BRATTLEBORO -- As a student at Marlboro College Graduate School, Kevin Lehman spent a lot of time thinking about food.
And he wasn't pondering where to grab a bite. Instead, Lehman was developing an online method to connect "food innovators" with capital through the relatively new concept of crowd funding.
The result is called Three Revolutions, which Lehman and business partner Chris Lindgren launched a few weeks ago. They're supporting four Vermont projects already, and Lehman expects many more.
"I believe it does have potential to be a national platform," he said.
On the Three Revolutions website, Lehman and Lindgren have an easy answer for why they started the business: "Everyone eats."
Of course, it's more complex than that. Lehman, the company's chief executive officer, has more than a decade of business experience and a long-term interest in the sustainable-food movement. His online biography notes that he has "worked with both growers and eaters" as a member of the Vermont Farm to Plate Network and as a board member of Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op.
"It was something I was very passionate about: How can we develop and support a sustainable food system?" Lehman said.
At the same time, web-based "crowd funding" has become an increasingly popular way for entrepreneurs to raise money, often through numerous small donations. Lehman said he noticed that there were no crowd-funding sites dedicated
So the Middlebury resident developed a model for what would become Three Revolutions while earning a master's degree in business administration at Marlboro.
"What really attracted me to that particular program was the sustainability focus," Lehman said.
Lindgren, of Weston, also has an agricultural background. And he is finishing his studies at Marlboro's Brattleboro-based graduate school.
They formally launched Three Revolutions earlier this month. The company's name is a reference to trends in food, friends and finance -- specifically, the rise of the organic/local food movement, social media and new models for investment.
Lehman's e-mail signature urges the reader to "put your money where your mouth is," and the new company's website -- www.threerevolutions.com -- is designed to allow visitors do just that.
Supporters can read about and select a project before donating as little as $10; they also receive rewards for contributing certain amounts.
One of the four projects on the Three Revolutions site comes from Dancing Bee Gardens, a Middlebury-based business focused on "practicing and teaching sustainable, non-chemical and drug-free beekeeping."
Beekeeper Ross Conrad is seeking $852 to fund a "small cell comb honey bee trial" that focuses on controlling mites that may cause colony-collapse disorder.
"This is not about raising money to benefit me personally," Conrad wrote in his fundraising pitch. "It is about raising money to help me run a trial that may help to resolve a controversy in the beekeeping world and help beekeepers become better at caring for these magnificent pollinators."
In addition to a detailed proposal, Conrad also posted photos and two rewards for donors: A $50 contribution nets a signed copy of his book, "Natural Beekeeping," while $100 buys a "visit with Ross in his bee yards while he goes about his daily chores."
Dancing Bee, as of late last week, became the first Three Revolutions success by raising at least 80 percent of the project's goal.
"It's great to have the first one -- the first of, hopefully, many," Lehman said.
The 80-percent threshold is key for Three Revolutions: During a 45-day fundraising window, campaign donors' pledges are held with credit card approval by a third party payment processor. No payment is processed until a project is 80-percent funded.
Lehman and Lindgren vet projects before posting them on the website, and Lehman promised that additional campaigns are on the way.
"We've got more than 20 in the works," he said.
Some advisers for Three Revolutions have Marlboro College Graduate School connections. Lehman said he believes the timing is right for his company, and he also says the timing was right for its initial development at Marlboro.
"It was a combination of my life experiences, the program and the people in the program," he said.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.