Accelerating the Development of Vermont's Green Economy

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Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

About the Flexible Capital Fund

 

Our Approach

The VSJF Flexible Capital Fund (the “Flex Fund”) recognizes that companies in rural areas like Vermont tend to be smaller and work on a less-than global scale, offering a return on investment that does not always meet venture capital levels. These rural companies may need a form of “equity” to fuel growth but need it in lesser amounts and perhaps at lower returns than traditional venture capital requires. That’s why the Fund will balance equity features and returns with the reality of small business in Vermont, offering flexible risk capital and technical assistance to fit Vermont’s early and growth stage companies’ needs.

The Flex Fund is the first of its kind in Vermont to be strategically focused on providing near equity or mezzanine financing (subordinated debt, royalty financing and/or warrants) to a unique, and often, neglected group of growth companies in Vermont. These businesses are on the forefront of accelerating the development of healthy food systems, renewable energy, vibrant economies and resilient communities, while also protecting the environment in Vermont.

We believe that technical assistance and mentoring and access to networks go hand in hand with risk capital. The Fund offers access to the Peer to Peer Collaborative, a program under the umbrella of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. Peer to Peer provides CEO advisory services and access to a breadth of business and leadership networks essential to the sustainable growth of a business.

In keeping with our mission, the Flex Cap Fund invests in targeted Vermont growth companies that fill a gap, or strengthen the supply chain, in sustainable agriculture and food systems, forest products, renewable energy and other natural resource sectors. Our goal is to help our portfolio companies accelerate the rate at which Vermont and the region moves towards healthy food systems, renewable energy and climate change solutions - while preserving Vermont’s working landscapes and ensuring the health of our communities.

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Meet the Flex Fund Team

Fund Management

Janice St. Onge is President of the VSJF Flexible Capital Fund, L3C and Deputy Director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs FundRead More

Janice brings economic and business development as well as financial expertise to the organization, having served in the technology and financial services industries, as well as higher education and state government sectors during her 25-year career. Janis has 10 years of experience at Peoples United Bank in Connecticut serving in retail management, commercial real estate lending (managing a $21 million portfolio) and organizational development roles during her tenure there.

During her career, Janice has served as the Director of the Vermont Business Center (VBC) at the University of Vermont and Technology Business Development Director for the Vermont Department of Economic Development. She received the 2001 National Tibbetts Award in recognition for her outreach work with the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program in Vermont.  Additionally, Janice was the Director of Human Resources and Senior Manager of Customer Service for Kea Technologies, an e-commerce fulfillment business in Williston. 

Janice is a graduate of the University of Utah with a B.A. in Marketing and is an alumni of the Snelling Center for Government’s Vermont Leadership Institute.  She serves on the board of the Vermont Investors Forum, the Vermont Small Business Development Center Advisory Board, the Energy Action Network Capitol Mobilization Group, and is a member of the State of Vermont Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Committee.  A Stowe, Vermont resident, Janice is the co-founder of the Stowe Energy and Climate Action Network and a former International Ski Federation (FIS) World Cup Freestyle Skiing Judge.

Ellen Kahler became the Executive Director of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund (VSJF) in late 2005. Read More

She is a graduate of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania with a BA in Political Science and from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with a Masters in Public Administration.

Prior to joining the VSJF, Ellen was the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Center in Burlington (1990 to 2002). Her most well-known work through the Peace & Justice Center— the Vermont Job Gap Study and the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign — won statewide attention around the issue of basic family needs, livable wages, and under-employment.

After graduating from the Kennedy School for Government in 2003, Ellen created and directed the Peer to Peer Collaborative, an initiative that assists founder CEOs of small, Vermont-based manufacturing and natural resource based companies. For its first two years, the Collaborative was sponsored by the Vermont Business Roundtable. In January, 2006 the Collaborative became a core technical assistance program of the VSJF. The VSJF’s Vermont Agriculture Development Program builds off the P2P model by providing wrap around technical assistance and expansion capital mobilization to early stage value-added agricultural enterprises.

Ellen was a recipient of a three year leadership development fellowship through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (1994-1997) and was a member of the Snelling Center for Government’s Vermont Leadership Institute class of 1997. Ellen currently serves on the Board of Red Tomato, Energy Action Network, the Vermont Sustainable Agriculture Council, and the Working Lands Enterprise Fund. She served on the Board of Directors for Sustainable Forest Futures (2008-2012), the Clean Energy Development Fund (2009-2011), Vermont Works for Women (2007-2011), the Vermont Community Foundation (2001-2009), the Advisory Board of the VT-Small Business Development Center (2008-2009), on the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s Rural Vermont Energy Council (2006-2007) and as a Commissioner on the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (1998-2002).

Board of Managers

The Flex Fund Board of Managers bring industry expertise, networks inside and outside of Vermont, an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that our client companies face in growing their business in Vermont, and an understanding of - and passion for - our mission and work. 

Investment Committee

The Flex Fund's Investment Committee members bring lending, equity investment and financial expertise to the table.  This committee is responsible for making recommendations to the Company's Board of Managers for loan approvals. 

Advisory Committee

The Flex Fund is fortunate to have an advisory committee composed of industry and fund management experts providing advice and guidance to Fund management and the Investment Committee, and serving as distribution channel for identifying investments.   We are grateful to the Committee members for their time, expertise, sage advice and in-depth networks.

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Our Funders, Investors and Partners

We are fortunate to have a broad base of support to date from a core group of funders who have in turn helped us leverage private and foundation investment to launch the Flex Cap Fund and get our money working for small and innovative growth companies in Vermont’s green economy.

We are grateful for grant funding support from the following organizations, who have provided start up capital critical in the launch of the Flexible Capital Fund.

Additionally, we would like to give special thanks to our federal partners who have provided support for both start-up costs and capitalization including the Office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy through a congressionally directed award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development EDI program and the U.S. Department of Education - through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

We’d like to thank the Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) for their partnership in providing loan accounting services to the VSJF Flexible Capital Fund. For over 20 years, the VCLF has provided loans, grants and ongoing technical assistance for the development of affordable housing, community facilities, local businesses, child care programs and other projects that benefit lower-income Vermonters.

To learn more about how to get involved with the Fund, through a charitable contribution or investment as an accredited investor, click here.

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Contact us

If you’d like to learn more about the Flex Fund and the Peer to Peer Collaborative, tap into our networks, or understand what resources are available to you, give us a call or send us an email.

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