TORONTO — Launching a Kickstarter campaign isn’t as easy as it sounds. When Christine Manning of Toronto’s Manning Canning Kitchens came up with the idea to create a 24-7 rentable commercial kitchen space, she realized she needed $35,000 to get there — and an outpouring of support from the foodservice community.
“With crowdfunding, it’s not ‘build it and they will come.’ We launched our Kickstarter in September  and spent about three months beforehand planning,” Manning told the nearly 20 attendees and members of Canadian Women in Food who gathered in her kitchen last night to hear her story. “Have very clear goals. Think about what you are trying to raise money for, and focus the content on it.” And keep in mind that Kickstarter takes a cut, she warned. “Be realistic with how much money you want to raise and also realize that none of these platforms are free. Each platform takes a percentage of the money you raise.”
Timing was everything, and networking was essential to generating buzz about the concept. “We thought a lot about the timing of the launch. Since this was something that was designed to help food producers, we really wanted it to happen during farmers’ market season,” she said. In the months leading up to the campaign, Manning handed out flyers at local farmers’ markets and polled local producers about the challenges of finding commercial kitchen space to rent. “The more people I talked to, the more excited people were about the concept,” she said.
Investing nearly $5,000 in a crowdfunding video also helped Manning generate buzz. “All the research I did into crowdfunding showed that there was a 90-per-cent higher success rate [of meeting your funding goal] if you have a really strong video,” she says, adding that she filmed her Kickstarter video in a local farmers’ market. “They don’t want to read about your story — they want to see a person and interact with them.”
Manning also took time to create fundraising incentives. “You don’t get shares in the business, you don’t own a part of my company — you get perks. I named preserves after people, friends of mine custom-designed aprons, other food producers donated. The incentives are really important because they need to be exciting and they need to tie back to what you’re making.”
Last September, Manning officially launched the Kickstarter campaign. “We reached out to media outlets that might be excited about our story. We reached out to food bloggers. We asked people to tweet about it. We tweeted everything,” said Manning.
In only 35 days, Manning met her goal ($35,240 to be exact) and the funds were used to purchase pricey equipment such as two steam kettles (at $12,000 each).
A little over a year later, Manning is celebrating the anniversary of her commercial kitchen at 105 Vanderhoof Ave. A 700-sq. ft. commercial kitchen equipped with prep tables, a commercial dishwasher, 10-burner stoves, deep fryer and a commercial ice maker complements a smaller kitchen that is primarily used for Manning Canning’s operations and houses a combi oven and steam kettles. The kitchens run 24-7 and have reached 80-per-cent capacity during the summer months.
It’s clear Manning Canning Kitchens are making an impact on local food producers, including Rebecc Wahab, owner of Joli Macarons in Newmarket, Ont., who uses the kitchen on a monthly basis, who said, “She makes it possible for food businesses to flourish.”