A Western Australian honey startup has raised $1.5 million in equity crowdfunding, as it strives to take local medicinal honey to the world stage — while also supporting some of the nation’s smallest businesses.
Australian Honey Ventures (AHV) launched its Birchal campaign last week, with a minimum target of $500,000 and a maximum of $3 million.
Within just 30 minutes, it had raised $1 million.
“It was sensational,” AHV founder and chief executive Jay Curtin tells SmartCompany.
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“It was thunderous.”
At the time of writing, the startup has secured $1.52 million in funding from 555 investors, with 10 days still to go.
Notable investors include, rather appropriately, former rugby union pro and controversial Bachelor Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins, who is also an ambassador for the business.
A boost for small beekeepers
Based in Gingin, WA, AHV manages sales of Australian medicinal honey into international markets through its Real Good Honey brand, all while ensuring small Aussie beekeepers get fair returns.
Curtin says Aussie beekeepers produce some of the most powerful medicinal honey in the world, but it’s often undervalued.
AHV purchases, brands and sells Australian honey, but rather than paying beekeepers upfront for their products and then marking them up, it operates on a revenue sharing model, giving beekeepers about 37% of whatever the batch sells for.
At the same time, AHV is unusual in the way it prices products as it bases the sale value on the antibacterial strength of the honey, rather than the variety or any other metric.
“It means that we’re able to pull undervalued and underappreciated honey to the luxury foods price range,” she explains.
“Which will see them sit alongside the likes of Manuka on the shelf.”
It means more profits overall, and a higher proportion of those profits in the pockets of the small and micro businesses producing the honey.
The model boosts the value of the whole industry, Curtin says.
“We’re essentially levelling the bar for all the medicinal honey sold in the world.”
Honey as a new Aussie export
This is a capital intensive startup, requiring upfront cash for packaging, equipment and marketing — not to mention the cost of securing the honey in the first place.
AHV’s first equity crowdfunding campaign last year raised $790,000 from 538 investors.
That funding went towards market testing, building the brand and securing contracts. In January AHV announced Real Good Honey had secured export deals into Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
This time around, the raise has attracted repeat backing from earlier investors and the market traction has seen new investors join too.
“We want to develop a huge shareholder base,” Curtin says.
AHV is now gearing up to expand in the Middle East, adding exports to the likes of Saudi and Qatar, and Curtin hopes to branch out into Europe within the next couple of years.
There are also talks underway about getting table honey from local manufacturers onto the shelves of a major national supermarket chain.
Ultimately, Curtin’s goal is to get Australian medicinal honey onto the global stage, showcasing a market of high-quality goods that have been largely overlooked in the past.
While medicinal honey from our neighbours in New Zealand has a strong reputation around the world, Curtin says there’s been a gap in marketing where Australian honey is concerned.
“We’re producing some of the most powerful medicinal honeys in the world,” she says.
“But no one knows about them.”