Roundup: Sonoma Pizza's Raising Dough
Crowdfunding, social media use, giant skeletons, Xmas toy drive and Twin Hills School District is looking for a willing-and-able board member.
Forestville’s Sonoma Pizza Company is raising money to grow its business, and it doesn’t involve a bank. The owners are using a crowdfunding platform called Honeycomb Credit that focuses on local businesses. They are reaching out to friends and fans of the restaurant and announced the campaign in an Instagram post:
It’s sort of like GoFundMe, but it’s not a donation — it’s a loan with 11.5% interest, you get all your money back in 3 years, and you can invest as little as $100. We’re bringing our campaign to our local community in Forestville and beyond to get our community involved!
I spoke to owner Chris Smith about the Sonoma Pizza's crowdfunding campaign. “My wife and I — my wife, Eda Atasoy is my business partner — we opened Sonoma Pizza in June of last year. I had been kind of thinking about it for probably 20 years and learning how to make pizza, learning the craft and doing research.
“And then we moved up here, just before COVID. We were already looking for a place up here to do this concept. We live in Forestville, and we were looking all over Sonoma County, and then this building came up for sale. We decided, well, it's going to be a huge project to renovate this, but let's do it. So it took us two years to just to get the doors open from when we acquired the property. We had no money at all.”
To buy the building, they took out a line of credit on their house to make the down payment. “We kind of just willed it into being with zero dollars,” said Chris.
I asked him if the new restaurant has met or exceeded his expectations.
He replied: “Absolutely. We've been embraced by the community and we've done a lot to try to be welcoming in what we're doing and offer hospitality to everyone and support the community as well.”
I asked Chris why he decided to try to raise money through a crowdfunding campaign.
“Running a place like this is very expensive. It just costs so much to get something like this off the ground. So we're always digging out of a hole.
“We've had a lot of success and a lot of momentum, so we wanted to capitalize on that now. But the options for capital for small businesses and restaurants in their first year are very limited. Banks won't touch you for the most part. There's other lenders out there that will do short-term loans at really high interest rates.
“If you need more capital for growth, you've got to get it somewhere. This is an option that I've been watching for 10 years because. It's only been three or four years that it's even been viable to do this,” he said. Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been around for crowdfunding products or projects. “People are really just donating in exchange for maybe a product or some merchandise or just to be a part of it,” said Chris who looked at a bunch of different platforms. “I felt like Honeycomb was best suited for what we were doing. I just like I've seen a lot of other restaurants and pizza places have a lot of success on Honeycomb.”
However, those who provide funding for Sonoma Pizza’s campaign are not making an equity investment. “It’s a loan,” said Chris. “You're putting money in, and you're getting money out, and you're getting a fairly decent return on your money.”
“People aren't generally motivated by trying to own a piece of it anyway,” said Chris. “Most of the time people genuinely are motivated to participate and be a part of what you're doing and show you support. This is a way that enables them to do that and actually get their money out with a return.”
The campaign has been going for a week and they’ve raised about $42K from 30 investors, so far. Their minimum goal is $60K and their maximum in $120K. If they don’t hit the minimum, everyone’s money is returned. The campaign runs for 45 days.
I asked Chris what they planned to do with the money they raise. He mentioned completing improvements to the outdoor area in back of the restaurant, which has become popular. “The other is we're starting a little retail store inside where we're going to sell our products,” he said. “We're going to sell to-go pizzas, and takeaway pizzas that are packaged, along with our sauces and dips. We want to offer some of the things that we make such as breads.”
He said that it will require an investment in additional equipment. “We need to put all that together and then also just having some working capital for marketing in 2024,” he said.
Honeycomb Credit says that their platform is part of an Invest Local movement. It could be a movement that benefits more small businesses and engage the people that value the services they provide.
“We put it out there to everyone,” said Chris. “Hey, we're raising capital, we want to grow our business, and why not be a part of it, because you come here all the time. We just get the community involved with what we're doing because they already are very involved and we see everyone all the time.” The positive comments on their Honeycomb Credit campaign page are encouraging.
Bare Bones Christmas
Also in Forestville, on Covey Road, is this giant skeleton that is a Christmas decoration. I mentioned it to Laura and she said: “It’s a thing.” I was kind of hoping it was some kind of West County social commentary on Christmas but it’s apparently a meme that started around 2020 on social media. Now you can buy 12-foot-tall skeletons at Home Depot and Amazon and it can stand out in your yard from Halloween through Christmas. Bah humbug!
Avid Coffee Leaving Sebastopol Location
Avid Coffee announced November 17 on Instagram that they are closing their Sebastopol location. They mentioned that a new group will take over the space and they are expected to re-open it soon as a coffee shop. Avid’s last today was Saturday.
Librarian Mathew Rose Returning
After an extended medical leave, Sebastopol Librarian Mathew Rose is returning to work on December 8. On April 7th of this year, Rose was put on administrative leave without being given a reason, although it appears that his open advocacy for proper staffing in the Sebastopol branch was behind it. In May, as we reported, a group of library patrons who appreciated the job that Rose has done petitioned for his return. Rose came back to work in late May but then he went out on medical leave on September 5.
“I am eager to get back to a healthy workplace that respects and appreciates the Sebastopol community and the work our library team does,” said Rose in an email. “During my time away from work, I was able to affirm best management practices through reading and research on the service, knowledge, and care industries, work that includes modern librarianship. It is my hope my employer has taken time to understand the needs of the Sebastopol community and gotten to know better the excellent workers who make the Sebastopol Library special.”
Fire Department Toy Drive
The Sebastopol Fire Department is holding their annual toy drive. Drop off new toys, art supplies, books, and gift cards to the firehouse at 7425 Bodega Ave. during normal office business hours (Mon. - Thurs. 7am to 5:30pm) through Thursday, December 21, 2023. All toys and gifts should be unwrapped.
Twin Hills School Board Opening
Superintendent Dr. Anna-Maria Guzman says that the Twin Hills Union School District is looking to fill a vacancy on its board, which resulted from the resignation of a board member. The Twin Hills USD Board of Trustees is a five-person board. Eligible applicants must live in the Twin Hills district boundaries. Applications for this position are available in the district office and on the district website. For further information, please contact Patty Nosecchi at 707-823-0871 or email email@example.com.
Author of Children’s Books Wanted
Stacy Fortin, the work-based learning coordinator at Analy, reached out looking for a local author of children’s books to work with a group of students who are creating a children’s novel. “We would love to have a local author come in and provide feedback on their work,” said Stacy
She has one such author lined up. “I have been in correspondence with local author Jacqui Jorgeson who wrote Little Buck the Fire Truck,” said Stacy. “Jacqui has wonderful energy and the origin of the story is locally based. I look forward to our students learning from her.” If you are interested in supporting Analy’s young writers, email Stacy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proposals for Public Art Wanted
The City’s Public Arts Committee has a call out for artists for a new $25,000 commissioned artwork at Petaluma Avenue at the Joe Rodota trailhead. Submissions are due by January 29th and three finalists will be selected in February with the award of the commission coming in May 2024. The Public Arts Committee was featured in a previous Roundup: “A Place for Public Art.”
The committee hopes to transform the trailhead and announce the downtown entry. More information can be found here.
The Week of November 27 to December 2
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