Your product is delicious, the market for it is exploding, and your business is thriving. You are ready for expansion, but you need capital. You need a funder who gets your mission and your business.
He began producing and distributing hard cider in 2010. His menu soon expanded to include kombucha, a lightly effervescent fermented drink of sweetened black and/or green tea, and mead, an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water.
Beyond its delicious products, part of what makes Urban Farm Fermentory unique is its mission to use fermented products as means to “highlight and preserve Maine terroir.” Currently, it purchases products from five Maine farms and orchards including apple juice for its hard cider production and ingredients such as blueberries, cucumbers, raspberries, and basil to flavor the kombucha and mead.
In addition, it develops exclusive draft house ciders for local restaurants, including the locally famous Pink Peppercorn & Basil “House Cidah” for Slab, a Portland pizzeria. It also hosts Portland’s Winter Farmers’ Market and a variety of other community events.
The Portland, Maine-based business quickly took off doubling the size of its production facility, adding a tasting room, and partnering with distributors to sell its products across the state. After four years of growth and development, it was ready to expand throughout New England.
“To take our business to the next level, we needed to increase the efficiency of the bottling line and support our growing network of distributors by increasing brand awareness. The challenge was to find an investor that understood our mission and our focus on growing local food economies,” said UFF founder Eli Cayer.
Loans to early stage businesses such as Urban Farm Fermentory are rare for most banks, which prefer to lend to enterprises with a longer track record of profitability. Banks also place relatively small value on the mission and social objectives that animate most good food entrepreneurs.
“Most lenders look at young, mission-driven enterprises and see too much risk,” says Alex Linkow, program director of Fair Food Network’s Fair Food Fund
. “The Fair Food Fund is different. We seek opportunities like Urban Farm Fermentory to support emerging good food businesses that share our mission of supporting the long-term viability of family farms while meeting the growing demand for local food.”
A $250,000 convertible debt investment from the Fair Food Fund is funding Urban Farm Fermentory to purchase more efficient production equipment, launch a rebranding effort, and position itself for significant growth.
Increased production will translate to more support for regional farmers and a more vibrant local food economy that will flow through Maine and beyond.