A Highland vegan cheese firm owner is calling on the public to help bring her business to the next level as she battles with customer demand.
Ella Clarke has had big dreams for her business, Left Coast Culture, since launching it at farmers markets in 2018, but is now faced with difficulties in trying to meet demand on her own and not having adequate equipment in place to up-scale.
As a result, the nutritional therapist, raw foods coach, and detoxification practitioner by trade, who has solely self-funded her plant-based cheese business to date, has now launched a Crowdfunding campaign to help her raise £20K.
Why is the investment important?
This investment will not only allow the food entrepreneur to take on new contracts with firms and stockists, but she will also be able to purchase much-needed machinery to help her make more products. It would also be used to employ staff as well.
Currently Ella is making 200-300kg of vegan cheese including Havarti, mozzarella, brie, Murieta Muenster by hand every month when she needs to be making 10 times more to keep up with demand.
She relocated her business to Belladrum Estate near Beauly earlier in the year and has just hired her first part-time staff member.
Recently approached by a large burger chain in England to supply them with 600kg of her vegan mozzarella per month across a range of their venues, Ella was left feeling defeated at turning down the opportunity due to not being able to carry out the work herself.
This is not the first time she has had to turn down large contractual work.
The Crowdfunder has already been backed by 43 individuals and is currently sitting at £3,925. There are 16 days left to support it.
If she gets more than £20K the additional money will go towards kitting out a horse trailer for events and outfit the new community space where she hopes to offer workshops. It will also be a place customers can collect the cheese directly.
Perks are available for backers to purchase and range from £25 to £2,500. Items include free cheese, discounts, recipe eBooks, tote bags, Christmas cheese hampers and more.
Public support for Left Coast Culture
Now shipping UK-wide, Ella says she is stuck between a rock and a hard place in being able to progress her business herself, and needs the public’s support.
She said: “I have put everything I have into building the business these last couple of years and I have done so out of my own pocket.
“No seed money, no investors, no savings.
“I have come as far as I can on my own with limited resources and despite the growth and demand, it is very challenging doing everything on your own. It is even harder when customers don’t pay on time after having to purchase large quantities of ingredients, stock etc. in advance out of your own pocket.
“There are opportunities ahead of me, but they are just out of reach. I have had to turn down things because I just can’t physically do more than I am doing.
“This money would change everything. I could expand my range and our reach in the UK, I could employ more staff, I could purchase more machinery to increase efficiency and production.”
What happens if the Crowdfunder doesn’t work?
A grant from Highlands and Islands enterprise allowed her to purchase a commercial mixer, which has helped, however another is needed to meet demand.
If Ella doesn’t manage to raise the equity, Ella fears she will have to decline even more opportunities and watch her business stay stagnant and not be able to advance at the rate it, and its customers, need it to.
She added: “We continue to tread water. There are so many opportunities just out of reach for us right now, that we just can’t say yes to due to just not having ready cash flow on hand.
“We could potentially still grow, but very, very slowly. We would also likely lose out on the growth and momentum that can and is happening right now, at such a critical time while the market is booming.
“We also won’t be able to take on any new customers for a while much less start onboarding those that have been on our waitlist for upwards of a year. We would be somewhat paralyzed in our growth.
“It is heartbreaking considering the momentum we have just now, the strong community support and the increasing demand. I couldn’t imagine going on without the capital to really invest in our growth and future.”