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Woodford Times - Peoria, IL
  • EXCLUSIVE: Thrive Capital Partners shuts down operations in old Blaine-Sumner School

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  • PEORIA — Thrive Capital Partners has shut down operations in the old Blaine-Sumner School after less than a year.
    The enterprise, aimed at developing businesses with a socially conscious impact, attracted more than $1 million in private equity funding from investors and hundreds of volunteers who helped paint and clean the former school building on Peoria's south side. Ultimately, it did not attract paying members willing to rent space, mentor would-be entrepreneurs or relocate businesses to the 65,000-square-foot building, said Tim Krueger, who quit a lucrative corporate job to found Thrive and its first offshoot, Impact HUB Peoria.
    A monthlong crowdfunding campaign for Impact HUB was the turning point. While the online fundraiser raised $30,000 by Nov. 8 — $50,000 short of an $80,000 goal for building renovations — fewer than 10 people signed up as paying members.
    "There was financial support, there was a lot of verbal support," Krueger said. "But people didn't want to be in the building. To keep it sustainable, we had to have tenants."
    Krueger's goal was to have 70 to 80 members by the first year.
    After some of his biggest supporters said they would not relocate their businesses to the South Peoria location, Krueger decided to close rather than put investors' money at further risk.
    The building is back in the hands of Chad Berry, who bought it at auction from Peoria School District 150 for $16,500. All money raised during the crowdfunding campaign will be returned, Krueger said. Investors in Thrive, the private equity fund, will receive most of the money they originally invested.
    Krueger will take a financial loss. Though he would not disclose how much, he described it as "significant." He invested at least $150,000 initially. Maui Jim, the high-end sunglasses company where Krueger was formerly chief financial officer, also was among Thrive's investors.
    Peoria County was among Thrive's early supporters, funneling $100,000 in grants to the unique business-incubator concept. The county funding included a $60,000 federal grant that paid for a feasibility study for Impact HUB. The county will retain the remaining $40,000.
    "We're disappointed," said Mark Rothert, assistant county administrator for economic development. "Tim is a smart guy. He knew his business model better than we did. If he could see the writing on the wall that it wasn't going to work, he's the best one to make the decision to pull the plug."
    More than 2,000 people visited Thrive's headquarters in slightly less than a year, said Sherry Cannon, director of Thrive's community outreach efforts.
    "It didn't work right now," she said. "That doesn't mean it's never going to work."
    Thrive literally burst onto the scene in late 2012, boosted by Krueger's business connections and vision of nontraditional businesses designed to make money as well as social change, first in the 61605 and 61602 ZIP codes and eventually throughout Peoria. It became one of the first benefit corporations in the state.
    Page 2 of 2 - From there, it branched off into Impact HUB, part of an international network that describes itself as "part innovation lab, part business incubator and part community center."
    In retrospect, Krueger said his goals were probably too ambitious, that he tried to start the Impact HUB too soon.
    "I have a tendency to go all in and sometimes that's been successful," he said. "But sometimes your strength can be your weakness."
    Pam Adams can be reached at 686-3245 or padams@pjstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @padamspam.
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