WHAT'S a 19-year-old to do when she has a burgeoning business but no financial history on which to base a loan for expansion? Madelaine Scott went crowdfunding.
Ms Scott entered the organic egg business when she was aged nine, with four hens. By early 2014, she had 900 hens and a thriving business, Madelaine’s Eggs, on her parents’ farm at Clarkefield, Victoria.
She was also working 10 hours a day, seven days a week, packing egg orders by hand.
Her ambition was to order a machine from the United States that washed, candled and packed the eggs for her, leaving her free to expand her flock. The problem: she was 19, and the machine cost $60,000.
But after seeing a Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) talk by musician Amanda Palmer, Ms Scott decided to try crowdfunding.
Amanda Palmer raised $1.2 million to produce an album through the US crowdfunding site Kickstarter; why not try raising $60,000 to produce eggs?
It was far more work than she realised, Ms Scott said. It took her six months to produce a pitch video and a catalogue of rewards for contributors before she launched on the crowdfunding site Pozible.
The funds trickled in, but then stalled. “Not a cent for 10 days,” Ms Scott said.
Not someone to stand around while a dream slipped through her fingers, she got to work, hitting the phone to newspapers and television stations so they would give her project some exposure.
The result: her $60,000 target was oversubscribed by about $7000. Counting transfer fees and other things she hadn’t factored in, $67,000 was almost exactly the price of the machine.
The money was terrific, but Ms Scott said she may have gained even more value in marketing - which has reinforced her need for automation.
The final assembly on the machine was recently done in the US. Ms Scott has already grown her flock to 1600 birds by taking on a part-time packer, but when the machine arrives and is in full operation later in the year, she will add another 1000 birds.
“I’m finally filling all my orders,” she said.