Michigan Farm Market
Mail-order & eCommerce brand that champions small food entrepreneurs
Michigan Farm Market is not currently fundraising.
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In a Nutshell: We help Michigan food entrepreneurs reach a wider audience through Marketing, distribution, and eCommerce.
We are Michigan Farm Market - a family owned business with one simple goal: To spread the breadth and wealth of the Michigan we love to people all over the country. In order to achieve this goal we’ve established partnerships with a hand-picked group of Michigan’s finest food entrepreneurs: Farmers, chocolatiers, bee keepers, ice cream makers, coffee roasters, and wineries. Through our website, our two retail stores, festival appearances, and a mail-order catalog we work with these Michiganders to gather the insanely-talented and the irresistibly-tasty in to one place. Founded in 2012 in Ellsworth, MI (Population 400) – we started out as a simple retail store and have since grown into a fully functional eCommerce and food distribution company.
Provide detail on your hiring plans
To compete with the likes of Cherry Republic, American Spoon, and the Behemoth Harry and David - we will need to hire at least one full time position to digital product management. We will also hire a full time sales manager to work with Scotty and Ray to grow our wholesale client list. As we continue to increase our production we will hire more warehouse and bakery team members. Within the next 2 years we would like to hire a dedicated “Special Projects & Community Outreach” staff member involved in community initiatives like The Breezeway Task Force, Ellsworth Pig Roast, East Jordan Chamber of Commerce, and Paddle Antrim
What is the composition of your current team?
Scotty - CEO/Marketing
Ray - Operations/Product Development
Anne Varga - Marketing & Communications
The Bruce Family
Scotty and Ray are supported by a large family with various skill sets ranging from accounting to construction. These family members have filled in as needed, allowing us to grow aggressively while containing costs.
The Traverse City Team
Stephanie and Jennifer use their 10 years of company experience to manage operations for the 6 person team at The Underground Cheesecake Co. and our TC retail outlet - working with Scotty to identify new opportunities to grow the business.
Provide us with some background on your products and services.
We work with specialty food entrepreneurs to gather their products into a single umbrella marketing effort. We promote our product through eCommerce, mail-order catalogs, wholesale distribution, and food show attendance. Products include preserves, sauces, snack mixes, jerky, cheese, ice cream, chocolates, fresh fruit, and an endless array of Michigan crafted products. Our average online spend per checkout is $108 during non-holiday seasons. Average spend per online customer during the Christmas months is $140 per checkout. We ship to all 50 states and have shipped Michigan goods to several countries. We offer free shipping on over 30 gift arrangements and often run free shipping and reduced shipping specials. We also provide succession plans for food entrepreneurs by manufacturing their products or purchasing their company outright. Each time we purchase a company we gain a whole new product line and database of enthusiastic customers to fold into our marketing umbrella.
Who are your target customers?
Michigan Food Evangelists
Michiganders are motivated by a sense of duty to their local businesses. Michigan was arguably the hardest hit state of the great recession and since then Michiganders have put it on their shoulders to fuel the turnaround of their region. Often times they do this with their wallets, buying from local small businesses wherever they can. They don’t spend as much money during the summer months as their out-of-state counterparts, but they’re more likely to provide their contact information and recommend your products to their friends and family. This is nearly as good an opportunity, as they’re that much easier to stay in front of as the holidays approach – The time of year when their sense of duty to buy local is strongest. It is important to make these customers understand that we are the champions of mom & pop producers and that a purchase from us helps directly improve the economic climate in Northern Michigan. We do this by building marketing campaigns around highlighting our producers. This includes but is not limited to producer bios online and in-store, sponsoring of community events, and engaging social media communications that builds a sense of customer responsibility.
Marketing to Michigan Food Evangelists
- Maintaining the image of a family business while marketing like a major brand
- Highlighting our small producers in every communication piece
- Regular digital communications through email and social media
- Sponsoring, coordinating, and participating in community engaging events
What is your competitive advantage?
Rather than trying to build our own brand from scratch, we benefit from being surrounded by specialty food entrepreneurs whose individual customer followings can be funneled into a larger umbrella marketing effort - allowing us to increase our sales volume with each new partnership.
|Location Type||Manufacturing Facility|
|Comments||Our headquarters is currently our main warehouse at 9525 Lake Street in Ellsworth Michigan. We use this facility to assemble gift arrangements, fill online orders, and package food products. We are also leasing the spaces that house our bakery and retail space in Traverse City - Located within the Historic Village at Grand Traverse Commons|
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A member of Ellsworth High School's Class of 2004, Scotty began his professional career as a digital marketing and brand manager at a London, England based marketing firm.
