After pitching her brand Rule Breaker at a Nutritional Capital Network (NCN) investor meeting in 2017 Nancy Kalish walked away without an investment but learned the rules of pitching in front of a group of investors.
"Mike Dovbish [Executive Director of Nutrition Capital Network] was so helpful and he really threw himself into helping me figure out how to think more like an investor, which is something that you really have to shift when you're fundraising," Kalish says.
Despite not receiving an investment, Kalish was glad she participated. "I got myself out there. I got over my nerves for pitching and got a lot of help."
She even met someone who would later become Rule Breaker's COO. "It was super helpful on many levels," she says. "I got to see what the landscape was really like, which was very valuable."
Kalish also continued to talk with all the investors she was in contact with through the NCN platform, which allowed her to message back and forth with them and keep the conversation going after the event. She reached out to almost every single investor who was registered to see if they would meet with her and to remind them of when she was pitching. She was also able to set up a bunch of additional meetings through the platform.
Then in 2020, Kalish decided to try her hand at pitching again. This time, she received a big investment from Bimbo Bakeries USA, marking the first investment of the company's new U.S. venture group. After pitching at NCN's summer investor meeting, Kalish says that Bimbo, which as a large baked goods company perfectly aligns with her product, got in touch right after the event.
"They really understand our business, so I feel very grateful to NCN that I was able to get matched up with someone who was such a good strategic partner for us," she says.
Tanked by the sharks
In the midst of trying her hand at NCN investor meetings, Kalish also applied and was accepted onto ABC's "Shark Tank," but left without a deal. Despite the incredible amount of work she says it takes just to get on the show, she's pleased with the outcome.
"In retrospect I actually am glad that I didn't because I made a much better deal with Bimbo then I would have made with the sharks, and they're not partners," Kalish says.
Her appearance on the show was incredibly helpful in raising her brand's visibility, contributing to a huge bump in both store and Amazon sales each time the show airs. "I'm really glad I did it," she says. "It really worked out and is literally the gift that keeps on giving."
Kalish also believes her appearance on the show is attractive to potential investors, especially because the sharks were reluctant to make a deal because the brand was self-financed at that point, but other investors she spoke with felt the opposite. "They felt that it was great that I had put in my own money and I had skin in the game, so to speak," Kalish says.
Working the crowd
When it comes to fundraising, Kalish's theory is to throw as many strategies at it as possible. She had heard from many giving advice to not ever be in an emergency situation while trying to fundraise because it would take a lot longer than she thought. So she started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2019 that 400 people invested in, becoming loyal customers that have helped in different ways.
Kalish's next move is to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign on republic.co later this month. A lot of investors as well as regular folks contribute to the campaigns, which she says can be a very successful way to get funding. Genius Juice recently finished a campaign on the platform, raising $1 million.
"One of the reasons I like equity crowdfunding, and maybe it would be ideal in combination with our strategic partner, is that it creates an enormous number of brand ambassadors for you," Kalish says.
As she explains, if there are 100 people buying a little bit of equity in a brand, they're also really pushing that brand. "So I find it's both fundraising and marketing at the same time," she says.
Kalish says brands should do everything possible to get their name out there, not just to gain more customers but to attract more investors. "It all raises your profile."
To pitch at a Nutrition Capital Network event as Kalish did, apply for the next investor meeting.