Meet Barnraiser: Crowdfunding blends with local-food fanfare
Launched in 2009, the crowdfunding site Kickstarter established a new funding method for small companies and individuals with big ideas. Since then nearly 120,000 projects—which formerly might have relied on refinances, seed money from relatives, bootstrapping and sweat equity—have been funded with a total of $2.9 billion pledged. Also, a host of other crowdfunding sites have emerged, including Barnraiser, a crowdfunding site for food, farming and, ultimately, changing the world through food.
Founded by Eileen Gordon in 2014, Barnraiser has funded more than 320 food-centric projects, such as KitchenTown in San Mateo. But their biggest success may be in establishing a place for like-minded people to gather, learn, share and collaborate about food. Gordon believes the crowdfunding model is more effective if you focus less on the funding and more on the crowd.
“Frankly,” she says, “communities that have more stickiness are more successful. When you build a community, you get more customer engagement, which leads to more customers, more funders and a more engaged community. Your closest ties generate the initial traction and then one funder begets another funder.”
Call it the Facebookification of growing a startup: The site is one part education, one part sharing and one part crowdfunding. With 40,000 profiles of makers and foodies, Barnraiser has become a one-stop shop for all things food—farming, healthy eating, trends, ingredients and more.
“This is the place for someone who has a passion for food but not necessarily promotion or funding,” says Gordon. “The big challenge is funding, but getting broader exposure is equally important. They go hand-in-hand.”
Gordon says the key to their 70% success rate is enabling connections with others who have similar passions. The site helps crystalize ideas and trends with stories on thought-provoking topics, such as how to use emerging ingredients like kombucha, predictions from a food futurist, a lesson on how to think like a bee or everything you ever wanted to know about eggs, heritage breed farming, craft spirits or umeshu (Japanese plum wine).
Kids are also a common thread, a reflection of Gordon’s own passion and the memories of summers she spent working the family apricot farm in Hollister. At this point, she plans to continue to promote those who are making “a better life for us and the planet. I love connecting with makers. That’s my thing.”