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Michigan Farm Market

Mail-order & eCommerce brand that champions small food entrepreneurs
Business Svcs. Ellsworth, MI

Financial Summary

Michigan Farm Market is not currently fundraising.

Previous Fundraise Summary

Security Type Revenue share
Minimum Investment $500
Investor Eligibility All Investors

Previous Fundraise Activity

$250,000 raised
This business has $250,000 committed from 24 investors.
Max $250 k
↳Target $50 k

Financials

Funding Plans & History

Offering Materials

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Business Plan

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.

Related Links
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. 

Status Owned
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
Entity Michigan Farm Market, LLC
Entity Type LLC
State Organized Michigan

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Scotty Bruce

Cofounder, CEO

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.

1441373939 dad

Ray Bruce

Cofounder, Product Development

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.

1463107944 jennifer photo for localstake2

Jennifer Kuzma

Retail Manager

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!

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Stephanie Gerenraich

Operations Manager

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.

Updates

July 10th, 2017 - Investor Update

July 10, 2017

Hi Everyone,

I hope you all had a great 4th of July holiday. We have been busy here in Northern Michigan. I've summarized an update for each of Michigan Farm Market's business units below. I thought this would be an easy read and a good way to show what we're working on. I welcome feedback on this format!

Mail Order: We begin putting together our combination formulas for holiday gift baskets starting next month. One of our goals for the 2017 season is to assemble more gluten free and organic food options in our gift arrangements. With our learnings from last year and new processes in place we expect that we can triple our sales over last year (which was a double improvement over 2015) and have an even larger impact on Michigan's food entrepeneur community.

Retail: To prepare for our busy summer season we used LEAN philosophy in designing a rearrangement for our TC store. The new setup is designed to reduce wasted movement, steps, and processes allowing us to increase the number of customers we can serve while putting less strain on our team members. The goal is to come up with a standard layout that can be used in future locations.

Wholesale Dessert Distribution: We are now in 73 restaurants across the state and have been receiving positive feedback from customers and distributor sales reps. I had coffee last week with Chris Girbach, founder of Great Lakes Potato chips. His family owned business successfully grew from a 2 person operation to now having distribution across the Great Lakes region. He shared with me valuable insight on how to successfully work with a 3rd party distributor and provide advice on how we can navigate through this next chapter for UCC.

Overall: I am working to get the starting wage for new MFM employees to $15 per hour by this time next year. To accomplish this we've been working to improve our gross margins and labor efficiency while still maintaing the highest quality and customer service AND maintaining a fun, supportive, and empowering work environment. We've standardized most of our internal processes and implimented LEAN practices in most of our operation. Because we use open book management, the team is able to see the financials and understand what our overall goals are which in turn motivates them to contribute to the every day processes that help us work towards those goals. I am also getting better at keeping us focused on the right opportunities. For the first time in 5 years, we did not have a booth at the National Cherry Festival this year and after much advising from founders Hilda and Sheryl, we are looking for a new home for Charles Layton Chocolates.

If I can answer any questions or clarify on the above, please feel free to call, email, or text!

Many thanks,

Scotty
517-897-2532

Investor Update

June 5, 2017

Hi All!

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,

Scotty
517-897-2532

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,
Scotty
517-897-2532

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.

Happy Holidays,

Scotty
517-897-2532

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!

Scotty
517-897-2532

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.

Many thanks,
Scotty
517-897-2532

Investment Closing Soon

December 6, 2016

Hi Everyone,

I hope you are all having a great holiday season. We are in the midst of our busiest season of the year up here in Ellsworth. If anyone still has some online shopping to do, please check out our brand-new website: https://mifarmmarket.com/ We have 43 new gift arrangements this year, including a first time offering of a selection of Michigan made wine gift baskets. You’ll notice my smiling face on the live chat icon as I lead the way with customer communication for our team.

