Category

Success Story

Community Bonds that turned Waste into Power

By | Client Stories, Success Story

The project that charmed Ontario

“Everyone is just so excited to talk about poop,” laughs Daniel Bida, Founder of the ZooShare Biogas Co-operative. I’ve just connected with him over Zoom to hear about the recent completion of their biogas project at the Toronto Zoo. “The joke never seems to get old and that’s an advantage we’ve always had,” he says, “it’s part of what drew people to our story and mission.”

With a background in finance and a passion for the environment, Daniel has always been fascinated by the potential to turn waste into something useful. Ten years ago, that curiosity turned into a bold vision to build Canada’s first zoo-based biogas plant.

The plan was simple – take zoo waste (yes, poop!) and commercial food waste collected from the Greater Toronto Area, use an anaerobic digester to produce biogas, and burn that gas to produce clean power. His plan also revolved around financing the project through community investors, like you or I, who could invest as little as $500.

“We’ve been really lucky that the media loved to tell our story. I think that’s partly because the conversation on food waste and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions has really picked up in recent years, and partly because of the ‘cuteness’ of our project,” says Daniel, “these two elements really helped us to raise the financing that we needed.”

To date, the organization has raised over $7 million from over 700 investors, to invest in the project and to refinance earlier investments that are now maturing. The co-op also joined forces with Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation, who made an investment in the project in exchange for 49% of the equity, and the Federal government, which granted $2.7 million from the Low Carbon Economy Fund.

What started as a mere idea, now stands fully constructed across from the Toronto Zoo processing zoo poop and commercial food waste, producing biogas, and running a combined heat and power generator to produce clean power for Ontario’s electricity grid.

Now that the project is operational, it will divert 15,000 tons of food waste from landfills each year, reduce CO2 emissions by up to 20,000 tons, generate 500kW of renewable energy each year, and produce a nutrient rich fertilizer as a by-product.

The Investors made all the difference

“I don’t think I realized at the time how proud people were to become investors in ZooShare,” says Daniel, “that’s something I only came to understand with time.”

While Daniel’s plan for the biogas digester may have appeared simple on paper, the execution was far from it. He was working in what is still an emerging industry and using a technology that was not widely understood in Ontario at that time.

ZooShare faced several hurdles along the way, including finding long-term suppliers of waste and dealing with organic waste that was not free of plastics, just to name a couple.

In 2017, ZooShare held what Daniel describes as their most difficult Annual General Meeting. They had come up against so many hurdles that they were faced with a major decision. “Essentially, we were at the point where we either just had to pull the plug and return investor’s money, or as a Board and co-op, make the decision to deploy the capital we had even though all the financing to complete the project was not yet in place ,” shares Daniel.

The co-op was quickly approaching the cut off date of their feed-in-tariff contract – a key element of their business model to ensure that their renewable power would be purchased by the Ontario power grid. They needed to begin generating power to maintain the contract, and to do that they needed to finance the combined heat and power generator.

They put the decision to the investors. “I was fully expecting for people to ask for their money back,” shares Daniel, “I really thought there was a limit to the patience the members would have after the previous delays we had faced.”

“But I was wrong, this wasn’t a traditional boardroom,” says Daniel, “the investors just said ‘you just keep fighting, you get back in there!’ It was really powerful to have that type of support.”

With their community bond investors behind them, they met the deadline to generate electricity. There were still hurdles ahead to be met, but it was clear at this point that the investors were in it for the long haul.

ZooShare investors gather for the groundbreaking.

Impact First, Returns Second

“The patient investors we have are the reason we were able to do what we did,” says Daniel. “These are people that were motivated to make an impact. They weren’t people who wanted to make a return and the impact was ‘a nice to have’. They wanted to make an impact and the return was ‘a nice to have.’”

With a background in finance, it was very interesting for Daniel to see the ways in which different people perceive risk. “When we got started we priced our offering based on the pricing of securities with a similar risk profile,” he says.

“I’m not sure that the people who ultimately invested in ZooShare would have been swayed by a 0.5% or 1% difference in interest.” says Daniel. “That’s not to say that they didn’t care about the return, they did, but they cared about the impact first.”

