OFF3R caught up with TheFoodMarket.com founder and CEO Wendy Snowdon to learn about her past experiences raising capital, her current crowdfunding campaign with Crowdcube and why she set out to create a company that is, in our eyes, every foodie’s heaven…
What did you do before setting up TheFoodMarket.com.?
My first job was at RealNetworks (remember RealPlayer?), where I worked in London and Seattle in business development. I then joined Amazon, and spent most of my time there managing the commercial side of the Books division, the largest category.
After five years, I left to join Play.com, another giant of that time. I was there for six years, where I did many things, from launching their digital music business to running the merchant recruitment for their marketplace.
During those years, I developed a love for the e-commerce marketplace model. It’s simple and highly complex at once.
Tell us a little bit about the TheFoodMarket.com.?
We’re an online marketplace for natural and organic food and drink that you wouldn’t see in the supermarket….. It’s like the best of the food you’d see in farmers’ markets, food festivals, health food shops and gourmet food halls, brought together in one virtual market.
How did the idea to start TheFoodMarket.com come about?
When I realised my cupboards were full of the same old brands that everyone’s cupboards were full of. I thought about how dull that was and how we were all helping the big brands get even bigger, even though there is so much more available from specialist merchants. I wanted high quality food, with no chemicals added, and I thought others might want the same! So I began a mission to support smaller brands and make it easy for customers to buy from them.
Tell us about your previous fundraise experience?
I was very certain, at idea stage even, that having experienced angels involved would be of huge benefit to the business. I wanted investors who had built successful businesses, and could provide some guidance and insight to us from the early days.
We were fortunate at that point to secure backing by the founders of MoneySupermarket.com, feelunique.com and Play.com. Obviously a dream line up, and they not only followed on to the next round of investment, but have also provided advice, input and contacts to us that have been of huge value.
In our last round, we also added three further, highly experienced and successful entrepreneurs to our investor base.
What is your main reason for equity crowdfunding and choosing to work with Crowdcube?
This is our first crowdfunding round – which is very exciting! There are few reasons why we decided to go down this route.
When an early stage business like TheFoodMarket.com is raising capital, fundraising is usually the main focus and consumes a lot of attention. However, crowdfunding is unique in how it operates. It has the added advantage of allowing businesses to boost awareness for the brand, while raising necessary funds to grow the business. Crowdfunding also opens up a very large investor base that would be near impossible to tap into otherwise, allowing businesses to reach a diverse range of investors.
We decided to work with Crowdcube, as they have a massive reach and a diverse investor membership group. And since kicking off our campaign, Crowdcube have been really supportive, making our lives that much easier.
From experience, what was the hardest and most unexpected part about fundraising?
Fundraising is hugely time consuming, and you still of course have to keep the business running and performing well while you’re doing it. So it’s very important to have a great team by your side and a flexible approach to sleep! The excitement at where you can take the business with the funding keeps you energised!!
Crowdfunding is certainly not for the faint-hearted though – it’s thrilling and daunting in equal measure. By nature, it’s a very open environment, but as long as you’re also open, honest and helpful, it’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with new investors.
What advice would you give to other founders starting to fundraise?
Talk to other founders! We can all benefit from sharing our experiences. Especially seek out those who are in similar spaces and have raised money successfully.
As for crowdfunding advice – ask me in a few weeks!
What are your top 3 tips on raising finance?
1. Prepare – get your plans and documents in order before you start, to allow you to focus on the funding when it begins
2. Don’t get distracted – throw as much of your energy in to the raise as you can possibly manage
3. Invite feedback – raising money is an opportunity to gather input and ideas about how to further improve the business