North-east entrepreneurs turn to culinary crowdfunding

With 2015 marking Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, demand for new businesses and products in the sector remains as strong as ever.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

Why? Free to subscribe, no paywall, daily business news digest.

We spoke to three north-east entrepreneurs who’ve asked the public for help in turning their foodie business ideas into a reality.

The Adelphi Kitchen / Angus & Oink BBQ Experience

The owner of two of Aberdeen’s top restaurants has turned to Kickstarter to grow his business.

Chris Tonner, who runs The Adelphi Kitchen and The Courtyard restaurants, has partnered with Aberdeen-based hot sauce company Angus & Oink to crowdfund a new “BBQ Experience”.

The venture is an expansion of the work at the award-winning Adelphi Kitchen, which specialises in charcoal-cooked meat and seafood. The experience would allow Chris to replicate his restaurant’s dining experience al fresco, preparing and serving food at events from a new barbecue hut.

Rather than using a more traditional funding method for his business idea, Chris said “crowdfunding was chosen as a way of not only supporting the new idea but also as a way of paying a thank you to our customers.”

A Kickstarter campaign for the Adelphi Kitchen / Angus & Oink BBQ Experience was launched on March 26, with a funding goal set of £5,000. The team looked at a number of platforms when strategising, before deciding to launch it on Kickstarter.

Chris said: “Kickstarter is by far the leader at this moment in time in the crowdfunding world.

“Research showed that they have the greatest audiences, repeat backers and success rate, this paired with the support given by the platform and their reputation meant that it was easily the right choice for our project.”

Rather than solely asking for donations, Kickstarter’s model also allows entrepreneurs to offer rewards to backers at a range of pricing levels. For this campaign, these range from badges and bottles of hot sauce to branded t-shirts, aprons and behind-the-scenes “Chef for a Day” experiences.

Some backers will also receive an invite for a secret barbecue event after the campaign, while those pledging more than £1,000 will see Chris visit a location of their choice and cater for up to 40 people from his newly-funded barbecue hut.

In order to get the best possible outcome for the campaign, Chris studied a number of previous projects which saw success in order to gauge what backers responded best to.

He added: “The rewards were chosen after team collaboration and research into what has been successful for other food-related crowdfunders. We made them available to most pockets by giving a full range of pledge points.”

The project campaign runs on Kickstarter until April 23.


The Foodstory Café

When the owners of The Foodstory Café decided to sell the business, manager Lara Bishop teamed up now-director and co-founder Sandy McKinnon to carry on the café’s name to a new venue.

To do this, they launched a Kickstarter to help with the construction of their new dream café, which was to be built on the site of a former hairdresser on Thistle Street, seconds away from its old Rose Street location.

“It took three weeks to a month researching crowdfunding and Kickstarter – looking at how to make profiles and filming the video. We had to make sure it was right,” Sandy said.

An important aspect of planning the Foodstory campaign was ensuring that people would want to donate to the cause, by carefully choosing funding tier rewards and making backers feel valued. This led to a range of rewards from brownies and party invitations through to hampers and cookery classes being offered from the café.

Sandy said: “The way I saw it, a lot of people wanted to set up their own café, so why should they give us money? We needed to make sure people would feel part of the business and cafe.”

The Foodstory Cafe - Kickstarter Funding

It was also decided that every backer’s name would be painted on the wall of the café, as a permanent “thank you” and reminder of the business’ origin story.

Another reason Sandy and Lara decided to use Kickstarter was because of the way it manages project finances, with money only being released if it hits the funding target set at the beginning. This is a feature many other crowdfunding websites do not adopt, with money sent immediately to a company’s accounts when it is donated.

Sandy felt this way it guaranteed backers would see a return for their investment, adding: “If we proved to ourselves that we could hit the target then we knew there was a market for our café. And if we didn’t reach the goal, we wouldn’t get any of the money.”

On day 22 of the 30-day fundraising window, the project hit its target. When the campaign finished, Sandy and Lara had received £10,070 from 140 backers. After Kickstarter took its 10%, more than £9,000 was left to put into the business.

The money was mainly spent on construction, contributing toward the installation of new kitchen facilities and counters, plumbing and electrical refurbishment costs and labour.

Over March 2015, the cafe was closed for a fortnight, while the team knocked through into the adjacent building to create a bigger premises.

Speaking on the day of its re-opening, Sandy said: “It’s brilliant. We’ve been closed for two weeks, but today we’re open again and we’ve been rammed.

“Within a year and a half we went from this small-time café, took on a new venue, and now have taken on a second by expanding next door to make it even larger.

“People still mention the Kickstarter to us. We still have the names of all the backers on the wall. When we’d mention this work people would still offer to donate money for it.

“It’s been quite a success so far. You can’t really test a business for three years, but we’re close to two now and everything is still just as popular and positive.”


Summerhouse Drinks

In 2006, Claire Rennie from Berry Scrumptious began creating award-winning chocolate covered strawberries and sending them throughout the UK, including to the BAFTA Film Awards and Wimbledon.

Eight years later, there was a new venture on the cards for the Fraserburgh-based confectionery producer – Summerhouse Drinks.

The goal was to build a wooden summerhouse on the back of a van, which could tour the country showing off their range of 100% natural lemonades, produced on their family farm.

After trying traditional funding methods and being met with scepticism, a funding goal of £4,500 was set on crowdfunding website Bloom in March 2014. This would cover the purchase of a second-hand van, and the costs of raw materials and construction.

Summerhouse Drinks - Bloom VC Funding

Claire said: “It was good to try crowdfunding because it got people interested in the launch. It also acted as a test market to see if there was a need for the product.

“Crowdfunding’s like being completely naked and asking people for clothes. You’re very on-show and vulnerable.”

Similarly to Kickstarter, campaigns on Bloom must reach at least 100% of the initial fundraising target for the money to be released. Backers were also rewarded with bottles of the lemonade, discounts off future orders, behind the scenes tours and the ability to hire the van for the event.

“It was really exciting because we reached 50% in the first week, which showed us that people really loved the idea and saw it as a product,” Claire added.

“It gave us a good boost. We knew we were on the right track and so it was a great method of market research, too.”

The project was given the green light at the end of the fundraising period, with 172 backers pledging a total of £4,920.

“After we got the funding we started looking for the van. We found one we liked about a fortnight later at an auction, and soon we were the proud owners of it.”

Work began on transforming the van soon after. It was given a wooden roof, which allows the frame of the summerhouse to be tucked underneath it when it’s on the road.

“We did have to make sure it was roadworthy when we were building – we needed to make sure that when we drove it we wouldn’t be getting stopped by the police every five minutes,” Claire added.

“When you’re out and about driving the van gets a lot of attention. People do a double take when they see it.

“At events people absolutely love it. It’s good because we want people to remember it and it helps with our branding.”

Since the launch of the van, Summerhouse Drinks has gone from strength to strength. It was crowned winner of Best New Retail Product for companies with less than 25 employees at the Grampian Food Forum Innovation Awards, was a finalist in the Non-Alcoholic Drinks Category in the Scotland Food and Drinks Awards, and its artisan drinks also saw it nominated for a Scottish Rural award.

Most recently the company signed a distribution agreement with Gordon & MacPhail, one of the UK’s top independent specialist wholesalers, in March.

Reflecting on the experience, Claire said: “I’d encourage anyone to try crowdfunding. You’ve got to be brave but it’s a really good way of raising money and testing the market as well.”

The latest stories