Michigan Farm Market’s holiday marketing plan includes distribution of 60,000 print catalogs, Michigan focused pay-per-click advertising, targeted paid and organic social media efforts, and PR reach through our “Gift Crates for Veterans” initiative. We’ve hired five seasonal employees in Ellsworth to help with the push. And we were very fortunate to tour the Zingerman’s Mail Order facility last month to learn some best practices in Lean Tactics. A big thank you to Zingtrain founder and Michigan Farm Market investor Maggie Bayless for helping facilitate that meeting. This Christmas our warehouse has been happier and more efficient than ever!

With the Christmas music humming and the orders flowing in, I wanted to talk a bit about 2017. Our capital raise ends at the end of the month and we are currently $36,000 short of our goal. We’ve made some notable progress in the last 6 months, gathering data as we’ve increased sales in each of our core channels (Non-seasonal revenue is up 32% over last year and Christmas revenue is expected to see a 100% increase). My goal is to make two posts per week leading up to our deadline, to get everyone caught up on the numbers side of our progress and re-emphasize our 2017 goals. These include: Widening the reach of our wholesale programs, recruiting new entrepreneurs to our recipe commercialization platform, opening our Ellsworth farm market, and having our most profitable holiday season to date. All while continuing the leadership development of each one of our team members – both current and future.

But we can’t do it alone! If you know of anyone who you think could benefit from looking at our company, please send them an invite to our page. If you’ve expressed interest but are on the fence, please take a look at our profile or get in touch with us. And of course – Anyone who still has shopping to do, please check out the products from 80+ Michigan food artisans on our site!
https://mifarmmarket.com/

Our offering will be closing on 12/31. If you remain interested you'll need to complete investment by then. You can log in to our Localstake profile to complete investment.

More updates coming soon.

Scotty
517-897-2532

Holiday Catalog Preview - Your Input is Requested

November 4, 2016

Hey Everyone,

I hope you are all having a good autumn. Michigan Farm Market is heading in to what we expect to be our busiest Christmas season in company history. The capital we've raised to date will be used for targeted holiday marketing initiatives across social media, pay-per click, e-mail advertising, PR and catalog distribution. Luckily, we spend a great deal of time listening to our customer’s feedback; which allows us to make sure we are crafting the right promotional communication that will resonate with our core audience. One of the biggest debates we've had as we prepared for the season is whether or not to continue with our print catalog. Catalog printing and distribution has be an expensive marketing initiative in previous years.

Our core customers - female Michiganders ages 45-65 - have consistently voiced their enjoyment in having a print catalog on hand. Often times a customer who found and completed their order through our website have still request to have a print catalog mailed to them. So with this in mind, the challenge becomes trying to manufacture and distribute our catalog as efficiently as possible.

As a result to the catalog debate, we decided to partner with Traverse Magazine this year to print and distribute our catalog to their 24,000 readers. Our catalog will be inserted to their December issue which hits newsstands the week before Thanksgiving. Traverse Magazine will also print additional catalogs for our own use at 1/5th of the 2015 cost. These additional catalogs will be displayed and distributed through shopping mall kiosks - eliminating expensive postage and projecting a higher conversion rate than a cold mailing lists.

Our catalog will go to print early next week. As a preview, I've created a draft for our investor community to view. Any feedback, suggestions, or even just initial thoughts on this year's catalog would be greatly appreciated. I've also uploaded a copy of our catalog from last year so you can see how we've updated the imagery and layout. This year's catalog cover is green and last year's is blue. I will be working on edits over the weekend so feel free to message, email, or call me anytime. If you're already an investor you will receive a copy of our catalog in the mail. If you're still thinking about investing and would like to receive our catalog, let me know and I will put you on our list!

Thanks for your time and feedback,

Scotty
517-897-2532

Fine Tuning our Operation for Growth

September 23, 2016

Hi Everyone!

