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kale chipsSmall business owners play a big role in the battles against disease, climate change, and corporate wrong-doing. In the past year, a company called CircleUp has helped them with their fight.

CircleUp is a crowdfunding platform for up-and-coming consumer product businesses. In the year since its launch, CircleUp has helped 12 companies raise more than $10 million.

Investors are often reluctant to invest in consumer products companies because it is hard to make millions of dollars on granola. Accordingly, passionate entrepreneurs who lovingly produce organic food products, handmade jewelry, or natural face creams struggle to attract the capital they need to reach consumers.

CircleUp bridges this gap by providing a platform where accredited investors can access a curated, vetted selection of consumer products companies and make equity-based investments.

“We love that investors are able to see, touch, taste, and experience the company’s products first hand,” said CEO Ryan Caldbeck. “An investor on our site can go to their local Whole Foods or Starbucks to see and test the products, which we believe helps them feel more connected to the investment. We also believe the lack of traditional funding for early stage consumer/retail products creates an opportunity unlike other industries, where the risk of adverse selection for crowdfunding platforms is greater.”

In honor of its first birthday, the company shared some information about its momentum. Featured companies raise an average of $1 million on the site and have also been able to expand their distribution through partnerships with large corporations like P&G and General Mills. Since the beginning of 2013, the amount of money flowing through the platform has doubled. Over 70% of companies listed close deals, including products in accessories, back foods, baby food, healthy and beauty products, and food. The fastest raise closed in two weeks, and seven of the twelve companies are women-owned.

Caldbeck attributes the success to three factors- the team, a exclusive, vertical focus on consumer products and retail, and a regulatory approach that lets them help small businesses ahead of the JOBS Act implementation. Furthermore, CircleUp is at the intersection of two significant trends. Crowdfunding is popular right now, as are small-production, high-quality, unique products with a story behind them.

So for all you people out there who appreciate health-food, slow-food, boutique, artisanal, organic, local, seasonal, natural stuff, CircleUp could be partially to thank next time you find kale chips at your local market.

Photo Credit: sleepyneko/Flickr

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