Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Food for Thought

It’s no surprise that for my first entreVIEW blog post, I am writing about the local restaurant scene (see the top three things I am most likely to blog about). I love food. In fact, in law school, some friends and I created an informal food club where each month one person was assigned with choosing a new restaurant. It was a great distraction from the stress of law school! 

A recent trend for Minneapolis restaurants owners is to raise capital through Kickstarter.  Somewhat like Angel List, Kickstarter is a website that provides a platform for business owners to raise capital, but in Kickstarter’s case without giving up equity in their company. On its Kickstarter web page, the company describes the creative project they would like to pursue and the public can support the company’s endeavor by donating funds to the project. In exchange for their capital, the donor will receive a service or good from the business. For instance, Travail sought to raise $75,000 on Kickstarter by offering investors tickets to the soft opening of the proposed new restaurant, cooking classes with the chef, and reservations at their existing restaurant (there’s normally a 45 minute wait).  Travail’s fundraising efforts were hugely successful; they raised $255,669 in one month. 

After Travail’s success, Birchwood, another one of my favorite restaurants, is hoping to raise $100,000 on Kickstarter to fund an expansion of their restaurant. Birchwood is off to a great start, having raised over $30,000 in eight days. 

The question for other restaurant owners (or entrepreneurs for that matter) is whether they can achieve similar success using websites like Kickstarter. The biggest challenge for a business owner is to create awareness of the business’s fundraising campaign and to develop such a strong connection with customers that they want to contribute to the growth of the company. If you have been to Travail, you know that their food is consistently excellent and unique. They have created quite a loyal following with the success of Travail, Pig Ate My Pizza, and Umami.  They have carved out a niche in the Minneapolis restaurant market; customers are willing to wait over an hour to eat at their restaurants. If a business doesn’t have a dedicated following similar to Travail, it may be more challenging to attain its fundraising goals. Vast support from the community is vital to a successful fundraising campaign through online websites like Kickstarter. 

Congratulations to Travail for their fundraising efforts. I look forward to visiting the new Travail with my food club!

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