On the up · 8 January 2018

Indiegogo was the wrong place to raise funding for me

PeatReekers whisky Indiegogo
PeatReekers is the result of years of work for Calum Leslie
Having tried, and failed, to raise 10, 000 using crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, Calum Leslie pivoted his business andhas launchedhis own whisky brand.

Wanting to capitalise on the subscription model craze, Calum Leslieembarked on a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo back in October 2015 with friend and business partner Fraser Sutherland.

Taking the form ofa monthly delivery service which introduced members to new whisky brands with samples and tasting notes, the entrepreneur has now taken his business ambitions in a different direction as Business Advice found out.

(1) When we spoke to you last you were launching a subscription whisky service, what has changed?

The subscription service caught the attention of an Edinburgh-based investor. I met with him and he asked me if I had any plans to launch my own brand of whisky. At the time, I had been reading about the PeatReekers, a group of 18th century renegades who evaded the tax man and produced illicit Scotch.

The PeatReekers were similar to the American moonshiners such as Al Capone, a very famous time in US history, yet no one was talking about the days of the PeatReekers and so I saw an opportunity to build a brand around the darker side of whisky. So, I pitched the investor the idea and he decided to fund it.

(2)what brought about this pivot and why did you not continue with the subscription offering?

PeatReekers -Wax StampLaunching our own brand was always the end goal. Subscription is a great business model and allowed us to build up contacts in the whisky industry.

We received enough funding that allowed us to pivot and decided to focus our attention on building a great brand. I am always aware that you only get one shot at creating a market for a new brand, so it was important to spend 100 per cent of time and energy doing this.

(3) What did you learn about the crowdfunding process while you were on Indiegogo?

Crowdfunding is tough. Indiegogo was the wrong place to raise funding for our company. I think reward-based crowdfunding is great for tech products, but not so much for foodand drink products. On the flip side, equity-based crowdfunding is very well suited forfood and drink products that have some traction. I think the reason for this is that rewards-based crowdfunding works well for products that capture the imagination.

So, you’re unlikely to walk into John Lewis and purchase a drone off the shelf, yet if you can watch a video that shows someone kitesurfing in Bahamas then it’s an easy sale. This isnt really the case with a 30 whisky subscription. Equity-based works well for food and drink because it’s seen as “safer”. Investors understand how the distributor, wholesale, retail channels work and so they can see their return on investment.


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(4) How did you identify a demand for a new whisky brand?



Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

Business development