He managed his first international campaign at age 22 when he coordinated brand ambassador campaigns across Ireland, The UK, and Australia. He has an Economics and Finance degree from Albion College with a concentration in Public Policy Development. Scotty now uses his marketing and finance expertise to oversee the growth of Michigan Farm Market.
Northern Michigan Native with 30 Years of Grocery & Food Logistics Experience.
Founding Member of Los Angeles based Ready Pac Produce Gift Basket Division which shipped 500,000 gift basket units during his final year with the company.
Retired to Ellsworth, MI but came out of retirement to help his son start Michigan Farm Market.
Jennifer has worked at the Underground Cheesecake Company for almost nine years. She brings a culinary degree and her prior management experience in the restaurant industry to the table. Jennifer oversees the daily operations of the Traverse City retail store and is our wedding consultant. She is also our in-house Disney expert!
Stephanie comes to us from Chicago where she has compiled an impressive resume of management experience in the restaurant industry. She has worked for the Underground Cheesecake Company for five years and is manager of our bakery/kitchen. Stephanie brings leadership and an eye for attention to details to our team in Traverse City.
June 5, 2017
I hope this message finds you well as you begin your summer. I wanted to take a minute to update everyone on Michigan Farm Market's progress in 2017. My goal is to fire off a quick update at least once a month to keep everyone in the loop on the good work your capital is doing!
My biggest news is an update to a post I made late 2016: Underground Cheesecake - the 30 year old Northern Michigan business that MFM purchased in 2014 - has officially become a vendor for national food distributor Gordon Food Service (GFS)! If you recall a post from late 2016:
"Michigan Farm Market looked at all of our business units (Mail Order, Retail, Wholesale Bakery, etc.) and decided Underground Cheesecake had the best chance of generating the consistent, predictable cash flow needed to lay the foundation for Michigan Farm Market's overall growth plan."
This partnership with GFS allows us to get our hand crafted Northern Michigan products to restaurants all over the midwest. It will also allow us to generate consistent revenue year round, creating profitability in the seasonality of both Mail Order and Retail.
To maintain a laser focus and assure we keep up with demand, we are offering our two best-selling flavors to GFS: Traditional and Cherry Swirl. Each flavor comes in 2 cake cases, and each pallet we ship has 100 cases. So that's 200 cakes per pallet! Our goal is to knock this initial product launch out of the park. Once we've established our track record and become well acquainted with the GFS process we'll begin introducing other specialty desserts in to the market. These will include our bitesize cheesecake, peanut butter mousse cake, flourless chocolate mousse cake, and cream cheese carrot cake.
As the Traverse City bakery focuses on this new GFS partnership, the overall team is still planning the next steps for the Ellsworth operation. Not only beginning our gradual march towards the busy holiday mail order season, but ultimately deciding the best time to re-open our community farm market. Renovations on our building were completed last month so after a final walk through we will be ready to sign our lease. With a new grocery store recently introduced to the village, we are now free to focus on specialty food products and lunch items. And this also gives us a bit more time to focus on location development. Not to mention really making sure we get this GFS partnership right. I want this Ellsworth store to become a community staple, and a storefront the village can be proud of. Ultimately we want to use this location to benefit our farmers, providers, and village members - and prove success of retail operations in rural Michigan communities. So if that means taking a bit longer to get all of the right pieces in place around it, I think the village residents will agree it will be worth the wait. And you guys will see that we're building Michigan Farm Market for long term success!
I've attached the flyer GFS is using to promote our product along with some product pics of our new dessert cases. If you're downstate and think you know of a good restaurant to carry our products - please let me know and I'll reach out to the appropriate GFS sales rep. Otherwise I'll be sure to post an update in another month with our progress on the above.
As always - I welcome any questions, comments, feedback, or ideas!
All the best,
Investment Closing Today and $7,500 Short!
December 30, 2016
Saturday, December 31st is the day that our raise closes and we are currently just $7,500 short of our goal. We are fortunate to have met many investors who want to join us in our mission to empower local food entrepreneurs. With just one more investor we could complete a successful raise. If you have already invested in our company, you can still share our campaign with others through our LocalStake page.
