SAMS VALLEY, Ore. – Jim Romano isn’t your average brewer.
While many in the Rogue Valley flock to the wine and craft brewing industry, Romano is going medieval, brewing his own mead. The drink is made from fermented honey and grains, and offers an alternative to traditional wine and beer.
“I like to pull my recipes from ancient history, the brewing habits of our ancestors, before hops came to dominate,” Romano said.
Romano launched Fire Cirkl Brewing to get the drink to the public. Now he wants to entice local investors to pull a seat up to the bar, as he attempts to win a $200,000 investment in the 2014 Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network Conference. Romano said the investment would be used to help market the drinks, which are already available at several local stores and supermarkets.
“What I need is help, I need someone to jump in here and is part of this business,” Romano said.
But Fire Cirkle is the only southern Oregon business in this year’s Southern Oregon Angel Conference. The four other finalists are from Portland, Hood River, and Cottage Grove. Organizers said that is a surprising development after the success of previous conferences, which have invested more than $700,000 into Oregon businesses in the past three years.
“We all would have thought that would be a large enough carrot to induce a lot of entrepreneurs,” said Steve Vincent, who is organizing this year’s conference.
Vincent said very few local companies applied this year, and many of those that did were not at the level investors were looking for. Vincent said many did not have the potential to grow as a business, or lacked a definite business plan.
“They’re companies that just aren’t quite ready for a quarter of a million dollar investment to launch,” he said.
The conference was established in 2011 as a way to help grow local business, and Vincent said it’s hard to see so few local businesses in the running this year. But he added that the Angel Investors were also taking into consideration how their money would be spent. He said in the end, some companies from outside the Rogue Valley seemed like better investments.
“There’s an expectation for a rate of return and not philanthropy,” he said. “So they still have to make a decision about what is the very best investment to make.”
The 2014 Southern Oregon Angel Investment Network Conference will be held April 30 at Bigham Knoll in Jacksonville.