KANSAS CITY — A little over a month ago, Tony Spagnoli, an aspiring coffee roaster in Philadelphia, discovered his fledgling business had received $3,500 from Mondelez International, Inc. Specifically, the money came from Triscuit Maker Fund, a project launched with crowdfunding web site Indiegogo to support artisanal food makers. On March 23, the cracker brand invested $250,000 to help fund 55 food makers’ campaigns on Indiegogo. Ranging from microbrewers to food trucks to small farms, the businesses represent a diverse scope of backgrounds, products, size of organization and geographic location across the United States and Canada.
“The timing of the Triscuit Maker Fund was just impeccable,” Mr. Spagnoli told Food Business News. “I had reached the point where I needed new capital to do some training and buy additional equipment, and I was also in the process of changing the brand name, so I had to redo a lot of collateral and the web site.”
Prior to that contribution, Mr. Spagnoli had raised almost $3,000 in support of his business, Five Point Coffee Roasters, soon to be known as Publico Coffee. (Mr. Spagnoli elected to rebrand after receiving a friendly request from a similarly named company in Portland, Ore.)
“(Triscuit Maker Fund) more than doubled what I had raised,” he said. “I was so stunned… This is my side business; I have a full-time job. I’ve been working on this for a year, just trying to build something as I can in my free time, so $3,500 may not be a lot for some businesses, but for me, it’s huge.”
Mr. Spagnoli isn’t certain what it was about his business that captured Triscuit’s attention, but he said, “I hope it was the fact that I had a good story to tell and that I was passionate about it. Because that’s really what I tried to convey through my story and video on Indiegogo.
“I may not have all the skills, but I have the passion to carry it through.”
Another company funded by Triscuit Maker Fund is PB&Jams L.L.C., a Philadelphia-based nut butter manufacturer with a focus on community engagement. Megan Gibson, owner and creator, founded the business in 2013 and launched her campaign on Indiegogo to raise money to buy and repair equipment. Triscuit donated $10,000 toward the campaign.
“Having a classic company like Triscuit see the potential in my business was extremely validating,” Ms. Gibson told Food Business News. “We will be able to repair a key piece of our equipment, resulting in increased production, along with addressing other production needs to keep up with demand. Being able to address these needs allows us to use more time and energy to collaborate with organizations making a positive impact on the youth in our community.”
Emily Heizer Hall, founder of Fairfield, Va.-based Razzbourne Farms, received $10,000 from Triscuit Maker Fund to support production of her artisanal aged goat cheeses.
“Being one of the 55 campaigns flash funded by the Triscuit Maker Fund was almost unbelievable,” she told Food Business News. “I literally refreshed my webpage six times looking for the contribution to change as a glitch in the system. Not only did they contribute our asking goal — they doubled it. We now have everything we need to expand our product line of goat cheese in Rockbridge County, but the business now has a savings account for future projects.”
Triscuit Maker Fund was launched in the spirit of supporting startups with a shared focus on simple ingredients. The brand itself began in 1902 when an enterprising small business owner developed a cracker with wheat, oil and salt.
“That same dedication to maximizing something simple lives on, and we want to encourage it wherever we find it,” said Julia Nathan, brand manager for Triscuit, in a statement.
Triscuit does not have formal partnerships with the businesses funded through the Triscuit Maker Fund campaign, but, according to a spokesperson, “the brand will follow funded campaigns closely this year, keeping in touch with businesses and using the brand platform to tell some of their stories of transformation.”
As for Five Point Coffee’s Mr. Spagnoli, the extra capital will boost his business strategy and marketing efforts.
“I’m enrolling in a couple classes that are related to roasting through the Roasters Guild, which is a national nonprofit to support coffee roasters, to deepen my knowledge about coffee roasting,” Mr. Spagnoli said. “And I will be launching a new web site and a new brand, and I’ve been able to put more resources toward that, hopefully making things look a little more professional…“I think the web side of my business will be bigger because of this. I hadn’t really planned on utilizing web traffic all that much, but I’m going to experiment with that now because of this money.”