Community Crowdfunding Supports Local Food & Drink Industry
Honeycomb is a local crowdfunding platform that lets small businesses borrow directly from their customers, fans, and community. Businesses receive the capital and exposure they need to fund their dreams, while local Clevelanders get the opportunity to invest in the future of their favorite businesses in their neighborhoods.
Since the pandemic began, community members have invested over $200,000 in Cleveland small businesses on Honeycomb.
One of these businesses is Go Buddha Meals. When Chef Josh Ingraham of Go Buddha Meals put together his company plans for 2020, he couldn’t have imagined that he’d need to account for a global pandemic.
With his background as the executive chef at Progressive Field, Josh created GO Buddha Meals in late 2019 with the vision to provide healthy plant-based and vegan meals at affordable price points.
At the start of the year, Josh was working out of a shared commercial kitchen space in Brook Park and planned to hire brand ambassadors to spread the word on plant-based diets.
Rather than turning to a bank or asking for donations, Josh partnered with Honeycomb to fund the project.
Josh raised $23,850 directly from his customers, fans, and community, but right at the end of his campaign, the pandemic struck. Josh knew that he needed to make some quick moves.
Thankfully, he already had the community capital to make the pivots. Josh immediately launched in local food delivery services and began research & development on creating prepared meal packages that could be shipped out of state.
“We purchased brand labels, inserts, and brand packages to begin the shipping process, and now GO Buddha Meals ships to 16 different states. We wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of this opportunity without the working capital that Honeycomb gave us,” Josh shares.
Josh isn’t the only Cleveland business owner making strategic bets during COVID. Kurtis Williams and Candace Maiden of Squash the Beef, a vegan catering company, built their business around catering at events and pop-ups at other cafes in Cleveland. With summer events canceled due to COVID, the duo upended their business model and crowdfunded $30,000 on Honeycomb to buy a food trailer.
The new food trailer will allow them to increase their footprint and sell more vegan comfort food across Cleveland.
“Given COVID-19 and the new safety regulations, the food truck trailer will allow us to be safer, as well as serve our customers in a safer environment,” says Candace.
For Josh, his strategic bets have also paid off; he has seen a 38% increase in sales revenue since the start of the pandemic, and he’s far from finished. In July, he opened GO Buddha’s first storefront location in Rocky River.
“Honeycomb has really built the toolkit for crowdfunding success,” Josh shares.
From opening new stores to launching exciting products, savvy small business owners all across Cleveland are taking strategic bets during COVID to reach more customers in creative ways.
Newly opened in January, Melissa Hirsh of UnBAR Cafe in Larchmere successfully crowdfunded to rehire all of her employees during COVID, while baker Ian Herrington used Honeycomb to create Leavened, an artisan bakery opening soon in Tremont.
“That initial ‘Wow, people believe in this bakery and are willing to contribute, though it might be a risky time with COVID-19’ was the best feeling,” Ian shares. “It was insane how quickly it all happened.”
Canton-based nonprofit StarkFresh, which provides access to fresh groceries in food deserts with its mobile grocery markets, also crowdfunded on Honeycomb to open its first brick-and-mortar location in Stark County.
Some Cleveland businesses are taking this time to quickly launch new food products into the market. MinusG, a manufacturer of gluten-free baking mixes, raised $25,850 on Honeycomb to build a commercial facility that’ll allow the business to sell to wholesale and retail out-of-state. Peer Pantry, a maker of healthy sauces, also raised community capital for its regional expansion.
Other Cleveland businesses are leveling up their customers in a different way by selling Honeycomb Loyalty Bonds. Customers who buy Loyalty Bonds get 1.3x the value they purchase in gift cards to the business.
Cleveland Biscuit Heads, a purveyor of homemade biscuit sandwiches, raised $11,395 in Loyalty Bonds from 125 backers to buy a mobile trailer, while Rust Belt Riders’ campaign to launch a line of composted soils from food scraps already has 129 backers.
While these have been trying times for Cleveland businesses, Melissa of UnBAR Cafe has a comforting piece of advice for her fellow small business owners.
“Don’t worry about doing it all yourself. There are so many people that want to support you, that you have no idea are out there,” she advises. “If I was starting my campaign over, I would just simply relax, reach out to people, and just ask people to help. Because they will.”
To learn more about launching a campaign on Honeycomb, visit here.
12:00 AM EST
August 30, 2020