Co-founder of NC’s local food lending movement recognized

Dec. 12, 2013 @ 06:05 PM

More than 30 years ago, Carol Peppe Hewitt and her husband bought an old farmhouse in Pittsboro so her husband could launch a pottery workshop there. With a loan from a family member, they were able to launch the pottery business that’s still in operation today.
Now Hewitt is paying it forward. She’s the co-founder of a peer-to-peer lending movement called Slow Money NC. The nonprofit has helped to launch Durham’s coffee shop Cocoa Cinnamon, the nut butter company Big Spoon Roasters, Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop, and the now-closed Reliable Cheese Co.
Started in 2010, the Slow Money NC nonprofit has helped facilitate loans to a total of 48 different food entrepreneurs and farmers made from 75 different lenders. Most of the loans are for several thousand dollars, with interest rates of between 2 and 4 percent. Hewitt said a few have defaulted or are in arrears of the loans that have been made.
“If your goal is to make as much money as you can off the back of someone else’s labor, this is not your project; Slow Money is not for you,” she said. “If your goal is to invest in your community so when you award around Durham, there are coffee shops, your local economy is strong, if you understand the real value of money, if you understand the impact your money can have, not in a global sense, but in a very local sense, then this project is a tremendously valuable investment.”
For her work with the nonprofit, Hewitt was recognized with the economic development Goodmon Award at the 11th annual Leadership Triangle Awards gala, which was held in Durham at the American Tobacco campus in Durham.
She’s also written a book about her work called “Financing Our Foodshed: Growing Local Food with Slow Money.” Related to the book, she’s slated to appear at a Meet the Author event to be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Main Branch of the Durham County Library.
“I’m delighted at getting back to Durham, which has always shown a great deal of support for Slow Money both as lenders, and as entrepreneurs,” she said.
As she explains in the book, the movement got its start after Woody Tasch, the founder of the national Slow Money organization, came to Pittsboro to give a talk in 2010.
Tasch is the former chief executive of an angel investment group and the author of the book “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: As If Food, Farms and Fertility Really Mattered.”
The North Carolina nonprofit got its start with a $2,000 loan for a commercial mixer needed by a start-up baker. The baker ended up selling her mixer, and paying back the loan. The second was made by Hewitt herself to help the owner of Angelina’s Kitchen, a Greek restaurant in Pittsboro, to expand the business. Their loan helped to pay off credit card debt that they had used to expand.
In addition to successfully repaid loans, the book also describes loans that have amounts outstanding, including one loan made to a free-range chicken farmer in Silk Hope who was looking for money to increase production and add produce to his line-up of items sold at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. As of the book’s publication, it still hadn’t been repaid in full.
“People can make loans to friends and family if they wish and it happens all the time,” she said. “We’ve just set up a mechanism so that people that would like to find, to build those relationships have a way to do that.”
Hewitt said the movement provides capital to increase the amount of food that’s locally grown and produced.
“We need strength in the entire local food system, and that’s going to take capital, which we have,” she said. “We just have to get it into the hands of the people that need it.”