Daniel believes that if you are doing something environmentally or socially positive and you offer at least an average return, then it really comes down to telling a compelling story.

Some advice to those looking to raise financing

The ZooShare Biogas Co-operative was one of the first non-profits in Canada to issue community bonds. As pioneers in the space, they have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with fellow organizations looking to build a project and finance it through community investment.

Reflecting on his experience, Daniel shared three pieces of wisdom for those looking to follow in the co-op’s footsteps.

1. Assume things are going to go slower and cost more than you think.

Pad your assumptions so that you don’t have to go back to the drawing board and find more funding. Be frugal and diligent with the money you have in pocket. Having some wiggle room will give you the flexibility to make good decisions.

2. Even if things don’t go as planned, it’s important to keep investors informed.

My approach was always to be hopeful and optimistic, but also as forthcoming and transparent as possible. I think investors appreciate and respect that.

3. Don’t issue bonds to build something until you are ready to build.

When we got started, I really felt that we needed to have the money in hand to prove that we were serious to the other stakeholders we were negotiating with. The problem was that once it was in the bank, we were paying interest on it and as the delays piled up, so did the interest costs. You don’t want to be paying for capital that you aren’t using.

What’s next for Zooshare?

From the very start, one of the main drivers behind this project was to leverage it as an educational asset. It is one of the reasons that Daniel selected the Toronto Zoo as the site for the digester. “Our hope with this project is not just to process waste and generate power, but also to introduce people to biogas,” says Daniel. The co-op is actively working with the Zoo, Parks Canada and a renewable energy education charity called Relay Education to make this a reality.

Expansion could be a likely next step for ZooShare. In bioenergy, Daniel explains, economies of scale are very much at play. The co-op could conceivably build another digester tank, take more waste and generate more gas. “There is strong demand for renewable natural gas (or RNG), to be sold as gas, rather than used to generate electricity. We are actively exploring this market,” says Daniel.

Daniel stands next to the completed biogas digester. Photo Credit: Dan Pearce.

A time to celebrate the accomplishments of Zooshare

While Covid-19 may have thrown a wrench in their plans, ZooShare still intends to find a way to celebrate the launch of the facility. They will be releasing a video about the project next month, and hope to host an open house in the fall so that the public can tour the facility.

Stay tuned to the ZooShare’s newsletter and social media to stay up to date on what they have planned!

 

Windshare community owned wind project

Celebrating our Renewable Energy Roots 

By | News, Success Story

At Tapestry, we are so excited about community bonds and the future of social finance that we often forget to take a moment to step back, reflect, and share our history. Today, on Global Wind Day, we thought it an apt occasion to celebrate our roots in renewable energy, and the amazing organizations working alongside us to build a more sustainable future. 

Tapestry is not a standalone organization; we are actually building on years of experience of our parent organization, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative (TREC). TREC was founded almost 25 years ago with the mission to address climate change through collective carbon reduction. Being founded with co-operative values, TREC sought to find community-led solutions, and took inspiration from the renewable energy co-operative model that was thriving in Germany.

If you have ever driven in downtown Toronto along the lakeshore, you will have seen North America’s first urban wind turbine. Ever wonder how it was built? That was TREC’s inaugural incubated project: WindShare, a community-run renewable energy co-operative. This iconic wind turbine is jointly owned by 600 environmentally-minded community investors, a few of whom are pictured below, and Toronto Hydro. 

Windshare community owned wind project

Having seen the possibilities of community power, TREC was eager to replicate the WindShare model with other renewable energy technologies, and allow widespread involvement through community investment. TREC has helped to incubate, and continues to support, some of Canada’s most successful community-led renewable energy initiatives, including SolarShare, WindShare and ZooShare. Combined, these organizations have a portfolio of 54 community-owned renewable energy projects across the province of Ontario.