It has been a while since my last update but rest assured we have been working diligently behind the scenes to fine tune our operation for growth. The topics, concepts, and challenges we discussed at our advisory board meeting last month have since been formulated in to real world initiatives. I will be sharing the three main action items that developed as a result of that meeting in future posts. But for now I can share our most recent one:

This summer we faced some real challenges as we grew and acquired more customers for Charles Layton Chocolates and Underground Cheesecake. With more customers being added and more orders going out the door, it became very apparent where the inefficiencies and shortcomings were in both our production and sales channels. Orders were going out late, the wrong product was being delivered, communication broke down often, and even our own retail store was getting shorted on product from the bakery. I was convinced that we were going to have to separate each of our lines into "divisions" so all inventory and sales could be tracked as if each company were it's own independent unit. Similar to the model Zingerman's uses for it's community of businesses.

Convinced on what we needed to do, I put the proposal in front of our advisory board at our inaugural meeting - They immediately shot it down. Our board member Brian said it best "It doesn't sound like an operational issue. It sounds like a strategic issue." After much debate it became apparent that with better forecasting and employee cross training we could accommodate our increase in sales with little investment in new staff, structure, or procedures. As a result we are now implementing a "Training Report Card" system across the 4 "Lines" of Michigan Farm Market: Chocolates, Retail, Bakery, eCommerce. Within those lines, team members can have a level of proficiency that ranges from 1 to 6 - Level 1 being not proficient and Level 6 being highly proficient.

The goal we set for ourselves was to have everyone in the company achieve at least Level 3 proficiency in each line by October 8th. And to have at least 3 people at level 5 or higher in each category. We are tracking everyone's progress on a big whiteboard in our office. Each week the team sees the progress each member has made as they announce their previous week's training. We have two weeks until our deadline and it looks like we are going to be able to achieve our goal without interrupting our current productivity. ALSO we've already seen the system start to pay off as people have been able to step into new roles when someone is absent or we need to "surge" to a particular line. We've added 8 new bakery wholesale customers this month. Each time we add a new customer, Stephanie, Sheila, and I forecast the bakery production schedule for the next week in conjunction with online orders and retail sales. We then allocate our workers across each of the lines accordingly. This allows us to generate higher sales volumes - AKA more cash, AKA higher investor return - without increasing our labor costs.

We’ve found that the cross training is not only creating efficiencies, it’s also fueling engagement. As the process continues, team members have requested to add a theme to our report card system. So far the most popular idea is to name each line after a Disney movie; you can progress from least to most important character in that particular movie. Even going as far to reward "Character Buttons" to be worn with pride for each level achieved. I'll let you know what we come up in a future post. In addition I’ll be sharing the other two initiatives that came out of our board meeting and our progress on each.

Have a good weekend,
Scotty

Meet our Advisory Board Members

August 1, 2016

Hi everyone!

To help us achieve our vision, Michigan Farm Market has created an informal advisory board. This four person board will provide non-binding strategic advice to the management of Michigan Farm Market. This board will help provide insight on major decisions in our company and ultimately help hold management accountable to our growth plan. I'm very excited to have assembled such a talented group of people. My hope is that our advisory board will receive as much reward in communicating with each other and knowing their time directly impacts food entrepreneurs all over Michigan. Our advisory board does not have authority to vote on corporate matters or bear legal fiduciary responsibilities. Our first advisory board meeting takes place next Tuesday, August 9th. During the meeting, I will be updating the board on our progress and seeking their advice on some of Michigan Fam Market's greatest challenges.

I have provided brief bio's for each of our board members below:

Brian Breneman – Altus Brands – Grawn, MI
Brian graduated with a Bachelors of Business Administration from Western Michigan University and went into public accounting, earning his CPA designation in 1992. While in Private Industry Brian has led and managed rapid growth and international expansion, handled numerous business financing projects and led a turnaround and restructuring that resulted in a sale of a Company for $45mm. Brian also has extensive experience in acquisitions, due diligence, deal structuring and post-acquisition integration from both the buyer and seller perspectives and has spent a good part of his career on the operational side of finance. In 2008 he co-founded Altus Brands, LLC with two partners and has worked with them to build up a business that acquires small manufacturers in the outdoor products market. Brian continues to be a part of Altus Brands, LLC and he acts as CFO and oversees the Operations on a day to day basis.

