We chat with Kate Marston from business start-up Puddingstone Distillery about their outstanding crowdfunding success for Campfire Gin. We find out what they learned about this innovative method of financing, and how the local business community played a key role in making it happen.
Tell us about Campfire Gin
My husband Ben and I were looking to start a drinks venture. Ben has a great deal of experience in the craft brewing industry and I run my own design company, so it seemed like a good partnership of knowledge and skills. Gin was the logical choice due to the huge growth in demand for independent gin labels. We chose the name Campfire very specifically as we wanted to be a very outdoor-focused brand. We intend to support our core product with distillery tours and tastings to draw tourism to the area, as well as participating in regional food and drink events.
What was your crowdfunding experience like?
Hard work, but ultimately extremely rewarding. Although we exceeded our target in just under two months, it took about six months of intense groundwork before we could launch the official campaign. Crowdfunding requires a great deal of promotional activity. Social media is the obvious channel, but a very local venture like this meant we needed to talk to people face-to-face, and not just family and friends! We attended local food and drink events, met with local members of the business community, and looked for companies that could help raise awareness of our brand.
How did people react to your initiative?
Very positively, particularly the local business community, many of whom became our funders and collaborators. For example, one of our key collaborations is with the owner of the premises we are renting, Simon Mead from P.E. Mead & Sons in Wilstone. This is an innovative farm shop that is fast becoming a hub for local food and drink businesses. We recognised that operating tours and events at our distillery could be great for their business too, and we also hope to benefit from the growing number of visitors who source local produce.
What does your five-year business plan look like?
Initially, we are offering Campfire Gin in a 42% London Dry version, but intend to follow it up quickly with Navy Strength and a range of seasonal and cask aged varieties. The joy of being a small business is being able to react much quicker than major manufacturers, so we can capitalise on new ideas and trends. Touring the brand and drawing tourism to the distillery will be a key part of this. We want to have a very personal dialogue with our customers.
What did you learn about the crowdfunding process?
Crowdfunding activities come at a price, so you ideally need money in the bank to begin with. We were lucky to be awarded £1,000 start-up funding from ‘Dacorum’s Den’, an entrepreneurial funding initiative organised by Dacorum Borough Council but have used personal funds for everything else so far including buying our initial distillery equipment for testing recipes, promotional campaigns and taking part in local events. The money raised through crowd funding will go towards the purchase of our stills and other production equipment. Prospective crowdfunders also need to bear in mind the costs associated with raising finance. You lose a certain amount to VAT and credit card charges, and you also need to pay a fee to the crowdfunding website. Make sure you build this into the target figure you hope to raise.
What tips do you have for anyone considering a start-up business?
As a designer I know that businesses rely on their brand value, so trade mark your new brand as quickly as possible to avoid someone taking advantage of your hard work. Be prepared to do a great deal of groundwork before you launch, and try to be patient. Your business will probably take longer to establish than you first imagined. Otherwise, make sure you surround yourself with good people and great advice, both professional and from those that have started businesses of their own.