This week we were very excited to host a national restaurant food distributor at our facility. They were one of several distributors we reached out to in pursuing our growth plan - and as luck would have it - They are putting programs in place to utilize more regional suppliers, specifically in Michigan.
This partnership would give us state wide distribution and could also pave the way for future food entrepreneur products manufactured using our platform. What is most exciting about this opportunity is our sales team would be able work in conjunction with theirs to actively acquire new customers – allowing us to maintain control of the sales process. Remember there are roughly 33,000 restaurants in the state of Michigan. Our goal is to turn 96 of them in to lifelong customers over the course of 2017.
In sitting down with their team on Wednesday, their main concern was that we would be willing to grow our sales incrementally to make sure we can keep up with demand. It will be important to stick to our growth plan of adding 8 new restaurants per month while continuing to grow our well trained production force in the new year. We’d rather be slightly over staffed and have less than optimal gross labor margins in the first year than risk not being able to come through with a big order.
You’ve seen the financial projections for adding just 8 restaurants per month in my previous post. If we tie that data in with historical sales and cost of customer acquisition data from all lines- we produce a single cash flow spreadsheet which results in the following:
2017 Revenue: $1.6 Million
2017 Investor Payouts: $120,000+
Additional Cash Flow Generated: $130,000
Dollars Generated for our Local Food Economy: $700,000+
This puts us right on track with our overall growth plan and gives us the flexibility to either shoot for an early investor repayment or continue to invest in projects that benefit our local food economy while generating profitable returns within our current promised timeframe.
I’ve included a spreadsheet that breaks down these numbers. Feel free to get in touch with any questions. Otherwise if you haven’t yet done so, please log in to your LocalStake account by end of day Saturday to finalize your investment. If you’ve already invested, you can still share our raise with others through our LocalStake profile page. Unfortunately, we will not be allowed to take any other investor commitments after tomorrow and we are just $7,500 short of our goal!
We hope you’ll join us in doing our part to keep Michigan’s local food economy moving forward.
Happy New Year,
9 Days Left and we’ve Reached 93% of our Goal
December 23, 2016
We are down to the final 9 days of our crowdfunding campaign. Last week we received an additional $18,000 in commitments so a HUGE thank you to those new investors. We are still $17,500 short of our overall goal. Along with growing our core business, providing investor return, and supporting communities, you can help us develop programs that make it easier for food entrepreneurs to take their product to market. Today I’d like to update you on one of those programs we’ll be piloting in the new year.
Over the years, we’ve met many talented food entrepreneurs that sell a fantastic product at their local farmers markets. We’ve come across many products where we knew if we added it to our existing line-up we could sell a ton of it. But often times the food entrepreneur doesn’t have the resources to scale their production or the capital needed to partner with a co-packer. With our new program, we would finance the manufacturing of that entrepreneur’s product and contract a local co-packer to produce their recipe on a larger scale. Through this new option the food entrepreneur would increase his profitability by using a service that allows him to scale his production cost-effectively and conveniently. We would increase our profitability by charging a small service fee then adding this one-of-a-kind product to our existing eCommerce, retail, and wholesale distribution channels. And of course, consumers win because they have access to this great new product they’d previously never heard of.
We have partnered with a Traverse City brewery to pilot this program in Q1 of next year. This brewery makes an irresistible stout BBQ sauce and IPA mustard in their pub – but have never pursued commercializing these products for store shelves. Michigan Farm Market’s goal will be to partner with a local co-packer and The MSU Product Center to advance these recipes through the commercialization process. We will then leverage our existing customer base and that of the brewery’s to generate demand for these new products as they enter the market. If we can successfully test this program, then we will have developed a new tool that food entrepreneurs can use to reach a whole new customer base and further grow their business.
The more we raise towards our goal, the stronger position we’ll be in to further develop programs that empower food entrepreneurs across our great state of Michigan. We hope you’ll join us! You can complete your investment by logging in to your LocalStake page. Remember our deadline is 12/31. If I can answer any questions in the meantime, please feel free to get in touch.
Investment Closing in 15 Days!