Frank W Leonard - Lenbeck LLC - East Jordan, MI
Frank graduated from Minnesota State University Mankato with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Marketing. After graduation he joined the family furniture business in Traverse City. In 2005, Frank and son-in-law Scott Roggenbeck established a successful Save-A-Lot grocery business, gas station and convenience store in East Jordan. Currently, Frank is a six year member of the East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce and serves a vice president. He is a member of Leadership Charlevoix County, serving on the mentoring committee. Since the founding of the leadership program five years ago, sixty participates have graduated from the nine month program. Frank also completed the John C Maxwell Laws of Leadership Program, a mastermind study group on leadership.

Brad Canada – Stryker Corporation – Indianapolis, IN
Brad graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Finance from Bradley University in 2005. After graduating, he worked for 2 years in Corporate Finance with Cardinal Health giving him exposure in Distribution Finance, GPO Reporting, and Lease Accounting. Brad then took a Sales role with Stryker - servicing and supporting a Territory outside of Washington DC with a focus on selling capital equipment, service, and consumables within the Minimally Invasive surgical space. After 5+ years of selling, Brad took a National Mgmt role supporting over 250+ reps and 30+ Managers. In early 2016, Brad accepted another leadership role with Sales and Marketing responsibilities for a $60M product/service line.

Melanie Nelson – Learning Zone Express – Minneapolis, MN
Learning ZoneXpress was established in 1997 in Owatonna, MN to satisfy consumer demand for consistent quality in affordable nutrition and life skills education resources. Melanie’s passion and energetic personality are reflected in the company’s products, along with her dedication to educating and meeting the needs of raising a healthier generation.
Melanie is a leader in her profession. She was named as a finalist for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2007. Learning ZoneXpress was recognized by Inc. 5,000 as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States. Melanie is also the winner of the 2011 HEIB (Home Economists in Business) Award.

How We Hired our Management Team

June 24, 2016

I hate job interviews.

I’m sure this isn’t the case for everyone - but I’ve always struggled with meeting someone out of a list of names and trying to decide over the course of 2-4 meetings if they’re going to maintain a high sense of ownership for the company I co-founded in my parents’ garage. Professional references, trial employment, and behavioral interview questions can help remove some layers of gloss from a potential candidate. But ultimately you’re still observing them through the skewed window which they’ve presented to you. So when recruiting our management team I decided to modify the traditional interview process. Mostly by starting it three years before I had any job openings.

I’ve known each member of our new management team for at least three years. I have been close enough to their lives where I have been able to listen to their perspective of their work over a beer or two - but far enough removed from their lives where I could observe their work objectively. I first saw Anne’s borderline obsessive attention to detail in 2013 while she was interning in the National Cherry Festival’s social media department. Sheila started out in our warehouse – carefully hand packaging most of the items she now sells to Michigan retailers. And I remember running into Slik on several different occasions where he was still highly caffeinated from a several days long coding binge. In my short-list of potential leadership these three were at the top. But I wasn’t just looking for candidates – I needed co-conspirators. Idealists with hammers. To find out if they fit the bill, I decided I’d start my “interview process” by inviting each of them out for a beer.

The first invite was a friendly one-on-one catch-up during which I asked them about their current projects, gauged their willingness to make a move, and ultimately let them in on Michigan Farm Market’s vision. A week or so later, I got in touch with each of them again for another beer. This time I explained to them the vision I had for a specific role in our company. I ultimately left them with the understanding that they had an opportunity to fill that role if they wanted it. If they expressed interest (which all three did) we went through the traditional application process: Resumes, team interviews, references, etc. After that I invited them out for one more beer. With this final beer I quite frankly wanted to scare the crap out of them. “Yes this is going to be an exciting journey, but ultimately it’s probably going to be the most challenging job you’ve ever had. Our investors aren’t wealthy portfolio managers. We’re not a sexy tech company that’s going to file an IPO in a year. If we fail it’s not only going to cost us our jobs, but it’s going to cost your co-workers their jobs. Not to mention it’s going to cost a lot of people their hard earned savings. But I can promise you this: We’re going to help a lot of food entrepreneurs realize their dream, we’re going to build something that’s going to be around for a long time, and our work is going to improve the lives of our co-workers and people in our community. Go home and think about that. And if it sounds like something for you – I may have a job for you.”

