What is the Illinois Equity Crowdfunding Law

Have you heard of the Illinois Intrastate Crowdfunding Law? If you’re a small or medium sized business in Illinois, it may be a great opportunity to grow your capital. Recently approved by the House and the Senate unanimously, signed in to law by the governor this is an exciting announcement for entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists.

In today’s article we’ll discuss what the Illinois Intrastate Crowdfunding Law is, what the Bill means for SME’s and how you can use it as an opportunity for your business.

What is the Illinois Intrastate Crowdfunding Law?

This Bill essentially allows businesses in Illinois to actively solicit crowdfunded capital from local residents, in exchange for equity in their business. The maximum allowed investment from each investor is $5,000, whilst a company can raise $1 million in a year, with the potential for $4 million if they provide a financial statement for investors.

This differs substantially from popular existing crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter because the capital they raise is no longer from ‘accredited investors’, it can be from anyone who lives in Illinois. Illinois residents also receive debt/equity from the company they invest in, which isn’t usually the case with traditional crowdfunding websites.

What the Law means for SME’s & precautions

If you’re a business owner and you’re looking for investment, this is truly a great opportunity for you. This Bill could give you access to millions of dollars of new capital, growing your business via local residents who are passionate about entrepreneurialism in Illinois.

It is important however to understand that there should be some element of caution with this Bill. Investors may have expectations in terms of influencing how the business is run or returns on their investment. Businesses should also ensure they are complying to the Bill’s legislative requirements before soliciting local residents.

Additionally, if you are soliciting investment from local residents, you may have to disclose certain elements of your businesses’ performance and financial data. If you do this, understand that as you’re approaching local residents they are members are of the general public and therefore your competitors or other key stakeholders may also find out. Subsequently, only disclose information regarding your company that you are comfortable about being public.

How you can use the Law as an opportunity for your business

This may be a better alternative than receiving investment via a huge funding firm because you’re giving ownership to potential customers who can offer insight, feedback and new ideas. They’re passionate about living in the state, they want to see their local area invested in and they can now have a vital role in the growth of Illinois. It’s essentially empowering local residents to make a difference and improve the state of Illinois, whilst investing in a business they love, creating a sense of public spirit.

Summary:

As you can see, the Bill is a great opportunity for SMEs in Illinois to gain investment from potential customers passionate about developing their local area. If you have any questions about the legislation, please feel free to ask and we’ll be happy to help. Receive a FREE Guide on Illinois Equity Crowdfunding – Here

Illinois Intrastate Investment Crowdfunding

On Jan. 1st 2016 the Illinois equity crowdfunding law became effective. In a state with a reputation for being unfriendly to business and overprotective of its citizens, Illinois legislators passed the most aggressive intrastate crowdfunding law in the country. Title III of the Jobs Act which legalized investment crowdfunding limits companies to raising $1mm in a 12 month period and has strict limits on the amounts that both accredited and unaccredited investors can invest. In some cases limiting investors to $2,500 in aggregate (all investments) in a 12 month period. The Illinois crowdfunding law allows companies registered and operating  in Illinois to raise up to $4mm a year. Illinois residents who are unaccredited can invest up to $5,000 per deal while accredited investors have no limit to the amount in which they can fund offering companies.

Although the Illinois law became effective on January 1st, companies and investors have been waiting for the Illinois Secretary of State to release the administrative rules and applications for capital raises to being. The delay does not come without a potential payoff. The Secretary of State will have the ability to update the rules and regulations within the law as they gauge what is needed to allow this new market to flourish. We are excited to announce that we fully expect the rules to be released by April 1st.

As we await these rules we are beginning to find news stories and landing pages for Illinois crowdfunding portals. Portals are the mandatory internet intermediaries that must host any Illinois company looking to raise capital using the crowdfunding exemption (which operated under federal rule 147). So far we have come across many developers offering to create internet portals including crowdforce and crowdfundconnect. We have seen that truCrowd (who also operated an intrastate portal in Texas) say they will be entering the market and VestLo who will be operating a custom created Illinois portal operating out of 1871 (famous Chicago startup co-working space). VestLo will be working with the author of the Illinois crowdfunding law, attorney Anthony Zeoli and Axia Law, one of the leading law firms for Chicago based tech startups.

We are very excited to watch this new fundraising mechanism put to use in Illinois as it will quickly become the most powerful tool in the Invest Local Illinois movement. The law (Illinois HB 3429)is designed to allow and encourage investment in local communities by the customers who frequent the businesses looking to raise capital and grow.

