That’s right. Leon, with its healthy take on the traditional fast food chain, has created its own take on the bond idea. Founders Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent (who also moonlights as an MT columnist) are aiming to raise £1.5m through the scheme. This money will be used to take the Leon brand from 11 stores across the UK to 21, with possibly an international store or two, creating some 200 new jobs in the process.
Vincent reckons that the bond scheme is a no-brainer for Leon fans with spare cash lying around. ‘Savers can't get the rates, banks aren't lending to businesses – and this is despite the government giving them money to do so,’ he says. ‘So let's cut out the middleman. Our customers regularly send us emails asking us to open near their office or near their home. This is a way that customers can get us there and benefit financially too.’
MT has scoured the Leon bond T&Cs, and the gist of the deal is this: you can invest £1,500, £3,000, or £5,000 for a term of three years. At the end of that period, you get your money back, unless you choose to reinvest. In the meanwhile, depending on the size of your bond, you get from £120 to £600 £eon pounds a year (which is equivalent to between 10% - 15% gross return). These can be spent on food, cookbooks, or places on the Leon Cookery School.
Bond-holders also get one additional sweetener. Each quarter, a prize draw will be held, doling out a minimum of 10 prizes a pop – anything from a gourmet hamper to a five sessions with a qualified nutritionist (MT feels this is less prize, more chore).
In a climate where cash is hard to come by, it’s an astute move from the Leon duo. And certainly bond pioneers King of Shaves and Hotel Chocolat have had no trouble making this kind of finance work for their businesses. Are we seeing the dawn of a new finance model for SMEs? Are banks and angels being pushed out by hoi poloi?
Power to the people, we say.