And like the crazy people I thought they were – they all stepped up. I’ve been amazed over the last month how each of them maintains their sense of purpose and idealism through the stress of grinding out the day-to-day tasks of growing a company. There comes a great sense of relief when you realize you have the right people for the job. Luckily it’s not long before my sense of urgency takes over and I remember there is still a lot of work to be done. But now I get to share that urgency and that workload with a group of strong people.

No matter how big our company gets, I hope we never lose that nagging sense of urgency. Which shouldn’t be a problem if we keep recruiting our new leaders three years before we have a job for them.

Putting Your Capital to Work

June 14, 2016

Michigan Farm Market has closed on $203,000 in investment capital through our Localstake campaign. Reaching this capital threshold has allowed us to execute some of our priority hiring and marketing initiatives. We’ve added three key leaders to our management team: Anne Varga is our new Overall Marketing Manager, Chris Vanderslik (“Slik”) is our new Digital Product Manager, and Sheila Dhillon is our new Wholesale Manager. All are Northern Michigan natives and were recruited by me after a Michigan Farm Market-specific courtship process (More on this to come in a future post). The team has been operating out of our new office for about 3 weeks. This Thursday we will launch our first major marketing initiative - A sales campaign to gain 300 members to our subscription services by July 16th. We will be promoting 3 programs - each with its own recurring monthly billing of $49.99. Our offering includes close to 40 products from Michigan Farm Market, Underground Cheesecake, and Deering's Jerky.

When looking at promotional spend data - our cost of customer acquisition came out to about $40 - $50 using Facebook ads and 3rd party media partners. But our leadership team realized - including marketing materials and prizes - our cost of customer acquisition comes down to about $8 - $10 by holding a rewards based membership drive with our staff. We put the idea in front of the team at last week's all team meeting and they quickly became excited to compete and do something fun that would make an immediate contribution to their company. So for one month all 13 Michigan Farm Market staff members will be living the lives of Girl Scouts. Each of us will receive our flyers and order forms from the marketing team and are expected to bring in as many new signups as we can by July 16th. Since we're naming the campaign "The 300" we have a cardboard cutout of Gerard Butler in the office. He is one of several prizes up for grabs including a company party if we reach our overall goal. I expect this campaign to not only build a sense of team-member ownership but ultimately give us a base-set of demographic data through which to build future marketing campaigns.

Of course we still take pride in the little things. We were 2nd place in Traverse Magazine's Red Hot Best in the Dessert category. We finished only behind Amical Cuisine who is actually a wholesale customer of ours. So if we were going to lose that's the way I'd want to do it. We also won the Colantha Walker Dairy Festival Grilled Cheese Grill Off for the 2nd year in a row with our menu’s signature grilled cheese. The store has been revamped with a new logo and new signage and we are adding more products and menu items for the summer.

I will be focused on 2 numbers more than others this month: $50,000 in capital needed to finish our raise and the 300 subscribers we'll be looking to signup. So if you’re reading this, expect me to send you a monthly club membership link or flyer shortly :) If you’re one of the folks who has been on the fence about investing with us, I recommend signing up for one of our subscriptions. Once you see the quality and service we kick out, I’m confident you’ll be hard pressed to find a better way to put your capital to work.

Michigan Farm Market Heads to Zingerman's

April 18, 2016

Earlier last week I was very fortunate to attend a training workshop at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. Anyone who has spoken with me or even just read our business plan knows that I've always looked at the Zingerman's Community of Businesses as a role model for Michigan Farm Market. My hope is that someday we can have the same impact on our community that Zingerman's has had on theirs.

The class was led by Zingerman’s co-founder Ari Weinzweig. He shared how Zingerman’s has used visioning to grow their community of businesses from a single deli to a family of specialty food brands with 700+ employees and $58+ million in annual revenue. He spoke of his passion for not only great food and great service, but for empowering and championing the people who work with him. He sees Zingerman’s as a tool through which to create goodwill in others’ lives.

