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Prairie Paper Uses Crowd Funding to Raise Capital for Wheat Straw Paper Mill

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Jeff Golfman, a Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, entrepreneur who wants to "revolutionize the North American paper industry" is using "crowd funding" to raise $5 million for his company, Prairie Paper Ventures, which currently operates a mill in northern India producing paper from wheat straw. Prairie Paper buys wheat straw from farms within 100 km of the mill in India. The $5 million will be used to expand these operations.
 
However, Gofman and his two partners—former Manitoba finance minister Clayton Manness and actor Woody Harrelson—have long promoted the idea of building North America’s first commercial scale straw-based paper mill, possibly in Manitoba, Canada, at an estimated cost of $500 million to $1 billion. Crowd funding could be a key tool in taking those plans forward.
 
According to a report this week by Canada-based The Western Producer, the partners, in cooperation with Toronto investment banking firm Optimize Capital Markets, have been able to use crowd funding, mainly through the Internet, to raise capital quicker, while maintaining more ownership of the company.  "We have had much success in a short period of time with Optimize, which is very different than our experience with the traditional routes of fundraising," Golfman said in the article.
 
During a presentation last month to potential crowd funders in Toronto, Harrelson said the company uses 80% wheat straw and 20% tree fiber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. 
 
In 2012, the Staples office supply chain agreed to become the exclusive distributor of the wheat straw paper, which is branded Step Forward Paper. Prairie Paper has also signed an exclusive deal with Unisource to distribute its paper, and Golfman said other clients, including Hollywood studios and a Canadian telecommunications company, are now using Step Forward Paper. He estimated that Prairie Paper sold $1 million worth of paper last year.
 
If they can raise $5 million through crowd funding, Golfman and his partners will use the capital to expand their operations and hire staff, including customer service representatives and supply chain managers. "Through this five million raise, we believe we can build our revenues up to $25 million over the next few years," he noted.

Matthew McGrath, president of Optimize, explained that participants in the $5 million Initial crowd funding offering would receive equity in Prairie Paper. "It’s a 20% equity offering in the company," he said.

 

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