Presentation explaining the Illinois equity crowdfunding law.

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Many Ways to Support Local Business

There are a lot of ways to invest in the modern world. Many people opt to invest in big name companies on the stock market. With recent trends towards shopping local and growing local though this doesn’t make since. Why would you invest local in Illinois? Almost every city and even state has businesses that could use investors.

One of the biggest reasons to invest local is that you are helping out your own economy. The changes that your investments made can be both seen and experienced firsthand. As people start to invest in their own cities they will start to see an overall improvement in quality of life. Streets become safer and businesses can grow.

Think about all of the local businesses you go to. If you think about it almost every small business has areas they need funds in order to improve. Your contribution can make that business better so they can afford to pay their employees more, offer lower prices, expand if they need to, or even upgrade to meet modern times.

How Can You Invest?

There are a variety of different ways that you can invest in your community. Each type has its own benefits for you and the business. Here are some of the ways that you can invest.

Loans

Loans come in a variety of forms, large and small for example. They also come with different repayment terms. Some lenders dictate how the loan should be applied, for example, they might say it is for upgrading your storefront.

Common Stocks

Common stocks are what most people think of stocks. When you invest in common stock it gives you partial ownership in the business and a level of control. The only difference in this case is that you are owning part of a local business.

Preferred Stocks

These stocks are more up the street of people who want to earn returns but don’t want to spend the time controlling a part of the business. Preferred stocks give you regular returns but offer no control or voting power over the business.

Royalties

Royalties is essentially the process of earning money based on the sales of a business. The amount of money you earn can be statically based on business or can be changed based off of the season and the level of business being done.

Pre-Sales

Pre-sales is when you get a portion of the advanced sale of goods. Sometimes this will even be for more than the amount that you originally invested.

Who Can Invest?

While the ideal answer would be anyone can invest, the time has not arrived when just anyone can invest in local businesses. The Security Exchange Commission has established a set of rules that determine who can invest in local businesses and how. These criteria are different depending on what type of investment you are talking about.

These rules for investing were not originally set up to limit investors. They were set up to protect investors. The federal government put these rules into effect when it noticed that people were starting to fall for investment scams. They prevent people from just falling into a pit of lost money.

There are some exceptions to the rules for investing. The most important and biggest exemption is the friends and family exemption. This allows most people to ask their friends and family for money for businesses or projects. There are still a few regulations for this exemption but it gives people wide latitude.

Accredited investors also have an exemption. These investors are high-wealth or large income individuals who are not considered to need the protection against losing money. They make enough money that should they lose a little it wouldn’t cause a severe detriment to their life. In most cases an individual has to have made over $200,000 for the last two years. If they are married they have to have over $300,000 a year in those last two years.

There are a few more exemptions but they get a little more difficult to navigate.

Where To Find Investment Opportunities?

There are a lot of options out there for investing in your community. You don’t have to be a major investor in order to help out and get a little money back. Here are some easy ways for you to invest local in Illinois or anywhere else in the world.

Co-Ops

A great place to find investment opportunities is in a Co-Op. The simplest way to explain a Co-Op is that they are a member owned business. You have probably heard of REI, which is similar to a Co-Op as it is a member owned food. The business is run for the benefit of those who are members. Members often can vote and have a say in how the business is run.

At the end of the financial year members can a percentage of the profit from the business. Members also tend to get special deals and benefits when they shop at the Co-Op. Co-Ops tend to be for food and farms but you can occasionally find Co-Ops for other purposes such as learning.

Friends, Family, and LIONs Clubs

If you have any friends that are starting a business or want to start a business ask if you can invest. This will help them start a business while allowing you to make some money. When you go about it this way you have less restrictions to worry about.

LIONS or Local Investing Opportunities Networks connect investors with small businesses in the area. They do it in such a way that the two parties create a community and friendship that will alst beyond the investment. It is more than just helping people fund their businesses, in most cases LIONs are made by community members to better the area they live in. Because LIONs clubs connect investors and businesses in a social environment you do not need to be an accredited investor. There are no third parties pressuring you to invest or instructing you on how to do it.

Pre-Pay For Local Goods

The process for prepaying has been around for a long time but recently it hasn’t been utilized by as many people. The name pretty much says it all, you prepay for your local goods in advance and it helps the store gain the money it needs to operate. If you invest at a certain level you often are able to earn interest on your prepayment. There are a number of websites out there that can help you find locations with prepayment options. Credible is a website that allows you to prepay at local stores through their website. Currently Credible is only for food locations.

