An unfindable location on a one-way street with bad parking; for most businesses this would be a recipe for disaster. For David Bissette, proprietor of The Grain Mill of Wake Forest, it indeed was a challenge to overcome. The bigger challenge has been the results of operating a successful bulk foods business in only 700 square feet of retail store.
Against the odds, The Grain Mill has managed to remain in business, add more products, and completely run out of space in three years. For this reason, The Grain Mill will be launching a $130,000 crowdfunded membership and donation campaign from March 4th to April 15th. Rather than go the traditional route of bank loans or venture capital, David hopes to capture the same spirit of “word-of-mouth advertising” that has sustained The Grain Mill those three years. He is using the crowdfunding website IndieGoGo.com as a means of raising support.
Crowdfunding is when many people with a commitment to a cause contribute affordable amounts of money, rather than one or two people committing to the full amount. “It’s a socially equitable way of funding projects and businesses. It’s total risk management. No single person has their neck stretched too far.” said David.
The Grain Mill’s expansion would concentrate on four specific tasks; to expand its product line to over 250 products in bulk, to build an inspected teaching kitchen classroom, to install a dry-pack cannery that would be one of only two in North Carolina, and to interface with local producers to create a farm-to-fork shopping experience much like a week long farmer’s market for its membership.
Since opening The Grain Mill in June 2010, David has concentrated on the very specific niche market of procuring bulks foods from Amish country in Pennsylvania, and making them available locally for a reasonable price. The Grain Mill regularly draws in customers from Garner, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Holly Springs, and as far away as Charlotte, Richmond, and Fayetteville. He once had someone drive in from Cincinnati for a weekend. “They bought a lot of food!” laughs David.
Changes are, if you saw something you liked on your tour of Amish country in Ohio or Pennsylvania, The Grain Mill can get it for you. David ships his products across the United States and offers a convenient pickup option for locals on over 5000 bulk food products.
But level of quality, economy and service comes with a price. Grain Mill customers have learned what ‘dancing with strangers’ really means. On a Saturday afternoon with not unusual to find six or seven people pirouetting around each other in search of wheat, beans, natural sugar, or organic loose leaf tea.
“I’m out of room!” says David. “My customers are asking me to carry more organic and certified chemical free products, and are interested in gluten-free eating, but I’m out of space. An additional 2800 square feet would go a long way to alleviating this traffic jam.”
More information about the The Grain Mill’s IndieGoGo membership campaign can be found online at www.igg.me/at/thegrainmillwf
The Grain Mill of Wake Forest is currently located in the mother-in-law apartment of 230 South Main Street, Wake Forest, NC. David can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at (919) 526-4573. www.TheGrainMillWF.com