Investment program was springboard to success for coffee roastery
Nova Scotia is home to about 30,000 small and medium-sized businesses, yet a significant number of them might be missing out on one of the province’s best resources, say some local entrepreneurs.
“It’s actually something to be quite proud of …. We were a bit of an innovator as a province around this, but you wouldn’t really know it. It seems to be the best guarded secret in the province sometimes,” said Joey Pittoello, general manager of Just Us Coffee Roasters, about Nova Scotia’s Community Economic and Development Investment Fund (CEDIF).
The CEDIF program helps entrepreneurs generate a pool of money by selling investment shares of their business to individuals within Nova Scotia.
When Just Us! Coffee Roasters started in 1995, they were one of the first businesses to use the province’s CEDIF program. With the extra boost, they were able to grow from a co-op coffee roastery in New Minas into the trailblazing fair-trade powerhouse they are today.
Just Us! has now extended its product line to include chocolate and teas and expanded to multiple locations. They even wholesale to numerous restaurants, cafes and grocery stores across Atlantic Canada — an outcome Pittoello says might not have been possible without CEDIF.
Pittoello says programs like CEDIF give people an opportunity to invest in things they really believe in and can help new business owners who may not have been able to get loans to access funds they need to get started.
“If you don’t have money — you’re not somebody that already has some wealth to draw on — it’s important to be able to access this. I think it’s a great way for communities to invest in their own community, find different ways of investing their money.”
Hundreds of other local businesses in Nova Scotia have benefited from CEDIF, such as FarmWorks, which provides loans to farmers, and the Black Business Community Investment Fund Ltd., designed to help investors reap economic benefits while
stimulating Black business ventures.
So how does CEDIF work?
To put it simply, CEDIF is a way for small companies in Nova Scotia to raise money from the public, and a way for investors to invest money in local businesses, says Abel Lazarus, director of corporate finance at the Nova Scotia Securities Commission.
Lazarus explains CEDIF has two components. First, “in order to raise money from the public, investors are required to get [from the business applicants] what we call an offering document, which is a disclosure document about the business, people running the business, their background, sort of their financial statements and financial condition of the business, and what they’re going to use the money that they’re raising it for.”
Once the business has completed the offering letter, it is submitted to the securities commission.
If approved they will receive an “non-objection letter.”
The business will then need a certificate of registration from the province’s Department of Finance which will allow it to raise money by selling tax-eligible shares of the business. These shares allow investors to become stakeholders in the business, which means, at some point, they could expect dividends (a small profit made from owning a part of the business and investing in it).
Once the business has obtained the non-objection letter and the certificate of registration, it is considered a CEDIF entity, meaning investors can start funding it. The CEDIF program requires that at least 25 investors commit to raising the allotted funds requested.
The small-business owner is then responsible for seeking out these investors, and usually does so through hosting information sessions. These sessions essentially involve pitching the business and explaining why people should invest. Once investors are on board, it is entirely up to the business and the investors to discuss how they want to start funding them.
Lazarus says the second part of the CEDIF involves “tax credits for investors, if the CEDIF is successful in raising its money, which is administered by the Department of Finance.”
By investing into a CEDIF, investors are eligible for what’s called the Equity Tax Credit. This can give the investors a 35 per cent provincial income tax credit in exchange for their investment, which in some cases can be up to $17,500.
Andrew Bagley is president & CEO of Nova Solar Capital Inc., a solar project development company that has used CEDIF.
He says a CEDIF is a good way to raise a significant amount — far more than could be done from mortgaging a home, as is often required with other forms of venture finance, and also without pledging one’s home as security. On the other hand, the tax credit aspect, which can be quite significant, helps offset some of the risk to the investor.
Through CEDIF investments, Solar Scotia Energy Inc. has helped finance solar PV installations for about 120 properties, primarily residential, throughout Nova Scotia.
Pittoello says the CEDIF program can be difficult to navigate, but is an important resource, so he hopes to see it more widely promoted and explained in the future.
“I think instead of using it as an opportunity to guard it, I feel like there should be more supports in place to try to foster it, and make it more accessible for businesses to know what they’re getting into … Some supports that way would be really helpful.”
A detailed outline of how to put together a CEDIF offering is available at the Nova Scotia Securities Commission website at nssc.novascotia.ca/corporatefinance/communityeconomicdevelopment- Investment-funds. Joey Pittoello of Just Us! Coffee Roaster is happy to discuss the issue too. Reach out to him through the corporate webpage, justuscoffee.com