An Aussie business creating organic, additive-free and allergen-friendly snacks for kids has smashed its $500,000 equity crowdfunding goal, securing backing from the likes of Adore Beauty founder Kate Morris, BugCrowd’s Casey Ellis and Shebah founder George McEncroe.
With one day of its Birchal campaign still to go, Whole Kids has raised more than $540,000 from almost 300 investors.
Both Monica and James Meldrum left their corporate careers behind to launch the business 15 years ago, Monica Meldrum tells SmartCompany.
That was before they had their own kids. But they had nieces and nephews, and noticed a lot of kids’ foods were marketed as being a healthy option while being overly processed and full of additives, Meldrum explains.
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“We just felt like there was an opportunity to really disrupt the category,” she adds.
Now, Whole Kids products are stocked across some 3,000 stores in Australia and New Zealand. Products have also recently launched in Singapore.
“The business is definitely growing,” Meldrum says.
It’s also a certified B-Corp business, as a founding member of the B Corporation in Australia.
As well as contributing to children’s health, it also donates some of its proceeds to health, environmental and social equity programs for kids.
Now, Whole Kids is gearing up for growth.
The equity crowdfunding cash will be used to increase distribution both in Australia and New Zealand, as well as overseas, and implementing an e-commerce strategy to boost D2C sales.
It’s also pegged for building brand awareness and launching new product ranges.
A sector on the up
This is a space in the food sector that’s growing fast, Meldrum says.
There has also been a core group of customers who care deeply about the kinds of foods their kids are eating, and also the impact those products could have on their future, she explains.
“We pride ourselves that our products are one of the cleanest on the market. We pride ourselves on having highest-quality, ethically sourced produce,” she says.
“That’s really just growing.”
While 15 years ago, the ‘organic’ food movement was on the fringes, now it’s “pretty mainstream”, Meldrum adds.
“Parents expect more now.”
More generally, consumers are more concerned than ever about social and environmental causes. They want to spend their hard-earned dollars with businesses that care about the state of the world, Meldrum suggests.
In 2020, with the bushfire crisis highlighting the effects of climate change, and COVID-19 exposing social inequities, it’s becoming clear that trend is also only going to ramp up.
“People are really starting to rethink where the world is going, and are really investing in companies that want to get on and make a difference.”
A troop of cheerleaders
The Birchal campaign follows a trip Meldrum took to the US, after being named one of Westpac’s Top 20 Businesses of Tomorrow.
It opened her eyes to the potential scale her Aussie business could achieve, she explains.
“We decided we wanted to look for some funding,” she says.
“But we also really believed as a B-Corp people should have the opportunity to invest in brands they love.”
A lot of the business’ success so far is due to its customers getting behind the brand. So, equity crowdfunding was a way to give those customers an opportunity to get some skin in the game.
And those customers came through in a big way, Meldrum says. But, what she didn’t expect was quite so much interest from strategic investors who back the brand and also bring some expertise to the table.
Adore Beauty co-founder Kate Morris has invested in the campaign, mere days after taking her own beauty e-commerce business live on the ASX.
Our offer closes Thurs 29 Oct at 10pm. Don’t miss out!
(Read CSF risk warning & offer doc before investing) pic.twitter.com/eE4y1OvBCk
— Whole Kids (@whole_kids) October 26, 2020
Emma Isaacs, global chief executive of Business Chicks, has also jumped on board, bringing access to some 500,000 businesswomen around the world.
B.box founder Monique Filer is another investor, as are influencer and Mum Central founder Belinda Jennings and BugCrowd founder Casey Ellis.
And finally, Shebah founder George McEncroe, who broke Australian equity crowdfunding records with her own Birchal raise in 2019, is on board too.
The business has attracted the attention of Aussie business royalty, and the backing of a community of strong women too. These are people who want to see Meldrum succeed, and are paying their own success forward.
“It means so much to me as a woman,” she says.
“It’s been so incredibly humbling, and really empowering.
“I’ve got a female crowd behind me who are some of my biggest cheerleaders.”