Business

These people want to give Thurston County businesses their money

New member of Thurston Investment Network speaks

Pat Rants of The Rants Group, a commercial real estate company in Olympia, talks about his decision to become a member of the Thurston Investment Network.
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Pat Rants of The Rants Group, a commercial real estate company in Olympia, talks about his decision to become a member of the Thurston Investment Network.

A gathering will take place this Monday in downtown Olympia, one that will introduce potential investors to businesses seeking additional capital. And once the evening is over, there’s a chance that a business emerges with an investment, either in the form of equity or a loan, to help them expand.

No, it’s not Shark Tank, the popular dealmaking show on ABC, but it’s something similar called the Thurston Investment Network, or Think, that hopes to pair investors with local businesses. It’s a Thurston Economic Development Council program and is headed up by Aslan Meade, business and investor relations manager. It’s something he has been working on for years, and it’s modeled on a program that has been successfully used in Port Townsend called the local investing opportunities network, which has invested about $7 million into Jefferson County businesses and nonprofits since its creation.

The Thurston Investment Network, which launched this year, is not intended to compete with traditional lenders, but wants to be an additional option to traditional financing or early-stage investments made by family and friends, Meade said.

And the EDC’s role is to facilitate the connection between potential investor and business, but has no role in any potential deal. That’s between them, he said.

Monday’s destination is 222 Market on Capitol Way, the food hub that is home to such businesses as Chelsea Farms Oyster Bar, Blind Pig Spirits and the Creperie. Business owners and investors are set to mingle and sample food, then they will gather inside the Creperie to hear investment pitches from three undisclosed businesses that operate at the market.

The event is open to those who would like to join the investment network. The evening begins at 5 p.m. Monday, followed by the pitches around 6:30 p.m. Before the pitches are heard, though, those who are planning to join the network must participate in a short training session.

Meade said the businesses pitching Monday are seeking investments in the range of $50,000 to $300,000. Although information about the businesses is not being disclosed, the investment network has 15 people, and two of them stepped forward to talk to The Olympian: Pat Rants of The Rants Group in Olympia, and Ross Irwin of Cabinets by Trivonna in Lacey.

As a commercial real estate company, The Rants Group already interacts with small businesses by building, managing and leasing to them, Rants said, but he wanted to get more involved.

“How do you really connect to small businesses that need to grow, but don’t have the track record or assets yet?” he said. “Private investors can make these decisions.”

Rants said he also wants to see the local economy grow and to provide jobs. As an investor, he wants to meet people he can believe in and invest in businesses that are stable, but also show the potential for growth. If he invests, the return on investment is a secondary concern for him, he said.

More important to him is the opportunity to get involved with a local business.

Irwin of Cabinets by Trivonna, like Rants, joined the network because he likes the idea of investing in something local.

Among his investing criteria: A thorough business plan, a business that’s unique, a business that knows how to stand out and business owners who have invested their own money into the operation.

“I want to see some skin in the game,” he said.

He also wants to work with someone who has the highest integrity and understands the “vicissitudes of revenue.” In other words, when things go bad, like the Great Recession, is that business owner prepared for the worst?

Business and investor relations manager Meade expects to have other events throughout the year that will bring together investors and business owners under one roof. No dates are set for the next event, but he expects the focus to be on the craft distilling and brewing industry.

But if you’re a business owner, you don’t have to wait for the next event. If you would like to submit a business opportunity to the investment network, download the paperwork at the Thurston EDC website at www.thurstonedc.com. Once there, click on programs for business, then select Think.

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