By allowing people to invest as little as $1000 to help bring these projects to life, these organizations have made participation in the renewable energy industry much more accessible to Canadians. “Often people want to find a way to make a difference, but they don’t have the means to do so. Not everyone can install solar panels on their roof, or even has a roof for an installation. Buying a wind, biogas or solar bond allows people to play a meaningful role in the clean energy transition.” says Mary Warner, Co-Executive Director of TREC. “What’s really exciting is that when these investors become involved, they suddenly want to learn more about renewables, carbon reduction, and even energy efficiency.”

Zooshare Community Bonds

This idea of raising community investment to enable community ownership has transpired into the work we do at Tapestry today. Building on what we learned in community-owned renewable energy, we now support organizations to tap into their community of supporters, raise impact investments, and use these funds to purchase or develop community assets – such as community hubs, sports & recreation spaces, affordable housing, and so much more.

As TREC incubated and saw the success of renewable energy projects, they also noticed a gap in public awareness around the possibilities of these technologies.  They began to focus on children as the solution – to plant the seed of a sustainable future early on and inspire kids to see not only the environmental benefits of renewable energy but also the economic opportunities, like green collar jobs.

This advocacy work led to the formation of what is now Canada’s leading renewable energy education charity, Relay Education. In a normal year, Relay works with upwards of 10,000 kids to help them gain hands-on experience with renewable energy, learn about the connection between energy and the environment, and explore career opportunities in the field.

In addition to their elementary and secondary school programing, Relay is working in partnership with Indigenous communities to support sustainable, long-term energy solutions that are democratic, clean and inclusive. Read more about this work in the recent article in T. about Relay Education’s Indigenous Youth program.

As Tapestry continues to build a thriving community investment market, TREC will remain focused on advocating and finding solutions for a more sustainable future. The TREC team is actively working to define where that mission will take them next.

Sign up to our newsletter to receive news and updates about Tapestry, TREC and our partner organizations

SKETCH Project Home

SKETCH’s Project Home: Changing the face of financing for the arts

By | Client Stories, Success Story

For 24 years, SKETCH has been a stronghold for community arts in Toronto.

Their free programming – which includes everything from culinary arts, to dance, to digital media – targets youth ages 16-29 who live homeless or on the margins and navigate poverty. SKETCH is driven by the strong belief that if young people create and develop in the arts, they will build leadership skills and self-sufficiency.

When talking to SKETCH artists, it’s clear the impact they have had on their community and the radical change they have inspired. The video below features Joel Zola, an alumnae, who experienced homelessness for 7 years. He is now the Executive Director of Street Voices, and says that SKETCH had a transformative impact on his life.

Through the years, SKETCH was forced to move their programming location many times.

As renters, they were always at the whim of their landlords and victim to rising rents in the city. They finally found a home in 2014, in a community hub and former public school building owned by ArtScape. It was everything they had hoped for – 9,000 sqft that includes a commercial kitchen, a recording studio, a ceramic studio, an office space to meet their needs, and so much more.

In 2018, an amazing opportunity presented itself.

SKETCH was given the opportunity to purchase their space to turn their home into a permanent home. They knew that under their current lease, they were looking at a 4.5% rent increase every year and that meant that if they didn’t buy, they would need to relocate in just 5 years. They also knew that to maintain their impact, they needed to stay in a downtown, accessible location.

Graph showing cost of renting versus owning

SKETCH had a vision, a bold champion in Rudy Ruttimann, their Executive Director, and a strong and supportive community behind them.

This is when SKETCH met Tapestry. We launched a feasibility study, and together came to the realization that Community Bonds could be a very sustainable solution to creating a permanent and lasting space for their programming. Not only this, but it could also be a chance to build even stronger connections with their community of supporters.

Enter the SKETCH Project Home Bond.

SKETCH secured a mortgage for $1.1 million with Alterna Savings and committed to raising $1.52 in capital fundraising. To reach their total goal of $4.02 million, they made the decision to raise $1.4 million in Community Bonds, finally allowing them to buy their studio and admin space.

Their campaign has been designed to allow a wide array of people to invest, with an entry point as low as $500.

