Finance · 4 April 2018

Funding stories: Crowdfunding for field&flower meat boxes

field&flower founder tells his funding story
field&flower founder tells his funding story
field&flower is a food business that aims to bring traditional British farming back onto consumers’ plate, delivering premium meat boxes nationwide. The farming side of the business is based in Somerset, and there is an office in London too – overall, the business employs 15 people.

Co-founders James Mansfield and James Flower met at college on their first day and have always displayed entrepreneurial streaks. Flower sold logs to fund his degree, and the pair sold antiques on eBay for a brief spell. It was at college that the seed was planted for field&flower – they did lots of research into food businesses, and even did their dissertations on selling meat direct from the farm gate.

To make their blossoming dream a reality, the pair first used seed funding from family, and later used Crowdcube. We caught up with Mansfield to find out more about the business’ funding journey.

How was the business initially funded?

We wrote a business plan and sold 20 per cent of our business for £85,000 to my father. This seed funding allowed us to build a butchery and box packing facility. Plus, a low-cost ecommerce website.
Our cash flow cycle worked as we sold the product before having to pay for it. We worked hard to minimise wastage and successfully sold product at Borough market and local food festivals.

What costs came along later as the business entered new growth phases?

We invested in a CRM system that holds all customer data, staff members to help with retention (really important in a subscription business), and new butchery equipment that helped increase picking and packing efficiencies like bar code scanning.

Most of the ongoing costs that increase are related to sales and marketing. We know we if spend X on customer acquisition it will result in Y number of customers as we have tried and tested customer acquisition channels.

How did you meet the funding target?

We chose crowdfunding on Crowdcube so that our customer base could invest. It’s a great platform to use when you want hundreds of investors. We also got lots of press and business as a result of being on the platform.

We were fortunate that over half our investment came from our customer base, many who have been buying from us for years. In the end, there was very little science to it, it was just hard work. It helped that we had a track record and a profitable business in a growing market.

Did you choose equity or reward-based crowdfunding? What was behind this decision?

We offered equity and rewards. We had staggered rewards depending on how much was invested. Our crowdfunding closing party was one of the rewards, it will be held in April at The Ivy restaurant. We got free private space as I used to be a waiter in the restaurant before I went to uni.

Would you recommend this type of funding to other businesses?

I would recommend it if you’re either a concept or a fairly established business with a customer base because the chances of funding are increased if you have an engaged customer base, and if you’re a concept business pre-revenue you also don’t have much to lose.

You have to mitigate the risk of not reaching your target. The issue we would have had if we hadn’t hit our target (as you don’t receive a penny) is the time and resource we put into raising the money, start to finish was six months. We may also have had some bad press and potentially damaged the confidence of our customers if we hadn’t hit our target. You also have to be prepared to share everything in a public forum, such as business plans! That said, when you hit target it was a great feeling and the guys at Crowdcube have been great to deal with from start to finish.

Where would you like to see the business in the next 12 months?

We’d like to double our customer base and top line revenues whilst taking exploring new opportunities in our market place. Our ambition is to become a household name in the UK. We want to be the online destination for people looking for high quality free range meat and sustainable fish.

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Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.