r>The spirit of entrepreneurism that exists in Door County has a new partner called COIN, which stands for Community Opportunity Investment Network.
A press conference was held May 28 to announce the launch of this new business lending program collaboration between the Door County Community Foundation (DCCF) and the Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC).
“Door County is a community that takes care of itself,” said David Eliot, chair of COIN and vice chair of the board of directors of the DCCF. “Door County is also a community that is built upon entrepreneurism.”
COIN was developed “in the spirit of that entrepreneurism and the spirit of a community that takes care of itself,” said Eliot, an entrepreneur himself who in 1996 started the community weekly newspaper Peninsula Pulse, which was followed by the glossy magazine Door County Living and The Paper Boy distribution company.
Bret Bicoy, president and CEO of the DCCF, was up next to talk about the lending gap that exists for entrepreneurs and how COIN is meant to fill that gap with loans from $5,000 to $50,000 for start-up and existing businesses.
“This whole process began when we realized the best kind of investment we can make in the human service programing is help stimulate the creation of a good, year-round job that pays somebody a living wage,” Bicoy said. “So our thought was can we do something to use private philanthropic dollars and use them in a way to stimulate economic activity in Door County?”
He said the COIN project began with a series of meetings with business owners to discuss obstacles they ran into in starting their businesses, and with local banks to learn if entrepreneurs are coming to them with business loan plans.
Bicoy said they learned “there was a gap in lending.”
So COIN was born with the idea of the two community organizations teaming up to do what they do best.
“At the Community Foundation, we are philanthropists. Our goal is to encourage people to give back, and that’s what we’re doing as part of this project,” Bicoy said. “The actual work, visiting and working with the entrepreneurs of our community, has been done for a long time by the Door County Economic Development Corp., and our goal was to create a new tool to stimulate activity, to lend into gaps where there isn’t otherwise dollars available for entrepreneurs.”
In addition to the micro-loan program, COIN will have a Business Mentoring Program that taps into the wealth of business knowledge in Door County.
“We want to tap into that expertise,” Bicoy said. “If you have the ability, knowledge and skills as a volunteer mentor to a young or promising entrepreneur, we’re hoping you’ll give us a call so we can make those connections.”
The press conference marked Phase 1 of a three-phase rollout of COIN.
“Our goal is to put at least $100,000 on the street fairly quickly,” Bicoy said. “What we’re looking for are good business ideas.”
Phase 2 comes after the program has demonstrated success. That’s when the search is on for more philanthropic dollars to advance the program.
Phase 3 will be the creation of an investment network of people willing to invest their own dollars in local businesses, expecting that they will make a profit on that investment.
“We’re excited to partner with the Community Foundation on a new initiative,” said Bill Chaudoir, executive director of DCEDC.
“A lot of economic development groups are all about trying to attract large industry to their community,” he said. “Door County is unique. That probably isn’t the smartest economic development role for our community to take. We have always thought that a better approach to grow the economy here is to grow our own businesses.”
For more information on the COIN micro-loan program or the business mentoring program, visit investdoorcounty.org.