauce I have ever eaten! Susan recommends the curry on meat or vegetables, but I prefer it on a spoon. We had it for lunch this past Sunday on free ranged chicken. My pickiest daughter even loves it!
Wouldn't it be great to bring this product to market to help fund the Shiloh Children's Home? I have asked Susan to document her recipe, and ingredient sources. Seredipitously, we have a bottling company with nationwide distribution, not more than 10 miles from Wake Forest. They specialize in sauces and marinades like JohnBoy and Billy's Grillin' Sauce.
Andy and I estimate it will take about $2000 to get the nutritional information testing from NCSU, buy a barcode, print the labels, and bottle the curry sauce for the first batch.
If we raise $132,000 or greater, contributors who signed up at any of the membership levels will received a complimentary jar of Susan Lepper's Curry in a Hurry, once it is bottled and ready for market.
Enough people have asked me to put up a bio that I suppose it must be important to some of you. My introduction to this kind of thinking and lifestyle came via the Mother Earth News. I don't mean the slick mag that it is today; rather the original from the 1970s and early 80s edited by the Shuttleworths. My dad was a subscriber, and I still have all those old magazines in my house as a "reference library".
Dad would take me to MEN's Ecovillage near Asheville for a weekend of earthship housing, timber framing, beekeepings, and hydroelectric engineering. Then we'd come home with great ideas that warmed our house through the winter and made it unbearably hot during the summer. The candles on the mantlepiece melted... No A/C.
In 1989, I joined the Army and went on a long camping trip in the Persian Gulf. In 1992, I got out of the Army, then met my wife Mitzi the first day of my freshman year at UNC-G. We were married in 1996, and after cramming four years of college into five, I graduated with honors, with a BFA in design. Someone told me my graphics for this membership campaign looked "too slick". It's what I do. You can bet I didn't spend a lot of money having someone else do them for me.
In the time between then and now, I've worked in all areas of the graphic arts, including as an art teacher for Wake County schools, and on IBM.com's graphics team. But I've never strayed far from my Mother Earth News roots.
I am the owner of Wake Forest's only flock of permitted chickens. After the hassle of getting a permit, a friend of mine and I petitioned the town board to change the ordinances, which they did. I keep bees on my roof. I have a large permaculture garden in the back and side yards. Come by the store and I'll show you.
Wake Forest, NC - For immediate release. An unfindable location on a one-way street with bad parking; for most businesses this would be a recipe for disaster. For David Bissette, proprietor of The Grain Mill of Wake Forest, it indeed was a challenge to overcome. The bigger challenge has been the results of operating a successful bulk foods business in only 700 square feet of retail store.
Against the odds, The Grain Mill has managed to remain in business, add more products, and run out of space in three years. For this reason, The Grain Mill will be launching a $130,000 crowdfunded membership and donation campaign from March 4th to April 15th. Rather than go the traditional route of bank loans or venture capital, David hopes to capture the same spirit of word-of-mouth advertising that grew The Grain Mill by using the crowdfunding website IndieGoGo.com as a means of raising support.
Crowdfunding is when many people with a commitment to a cause contribute affordable amounts of money, rather than one or two people committing to the full amount. “It’s a socially equitable way of funding projects and businesses. It’s total risk management. No single person has their neck stretched too far.” said David.
The Grain Mill’s expansion would concentrate on four specific tasks; to expand the product line to over 250 products in bulk, to build an inspected teaching kitchen, to install a dry-pack cannery that would be one of only two in North Carolina, and to interface with local producers to create a cooperative farm-to-fork shopping experience much like a weeklong farmer’s market for its membership.
Since opening The Grain Mill in June 2010, David has concentrated on the very specific niche market of procuring bulks foods from Amish country in Pennsylvania, and making them available locally for a reasonable price. The Grain Mill regularly draws in customers from Garner, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Holly Springs, and as far away as Charlotte, Richmond, and Fayetteville. He once had someone drive in from Cincinnati for a weekend. “They bought a lot of food!” laughs David.
Changes are, if you saw something you liked on your tour of Amish country in Ohio or Pennsylvania, The Grain Mill can get it for you. David offers a local pickup option on over 5000 bulk food products. His freight shipping costs are five cents a pound, which is $1.25 for a 25 lb bag of oatmeal.
But level of quality, economy and service comes with a price. Grain Mill customers have learned what ‘dancing with strangers’ really means. On a Saturday afternoon with not unusual to find six or seven people pirouetting around each other in search of wheat, beans, natural sugar, or organic loose leaf tea.
“I’m out of room!” says David. “My customers are asking me to start carrying more organic or certified chemical free products, or are interested in gluten-free eating, but I’m out of space. An additional 2300 square feet would go a long way to alleviating this traffic jam.”
More information about the The Grain Mill’s IndieGoGo membership campaign can be found online at www.igg.me/at/thegrainmillwf
The Grain Mill of Wake Forest is currently located in the mother-in-law apartment of 230 South Main Street, Wake Forest, NC. David can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at (919) 526-4573