Robert Pekin and Emma-Kate Rose of Food Connect Brisbane fame are entering a brave new world of equity crowdfunding and need the community’s support to turn their dream of having a Food Hub owned and run by the people into a reality.
A LITTLE BACKSTORY…
Way back in 2009 when I was new to all things fair food, I toddled along to a Conference on Food Sustainability. Much of the program reeked of greenwash and neatly put together PowerPoint slides from the marketing engines behind large multinationals… Then entered Robert Pekin stage left, and my world awakened. He spoke a kind of truth we rarely see these days, one that challenged us, made us twitch in our seats and really take note.
Part of what makes Robert’s story one of integrity and triumph is that he speaks openly of the mental health struggles he endured as a fledgling fourth generation dairy farmer. Thankfully for us, out of extreme adversity Robert made the decision to channel his energy into offering up solutions to the very food system injustices he had faced as a dairy farmer.
In 2004 Robert founded Food Connect Brisbane – a social enterprise that does so much more than supply food.
“We ethically and transparently engage local farmers to supply ecological food that is in season and super fresh, and we pay them about four times the amount of the big food chains, so more of the customer’s dollar goes directly to the growers,” explains Mr Pekin.
After operating successfully for the best part of thirteen years, alongside life and business partner Emma-Kate Rose, together they are launching into the world of equity crowdfunding.
After nine years of leasing the warehouse they operate out of, Food Connect Brisbane has been presented with the opportunity to purchase and retrofit the warehouse so that the Food Hub can grow and thrive into a modern commune-of-goodness. They have launched an equity crowdfunding campaign to enable the community to jointly own the warehouse space which will cost around $2 million dollars, with a further $2 million dollars being requested for the full fit-out. The space will be aptly titled the Food Connect Shed and is located in Salisbury.
This will be a community-owned space that will house anywhere between 50 and 70 local food businesses. Think winemakers, cheese producers, social enterprise caterers… you name it! It will create opportunities for small-scale producers who wouldn’t normally have the means to rent and staff a retail space seven days a week. For example, a cheesemaker may choose to open a retail space two nights a week at the Food Connect Shed to create better access for customers.
Robert’s belief is that word will spread like wildfire about the amazing producers who are selling direct to the public on certain days, which ultimately creates the demand – like the rise of pop-up shops, temporary restaurants or food vans, where people track their location and covet their incredible offerings.
“What really excites me about the equity crowdfunding venture is that if we reach our target we will be at the forefront of innovation around how to create an adaptive space for a variety of food businesses. All tenants will be collaborating for good,” explains Robert.
“We ethically and transparently engage local farmers to supply ecological food that is in season and super fresh, and we pay them about four times the amount of the big food chains, so more of the customer’s dollar goes directly to the growers.”
The vast volume of work that has gone into developing this vision and unique multi-occupancy, community-owned model will be documented and shared, so that other groups can adopt a similar ground-breaking approach without having to trail-blaze quite so wildly. For this very reason, the Food Connect Shed undertaking is relevant to all Australians, not only those who live in Brisbane.
Quite simply, it just makes sense for the incredible people who champion a truly local, fair and ethical food system to come together in one location. After seeing what they have achieved in isolation, imagine what could be achieved under one roof with shared resources! What’s even better is that the building they will occupy could be community owned, putting the power fairly and squarely back in the hands of the people – the growers, makers, eaters and families whose very future depends on a food system that is fair, humane, healthy and good for the environment.
I’m no financial adviser, so please do your own research before investing. I’m simply someone who has been on this fair food crusade for a while now and who constantly feels frustrated by the direction our food system (and country for that matter) is headed. Sometimes the negative trajectory we’re headed on feels unstoppable, yet every once in a while, a bold idea, a brave ideology takes your breath away. Food Connect Shed is one of these ideas for me. I have seen food hub models try and fail, so the mere fact that Food Connect Brisbane has withstood the barrage of challenges that any ‘disruptive’ model comes up against is a true credit to the people behind it. If a truly community-owned food hub is to exist, then I cannot think of any two people better equipped than Robert and Emma-Kate to lead the way.
Let’s help them do this. Let’s dare to dream of a day where food is grown for the people, owned by the people and works to improve the health of the people and the land it is grown on.
This is your chance to own part of the solution, no matter where you live. Five hundred dollars. One thousand dollars. Ten thousand dollars. They all add up to something pretty damn special. And if you don’t currently have the means, that’s cool too, share this post with your friends because you never know who it may resonate with.
- You can invest through equity crowdfunding and own shares in the Food Connect Shed.
- The aim is to equity crowdfund a total of between $2-$4 million to purchase and retrofit the Food Connect Shed.
- The General public can purchase up to $10k worth of shares at $1 each.
- There is no cap on how much Sophisticated Investors and Wholesale clients can purchase.
- If the campaign doesn’t hit $2 million in equity crowdfunding then the deal will not go ahead, your pledge will not be redeemed, and Food Connect Brisbane will go back to renting the warehouse space, which also means their ability to retrofit/improve it is limited (boohoo).
- As a shareholder, or as the team have termed it, ‘careholder’ there is potential to make money off your investment, however, it is usually a longer-term proposition, especially given the retrofit in this particular instance could take 3-5 years. If the company is profitable, you could receive an annual payment based on the company’s profits.
- Read all information carefully if you are considering making a pledge and seek financial advice from a qualified specialist should you so wish.