Kickstarter, Crowdcube and Crowdfunder are just a few of the BIG names in the crowd-funding game, but it is interesting how they've evolved from being a platform for technology start-ups to pretty much covering every type of start-up out there. Recently there have been some extremely successful crowd-funded food ideas and concepts, so let's have a look at some of them...
I am a huge advocate of tech and the ever-evolving world of technology in our day to day lives, but I'm not just talking about gadgets and gizmos (all you iPhone and Samsung phone users). Software and platforms are playing just as big a role in changing the way our day to day lives work and are finally really and truly beginning to give us access to the anyone and everyone in the world. The idea of fishing around the world in search of funding for a start-up is nothing new so I won't pretend like this has just appeared out of nowhere. What these services really do is bring the finance-sourcing portion into your own workspace or, more appropriately for us, kitchen! I call the platform a “service” because that's what they are at the end of the day, so don't allow yourself to think they come free. Willing entrepreneurs create a video, branding and a financial goal for their concept in exchange for rewards and/or a portion of the business. The rewards and/or share in the business will vary depending on which platform you choose and what restrictions you have set up for the “funders” so as an entrepreneur you do get to have some control in how it all happens. It really does seem like a great way to go about getting your business off the ground, and I'm not here to comment on the merits or drawbacks of being a part of such a system, especially when I haven't been part of a crowd-funding attempt.....yet!
Now you've got an idea of how they work you can see how crowd-funding can be a very attractive idea for a food business (like ours!). More importantly it's a great way to take the concept you've been testing for months and months to the next level by saying to your loyal and trusted guests “Thank you for the feedback, if you love us as much as we are loving you then we are up for taking the next step together with you”. This sense of “being a part of something” is what seems to resonate when being a part of a crowd-funded concept. While I was working in Boston I learned about how Chef Chris Coombs got started working at dBar, developing a relationship with guests as well as his business partner then, through sheer willpower and determination, managed to find himself owning and running his dream-restaurant in the form of Deuxave (ok it's not crowd-funding but I just wanted to give some appreciation for a guy who I admire immensely!). On my first day there, I was supervised by Vince Burns who was acting as Sous Chef for the time when I arrived. He has since used Kickstarter to successfully crowd-fund his own project, El Toro the Tot in Denver, Colorado. The reason why I bring this up is to illustrate how using a platform like this gave him a chance to grow a business from the ground up rather than starting with a loyal fan base. In his “Risks and Challenges” assessment on the Kickstarter page you'll notice a key line “We must build a loyal customer base and properly manage the business.”, so now imagine what it must feel like knowing you've got that loyal customer base to start off with, all being ready to come on and join in the Toro the Tot party!
I'll finish off by talking about 2 projects which really spurred on this line of thought between A and myself. Mike & Ollie have done everything from serving food off of “precariously balanced shipping pallets underneath a borrowed stripy tarp...” to intimate supper clubs to private catering events and are now on the verge of opening their own space in Camberwell via a successful Kickstarter project. In addition to this, earlier this year we were lucky enough to enjoy cooking some food out at Climpson's Arch in Hackney with the hopes of being able to come in for a residency of our own after the successful Som Saa team. Sadly we weren't quite right at the time but the Som Saa team managed to have an overwhelmingly positive response to their own crowd-funded campaign to launch their own space (soon to open in Shoreditch by the way). After meeting the team of Tom, Andy and John we could tell how much heart and soul they've put into their project and wish them all the best with their new endeavour after successfully meeting their goals....and then some! This all just goes to show how much something good means to people and how the powerful the pockets (and stomachs!) of many can be when they really get behind projects. We're still trying to figure out where our next steps will take us but crowd-funding is definitely an option that is on the kitchen table when we've got it right! R.
Both Som Saa and Mike & Ollie were required to prepare videos for the Crowdfunding pages. Enjoy watching them as it shows how the growth of something that is loved can be facilitated by the guests that generated the growth.