How to make crowdfunding work for you
In the summer of 2014 I was helping on a small fishing boat off the Devon coast not far from where I grew up. We would bring in the most amazing fresh fish, crab and lobsters caught just a few miles away and text the local villagers who would come and meet the boat to purchase the days catch. It got me thinking, how do we bring fresh, fabulous, British produce to peoples doors and remove the need for the huge supermarket supply chains?
It was then that my co-founders and I stumbled across the concept of recipe boxes. The idea is that you bring produce from farm-to-fork as quick as possible by cutting out the middle men and thereby giving customers the best possible fresh produce. Recipe boxes package everything into the exact ingredients you need for an evening meal, right down to the teaspoon of paprika or the drop of honey you need for that dish. We then ship a recipe card to accompany each meal and the customer simply cooks at home. Recipe Boxes were booming in America, Australia, Sweden and many other countries but had only recently made the news in the UK. We saw an opportunity to introduce a totally health focused recipe box, one that never shipped stodgy pasta, bread or white rice – no cheap fillers – but instead provided the customer with wholesome nutritious fresh vegetables, amazing organic meat and fish caught off the Cornish coast.
Our journey began shipping just 10 meals to loyal family and friends in April of 2015. We would drive around in our little van and deliver the first boxes personally to those willing to give us a go! It was a fantastic experience that I’ll never forget. We worked from an apartment and would do everything ourselves, the sourcing, the menu creation, the packing, the delivery, the marketing.. it was a very busy time. Fast forward a year to July 2016 and we found ourselves in an exciting position. We had launched nationwide (up until January 2015 we had only delivered in London), we had some fantastic press, but we still needed to take the business to the next level and introduce more people to our ideas.
This is where the idea of crowdfunding became a reality. We decided that whilst we had interest from institutional investors who loved our brand and ethos, we wanted to bring our concept to a wider audience whilst raising funds. The beauty of a well executed crowd funding campaign is that, if done well, it can be a fantastic advert for your business. We spent many months planning ours, and it all centred around a video that we were creating to showcase our wonderful suppliers and provenance. Over many weeks we visited our farms, fish supplier, vegetable suppliers and got some great pieces to camera from the wonderful people that lovingly supply our produce.
We launched in July 2016 on Seedrs. We intended to raise £400,000 and were blown away with the reaction we received. In just 12 days we over-funded by 250% and had £1.1million pledged. We ended up having to turn investors away (a strange feeling). Amongst those who invested, we had a host of sporting stars: Andy Murray, Victoria Pendleton and Will Greenwood. Unbeknown to us, two of these had been long term passionate customers (under their partners names) who instantly got in touch when they saw the crowdfunding and asked to invest as they believed in the product so much. This was replicated across our existing customer base and meant we saw huge support from people who already knew the level of service and believed in the brand. This hugely invigorated the team and left us energised for what lay ahead.
One important factor with this was that we now had nearly 200 investors who instantly acted like an army of ambassadors for us. Many of these people already loved our brand and were customers so they had already been speaking to their friends about us, but this new investment meant they were actively getting our healthy word out there.
This investment has allowed us to start scaling up and improving a number of areas of the business as we tell more people about the Mindful Chef lifestyle and vision. We have also been approached by the worlds largest published, Penguin Random House, and have signed a lead-title book deal with the for 2017 to produce a Mindful Chef cookbook which is extremely exciting. We have not looked back since going through the crowdfunding cycle and would suggest it to any new consumer facing brand considering raising funds.
Giles Humphries, Co-Founder, Mindful Chef