Many startups using crowdfunding offer techie apps or fintech products and services, but it was a Midlands-based doughnut company that recently enjoyed phenomenal equity crowdfunding success.
The Project D doughnut company, set up in 2018 by three former schoolmates, launched an equity crowdfunding campaign in May 2023 to raise £400,000 and accelerate the company’s growth. It already had an annual turnover of £2.6m prior to the crowdfunding, and had set an aim to reach £12 million in three years. They were staggered to receive, in just a preliminary private investment round, pledges of £2 million. This was before it was even open to the general public. They used the Crowdcube platform, which is a major one for equity crowdfunding offers in the UK.
The three founders were left wondering how to respond: how much added equity would they open up to crowdfunding investors? Some people may think they should just take the full £2m on offer from investors in the private round, and then go ahead and generate even more from the public round. However, given the high demand for their equity, they could scale back now and possibly come back soon with another round at a higher share price.
Equity crowdfunding success like this is great to see, though it doesn’t happen very often to this degree. And it does also present some problems. I began to think about what the reasons or the circumstances were that caused this surge of popularity. Five factors came to mind.
1. Project D has a low-entry-cost product that significant numbers of customers have been able to try, and evidently decided they like the doughnuts and the way the company operates its D2C order-taking and delivery. They have a substantial community of over one million people to attract as investors. They had obviously done some good data capture work to be able to communicate the crowdfunding offer to them.
2. A lead investor had guaranteed £150,000 – 37.5% of the initial £400,000 target. That gives smaller investors confidence to go ahead.
3. The business had used social media very cleverly to raise brand awareness, with viral videos on its Tiktok account receiving 19 million views in a single two-month period.
4. Project D can claim corporate accounts with British Airways, Brewdog, Amazon and Rolls-Royce. It might have been no more than a delivery to a local office, but big brand names add cachet and boost investor confidence.
5. The company has also won multiple awards including being named the first-ever winner of the Online Bakery Business of the Year category at the 2022 Baking Industry Awards.
To investors, it must have looked like a tasty winner all the way! There are lessons here for all sorts of companies in many different sectors about customer data capture, effective marketing, the value of corporate accounts and the reputational benefits of entering and winning awards.
If you are considering running a business-related crowdfunding project, and want to discuss it with an independent crowdfunding adviser, then please get in touch by an email to [email protected]. To keep up with crowdfunding news, events and projects you can follow me on Twitter.