MANCHESTER CENTER — Jack Gilbert, CEO of Gringo Jack's, announced the "CHIP IN" local investment campaign on Thursday at the Manchester Farmers Market in an effort to expand the business's product line, create more jobs and invest back into the local economy.
In 2012 Gilbert expanded his restaurant business with the addition of Gringo Kitchens LLC, a kitchen production center in Sunderland, to sell "Flaky Chips," "Sassy Salsa" and "Boot Stompin' BBQ Sauce" made with craft beer from Rutland. The investment campaign allows Vermonters only to put in a minimum of $1,000 to reach a $250,000 goal in one year. The campaign itself will last 90 days. Once 25 percent of funds are raised, the company is allowed to start utilizing the money.
Gringo Kitchens employs 10 people and wishes to hire more.
"CHIP IN" is made possible through the Vermont Small Business Offering (VBS), which supports growth and capital through the investment of state residents. Folks can invest by utilizing Milk Money VT, a crowdfunding medium associated with VBSO and the first step in contributing. The idea is similar to what Ben & Jerry's did after its founders established their business.
"We know you all support local here. We know you buy local. Now you can invest local," Gilbert said. "It's Vermonters supporting Vermont, investing in Vermont and growing Vermont. Support local has become a very strong movement. Buy local has become a very powerful, social and environmental economic force here in Vermont."
Stakes are a convertible debt loan to equity at a 6 percent interest rate accruing until Dec. 31, 2019, Gilbert said. Holders will have the option to take money back at the accrued rate.
Gringo Kitchens has grown from $5,000 in sales at Gringo Jack's Bar and Grill to $500,000 in three years. Product retail is saturated in the Northeast, but trails as south as Florida and as west as Minnesota, Gilbert said.
Gringo Jack's already partners with Long Wind Farm, Clear Brook Farm, Yoder Farm, Sugar Bob's Finest Kind, Singing Cedar Farm, Full Sun Oil and True Love Farm.
"We've been working with Gringo Jack's for more than a decade," Karen Trubitt of True Love Farm said. "We learned how to create a niche market in specialty hot peppers and now working with a number of Vermont hot sauce makers. We love growing peppers and we love working with Gringo Jack's. I think we delivered several thousand pounds of peppers there over the years and it's been fun to see the enterprise grow."
Rep. Bill Botzow and Sen. Kevin Mullin were present at the conference due to their efforts in rewriting VSBO's regulations in 2014 and 2015 regarding the programs exemptions.
"Vermont specialty foods have a great cache. No matter where you are in the country, you know when you get a Vermont food product, you're getting the best," Mullin said. "You're also getting the best because Jack makes a superior product that everyone loves."
He said he spends time in Montpelier with Botzow figuring out ways people can improve capital and ways for small businesses to grow because banks can't always assist in funding. Botzow gave thanks to the Department of Financial Regulation for seeing the benefit of the campaign.
"One of the pieces that we did at one point is that we said there should be basic goals for economic development in Vermont," Botzow said. "A lot of them are very obvious and have to do with infrastructure and great workforce, but one of them is the Vermont brand. Today we see the value of that and Jack's small business offering and his product. It's very gratifying when you pass bills and sitting in a committee room for days and you come home and see things actually happening."
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-490-6471.