They are also selling a Giving Bond – which is a first in Canada. The Giving Bond allows an investor to purchase a bond and then donate the interest that is earned on it. They will then receive a tax credit for the donation, and receive their initial principal back in full.

Sketch bond offering
How is it going so far?

Their community has already invested $926,000 to date – that’s 66% of their target investment!

If you want to learn more about the Project Home campaign, you can visit their campaign page or register for their upcoming info session of Feb. 5th, 2021. If you are unable to join, watch a recording here.

Centre for Social Innovation 192 Spadina Location

Centre for Social Innovation Closes Raise of $1.9M!

By | Client Stories, News, Success Story

A huge congratulations go out to the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) for reaching their 2020 Community Bond goal of $1.9M in only 41 days! 

CSI has a successful history of using community bonds to support their work:

  • In 2010, CSI raised $2 million over the course of four months to own their first CSI Annex location at 720 Bathurst St.,
  • In 2014 they raised $4.3 million to purchase and renovate CSI Spadina at 192 Spadina Ave.

“I think the record success of this campaign to build the next economy, during this unprecedented time of hardship and activism, speaks to the moment: great challenges demand that we rise to meet them. We’re entering a new era and the potential we have today to reshape ourselves hasn’t existed since the post-war era. Our community of impact investors are some of the wisest most committed people in Canada. I think they saw the opportunity, and CSI’s track record of doing the work, and proving that big ideas are possible, and they wanted to be part of the solution.

We couldn’t have done this without the essential services provided by our long-term partners at Tapestry. From the sage advice, technology, process recommendations, and thorough knowledge of the regulatory dos and don’ts, to the careful, friendly, long-term investor management, we simply could not be in the Community Bond business without them.”

Kyle Shantz, Director of Growth, CSI

With the help of Tapestry – and nearly 120 individual community investors like yourself – CSI was able to raise an impressive $1.9 M in under two months for their most recent bond project.

The CB 2020 bond offering was an invitation to their community of members and supporters to invest in the people, places, and programs that put people and the planet first. 

The funds from this raise will support a variety of programs that are in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work, Reduced Inequality, Sustainable Communities, and Climate Action. 

We are proud to be a part of this great success and look forward to watching the future unfold for the Centre for Social Innovation! Click here to learn more about this project!

If you are interested in learning more about bringing your dream project to life through community bonds, find out more here or e-mail Ryan Collins-Swartz at ryan@tapestrycapital.ca.

The Argonaut Rowing Club: Case Study

By | Client Stories, Success Story

Filled with pride, Jason van Ravenswaay, president of the not for profit Argonaut Rowing Club had just finished giving us a tour of the club’s completely renovated facilities. It certainly didn’t look like this 2 years ago he laughed.

The Argonaut Rowing Club President, Jason Van Ravensway

In 2018, following catastrophic flooding in 2017, the Argonaut Rowing Club (ARC) set out on a 2-year journey to rebuild and revitalize their club.

The ARC team was motivated to go beyond just repairing the damage and saw an opportunity to work together with their community to build a club for the future. Working with Tapestry Community Capital, ARC was able to finance their dream project on their terms.

We’re proud to have guided their team through this successful raise and excited to share their story with you. If you are interested in learning more about what it took for the team to raise $1.2 Million in six months, download the case study for free.


If you want to get started with your own community bond project or know of any interesting community bond projects that you think we should profile, get in touch to book a private Community Bonds Accelerator Workshop for your team.

Contact Us

The mount

The Mount Community Centre: Case Study

By | Success Story

We’re always on the look out for interesting projects to learn about, learn from, and wherever possible, profile for our community. We came across The Mount Community Centre, a charity that was founded by the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network, a network of 40 non-profits and knew that this would be exactly the sort of story our community would be interested in.


Through the collaboration of an amazing group of dedicated community leaders, the support of engaged government stakeholders, and a bit of ingenuity, the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network was able to do something amazing for their community. 

This is not a campaign that Tapestry Community Capital supported, but we were so impressed by the work of the team, we collaborated with The Mount to produce this case study, profiling the great work they did. Download the case study here.


