Santa Barbara Winery is looking to the community for investment

Santa Barbara Winery is looking to the community for investment

Jorge Mercado

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Municipal Winery’s downtown location in Santa Barbara. (courtesy photo)

The nearly three-year project hopes to be completed by mid-summer – and it will be done using public funds to help make the dream come true.

Dave Potter, owner of Santa Barbara-based Municipal Wineries, plans to open a third location and a first in Ventura by April.

But instead of providing the funds in the form of a loan, he’s banking on the brand’s fans to chip in and even help them make a little money along the way.

In January, Municipal Wineries launched a $124,000 crowdfunding campaign on the SMBX website to fund construction of the new Ventura location.

“Actually, I have an idea to talk to a friend of mine. He has a bakery in Northern California, and he would raise money that way, and I think that’s really cool,” Potter told the Business Times on Jan. 9.

“It’s a way to kind of engage our existing audience more and get people literally more invested in it.”

SMBX is a marketplace that connects small businesses and everyday investors. By issuing Small Business Bonds, businesses can borrow from investors at competitive rates, raising the funds they need to expand their businesses while building customer loyalty.

Since 2020, more than 162 small businesses have raised $14.5 million on the SMBX market, according to the company.

Municipal Wines has issued Small Business Bonds on the SMBX market to allow people to invest directly in their businesses and earn 11% interest.

This means that if someone invested $100, they would recoup that initial investment over the next 36 months and get an additional $11 at the end.

“It’s a real opportunity for people to make some money but also support us and then we can borrow and hopefully grow our business over the next few years,” Potter said.

So far, more than 50 people have invested in the company’s fundraising efforts, totaling more than $20,000, Potter said as of Jan. 9.

Potter said the minimum amount needed to be raised for the crowdfunding campaign to be approved is $20,000, and the company needs to raise as much as possible of $124,000 by the end of the month.

“This is the first time we’ve tried something like this, so we didn’t want to be too big with the amount needed, but if it goes well, it’s definitely something we’d consider doing again,” Potter said.

Municipal Winemakers was founded by Potter in 2007 and currently has two tasting rooms in Santa Barbara, each with seven employees.

The past few years haven’t been easy for small business owners with COVID-19 and the struggling economy, but Potter said the City’s efforts in digital marketing have helped them weather the pandemic.

“We’re getting back into a groove and relearning how to run this public business again. There is a lot of competition and so I am not sure what to expect this year,” he said.

But one thing that will be in store this year is the opening of a Ventura location.

Potter said he first bought the 5,000-square-foot building in 2021 at the height of the pandemic for $1.275 million.

Originally, plans called for a larger restaurant and winery-style deal that has been narrowed down to a tasting room — one of the only rooms that will be available in Ventura County, which is known more for its breweries and bar scene.

“It’s a little intimidating. There are a lot of unknowns, and in some ways it’s easier to uncover places where there are already fish swimming around,” Potter said.

“But we’re excited … I think Muni will appeal to a kind of beer-adjacent audience. “I’ve had my eye on Ventura for a long time because I think there’s a lot of opportunity there.”

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