As you can tell from our recent feature on 10 crazy new food products you can only find on Kickstarter, fledgling food companies are turning to crowdfunding to get their name out and raise capital. But are established staples like Kickstarter or Indiegogo really the way to go? And wouldn't it be great if those sites had someone to help you scale your campaign and get your message down?
That's where Karen Foley and Foodie Crowd Funding come in.
[Editor's note: Check out Food Dive's new Food Startups directory for more info on Foodie Crowdfunding and other young companies.]
FOODIE CROWDFUNDING'S HISTORY
With over 20 years of experience in restaurants, grocery and manufacturing, Foley knows food. In 1991, she left an executive job in the fashion industry to buy and operate Crocus Hill Market, a 100-year-old grocery store in the St. Paul, Minn. From there, the store's catering operation eventually snowballed into Foley and her husband, John, owning six restaurants—and having what she says was her first experience with crowdfunding.
"We didn’t know it was crowdfunding, but basically, we had friends and family and fans that liked our food, that supported us and gave us small investments to grow the business," Foley says. "Probably a lot of people in our food industry have similar experiences and don’t even know that they would consider that formalized crowdfunding. I mean, the Statue of Liberty was crowdfunded, so it’s not a new concept by any means."
Fast-forward to today, and Foley is now in California, where she has owned even more restaurants and a website, NeedWaitStaff.com, and serves as the senior vice president of sales for food manufacturer Tulocay & Co. All of this experience—as well as that of her husband John and VP Director of OPS and APPS Jeannette Webber, a chef with a food manufacturing and retail background—is being put into the launch of the industry-specific crowdfunding platform, Foodie Crowd Funding, to help young food ventures get noticed and get funded.
A KICKSTARTER ALTERNATIVE
Where "traditional" platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which predominantly work best for ventures in tech and the arts, might fall short for a food project, Foodie Crowd Funding's mission is to do everything it can to help them succeed. "We’re all about improving and changing the industry, and there’s so much going on," Foley says. "If you go down to the natural products show and walk that lower level and see the passion and enthusiasm of all these young people—mostly young people, because they’ve got all the energy—to put together all these great new healthy snack products, and everything that’s going on."
What Foodie Crowd Funding does with that passion and energy is what sets them apart from their competition. Rather than being allowed to put up any project and left to operate it as best they can, seekers are required to submit an application. Those who meet qualifications such as already being vested in the industry—who might already have attended a food show or have a product in a farmer's market—and considering where and how they want their business to grow are accepted.
Once a project is accepted, the site acts as more than just a funding portal. Foley and her partners are committed to helping their featured ventures with a variety of needs, ranging from websites and videos to marketing. Foodie Tout, planned for launch in the next few months, is an accompanying blog-based site that will promote Foodie Crowd Funding's projects with a consumer-oriented approach. Key retailers from across the country will also be revealed in the next few weeks as members of the platform's "retail foraging board," in which they will review and critique select products.
"Most of them are all seeking and looking for unique products, and they’re going, 'Wow! This is great!'" Foley says.
Even perks are handled with more care. Instead of the typical Kickstarter perks of "Donate $25, get a dozen cookies," Foley encourages seekers to think outside of the box. She wants them to offer experiences, like parties or instructional sessions, or to look to their network of friends and peers for offers that promote that person or company's product as well.
This isn't to say that all of this will be easy. Despite setting Foodie Crowd Funding apart, Foley recognizes the challenges of entering a crowded crowdfunding market. Reaching the masses and getting the name out are indeed No. 1 on that list. Second, however, is just finding time for the busy food professionals launching these projects to take a short break and do what has to be done to succeed in their funding efforts.
"There’s no secret ingredient where I’m going to have 90 million people there who are just going to want your product," Foley says. "This is about you doing a great job at not only putting up your project and telling your story and coming up with creative perks, but it’s all about the outreach."
While submitting a project is free, the actual launch once it is accepted is $99. In a flexible funding campaign, where seekers keep whatever amount is raised, Foodie Crowd Funding takes 7% of the amount raised, while a fixed funding campaign will cost only 5% of the final funding amount. Services, such as website and video assistance cost varying additional fees. Qualifying non-profits, however, can have their setup fee waived and receive a 30% discount on their fixed funding rate.
Though the site just launched in beta, several projects are already listed and Foley estimates a full launch will happen within the next month. The final board of directors, which will include several more industry vets, is also set to be revealed once all members sign on the dotted line.
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