Why did you decide to try fundraising with SparkUp?
Honestly, I knew nothing about fundraising when I started. SparkUp’s solution seemed to be simple and accessible so I decided to try it. In fact, the initial signup form and the escrow account reinforced my idea that everything was well prepared for a successful fundraising attempt. The tool was very useful as it allowed me to communicate extensively with my contacts and also to reach out to people who were recommended to me by my network. These recommendations and word of mouth were levers which allowed me to reach my fundraising objective. I was able to reach people in the agribusiness, who were interested in the project.
At what stage of your company’s development did you decide to raise funds?
The company is now 5 years old but I’ve only been working fulltime for the last 2 years. After a test phase, I decided to launch a fundraising attempt to be able to accelerate the development of our production site but also to develop the marketing of the company, notably by using online sales. This allowed us to reach a broader audience and become known more widely.
How much did you raise with this method? What were the conditions?
Thanks to SparkUp, we were able to raise €100,000 in just 3 months! My conditions were simple, I used a classic share option rule with a right to vote. The minimum entry amount was €500 and the maximum was €33,000. In total, I convinced 9 investors to invest in Maison des Antilles.
What amounts were invested and who are your investors?
We had two big investors: an investment fund (who reinvested nearly 40% of the total amount raised) and a French company who are specialist in the agribusiness (who invested nearly 10 000€). The investment fund who reinvested, had believed in us from the beginning, which reassured new investors about the financial stability and reliability of our company and the professionalism of the team. Our other investors came from my own professional network and that of the company’s - they are mostly clients, suppliers, and partners. They include an illustrator, an art director, a director of marketing, a client relationship manager etc. We were lucky to have investors who knew us and who could help us grow the company.
Who did you contact from your network?
I contacted everyone from my personal and professional network to give me a maximum chance and opportunity for recommendations. I selected friends and family from my personal network and professional contacts from LinkedIn, emails from former colleagues, especially clients and suppliers. At the end of the campaign, I was surprised to see that nearly half my investors were clients, suppliers, partners and friends. I was also surprised to see that people from my network, who I never thought would invest, decided to help me not only financially but also with their professional skills.
Did your investors provide more than financial support?
Yes, absolutely! In addition to the financial support, each of the investors shared their professional expertise to help the company grow. This aspect also helped me choose my investors. For example, the investment fund is going to support my recruitment strategy. The artistic director is going to help me with the design of my marketing campaign. The agribusiness company is going to leverage their network of industry professionals. The investors also gave me access to their networks, which helped me raise more funds.
What difficulties did you face?
During my first meetings with investors, I realised that my pitch lacked definition and wasn’t appealing enough to some customers who didn’t know the West Indian food market. So I worked on improving my presentation, my arguments and my SparkUp campaign with a business model that was more “mass market”. This period was very enriching as it allowed me to question my vision, my model and to consider new ideas and directions. I was also helped by a lawyer who advised me on the legal dimension (statutes, shareholders’ agreements, etc). This allowed me to concentrate on the essential parts of my business, i.e. meetings with potential investors and the negotiations.
What made your campaign successful?
The quality of my pitch, undoubtedly. I had prepared my presentation and my arguments carefully for my meetings with my investors, which made negotiations easier and convinced the investors I met. In addition, to persuade them I developed a more mass market dimension to my pitch. This argument was reinforced by the digitalisation of our activity. Finally a major axe of the presentation was based on the knowledge of the partner producers and the quality of the products we use.
What would you say to entrepreneurs who hesitate to call on SparkUp?
Don’t hesitate! It’s a powerful tool to help in the sharing, appeal and authenticity of your product. The tool is a great way of leveraging all the resources you need, not only financial ones. The investors shared their professional skills, their network and their expert advice with me. Indeed, you could go above your needs for funds whilst keeping the same share capital for the company. SparkUp’s tool is a powerful means of presenting your project. It allows you to make real connections with potential investors and to make interesting business connections. The major positive point is the availability of SparkUp’s team, who also provided relevant advice during the whole of the campaign. Personally I will use SparkUp again for my next fundraising attempts because the journey doesn’t end here!