Founder of Coconuts Organic, Cecily, recognised early on that there was a gap in the market for a satisfyingly creamy vegan ice cream that replicated the real deal. After perfecting the recipe, Cecily dreamed of sharing her product with all vegans who longed for that delicious creamy texture.
Learn how Cecily used crowdfunding to make this dream turn into a very successful reality.
Coconuts Organic: The Beginning
I started Coconuts Organic in 2015. I had changed to a vegan diet and felt frustrated by the lack of decent vegan ice creams on the market so I started to make my own. When people tried it they loved it. So, after a few months I began to see that there could be a business here. Shortly after, I quit my career in retail and moved back to my childhood home of Cornwall – back to my father’s house – to start Coconuts Organic.
The Pressure to Raise Funds
We had a good first couple of years, we were growing our stockists, even getting listings with Ocado, Morrisons and Asda. However, I started to realise that, if we were really to take the business national, and then international, we would need to grow volume sales and grow them quickly. This would take a) a national listing with a supermarket and b) a lot of money! This was in December 2017 – and raising funds became one of the most important things for me to focus on, to keep the business growing.
The problem was that I was based in Cornwall, and also had a 3 month old (my second daughter) at home with me. I felt very ‘out of the loop’ in terms of networking and really had no idea how to go about raising funds. Plus there was a huge thing around confidence too; who would want to invest in me, how do I ask people? Knowing the tiny proportion of investment that actually goes to female founders too, it all felt very daunting.
Coconuts Organic Takes On Dragons Den
I decided to apply for Dragon’s Den. I know that sound ridiculous, but it felt so remote – it was just filling out an application form initially, so that prospect of actually pitching in the Den was a distant one. But, my application was successful and I was offered a date to go and pitch to the Dragons. It was very exciting, and very nerve-wracking. But, I am pleased to say that it went very well. All 5 Dragons loved my ice cream, and I received 2 offers. One from Jenny Campbell and the other from Tej Lavani. I eventually accepted Jenny’s offer in the end.
However, a few weeks after filming I also secured a listing with Tesco. Suddenly I was going to need more money – before this investment had even come in. I decided to walk away from the Dragon investment and raise on equity crowdfunding site Seedrs.com instead.
So kicked off another huge learning curve!
A Mountain of Work
I had to write a pitch deck, prepare a campaign video, write the campaign and, most importantly, line up at least 50% of the investment before even launching.
I also had to balance this with the pressure of:
- Rebranding the business
- Develop 2 new flavours for Tesco
- Find a manufacturer who could make the product to our specifications
- Meet the allergen management requirements
- Handle the volumes that Tesco would bring.
It was a very stressful time. This was now December 2018 and everything I was doing was pushing me outside of my comfort zone.
The First Big Campaign for Coconuts Organic
We finally had the campaign ready to go live. The last few days in the lead up to it was characterised by frantic work alongside moments of just panic thinking. ‘What if no one invests?’ ‘What if they don’t like the business?’ After all, we didn’t have a plan B. The only way we would be able to launch at Tescos was if the campaign was successful. If somehow we managed to raise the funds we needed in just a couple of weeks. This was daunting because campaigns normally take 60 days.
I am very happy to say that our campaign was a huge success. Thankfully. We raised just over £400,000 in 2 weeks – exactly what I had wanted.
We’ve just completed our second round on Seedrs.com too. This time around it was a whole lot easier having already done it once!
Our delicious organic vegan ice cream is now in the freezers of Tescos across the UK which is a great source of pride for me and the team.
You can read more about Cecily’s story here.
Or check out some of the amazing recipes you can make with her products here. The vegan churro bowl is EVERYTHING!
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