If you want to get started with your own community bond project or know of any interesting community bond projects that you think we should profile, please get in touchWe would love to hear from you!

 

How the Argonaut Rowing Club raised $1 million in 4 months

By | Client Stories, Education, Success Story
Jason van Ravenswaay, President of the Argonaut Rowing Club

In March 2019, following a six month pre-campaign planning process, the Argonaut Rowing club launched Argonaut Rowing Club NEXT (ARC Next), a rebrand of their five-year revitalization project, designed to support current and future rowers for the next 50 years. Over the next 5 years, the club aims to attract over 80 new members, reach 15 local schools and support 80 young athletes.

In support of the campaign, the club is raising $1.2 million dollars through a community bond raise, to fund the essential upgrades that would offer a fully accessible facility, increased member capacity and youth programs. To date, there has been just over $1 million pledged to the campaign in under four months, with a deadline of September 15, to raise the final amount. We spoke with Jason van Ravenswaay, President of the Argonaut Rowing Club to get his perspective on the campaign so far.

What is the vision of ARC Next and what makes this project iconic?

Argonaut Rowing Club boat racks

In part, what makes the project iconic is that the rowing club has been around for a long time. We’ve had our, ups and downs over that time. At one point the rowing club even burned down. We’ve always come back stronger. The opportunity that we have is really bringing the club to the next level, reaching more youth, and becoming completely accessible for our para-athletes.

That’s the primary vision. Right now, we’re investing a lot in our youth. About 3 years ago, our junior program was 3 – 5 people. And, we’ve actively been growing that program, investing in coaching, in safety, in new rowing shelves so that these athletes can compete and have the opportunity to be successful.

With this ARC next campaign, we’re able to open up more space so that we can grow this program even further. Right now, we’re at 60 junior athletes, which is a lot. This program doesn’t really make money for the club. It actually costs us money, but we’re very passionate helping people get introduced into the sport of rowing and creating that passion.

Why is this so important?

For me it’s important because rowing has been an outlet. It’s been a way to be healthy, to enjoy the city, and the beautiful lake that we have the privilege of living on. And, I think what’s great is that rowing is addictive.

I want people to have the opportunity to feel what that’s like and to fall in love with the sport.

For yourself, what has been the biggest challenge in this bond raise so far?

Probably the biggest challenge is—we have a phenomenal leadership team behind this bond raise and on the board of directors, but the reality is that these leaders for the club are all volunteers. Everyone has jobs and careers outside of the rowing club. So, the challenge is really getting people energized.

We’re working late nights to get a lot of this stuff done, and you know, a lot of planning goes into this campaign. With the financial modelling, and the business plan and really thinking through what the next five to seven years look like. We’ve been thinking about and planning for this investment. We knew that we needed to do something, in particular looking at the flooding that’s been happening in our changing room.

Argonaut Rowing Club practice with woman's team

We’ve been making small investments in our program, that have moved us forward, but planning such a big one-time investment that gets us everything that we need to push all of our programs forward and to reach more in the community is a heavy lift. We’re really lucky that we have the leadership team that we do because they’re putting in tonnes of hours getting this done.

That’s been the hardest part of this campaign.

What has been the biggest surprise throughout this whole campaign?

The biggest surprise has been that a lot of people have the same passion for our club and for the impact that we have. They have come through and invested in ARC next.

I think probably the investors that kind of give me goosebumps are really the parents. People that aren’t rowing, but their kids have been through our programs and just how they reflect on their children’s experience and how it has changed their lives. How it’s gotten into their schools and how it’s created a network of friends that are strong, motivated individuals.

The parents want the club to be able to scale and have this impact on their children. Some of the parents that are sitting on our committee, their kids are actually off to university now, and they’re participating in the bond raise—whether that’s investing or actually being on the team—because of the impact that we’ve had on their kids in previous years.

It sounds like you’ve been able to cultivate a really amazing community around the club!

We’ve been really lucky and we have a lot of really great volunteers that are really driving the community and culture. We’re super grateful that everyone has been so engaged.

