The small agricultural town of Immokalee in eastern Collier County may be an unlikely place for the newest trend in venture-capital circles, but one company there is at the vanguard of social investing.
Tamiami Angel Funds, a group of Naples investors who invest in promising young companies, recently formed a unique partnership with the Collier County Community Foundation to raise capital for Taste of Immokalee.
But Taste of Immokalee is unlike any company you’ve seen before in Southwest Florida. It’s not a nonprofit charity and it’s not a for-profit company. It’s a hybrid called a benefit corporation, or “B Corp.”, a structure that only recently has been permitted to form in Florida.
Started by enterprising students from Immokalee High School in 2014, Taste of Immokalee sells hot sauces, spices, salsa and barbecue sauces in stores such as Publix and Winn Dixie. Under the mentorship of experienced Naples business leaders, the students from the socio-economically underserved area learn valuable hands-on business lessons such as marketing and distribution.
Anyone can invest in Taste of Immokalee just like any for-profit company and become a shareholder. Or you can make a charitable contribution to 1 by 1 Foundation, the nonprofit that helped launch Taste of Immokalee with grants from insurance giant State Farm.
But investing through the Tamiami Angels Impact Investing initiative at Community Foundation of Collier County (CFCC) could mean a windfall for the greater benefit of the community. Here’s how: By ceding their shares in Taste of Immokalee to the CFCC, investors get a tax deduction because of the foundation’s nonprofit status. If Taste of Immokalee becomes a successful company as investors believe it can, the Community Foundation can earn a windfall and reinvest the proceeds for the benefit of the community.
This is an important development because it’s another tool in the economic-development arsenal to diversify the region’s economy. What’s more, it’s a way to boost the economic well-being of communities that haven’t benefited from the economic recovery.
There is a well-known precedent for this kind of social benefit to financial success. Food and beverage company Newman’s Own has distributed $475 million to charity thanks to the actor Paul Newman who founded the company in 1982.
Tamiami Angel Funds and other investors are confident that Taste of Immokalee can be financially successful and boost economic opportunity. But like any startup enterprise, Taste of Immokalee needs capital to grow.
Tamiami Angel Funds is the lead investor and its members are contributing $12,000 to seed a $250,000 capital raise. That’s money Taste of Immokalee can use to bring manufacturing to Collier County and provide more opportunity and jobs to the region.
Taste of Immokalee will show the state that profits and social welfare aren’t mutually exclusive. Now’s the time for investors to prove us right by contacting Tamiami Angel Funds for more information (www.tamiamiangels.com).
Timothy Cartwright is chairman of Tamiami Angel Funds, member-managed funds that allow high-net-worth individuals and families to invest in promising early stage and expansion-stage companies located in the U.S., with a preference for those in Florida.