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Crowdfunding during COVID: How Seven Summits Snacks raised 111% of their goal

By ATB Financial 26 October 2020 5 min read

When sisters Leanna and Kristyn Carriere finalized the recipes for their chocolate-based snacks created for active lifestyles, they had a sophisticated plan for product testing and raising awareness of their newly founded Edmonton-based company, Seven Summits Snacks. It included market research groups and building grassroots awareness in the endurance enthusiast community by attending local running and adventure races to offer samples and make sales.

Then COVID-19 hit.

“We wanted proof that our product was good. Because of COVID-19, we couldn’t do the kind of focus groups we wanted, so we got creative. We mailed samples to people and included a detailed questionnaire,” says Leanna. They received a 80–90 per cent response rate and some wonderfully encouraging feedback about the bars, which are made with simple ingredients like dark chocolate, honey, goji berries, coconut oil and Himalayan salt.

Multiple people said the Seven Summits Snacks bars gave them “good energy, had a great taste, and no ill-side effects” which can happen when you consume so many carb gels during a long distance run.

“To get that kind of feedback was great. We solved a problem that people experience,” says Leanna.

As the results of the mailout market testing were rolling in, co-founder Christine Reimer was researching how to secure funding for manufacturing and packaging of their products. As she explored crowdfunding options, she came across a webinar on ATB BoostR, a rewards-based crowdfunding platform designed for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Alberta.

These female founders didn’t know it then, but they were about to pivot their go-to-market strategy by running a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign.

 

Using crowdfunding to access capital

 

Leanna, Kristyn and Christine all attended the ATB webinar explaining how the BoostR platform works. They’d also been exploring running a Kickstarter but were intrigued by the local support and ATB’s COVID-19 offering.

Leanna and Kristyn also liked the “certainty building” a crowdfunding campaign would provide. They wanted people outside of their peer group to validate that there was product demand, says Kristyn. In addition, they saw a benefit in knowing exactly how many pre-orders they had to fulfill going into the manufacturing stage.

“I was like, this seems like a super idea. This is perfect for us,” says Leanna who was eager to use the momentum of the product testing to roll into the next phase of getting the bars to market, which included securing a co-packer in Calgary.

 

Getting 111% funded through crowdfunding

 

Once Leanna and Kristyn signed up to run a BoostR campaign, they got to work planning their reward levels.

“The idea is that you want to have as many people fund you as possible, so of course, there’s going to be different levels of financial comfort from a fundraising perspective,” says Kristyn. “Some people can only afford a little bit while some people are happy to give very generous donations—and we certainly saw that in our campaign!”

The all-female team created categories for a range of donations that ensured people felt they were getting value for their donation. Their rewards were boxes with different varieties and amounts of their chocolate bars. The higher priced rewards included hour-long nutrition or personal training consultation sessions with Leanna and Kristyn.

With the rewards in place, Seven Summits Snacks launched their BoostR and got to work promoting it—a critical part of a successful crowdfunding campaign. They posted almost every day on Facebook and Instagram with nutrition info about chocolate, details about their products and encouragement for people to get involved, says Leanna.

As the weeks rolled on and pre-orders piled up, Leanna and Kristyn wanted to protect against orders slowing down as the campaign came to a close.

“We wrote a press release for our product and positioned it as local female entrepreneurs,” says Kristyn. “In the last few days of the campaign, we ended up getting an interview with CBC and one with CTV. They were happy to share a little bit of success from local people trying to grow their business.”

In the last hours of the campaign, Leanna, Kristyn and Christine were all on vacation. Each was receiving notifications of orders as they moved closer to their goal of $10,000. When they surpassed it, they began furiously texting congratulations messages to each other and shared laughs as they watched close friends make the last few donations that sent them past their target.

"The idea is that you want to have as many people fund you as possible, so of course, there’s going to be different levels of financial comfort from a fundraising perspective."

Kristyn Carriere

Chief Operations Officer, Seven Summits Snacks

Benefit of an Alberta crowdfunding partner

 

One unexpected and welcome bonus to working with ATB for their crowdfunding campaign was access to their deep community network, says Kristyn.

“The benefit of doing this through ATB was they also helped to get us on store shelves with their partnership with Blush Lane. I thought that was amazing and it was something I didn’t expect. It's hard work to get into stores and for [ATB] to already have reserved shelf space for products is a huge help. It is something we would not have gotten if we went with Kickstarter. Now we have a bigger awareness as a company and we can leverage those connections to grow,” she says.

 

Lessons from crowdfunding during COVID-19

 

With a successful crowdfunding campaign behind them, Leanna, Kristyn and Christine have learned a few key tips for crowdfunding through their COVID-19 experience:

  • Build your social media following before launch. Leanna says that while the crowdfunding campaign absolutely helped grow their digital community, it would have been helpful to have a larger following to activate for the campaign.
  • Tell a compelling story. Kristyn says making sure people know the “why” behind your campaign and also your business is key to connecting with them. A strong story about your company will make it memorable and your products compelling.
  • Invest in assets to tell that story. Leanna, Kristyn and Christine invested in a video to tell their story. They then shared across channels, like Instagram, Facebook and others. It helped create a consistent brand message experience for our potential customers, says Leanna.
  • Set aside time to nurture your supporters. “You will want to genuinely thank all of the people who supported you,” says Kristyn, so make time for that after your campaign. Then, figure out how you can continue communicating with your community to keep them informed and collect their feedback as your company grows.
  • Promote yourself. “It is hard to do, but you really have to promote yourself and your company,” says Kristyn. “You’ve got to get yourself out there and just shamelessly promote yourself on Instagram, Facebook, the news, or wherever because you need people to know you and then back your campaign.”

For female entrepreneurs, Leanna and Kristyn’s advice is to recognize you don’t have to be 100 per cent ready before you take the next step in your entrepreneurial journey.

“Just get in and do it. Follow your passions and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You’ll never know what opportunities will present themselves,” says Leanna.

Build Her Business | Feb 1–Mar 8

An opportunity for women entrepreneurs to raise capital, build community and receive mentorship through crowdfunding.

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