It’s one thing to identify a growing market, establish an innovative route into the sector, and reach a point of scalability, but to continually grow a startup is another ballgame completely. Crowdfunding can provide the path needed to beat that game, but also the opportunity to score an unfortunate own goal. To exceed a £1.5m crowdfunding target within a few hours of its launch is no mean feat, which is exactly what plant-based fast food company Ready Burger achieved. But what goes into a successful crowdfund?
“We went through rigorous financial, legal, branding and marketing work with the team to set us up for success,” says Max Miller, co-founder and CEO at the vegan brand. “Crucially we also worked with a third-party agency called Tribe First for specialist funding support.” Evidently, much work goes into getting to a stage where you can close a listing early with £2m raised via 842 investors, and it has to start with a kernel of an idea.
Miller says that Ready Burger has created the UK’s “first scalable, value driven, fully plant-based QSR brand”. While established in 2020, it was not until June 2021 that the group launched its first site in Crouch End, London, followed by a delivery aspect in July. Miller adds that the restaurant is building “a range of proprietary plant-based proteins” that make a number of unique items – “all the while getting closer to a 99p saver menu burger”.
As for the crowdfunding campaign itself, Miller says that it was the group’s “intention from the start” to embark on the listing. “It was important to us as we wanted to create a community of people who would support the brand and hopefully become loyal customers, eat at Ready Burger restaurants and recommend us and our mission to their friends,” he adds.
Gaining traction is vital for a startup such as Ready Burger, and it works both ways with crowdfunding. The campaign itself can hinge on existing brand awareness, while also resulting in an increased following. Miller claims that Ready Burger has “been very lucky to grow a steadfast following” since its opening with a mix of “reviews and social buzz being testament to that”.
He adds: “Hosting a number of tasting sessions and having had various influencers down to visit has also help to boost brand awareness in these early stages, which has been invaluable.”
However, the restaurant’s CrowdCube campaign managed to further spread the word of this launch. “Working with Tribe First to garner awareness around the crowdfund has meant being able to take this next step and build upon this foundation, with people eager to support us because they believe in what we are doing,” Miller says. “Our organic following has grown thick and fast, with engagement being high and people genuinely loving the product, so we truly believe this investment is going to take that to another level.”
While the speed in which Ready Burger secured £2m in investment is undoubtedly a positive sign, investors have now gained 22.47% equity in the business. This could lead to further stakeholder concessions as a trade for growth, but Miller remains solely focused on the positives.
He says: “CrowdCube was an interesting exercise in and of itself; it gave people the opportunity to ask really important questions and for us to be as transparent as possible about what we are doing and why. Overall, it was a great experience and exceeding our target in just a few short days was really exciting.
“The feedback from the crowdfund has instilled confidence in us that only positives will come from continuing to build our fan base, making connections with investors and fans who will advocate for us and spread the word. That being said, we have put in some serious groundwork to ensure that the future plans for Ready Burger are worthy of the support we have been shown.”
Looking ahead, Ready Burger intends to use the funding to “drive forward our ambitious expansion plans”. A mixture of domestic and international portfolio additions, technology investments, solutions improvements, and quality and customer service attention will all be the beneficiaries of a successful crowdfunding campaign. “Funds raised will be allocated towards store fitouts, asset finance, salaries, pre-opening costs, marketing, fundraising fees and future business developments,” says Miller.
In the longer term, he adds that the group is aiming to establish its plant-based fast-food brand in the US via its own restaurants or a franchise model, although he is careful to recognise that “we’re hoping to do this under our own steam as much as possible to limit the dilution from our investors and ourselves”.
By utilising its unique position in the market, carrying out a long-planned growth strategy, and acting upon increasing brand awareness, Ready Burger managed to bridge the gap from promising startup to highly scalable business through its successful crowdfunding campaign.
While the group will now have to act transparency and think of its investors in many of the steps it takes, Miller is right in providing the positives. Some £2m will now be used in growing a range of areas across the business, improving Ready Burger’s service to what is a rapidly rising following.