SLoFIG Helps Food Entrepreneurs Finance Their Startups, If They Have a Solid Plan

Say you’ve got an awesome recipe for home-grown organic pickled beets and a slapped-together business plan for selling them to Whole Foods.

Don’t expect to get your funding from SloFIG.

But the angel investment group might entertain a food business that’s a little further along, like Carl Alguire’s Smart Gardener. His company just landed $100,000 from the 20 Chicago-area angel investors who make up SloFIG, the Sustainable Local Food Investment Group.

SloFIG, the Sustainable Local Food Investment Group

SloFIG, the Sustainable Local Food Investment Group

Smart Gardener sells customizable edible gardens online and will use the funding to build an interface to loop landscaping businesses into the process. The company launched its beta site in January 2012 and is enrolled at Impact Engine, an accelerator program for socially responsible startups.

“We’re still largely in a pre-revenue stage, so this [SloFIG] funding is really important to maintaining our momentum while we develop our business model for adding landscapers to the site,” Alguire says.

Two-year-old SloFIG aims to fill a funding gap for small to midsize businesses and startups engaged in Chicago’s regional food chain. So far, the group has doled out close to $800,000 in debt and equity financing to a total of four companies — most of it in the last few months, according to Teri Lowinger, a founding member and also part of Hyde Park Angels, another Chicago angel fund.

Aside from Smart Gardener, other ventures that received financing include Erie St. Clair Restaurant LLC, partly owned by restaurateur Dan RosenthalNellcôte, chef Jared Van Camp’s swank restaurant in the West Loop; and Moss Funnel Farms in Michigan, which received about $10,000 to package and freeze a bumper crop of blueberries last summer.

Since word of SloFIG’s formation hit the street, more than 60 applications for financing have poured in from smaller companies within 250 miles of Chicago. They’ve included Web-based platform creators, specialty food producers, and