UPDATE — THIS Loan was fully funded on March 28 — congratulations Theresa!
If you’ve got $25 sitting around earning nothing, have I got a deal for you! Make a no-interest loan through a new crowdfunding venue and your loan will be matched to become $50 to a promising local business. In an effort to expand financing options to our local business community, Hannah Grimes has become a KivaZip Trustee and our first business to become eligible for a loan is up on the KivaZip crowdfunding site. This site provides interest-free loans (not gifts like Kickstarter). We are hoping you, our Hannah Grimes Community, can help make her effort a success. Theresa Darling of TC’s Pantry is already 80% of the way to reaching her funding goal. With your loan commitment, Theresa can get the full funding she needs to move into the Neighbor Made commercial kitchen and to move her new business forward.
We are excited to put our toe into the crowdfunding waters – it holds great potential for alternative financing for local ventures and is a fun, low-risk way for ordinary people to invest in businesses they believe in. If YOU are ready to put your toe in the water, the process is simple and takes just 5-10 minutes. Just log in to Theresa’s KivaZip site and register as a funder. Payment is made through PayPal – you do not need a PayPal account to make the loan.
We welcome your feedback about becoming a lender. If you send us an email reporting on your lending experience, you will be included in a drawing to receive TC Pantry’s first chicken pot pie to roll out of the Neighbor Made Kitchen. We warmly welcome you to join us at two upcoming events to meet Theresa. She will be at our April 12 Gallery Opening for Alicia Drakiotes and our Business After Hours on April 17.
TC’s Pantry currently makes delicious made-from-scratch comfort food – as she grows her business, she will start by specializing in her 5” and 9” chicken pot pies. The filling is made from premium chicken breast, fresh vegetables, and fresh herbs. The gravy is made from TC’s own homemade chicken stock. The crust, which has been described by customers as “deliriously good”, “outstanding” and “phenomenal,” is a family recipe. It is the perfect recipe to be frozen and baked at home. It is flaky, elegant and made with pure New England butter. TC’s Pantry also makes beef, butter bean and leek (vegetarian) and mushroom (vegetarian) pies. TC’s Pantry does not use any artificial ingredients or compromise standards of quality.
TC’s Pantry plans to sell wholesale to retail establishments who will stock the products in their freezer. Freezer space will be the main challenge for sales. Long term goals include a totally local ingredient pie, and incorporation of other comfort foods such as lasagnas, stuffed shells, and mac and cheese. The initial target will be the tri-state area of New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts.
“I am confident in my ability to run a business successfully, as I have a business management degree from Franklin Pierce College and I have 15 years experience in bookkeeping and management, Theresa shares, “I have also had work experience in catering, packing, shipping, label and media creation and sales. I have a strong work ethic and I am very efficient in the kitchen.”
When she’s not cooking, Theresa works as a small business bookkeeper. In October of 2011, she was laid off from a non-profit that lost its state funding. She found work again in April at a meat processing facility but in December of 2012 found herself laid off again. She says, “it is my goal to take TC’s Pantry to the next level, incorporate local ingredients and allow myself to build my own sustainable future.”
Theresa is working with the Hannah Grimes Center to develop the business. Hannah Grimes and Neighbor Made work together to provide support to specialty food producers in the region. Neighbor Made Kitchen, which is privately owned, is known as a helpful and friendly entrepreneurial hub for Keene’s growing specialty food industry. Theresa has also been working at the Hannah Grimes Center with Rich Grogan from the NH Small Business Development Center on her business plan and will consult with David Deziel, Nebesek Marketing, on her marketing. All these services are free. She is planning to be part of the next class of the six-month Business Start Up program, a peer program facilitated by business coach Helaine Iris which begins in May. The fee for that class is $600, but scholarship dollars for 75% of the fee are available for those who qualify.
Theresa is also working with Denise Meadows, Marketplace Manager at Hannah Grimes Marketplace on bringing her product to market. Hannah Grimes Marketplace provides a thriving retail marketplace, education and support for local producers.
According to Theresa, “I would have started my business much sooner had I known all these resources existed!”
With funding from the Citizens Bank Foundation, Hannah Grimes Center, Hannah Grimes Marketplace, Neighbor Made and the Cheshire County Conservation District are working together to support the growth of a local specialty food sector in our region and encourage the use of local ingredients in that sector.
TC’s Pantry was approved by the crowd funding site Kiva Zip – which allows any individual to make interest-free loans to small businesses – in amounts as little as $25. Businesses have up to two years to repay the interest-free loan. The purpose of this loan is to rent commercial kitchen space at NeighborMade in Keene, NH. NeighborMade is a full service kitchen for business start-ups like TC’s Pantry. The kitchen is fully equipped for food processing. The kitchen has all needs covered including labeling equipment, a shipping center, and a full staff of industry professionals to advise entrepreneurs. The kitchen is rented on an hourly basis, which means that higher costs only result from higher demand/sales.
The loan will also cover start-up costs such as licenses, permits, insurance, the utility deposit, a small amount of equipment, sales media, labeling, packing and beginning inventory.
As a child, Theresa and her sister liked to sell iced tea and cookies from a hand-built, bright blue vendor stand on the corner of Little Bear and Big Bear Hill in rural Connecticut. They would tow it up the road with a rope and park at the intersection. “Boy, did we get excited when we made a sale! I still get that same feeling today,” Theresa recounts.
As a teenager, her family moved to a small farm and a big garden in beautiful southern NH. Theresa always loved to cook and share food. “There is something about autumn in New England that inspires great comfort food and I found that sharing it was rewarding,” she shares.
She started to make from scratch comfort food for family and friends to help make ends meet when home raising her children. Soon, customers were calling her, which encouraged her to explore starting down a more serious business path. In February of 2012, Theresa struck a deal a local village store and began selling her comfort food from their kitchen ready-to-eat.
As Theresa tells it, “The community has embraced TC’s Pantry and given me the confidence to take the next step, which is to rent a commercial kitchen so that I can expand my market by selling frozen versions of my food that can be baked at home, for busy families who want both convenience and a nutritious meal.”