Is Crowdfunding For Food Startups a Good Idea?

Crowdfunding sounds very good. Until you engage in a crowdfunding campaign and you realize that it’s basically a job in itself.

I launched a campaign for my project Youpeas, a range of breakfast cookies and soft cakes made from chickpeas. We raised 12K€ in 30 days just before Christmas, not the smartest thing to do, by the way.

First, you should ask yourself if you’re ready for the campaign. When I say ready, it means being willing to expose yourself to the world, to plan out a way to invite people to your page and to reopen conversations with every person you’ve ever crossed paths with from high school mates to your grandma’s old cousin.

If you are, let’s dig in.

Depending on your goal, you’ll choose a type of crowdfunding. Here are the main ones:

Rewards-based crowdfunding: backers give a small amount of money in exchange for a reward.

Donation-based crowdfunding: donors donate a small amount of money in exchange for gratitude and the feeling of supporting a cause they believe in.

Equity crowdfunding: investors invest larger amounts of money in a company in exchange for a small piece of equity in the company.
Debt crowdfunding, lenders make a loan with the expectation to make back their principal plus interest.

We’ll focus on reward and donation-based crowdfunding because those are the ones you’re more likely to go for if your goal is to raise a reasonable amount of money fast and build a community around your products. Plus, the good thing with being in the food sector is that the rewards are quite obvious: you give away some of your products and no more. We did more than just the products and it clearly was a mistake.

Losing time with endless Excel sheets because you have 10 types of rewards and you don’t know anymore who gets what, putting together snacking boxes, ordering T-shirts and tote bags shouldn’t be part of the campaign. But it will be if you get too excited with the rewards part. And believe me, you can’t afford it.

Regarding the choice of the platform, this is crucial and not so crucial at the same time. If you look at the successful campaigns, they all have really good looking pages and products people want to buy. If you have that and you’re extroverted enough to communicate a lot, it’s quite likely that your campaign is going to be successful.

Being on the right platform can however make the task easier.

In France, the three main ones are Kisskissbankbank, Ulule and Kickstarter.
Kisskissbankbank and Ulule are both French platform and they both have a lot of corporate partners.

Ulule engages in call for applications for each partner. For example, Contrex focuses on female entrepreneurship and selects projects carried by women. They make the campaign video for them, communicate around the project and add 3000€ if the campaign is successful. This is an example of a very nice boost! But it takes almost a month to get an answer from them without being sure to be selected so you better anticipate. If not, you’ll end up like us launching a campaign just before Christmas…

The nice thing with Kisskissbankbank is that they’ve already had very popular projects like the film “Demain”. They’re big on ad campaigns and events to bring traffic to the website, which is very good if you have your project there.

Let’s call on to Chiche, a French startup in the chickpea business, that launched their range of chocolate covered chickpeas on Kisskissbankbank: “It’s a platform that targets our target audience and conveys a young, dynamic and committed image that corresponds to us. We liked the follow-up with KissKiss, they have a platform in Lyon. We were able to meet them and this was a really appreciable proximity. We were disappointed by the sharing in their newsletter though, which finally brought us very few people. They are well known but we are not sure of the commitment of the people who follow them.”

Kickstarter is more international. You’ll have to be prepared to communicate in English though and should already have some network abroad for it to be worth it. And if the domino effect happens, it’s the jackpot.

They also have a dedicated food department with people that you actually can have on the phone (not the case with Ulule, for example…). We called them when we were looking for the platform and they’re very helpful, willing to help out and to put you in touch with other founders who did good on the platform.

Last but not least, Miimosa is specialized in food & agriculture. We personally didn’t have much contact with them regarding our campaign but met them on many events. They’re very active and push the projects among the right circles, their networks being more specialized than the others’.

Christophe Sovran, the co-founder of Hoope, an almond spirulina spread, runned his crowdfunding campaign on Miimosa: “We chose the Miimosa crowdfunding platform because it’s a specialized platform for agriculture and agri-food oriented projects. Moreover, when we chose the platform, we saw that Miimosa was in partnership with Carrefour, one of our customers: the choice was therefore also strategic. The choice of platform is important to reach a target that can be interested in the project being presented, but the collection strategy is even more important in my opinion.”

To conclude, if we had to do a crowdfunding campaign again, we would choose the timing more carefully. Then, we wouldn’t go crazy with the rewards or even do only a pre-orders campaign. We would probably also choose Miimosa as a platform to get access to a more receptive audience right away.
Crowdfunding is an exciting adventure. It can be very stressful but it forces you to structure your project and to go out there with your brand, which is the core of what you’ll have to do next anyway. So set your goal, prepare your communication material and go for it!

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