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Mission Restaurant's New Business Plan Is Like Crowdsourcing, Only Not Terrible and You Actually Get Something

Thanks to legal end-run, anyone can invest in proposed artisan food joint.


Some potential Maker's Common fare, starting with the suppli, a fried rice ball stuffed with cheese and tomato sauce.

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Involtini, lightly seasoned beef in tangy tomato sauce.

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Raw artichoke and arugula salad, a prickly but stimulating affair.

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Charcuterie and cheese. Because there's always got to be some cheese.

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The people behind Mission Cheese are itching to open a new artisan foods restaurant, and they have a surprising plan to raise capital: They want you to invest. Yes, you. As in, virtually any person reading this. Remember those times when you ponied up for crowdsourcing deals and then ended up getting the shaft? This plan would fix that, so you can support local entrepreneurship and actually get something for your trouble besides promises.

The proposed new dining spot, Maker’s Common, would allow the Mission Cheese crew to indulge their love of “wine, pickles, charcuterie, and all sorts of other fermented stuff” that doesn’t quite fit the cheese profile. But it turns out it takes a lot of dough to get a place like this up and running, and nobody wants to “mortgage our houses or sell our souls” just to get four walls and a kitchen going, as co-owner Oliver Dameron puts it. That’s where you come in.

The Maker’s Common entrepreneurs are working within a rarely utilized but entirely legal loophole in SEC law that allows them to sell stakes in the affair directly to the public, called (naturally) a Direct Public Offer. “We scratch our heads why more people don’t do this,” says Brian Beckon of Oakland’s Cutting Edge Capital, which specializes in DPOs for local businesses. A DPO means that almost anyone can be an investor and buy into the proposed eatery, just like you’d buy stock in a publicly traded company. Except no one has to commit to the insanity of an IPO for a trendy local restaurant that doesn’t exist yet.

There are a few rules: The minimum stake is $1,000, and you can’t put more than 10 percent of your net value into the affair. Also, you have to be a Californian, since this trick is only allowed if you’re selling in a single state. How is this different from just crowdfunding? “You actually get something for it,” says Dameron. “It’s not a donation. You have a stake and the possibility for a real return.” But the similarity to the crowdfunding principle is one of the reasons DPOs are becoming a little more common these days.

At a private dinner earlier this week, Dameron and company tried to wow potential investors with what Maker’s Common might eventually offer, including an involtini (Magruder Ranch beef dusted with herbs in a lovely tomato sauce), suppli (a ball of fried rice filled with tomato sauce and several California cheeses, which was sumptuous but too heavy to finish both in the serving of two), and a raw artichoke salad with arugula and a sheep’s milk cheese from Golden Ewe (feisty but pleasing). Also, lots of Unti wine.

The whole thing was coma-inducing in the best way possible. But will foodies bite on the proposed deal? We’re going to guess yes. Because we know this town; it wants to eat. And a thousand bucks is a pretty good deal to get to add “restaurant financier” to your resume for the rest of your life.




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