Michigan Farm Market has a vision for where we want to be in five years. But I want to make sure I’m doing all I can to communicate our vision to our team and make them feel that they have a chance to participate in and shape that vision. With this next group of hires coming on board, it’s important to me that they feel the same sense of purpose in their work that the founders felt when we first started building gift crates in my parent's garage.

Zingerman’s passion for place making as much as profit margin is exactly the kind of culture we are working to create at Michigan Farm Market. It was inspiring to see an entrepreneur who stuck to his idealism and used it to create a successful company. The people who told him that it was a bad idea to open a deli in an odd neighborhood in Ann Arbor are the same kind of people who tried to tell us it was a bad idea to open a food business in Ellsworth. More than inspiration, I also left Zingerman’s with the practical tools needed to fold visioning in to our everyday operation. To show people that they’re not just laying brick – they’re building a cathedral. And I also learned that maybe wanting to build a food business in Ellsworth does make us a bit crazy. But as it turns out – most of the best people are.

We're Up and Running!

April 1, 2016

It has only been two weeks since Michigan Farm Market launched its funding campaign and we've already closed on $70,000 worth of funding. Not wasting any time, we've already begun putting your capital to work in the following arenas:

New Recuring Revenue Products - We are launching 4 monthly club subscription programs that will charge customers a recurring fee of $40 to $50 per month, allowing them to receive regular shipments of gourmet food. Categories include: Michigan Fruit of the Month Club, Deering's Beef Jerky Club, Cheesecake of the Month Club, and Ice Cream Pint Club. These will all be launched by the end of the month and our goal is to get to 300 subscribers by the end of May.

New Marketing Campaigns - We are attending 3 wholesale shows this month in order to connect with new wholesale customers. On the eCommerce front - We have laid out the promotional campaign for our new product launches. These highly targeted online campaigns will measure customer cost of acquisition, categorize new customers into segments, and then invest in the marketing needed to pursue new customers within those segments. This will have a huge impact on eCommerce top line revenue.

New Hires to Increase Production Capacity - Bakery Assistant, Retail Store Manager, Two Kitchen/Retail Team Members, Truffle Chocolatier, and Digital Marketing Manager. Most of our new kitchen and retail team members start next week.

So as you can see, we are rolling! There is still plenty of work to be done. So if you know of anyone who would like to join in our mission to make Michigan food entrepreneurs more accessible, please send them our way. If you yourself are considering investing but are still on the fence - please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or feedback.

As for me - I'm getting back to work!
Scotty
517-897-2532

Investment Offering is Now Live

March 19, 2016

To our valued investors,

We are excited to announce that our investment offering is now officially live. We've gotten a ton of great feedback from our interested investors over the last month. And the folks at LocalStake have been working closely with us to get all of our paperwork together to get this thing live.

Final offering details have now been posted to our profile and are ready for your review and sign-off. We will then begin closing funds incrementally. If I can answer any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch - either directly or through the platform.

After all of this planning and paperwork, I am excited to finally get to work!

Scotty
517-897-2532

Preliminary Investment Terms Posted

February 17, 2016

Hi Everyone!

We've been working diligently since the new year to gather investment interest and get everything together to move forward in our capital raising efforts. We've now reached a point where we've posted preliminary investment terms. Those who've expressed investment interest in our company can view these terms under the "Investment Terms" heading on our profile. If you have any questions or feedback on our preliminary terms please feel free to send them across. Otherwise if you are happy with the preliminary terms please commit to invest on our profile. We will be posting our actual offering documents to committed investors in the near future. After many months of planning we are excited to finally be getting started on our growth plans! Please feel free to post comments or questions on our preliminary terms. Otherwise you can message me directly,

I'm looking forward to working with each of you to promote Michigan's hard working food entrepreneurs!

Scotty Bruce
CEO/Co-Founder

Business status: No current fundraise

You can express interest to notify the business of your interest in a future fundraise.

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