Side Dishes: Crowd-funding website helps Vermont businesses
Want to support integrated rice-and-duck farming in Vermont? How about small-cell honeycomb bee trials, kombucha production or soup making with local ingredients? Businesses like those are the bread and butter of Three Revolutions . The company, which launched its website on July 11, bills itself as “the world’s first crowd-funding platform dedicated to connecting food and farm innovators.”
A pair of foodie Marlboro College MBA grads, Kevin Lehman and Chris Lindgren, cofounded the company, basing their plan on Lehman’s final project in the green-business program. Both began their careers working at food co-ops: Lehman at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op , Lindgren in Plainfield . During years of work with emerging food businesses, Lehman says he identified two needs: to gain funding for start-ups and to raise community awareness. “When you do a successful crowd-funding project, whether it’s [for] food or something else, you’re building out a fan network that will live beyond the life of the project and can help you with your marketing,” he explains.
The Three Revolutions website currently features four projects, including rice grower Boundbrook Farm  in Vergennes, Dancing Bee Gardens  in Middlebury, Aqua Vitea  in Salisbury and Two Guys in Vermont  soups in Montpelier. Lehman says about a dozen more campaigns are in the pipeline and will appear on the website as they become ready for public consumption.
So, what are the “three revolutions,” exactly? Lehman says they’re convergent forces that benefit his clients: a growing local food system; stronger social networks fostering more online awareness; and, in finance, new models of community investing. Like Kickstarter.com, which has also hosted a number of Vermont food businesses’ campaigns, Three Revolutions uses a deadline to motivate fundraisers and takes a cut of their proceeds.
For now, Three Revolutions is focused solely on businesses in Vermont. Lehman says he plans to expand beyond the Green Mountains in the next year. Until then, he hopes community members will “put their money where their mouth is.”