A different strategy - transparent small business investment

I read some stuff, I think around 10 years ago or so, some material written by Catherine Austin Fitts about "Neighborhood Equity Corporations". She called them "Solari's", as the idea was to conduct business transparently (in the "sunshine") and to allow stock type investing on the local level. This post is along those lines, as I have an idea about how the movement could do something together economically rather than just political.

The primary concept is public transparency and private investment. Let's assume for the sake of this post that we have a business model (that works and is legal) to allow private stock investment in local/small businesses. This business model, via bylaws and such, makes information about the business public. This would include financial info, how the business operates, lists of vendors/suppliers, etc. To borrow a term from Fitts, we'll call businesses that adopt this model "Solaris".

Let's assume that we have built a website portal (hereafter just "portal"). This portal would be a database of potential investors and businesses who are candidates for becoming solaris. Potential investors and volunteers would scout around in their local town, trying to get businesses to consider the idea, and when some threshold of potential investors pairs up with a candidate business that wants to adopt the model, the business is reformed as a solari. The portal would be used to store and track info about the company with the idea being that the more info investors have about the company the more confident they will be in their investment.

The portal site could and should be ran collaboratively. At the basic level its simply a profile of the business and perhaps monthly updated financial info. But there's perhaps hundreds of ways we could use more detailed info about these businesses. Here are a few ideas:

  • Allow small businesses centralized access to accounting vendors and tools through the portal (payroll, application process, etc.)
  • Allow feedback from investors and customers how to improve the business or save money.
  • Have internships with solaris so that others could learn the trade.
  • Identify common vendors and suppliers to either negotiate discounts or replace service with another solari.
  • Have a central place for local businesses to market to consumers who would like to buy/trade locally.

These are just a few ideas, and perhaps rather vague, but I think its relatively easy to imagine many different ways that having this kind of "open" business model could be leveraged to invigorate local and small businesses and allow others the means and knowledge to help these solari's expand or to open/start their own. The essential concept is to pool and share the information about every aspect of the business, but not to destroy the private ownership and equity in the business. So communal with respect to information but private with respect to investment.

Personally I think this is a great idea. I would love to have detailed info on how local businesses are operating, who their vendors are etc. And I think within the movement, with as many people you see investing in gold, that we have to potential to get something like this off the ground and get some real money flowing to our local businesses. All that's really needed is a simple website for storing business and investor info and some volunteers to scout for businesses in their local area.

For my part, I'm a programmer/web developer and my family owns and accounting firm that does accounting, taxes, and business formation. So I could be a resource for the web aspect as well as how to form these solaris.

What do you guys think of this concept? The poll is there for a rough gage of how much investment support we potentially have. Do you see value in having access to information about how companies are functioning and are managed? Do you think this is something that is doable?