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Entrepreneurs Meet Next Key Shareholders on Jan. 31

Shareholders in the first nonprofit IPO, which helped build the Next Key Center, will meet entrepreneurs launching businesses at the center during the Annual Meeting set for Jan. 31.

Local entrepreneurs will showcase their wares during Homeward Bound of Marin’s Annual Shareholder Meeting on Jan. 31 at the Next Key Center, an innovative site that includes The Key Room event space, culinary job-training and affordable housing.

All the entrepreneurs have been involved with Next Key Center during their business launch, either as users of its commercial kitchen space or the Next Key Apartments, which offer supportive housing to people who have been homeless.

Among them is Lynes Downing, Jr., who was among the first residents of the Next Key Apartments and now operates a business that sells collapsible water bottles.

A graduate of San Marin High School and the University of Southern California, Lynes came to Homeward Bound after going through a personal and financial tailspin. He now lives elsewhere in Novato.

Living at the Next Key Apartments “allowed me to save money and get back on track,” he says. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without this place.”

Calling himself “always an entrepreneur at heart,” Lynes is happy to be joining others in the Entrepreneur Showcase to meet shareholders from 5 to 7 p.m. in The Key Room for their fourth annual meeting. 

Other exhibitors are: Garden Creamery, a producer of handmade sorbets and frozen desserts; The Chicken Diva, a “Southernly sassy soul food” restaurant operating Friday through Sunday in the Jackson Café in San Rafael; and Gina’s Pesto Sauce.

Shareholders in the first-ever nonprofit IPO, Homeward Bound’s “Immediate Public Opportunity…to end homelessness” helped bring the Next Key Center to fruition by purchasing fundraising “shares” that raised more than $1 million. The center opened in 2008.

At the meeting, shareholders will get an update on progress for residents and programs at the center, which includes 32 studio apartments and serves as Homeward Bound’s social enterprise hub. It houses a 3,000-square-foot commercial kitchen and the Fresh Starts Culinary Academy, a partnership with the County Office of Education’s Regional Occupation Program.

“We look forward every year to sharing our news with the community,” says Mary Kay Sweeney, executive director of Homeward Bound. “It’s a celebration of real-life ‘returns on investment’ for our 1,000-plus shareholders.”

Along with meeting the showcase exhibitors, shareholders will enjoy appetizers made by students at Fresh Starts Culinary Academy.

The event is free to shareholders. Shares can be purchased at the door for $32 each with proceeds supporting buildout of programs at the Next Key Center.

For more information, please visit www.hbofm.org.

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