December 16, 2016
Michigan Farm Market's LocalStake investment campaign closes in 15 days, and we need your help! We our still just a few key dollars short of our goal. Your investment could not only give you an opportunity for a return on your money, but will also support communities and food entrepreneurs throughout Michigan. For more on our projects, please read my other posts. If you have any questions, I would love to talk to you. Today, I'd like to update you on one of our most important 2017 goals: Opening a farm market and cafe in our hometown of Ellsworth, Michigan.
The village of Ellsworth rests in what economists call a “food desert” with the nearest grocery store a full 12 miles away. For even simple amenities like milk or bread, Ellsworth residents must drive to the neighboring towns of Central Lake or East Jordan. This is one of many reasons why opening an Ellsworth farm market and café is at the top of our list of goals for 2017. Our new store will house our traditional offering of Michigan food products, sandwiches, wraps, beverages, and our award winning soups. And It will also have a supply of fast moving convenience products like bread, milk, eggs, and a small pharmacy section – giving our village a much needed oasis in our current food desert.
The new Ellsworth location serves both a community need for Ellsworth and a business development need for Michigan Farm Market. In developing the economics and logistics for adding future locations - we needed an opportunity to develop this framework within a controlled environment. So what better place to open a 2nd location than 20 meters from your current distribution center? An added affirmation for this decision came when local developer stepped forward and not only offered to lease us the building at a cost of $1 per year, but also complete our buildout at no cost to us. When it comes to laying the foundation for future Michigan Farm Market locations - it all starts with Ellsworth. If we can establish and refine a growth framework for adding future locations, our system of “people, product, process, and capital” can be duplicated to create profitable stores in food deserts across the state. We have a huge opportunity to not only impact our bottom line, but also impact several Michigan communities, and the food entrepreneurs who work in them.
Using historical economic data for Ellsworth businesses, we project that this new location can generate a 15% to 20% net operating profit during its first year while creating 2.5 full time jobs. I’ve attached a portion of our retail business plan to this post. It includes a concept snapshot for our in-store experience, floor plan for the Ellsworth store, and financial projections. The Ellsworth store is tentatively scheduled to open in May. A portion of our investment raise is budgeted for equipment purchases. We are still $25,000 short of our overall goal, so please spread the word! Our offering closes December 31st so the clock is ticking!
Consistent and Predictable Cash Flow
December 8, 2016
Michigan Farm Market’s purpose is to contribute to our community, improve the lives of our team members and their families, and help food entrepreneurs realize their dreams. But of course, we can’t do any of these things unless we generate consistent, predictable cash flow to grow our business.
Holiday Gift baskets, retail stores, and food entrepreneur services have historically generated the most revenue for our businesses, but also have the highest seasonality. To solve this problem, the management team has spent the first 6 months working within our growth plan, increasing sales in our core businesses while examining new revenue channels that would generate consistent, year-long profits. These included monthly food subscriptions, chocolate distribution to wineries, order fulfillment for food entrepreneurs, and wholesale dessert distribution of our Underground Cheesecake line. After reviewing the data, it turns out our most profitable line is wholesale restaurant desserts: preparing pre-portioned specialty desserts in our bakery and delivering them to top chefs and restaurateurs to add to their menu.
As we’ve watched the data come in we found that a restaurant desserts customer generates almost 3 times more monthly cash than a customer in our next highest category. For example: We picked up 8 new restaurant customers in September. During the months of October and November, those 8 customers generated about $4,000 in cash. It would take 177 online customers to generate that same amount of cash in that period. I’ll be the first to admit that Wholesale Restaurant Desserts wasn’t my most obvious choice. But I couldn’t argue with the data.
This month - along with our holiday efforts – we are reaching out to restaurant distributors with the intent to find a partner who can help us reach restaurant customers in Grand Rapids, Lansing, and the greater Detroit area. Our sales manager Sheila has already begun working to acquire customers in Grand Rapids to make us more appealing to a distributor. There are roughly 33,000 restaurants in the state of Michigan. Our goal is to turn 96 of them in to lifelong customers over the course of 2017. That is equivalent to just 8 new customers per month. Acquiring 8 new desserts customers each month would add an additional $237,000 in gross profit to our income statement. Maintaining a healthy gross labor margin, we estimate we would add one full time job per every 30 new restaurant customers – which equates to about 3 new jobs added to the desserts line in 2017.
I’ve attached a comparison of our most consistent cash generating lines to this post. My goal is to always lead with questions not answers. So if anyone has questions or feedback I’d love for you to get in touch.
Business status: No current fundraise
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