Full Circle Brewing Co. CEO Arthur Moye is encouraged by his brewery’s foray into equity crowdfunding. He said his is the first brewery west of the Rockies to allow non-institutional investors to buy a stake in the venture. File Photo
Written by David Castellon
Full Circle Brewing Co.’s venture into equity crowdfunding is paying off.
So far, operators of the brewery and bar in Fresno’s Chinatown district have collected more then $124,000 from investors. That’s nearly half of the $300,000 company CEO Arthur Moye hoped to get when he launched the crowdsourcing campaign in October.
Initially, Moye said, he wasn’t sure crowdfunding for businesses might work, as the practice is so new that Full Circle is the first brewery west of the Rockies to try it.
“Definitely, it’s a new frontier,” said Moye, adding that he jumped in because “I had faith in the community, that they’d be engaged. I was cautiously optimistic it would work.”
Initially, Moye took the traditional route to seek a loan to expand and upgrade his business, which will include buying new, larger brewing tanks, quadrupling the brewery’s current capacity, and renovating the building at 620 F St. The latter project likely would include installing a new stage and sound system for special events.
The expansion also would allow Full Circle, Fresno’s oldest brewery, to go beyond mostly brewing kegs of beer just for its bar patrons and also produce cans of beer to sell in stores, said Moye, who hopes to get his beer into Safeway and Costco stores, among others.
Instead of giving Full Circle a loan outright to cover the anticipated $1 million expansion plan, officials at Fresno First Bank told him that recent legislation had opened the door for non-accredited investors to invest in businesses through crowdfunding, and Full Circle began working with Breakaway Funding LLC, a Sausalito-based crowdfunding firm.
This meant that average people not involved in the finance and investment industries could put money into early-stage and startup businesses, vastly opening up the investor pool for small businesses. A minimum investment of $500 is enough to buy a stake in the brewery.
Moye never intended to pay for his business’ expansion entirely through crowdfunding. Instead, Full Circle has obtained a $685,000 traditional loan from Fresno First Bank, which the CEO said was made easier for the bank to offer because Full Circle has capital coming in from investors, offsetting some of the risks in lending the rest of the money.
“Basically, we were the first successful crowd funding campaign for a brewery west of the Rockies,” said Moye, adding that as of Dec. 1, 2017, “Everybody who put money in the campaign became full investors in Full Circle.”
Exactly what percentage of the brewery and bar those investors will own once the investment campaign is finished, Moye wouldn’t say except to note it will be a minority interest.
“We are looking for more investors,” he said, adding that so far most of the people who have put money into the business are from the Valley.
In fact, Moye estimated that about 60 percent of the investors are his bar’s customers, which should make it easy to put on an investors party to celebrate when Full Circle reaches its investment goal, probably in the coming weeks.