City Bites

FOOD-FUNDING 101: Local food entrepreneurs want you to put your money where your mouth is

Farmer Rosemary Kralik is using crowdfunding to save her farm from foreclosure

Crowdfunding — the popular method of online fundraising for startups — is becoming the next major financial model for entrepreneurs. Kickstarter is the biggest platform, but there are dozens of clones, imitators, and innovators helping little guys get the cash they need for everything from the making of indie films and funny T-shirts to self-publishing novels and creating a line of hats for cats.

But what about helping a young chef pay for his new food cart or helping a lone farmer buy enough hay for a herd of yak to last until the pasture grows?

Yes, there’s crowdfunding for that.

WHO: ROSEMARY KRALIK, farmer, Tiraislin Farm

GOAL: $26,000

CROWDFUNDING: GO FUND ME

When Oz Kafe chef Jamie Stunt won the Canadian Culinary Championships with a dish featuring succulent yak meat from Ottawa Valley’s Tiraislin Farm, the nation’s culinary elite were introduced to the extraordinary work of 68-year-old farmer, Rosemary Kralik.

Known to her customers at the Ottawa Farmer’s Market affectionately as “The Yak Lady”, Kralik lovingly raises Tibetan yak among dozens of other species free to roam on her property. In order to pay the bills, Kralik has increasingly had to rely on her artistic talent — painting and drawing, creating portraits of animals and humans on commission — after a series of unexpected events over the last few months threatened the survival of her farm. There was drought, rising costs of hay, vet bills for an injured dog, and tractor repair costs.

On April 29, she followed some friends’ advice and began to explore the prospect of crowdfunding. She set up a page on GoFundMe and asked for donations of any size. She also offered to do a portrait sketch in exchange for a $500 donation or a portrait in oil paint for $1,000. But for someone as self-sufficient as Kralik, asking for help doesn’t come naturally. At first she refrained from sharing her campaign page with her friends by email and on Facebook.

The first donation came in for $25 from a friend with an apology for the small amount. Next, there were two donations from strangers and then one from a woman in Toronto who teaches Tibetan students. Her total after the first week was still under $500 but Kralik is thrilled, insisting that every little bit helps.

“It’s paralyzing,” she says, “But I know if I can just get though this rough spot, I’ll be ok.”

 

Tarak Hassan has been really surprised that half of the people who have helped fund the purchase of his food cart have been strangers.
WHO: TAREK HASSAN, chef, Gongfu Bao cart

GOAL: $15,000

CROWDFUNDING: INDIEGOGO

When Tarek Hassan won one of the City’s coveted street food permits to operate a food cart, he needed investors. He consulted with his sister Robin, who works in digital marketing, to develop a fundraising strategy. At the beginning of April, he signed onto Indiegogo and created a crowdfunding campaign for his cart, Gongfu Bao.

He wanted to raise $15,000 to pay for the cost of the cart itself, figuring he would need another $8,000-$10,000 on top of that to start up the business — an amount he could get from family and friends. He wanted the nature of his campaign to represent one singular achievable goal: “Let’s all get together and pay for the cart,” he says.

He wanted potential customers for his Asian-style steamed buns, to feel they could get some compelling value for money, so he created some unique perks (moving away from the idea of just giving away buns) and drawing attention to his background as a restaurant cook and caterer.

Within weeks, there were dozens of funders who signed up for various perks including a discount card, lunch for two at the cart, and a catered 4-course dinner — each paying from $10 up to $200. Participating in social media and adding new perks is all part of the game of getting people to actually put down their money, he says, “You have to feed it.”

Now, with less than 2 weeks left of his campaign, he has raised $4,500 thanks to 70 individual funders, many of whom are strangers to Hassan. He seems delighted: “You get all of this buy-in before I even had the means to cook anything!”