Look For Local Stocks

Many small businesses are starting to restructure to become public because it is a great way for them to get investors and spread the knowledge of their business. Recent changes to laws around the country have made this easier. As time continues the laws are predicted to change even more to make it easier for local stores and small businesses to go public.

GoFundMe and Other Crowd Funding

While not the most typical form of investing you can look on websites such as GoFundMe for local businesses. These websites allow users and businesses to post requests for funds. With GoFundMe users are typically only donating money but with websites like KickStarter and Indiegogo allow companies to offer perks for different tiers of investment.

Credit Unions

You may like your big bank but if you truly want to support the community you should consider moving all of your financial accounts to a credit union. These credit unions are set up as non-profits and instead of big bankers benefiting the members of the union benefit. The most important thing about credit unions is that they aim to help the community. For those that need it they provide financial counseling, scholarships, grants, and other forms of outreach to the community. Not only are you helping the community but most credit unions have no fees, better APRs, and better ways to save.

Alternative Investments (Investing In Yourself)

Some people suggest alternative methods of investing locally, they suggest investing in yourself. For example, investing in solar or wind power can not only power your house but it can feed back into the power system to provide extra power for your neighbors and community. When you produce enough power to send power back into the system you can usually get money back from the utility company. Make sure to first get rid of credit card debt, student loans, and any kind of money you owe. You can’t afford to help the community until you are prepared to do so.

Invest in your community today to make an investment in yourself. Not only are you earning money back by investing locally, you are making the place you live better. Often times this will also raise your property value too. It is an all-around win. Help yourself, help your neighbor, and help your community, invest local Illinois.

TOP FIVE WAYS TO INVEST LOCALLY

You’ve heard of Small Business Saturday where, one day a year after Black Friday, you’re encouraged to go out and support local businesses. Why should you limit your support to once a year? Small businesses are the cornerstone that holds a community together.   They make a community unique by providing specialized products instead of just the standard cookie cutter goods and services you can get from the big name businesses that pop up everywhere. Chain stores serve a purpose, but local Mom and Pop stores existed long before the chains moved in.   You may already shop local, but have you considered investing local? Just like giving a pledge to your local PBS station keeps them on the air, you can invest in local businesses to keep them up and running.   Sound easy? It is. Investing locally creates a strong, local economy and sense of community. Here are some of the best ways for you to invest local:

  1. Move your money –   Move your checking, savings, credit cards, and loans to a local credit union or bank versus the national chain banks. Local banks and credit unions account for 20% of small business loans. They invest locally when you do. If your community doesn’t have a local credit union, start one! Credit unions are easier to start up than banks and most can be run by part time employees and volunteers.

 

  1. Donate Locally – Giving to charity is a great way to help others. You probably know the big names, but what about smaller local charities and non profits? Your donations allow the local charities to invest local by helping small businesses be successful. It’s a win win for you and the community.

 

  1. Sponsor Local Businesses – Investing locally by sponsoring small businesses goes beyond getting you or your business’s name up on the sport’s field, on the back of a t-shirt, or in a yearbook. Check popular sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo for local business campaigns to invest in. You may only get a t-shirt or a thank you note, but you can feel good knowing you and others like you invest locally to help a entrepreneur achieve their dream.

 

  1. Prepare a Community List – Sites like Craigslist and Freecycle are great for finding local goods, but what about finding local investment opportunities? Create a craigslist like list for local investors looking to support local businesses. It may take time to track down leads, but overall it is an easy project to create. As a bonus, once word gets out about your invest local list, businesses will come to you with leads.

 

  1. Promote Program Related Investments – By law, foundations must donate at least 5% of their assets each year. The other 95% usually goes to non local stocks, bonds and other causes. Try to convince your local foundations and non profits to invest that 95% into local businesses instead. This is called Program Related Investments.   If the local business is not successful, the foundation can always apply the loss toward their grant-giving requirement.

 

Investing local is a great way to give back to your community.   It strengthens the local economy and ensures that small businesses will continue to be around to produce their unique goods and services. Why be cookie cutter when you can stand out? Investing locally is also a lot easier than you’d think. Anyone can do it. With a little bit a practice, you can become an Invest Local pro! What are you waiting for? Go Invest Local.