Argonaut Rowing Club woman rowing

You have surpassed the $1 million pledges milestone, what do you feel has been the biggest factor in your success to date?

We have a pretty strong vision and we have been working on a number of micro initiatives that have all kind of lined up right in front of this ARC Next campaign. As an example, a year and a half ago we assembled a grant committee, and they began figuring out what do we need to support our programs and what kind of grants are out there. Writing grant proposals is very time consuming and we had all that work done upfront and we successfully were awarded a grant at the beginning of this fiscal year which helped pushed this campaign forward.

So, for you it was all the prep-work that was done beforehand?

The prep work and the vision of all the different micro-components, like the banquet facility, which is critical to supporting this investment. With the banquet facility, really understanding the feedback from our client to know what types of investments are really going to elevate the space and allow us to demand higher fees and get more revenue out of that space. And, even before that making sure that we had the right management in place for the banquet space and we had some issues with water coming into the building so investing and building a wall at the front of the building to divert water away and into the lake. There’s just so many different components that have all come together this summer, but the club, it’s different. It’s a different space, it’s a different feel, it’s a different energy, and people are really excited and they want to be down there.

Argonaut Rowing Club woman and coachWoman being coached on rowing

How has Tapestry helped to bring this campaign to life?

Tapestry has been a tremendous support; we really didn’t know where to start only that we didn’t want traditional financing. Finding community bonds and Tapestry made our vision possible; especially for a volunteer organization like ours it would have taken years of work to get where we are today without Tapestry.

And, if you were going to give advice to someone who was considering embarking on a community bond campaign, what would you tell them?

Focus on impact. What is the impact that you’re going to have on your community. On the people or the environment, and really paint a picture of what that feels like. It’s important that people get the feels for what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s hard to communicate the motivation behind something but emotion is powerful.

The Argonaut Rowing Club staff, board members and committees are coming together to celebrate the momentous achievement of reaching the $1 million milestone on July 17th at the clubhouse to encourage the last round of investments from members, parents and stakeholders.

To stay engaged and up-to-date on all things ARC Next and to learn more about the project, visit www.arcnext.ca. See you on the water!

Coworking space

The CSI Builds the Co-Working Space of the Future

By | Client Stories, Success Story

Tonya Surman is one of Co-founders of the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), a social enterprise in Toronto, Canada, that specializes in the creation of shared workspaces for people and organizations with a social mission.

Founded in 2004, the CSI quickly became a hotbed of social innovation. By 2009, they were operating 28,000 sq ft of leased space and had a dynamic membership of over 175 people and projects committed to social change. They had a waiting list so long that they knew it was time to grow their physical space. Tonya had a bold idea – let’s buy a building.

As a successful non-profit organization, they had built a strong reputation and cultivated deep network but they had no assets to leverage and practically no money, with only $50,000 in accumulated surplus. The building they hoped to buy was $6.8 million to purchase and renovate.

So, they decided to leverage the best asset they had – their community. The result was the CSI community bond, which allowed them to offer an RRSP-eligible investment opportunity to their network of supporters. Within four months, they had raised $1.4 million (and eventually $2 million), took ownership of their newest building and prepared to welcome over 300 new socially driven organizations.

A group of people wearing orange shirts in front of solar panels

SolarShare creates investment opportunity for all Ontarian’s to participate in Renewable Energy

By | Client Stories, Success Story

Solar energy is an industry growing in both scale and opportunity. In 2010, Mike Brigham founded and became president of SolarShare with the philosophy that we not only need to transition to renewable sources of energy, but that energy should be owned and operated by communities.

To achieve this bold vision, SolarShare introduced Solar Bonds – 5- or 15-year bonds that allow Ontarians to invest directly to support solar energy, while allowing them to share in the profits of the co-op.

Now, SolarShare has become the largest renewable energy co-op in Canada, growing from three initial projects to 48, and raising over $36 million in financing from bonds with over 1,500 investors across Ontario. The support of their investors has allowed SolarShare to thrive and has allowed hundreds of people to direct their investments towards energy projects that benefit their savings, the environment, and SolarShare.

X