Judging by weekly headlines about our growing obesity crisis, you might assume that there’s not much of a market for healthy food; you’d be wrong. That’s what Nicole Culver found when she started looking to grow her small online bakery, Pure Bliss Eats, which sells gluten-free, vegan, organic specialty snacks made out of real ingredients. But while the market exists for her products, it’s costly and difficult to get all the right certifications to let consumers know that she’s selling them good stuff, so businesses like hers are edged out by bigger companies and corporations that can afford to gussy up junk food with an “organic” or “gluten-free” label, instead of actually making healthy, whole foods. But Culver is doing something interesting and awesome in response: She’s using Kickstarter.
So far, all signs indicate that there’s a significant market for her products–so she’s asking them to help her grow the business to get them more of it:
It kind of stemmed from my husband, who wouldn’t eat breakfast. I started coming up with all these recipes, and finally I got him to eat breakfast, because he liked what I was making. And after going around and giving food away to yoga studios and Pilates studios, I saw that it was really working. People want healthy food that tastes good. And they don’t want to always buy from big companies.
When we (health bloggers, media outlets, individuals) talk about the obesity crisis, one of the biggest points of discussion continues to be that large corporations seem more interested in making unhealthy food seem good for us than making food that’s actually good for us.
And as consumers, it’s easy to feel powerless–if we really want to eat clean, wholesome stuff, we’ve either got to do tons of research, or carve out time to cook everything ourselves. Finding convenient, quick options that are also healthy seems impossible, but for Culver and others (like The Beet Box, a project by college students to create a healthy food cart, or Goodie Monster, a healthy vending machine) who have a great, healthy product and consumers ready to buy, new fundraising and communication technologies are helping to make it a reality.
Culver, who’s a health counselor and popular blogger, says a lot of people wanted to support her when she made the decision to expand Pure Bliss from a local company to a larger one. But many of them could only pitch in a little, rather than adhering to traditional investment models (which require large sums upfront).
We were looking for investors to get money, because it kind of takes a lot of money to go from the kitchen to the co-packer, so we had to raise capital. And we had a lot of people say to us, “We would love to help you out, but…” because it’s way different for someone to give you $25, versus an actual investment. You don’t want to ask for handouts from people, but we had so many people who wanted to support us–they just couldn’t make an investment.
So Pure Bliss (and many other small businesses) are figuring out a way to make real, healthy food available to more people, despite the logistical and financial barriers (like certification and shipping) that typically stand in the way, and allow large manufacturers to maintain a monopoly on the market.
Kickstarter isn’t the only tool they’re using: Culver also noted that IndieGoGo was a good one for others looking to get a leg up. But whichever program small businesses choose, fundraising on this level is empowering makers and shakers to stop wishing for healthier options, and either come up with them themselves, or fund the things they want to see. Which, according to Culver, is great for both sides of the transaction:
It gives you a platform to put your business on. My husband is a big supporter of [the idea that] every dollar you spend on food counts, and it’s just another way to be able to do that, and support the people you really believe it, and say “Ok, I want this in my store.”
And who knows? Maybe through Kickstarter and other programs, enough small companies will be able to get the certification and capitol they need to create competition that will convince big food manufacturers to change their tune and clean up their food.
Image via Pure Bliss Eats