Community Supported Enterprises

Community Supported Enterprises
By Helen Labun Jordan, Vermont Agricultural Development Coordinator, Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets

Community Supported Agriculture has become a familiar part of Vermont’s economic landscape. Today, there are similar models emerging in other business fields-- “Community Supported Enterprises.” This concept responds to the idea that many businesses, especially in Vermont’s most rural areas, play an irreplaceable part in community life that isn’t captured in the daily sales transactions. Customers and community members are willing to honor that role through creative financial support that can take many forms.

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Status Report on CSE's in Vermont: Why are they happening, what are the benefits, and what are some of the lessons learned thus far?
By Paul Bruhn, PTV Executive Director

Although there are a great many antecedents, the Community Supported Enterprise phenomenon seems to have blossomed in the last few years.

Why are CSE's blossoming now?

There are a couple of reasons that are combining for this new wave of CSEs:
People seem to be recognizing that there are some business enterprises that are essential to community vitality.

In addition, there is a growing understanding that these essential businesses may not work in the normal for-profit system.

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Home-Grown Businesses: The Role of Grassroots Financing
YES! Magazine , August 27th, 2010
by Stacy Mitchell

In the summer of 2008, business partners Jessica Stockton Bagnulo and Rebecca Fitting were making plans to open a bookstore in Brooklyn. Their chosen neighborhood, Fort Greene, was over the moon at the prospect. For years, residents had been clamoring for a bookstore, repeatedly citing it as their top need in surveys conducted by the neighborhood association.

Although Fitting and Bagnulo still had a long way to go—they hadn’t found a space yet or secured financing for the venture—the Fort Greene Association decided to throw a party to welcome them to the neighborhood. More than 300 people came.

That was in mid-September. A week later, the financial crisis hit. Even before the meltdown, Bagnulo and Fitting knew that securing a bank loan for a start-up bookstore would be tough. Now it looked downright impossible.

The warm welcome from the neighborhood gave them an idea, though. Bagnulo and Fitting reached out to people in the community and, over the next few months, raised $70,000 in more than two dozen small loans from their future customers. Combined with their own savings and a loan from the World Trade Center Small Business Recovery Fund, this gave them the $346,000 in capital they needed. Last October, they opened the Greenlight Bookstore on Fulton Street. The store has been a huge hit, with sales exceeding their projections.

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Northshire Bookstore Successfully Passes Major Funding Hurdle
Dale Willman, Saratoga Wire, November 2, 2012

The owners of the Northshire Bookstore, a venerable institution in Manchester Vermont, hope to be opening their second store here in Saratoga next year. And they are now a lot closer to making that happen. General Manager Chris Morrow says they have reached their goal for community funding for the new operation.

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Why We Can't Shop Our Way to Better Economy
TED Talk by Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

In this 15-minute TEDx talk, ILSR senior researcher Stacy Mitchell argues for a new phase in the local economy movement. She notes that there’s been a resurgence of support for small farms, local businesses, and community banks, but argues: “As remarkable as these trends are, they are unlikely to amount to more than an small sideshow on the margins of the mainstream if the only way we can conceive of confronting corporate power and bringing about a new economy is through our buying decisions… What we really need to do is change the underlying policies that shape our economy. We can’t do that through the sum of our individual behavior in the marketplace. We can only do it by exercising our collective power as citizens.”

Watch 15-minute TEDx Talk...


Examples of Innovative Community Supported Enterprises in Vermont
If you are involved with a community supported enterprise and would like to be included here, please send us an email with a brief description of your project and a link Thanks!

Community Supported Agriculture in Vermont
Community Supported Agriculture farms, or CSAs, offer prepaid subscriptions to the farm's produce for the season. Most CSAs offer shareholders a basket every week of the veggies and herbs that are in season on the farm. Shares vary from farm to farm, sometimes even including eggs, cheeses, flowers, and meat. Some CSAs even offer shares that go through the winter months. Becoming a member of a CSA allows you to know you’re eating fresh, local food and to meet the farm and people who grow your food! You also get the satisfaction of supporting local agriculture: the prepaid CSA arrangements are a source of financial security for Vermont’s farmer. For a complete listing of CSA's in VT, visit the:

The Bee's Knees, Morrisville, VT
Loyal customers saved a local restaurant from closure by loaning the owner $1,000 each, to be paid back in $90 restaurant coupons per quarter, because the local food, live music, and community atmosphere at the Bee's Knees was important to them -- a piece of their community worth investing in.

The Bobcat Cafe, Bristol, VT
An English-style pub in central Vermont gets $5,000 from each of 32 local investors who in turn get 25% of their dinners; in five years, the investors are paid back and the Bobcat cafe is an established fixture in Bristol.

Claire's Restaurant, Hardwick, VT
A restaurant in a struggling downtown in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom gets off the ground with the help of 50 community members who invest $1,000 each and a chef who uses ingredients from area farms -- the end result is a truly local, truly great restaurant.

Pierce's Store, North Shrewsbury, VT
Pierce's Store, North Shrewsbury/ small coop-operated general store.

Putney General Store, Putney, VT

The Basin Block, Vergennes, VT
A group of 28 local investors formed a limited liability corporation to renovate of a "bookend" building in a downtown National Register District for mixed retail, office and housing.

WBTN, Bennington, VT
When Southern Vermont College could no longer afford to operate the local radio station, a group of citizens and local non-profit groups combined forces and resources to purchase Bennington's radio station.

Mad River Glen Ski Area, Fayston, VT
In 1995, in the face of financial difficulties and the increasing consolidation and homogenization of ski areas in the northeast, Mad River Glen skiers came together to form the Mad River Glen Cooperative. Capital raised from the sale of shares at $2000 a piece have enabled the ski are to address mounting debt and badly needed capital improvements -- as well as increasing skier loyalty -- effectively ensuring a brighter future for Mad River Glen.

Community Owned "Co-op" Grocery in Vermont
Vermont has more than a dozen established food market co-ops throughout the state.

The Adamant Coop, Adamant, VT
A traditional general store, with community-owned shares similar to larger food coops, this oldest Coop in Vermont is anything but traditional -- a community hub, a mecca for baked goods, a post office, an art studio, a grocery store, and a gathering place for residents of this tiny town of 276. Additional income is generated from the annual Black Fly Festival in May, an event that has become a "cult classic" in Central Vermont.


Community Supported Enterprises Outside of Vermont

Youth Run Internet Cafe, ARCafe, Vinalhaven, MEé-Relocates-Expands-Offerings/14440/

Harrisville General Store, Harrisville, NH

Community Owned Department Stores
Residents in rural areas are banding together to start and own their own department stores. The Powell Mercantile in Powell, Wyoming is one of the largest and most successful.



Community Supported Kitchen, San Francisco, CA
Three Stone Hearth

Community Owned Shops in England, Scotland and Wales -- there are over 170 of them!

Community Supported Fisheries, Maine and North Carolina

Community Supported Pie, Raleigh/Durham, NC