Mainstem Malt Commits Itself to Equity From the Ground Up Through Crowdfunding
A company announcing a crowdsourcing campaign isn’t exactly fresh, innovative “big news” these days, so what is it about Mainstem Malt’s Wefunder crowdfunding announcement that should perk your ears up as a craft beer enthusiast?
First off, the term “craft malt” itself is barely an adolescent in beer nomenclature. Prior to 2010, when Andrea Stanley founded Valley Malt in Hadley, MA, craft malt didn’t exist. After Stanley and her husband Christian pioneered the first craft malt house, they went on to found the Craft Maltsters Guild (of which Mainstem is a member) along with seven other maltsters in 2013. Since then, the guild has grown to include more than fifty members across the United States and Canada.
Like craft beer in the early 1980s, craft malt started with practically nothing and has had to figure itself out as it goes along. Unlike craft beer, though, it has, well, craft beer, to thank for giving it at least somewhat of a blueprint to work from. Craft malt is very much a 21st-century movement and because of that, Mainstem Malt is intentionally doing some things differently than how craft beer went about things as it found its footing in the 20th century. Mainstem aims with its crowdfunding goals to start off on the right foot.
“There’s a lot to doing things right,” said Co-Founder and CEO Phil Neumann. “We’re working on a complex business model. It spans a lot of different industries and stakeholder groups. It’s easy to get some things right, but things like trying to help the industry become diverse, equitable and inclusive, that’s a really long haul kind of battle that we really have to be a part of.”
Underlying Mainstem’s efforts is the understanding that craft malting, craft beer and craft spirits just aren’t all that diverse, but neither is agriculture or other industries craft malt relies on. Having a crowdsourcing campaign is their way of bringing more people to the table from the start.
“Mainstem for All, our current crowdsourcing campaign, is a really cool way to do a lot of things at once and bring a lot of new perspectives into the company that will have a lot of merit and value independent to how much money we raise. We’ll have a much better perspective and we’ll have resources to do some really cool things.”
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Mainstem Malt is the first malt company to run a crowdsourcing campaign that introduces the potential for hundreds, even thousands, of equity investors. Mainstem’s overarching goal is to enact social change through its organization. Micro-investing and crowdfunding are fundamental to accomplishing that.
And they’re not going it alone. Mainstem doesn’t currently have its own malt house, although they’re hoping to build one with the proceeds from this campaign. As the first and only craft malt company to grow in partnership with other craft maltsters, they’re all about building sustainable relationships throughout the craft malt supply chain.
“We’ve gotten really good at collaborating with other maltsters,” Neumann said. “Our really unique strength has been to build this business by building relationships with other industry leaders.”
Currently, Mainstem works directly with LINC Malt, Skagit Valley Malting and Montana Craft Malt in producing malt to sell under their name. “Call it toll malting, partner malting, contract malting or whatever,” Neumann noted, shrugging, aware that there isn’t currently anything out there to serve as a baseline for what they do.
The core Mainstem Malt team is Phil Neumann (co-founder and CEO), Alyssa Martinez Neumann (co-founder and communications) and Kether Scharff-Gray (COO). In a press conference about the Mainstem for All campaign, Scharff-Gray noted (paraphrasing Phil Neumann) that “conventional business wisdom suggests that you have the smallest number of investors so you have the fewest number of people with an opinion…our thought is that the more people you have involved the more you can adapt with the changing times.”
The Mainstem team realizes they’ve got some pretty lofty goals, but as Scharff-Gray puts it: “The vision is endless; I could constrain my vision but I don’t want to.”
If you want to “put your money where your malt is,” you can follow their campaign and invest in Mainstem (minimum $100) here.