“Pitch + Plant” is a pitching contest in the UK where vegan entrepreneurs get the opportunity to present their brand and idea to a team of judges. This gives young entrepreneurs an opportunity to inspire investors who want to profit from the vegan movement, and thus to acquire funds.
The competition is inspired by the popular BBC television show “Dragons’ Den” and was launched last year by “Vevolution”, a vegan events and media startup from London. The owners of “Vevolution” – Damien Clarkson and Judy Nadel – and the partnership with “BRAN Investments” have breathed life into this event.
In the contest, entrepreneurs can present their vegan idea or brand to a team of jurors, and have the opportunity of winning investors who want to profit from the vegan trend. Last year’s winner – the sustainable beauty and cosmetics brand Optiat – was offered £1,500 by the ethical investment company. This was finally increased to a sum of £217,000 via the equity crowdfunding platform “Crowdcube”.
This year BRAN Investments has increased its offer to £100,000 due to “strong investor demand for plant-based companies”, says Jonathan Keeling, head of the partnership. Applications can be submitted from now until July 2nd. Six finalists will then be selected to present their products to a live audience in London during the contest, which is part of a larger “Plant-Based Bootcamp”.
Last year’s pilot event attracted 31 participants from technology and vegan food companies. Due to strong competition, Clarkson expects very tough competition in 2018.
Rules and requirements
Applications are only open to UK-based companies which achieve a fundraising target of £150,000 within the next six months and are in their first two years of operation. This is a prerequisite for companies to qualify for the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), a UK tax relief programme. The £100,000 will then either be allocated to one company or shared among several.
In order to receive BRAN Investments’ equity stake, the winners must successfully complete the rest of their fundraising on “Crowdcube”. “Assuming the entrepreneurs need an advance of £150,000 for an estimated target of £750,000, they would lose 20% of the shares,” Clarkson explains. “The £100,000 would represent about two thirds of the investment they would need and then the company needs to generate the rest of the money via Crowdcube to complete the round.”
In contrast to Dragon’s Den, where the group of investors makes offers to entrepreneurs, the investment at Pitch + Plant comes exclusively from BRAN Investments. The team of jurors – including Clarkson, Nadel, BRAN CEO Ashish Goyal, Laura Callan from the media partner “Bright”, and other industry leaders – will give feedback to the participants and help them make the final decision about the winner(s).
“We look for two things,” says Goyal. “First, entrepreneurs with energy, passion and a drive for success. As entrepreneurs ourselves, we appreciate the difficulties involved in setting up a business and the sacrifices involved. That’s why we need to see people with passion who are ready to go one step further in difficult times. Second, we want to see companies that have proven their business model by generating sales and have a loyal customer base that is eager for them to succeed”.
A loyal customer base is one of the key factors for success, as vegan entrepreneurs need to use “Crowdcube” to get through the fundraising round. The British company Crowdcube was founded in 2011 and offers entrepreneurs and others a crowdfunding platform for equity capital. Since its inception, Crowdcube has completed about 700 successful crowfundings. More than 450 million pounds have been invested by over 500,000 registered Crowdcube investors within the platform so far. Above all, the platform wants to support ethical entrepreneurs and companies.
The promotion of “Optiat”, the last winner of Pitch + Plant, has led to a number of advantages for the vegan company. It allowed it to have a stand at the London Coffee Festival, as well as legal protection of intellectual property regarding the brand and products. In addition, the support helped it to invest in the research and development of new products, such as its new chai tea soap. The subsequent listing of its products in national supermarkets was also part of the project.
“This will transform the company and ultimately support our mission to promote a recycling economy by regenerating and reusing high quality ingredients that would otherwise be discarded,” says Optiat founder and CEO William Brightman. “This new partnership has the potential to multiply sales up to five times. Winning Pitch + Plant has also increased our reputation in the vegan community and helped to spread our message. It gives us confidence that our mission will be recognized as valuable and meaningful.”