As TRIBE’s Guy Hacking tells RSNG, building an engaged community, including the 50,000 everyday athletes who have attended their fitness and yoga events, was a founding principal of the brand, but how did this help them to crowdfund £1 million in 24 hours, and what can other startups learn from their example?
RSNG Looking back on it, what were the three things that you did really well in order to raise £1 million in 24 hours through crowdfunding?
GUY HACKING, CO-FOUNDER
‘Build an engaged community – though you can't do this overnight and it needs to be an authentic community of people who understand your mission.’
‘Drum up interest prior to launch – build anticipation and get people ready for the go-live date.’
‘Communicate a simple message that resonates with customers – our products and brand all come from our own passion for fuelling adventure, the right way. This passion resonates on an emotional level with many of our customers, as it does with us. So we had to make sure that message was simply and clearly communicated.’
RSNG How important was building the Tribe community beforehand to your crowdfunding success?
GH ‘We built the TRIBE community because we believe the best way to push your limits is with someone beside you, and the best way to get to know someone is by pushing yourselves together. We started TRIBE off the back of a 1,000-mile run we completed in 2013 for the fight against human trafficking. Wanting to raise as much money as possible, we were faced with the option of rattling a tin to raise funds from friends and family, or mobilising a TRIBE of people to run and fundraise with us. We opted for the latter.’
‘We didn’t realise it at the time, but those 250 runners who joined us for various stages of our mad dash across Eastern Europe were our first members of TRIBE. Before selling a single product we had our community. We continued to run, ride and climb with them over the years and then when we launched TRIBE, starting a running collective was a natural way to get people to try our products and spread the word.’
RSNG Did you have clear goals in place for the crowdfunding?
GH ‘Yes. We wanted to raise £1m to support the growth of TRIBE to allow us to diversify our revenue stream and bring our TRIBE products to more people through wider distribution. We were very clear from the outset that every single investor would be treated equally whether they invested £10 or £10k. I think this helped people feel part of the journey irrespective of their levels of investment.’
‘Integrity – not just brand integrity – is paramount when raising funds’
RSNG Did you use social media to fuel interest in the crowdfunding and if so what was most effective?
GH ‘We ran investor-specific events that helped communicate our point of difference, from open-air yoga classes to investor bike rides through the Chilterns. This allowed us to evidence the community and our products in action. We advertised the events through social channels and documented its success there. This certainly helped drive traction and communicate our values better than any powerpoint presentation could!’
‘We use all the main channels, sharing longer form video via YouTube, and shorter form videos and stills via Instagram and Facebook to push content to new audiences, and manage events.’
RSNG How important is brand integrity to success when raising funds?
GH ‘Integrity – not just brand integrity – is paramount when raising funds. People are entrusting their hard earned cash with us because they believe in us and our business. Without integrity and authenticity, you are nothing. We couldn't invent the passion that we feel about natural performance nutrition and the lifestyle it enables for us and our community – nothing makes us happier than helping our community achieve their goals.’
‘Whether a polar explorer or an entrepreneur, there are many different ways to find an adventure’
RSNG How about content creation – how have you used that?
GH ‘We want to inspire people to take on challenges, finish them and keep going to the next one. In our view stories are best told with pictures. So we have developed a lot of video content over the years. More recently we have started to publish short books allowing us to tell other people's stories who share our vision. Whether that be Polar explorers or entrepreneurs, there are many different ways to find an adventure.’
RSNG What’s the most important thing for those seeking to emulate your crowdfunding success?
GH ‘Nothing can replace an engaged and authentic community. When we set out on our journey we did not have crowdfunding as our end game. However, having built such an engaged community it was logical to offer them the opportunity to own a share in the business they train with. They repaid us by investing in our future.’
RSNG You must have had some low points as well as high points in the early days of community building?
GH ‘If you build a community through events, you need to stick it out through the early days as you build traction. I remember one event where just one person (my girlfriend) turned up at a nutrition talk at As Nature Intended. Happily, the events where we have to cajole friends and girlfriends to come down to pump up numbers are rare these days.’
‘On the other hand, we once had the idea of a Dawn Raid, where we asked people to run 7km together before dawn. More than 2,500 did it and it felt like a real breakthrough, not least as we were expecting 50 people! The high point had to be crossing the line with 250 TRIBE runners at the end of Run for Love II. We had gone through so many emotions in the 2,000km from Sarajevo to London that it felt like a real high to get to the finish line. More than 12 people had passed out from heat exhaustion in the previous 30 days, so it was a real bonding experience.’
RSNG What’s been your proudest moment along the way with TRIBE?
GH ‘Despite being a small, fast-growing business we have kept our mission to end human trafficking at our core. I am so proud to have incorporated the TRIBE Freedom Foundation as a registered charity in 2017 and to have raised £350,000 for that charity from our community.’
‘We plan to have our full range with compostable wrappers and plastic free this year’
RSNG How important has eliminating plastics been to use and has it affected profitability?
GH ‘Nothing makes us happier than being alone in nature, in remote places and we hate to see beautiful trails tarnished with plastics. That is why 'leave no trace' is one of our core values and why we are among the first brands to adopt a zero single-use plastic stance. Our first production run with fully home-compostable wrappers has already happened and we plan to have our full range being plastic free this year.’
RSNG Do you think that catering to specific diets, such as ketogenic, is going to be key going forwards?
GH ‘We try to avoid latest trends and apply an honest, straightforward mindset to nutrition that we learned from multi-day ultrarunning. Eat a well-balanced diet derived from whole food ingredients and avoid highly refined, processed or synthetic foods. That approach gives the overriding principle – you can then flex it to a diet that works for you whether that be vegan, ketogenic or otherwise. The key thing is that it is sustainable for you and not a flash in the pan.’
RSNG How has the energy bar/ gels recovery market changed in the time you’ve been developing?
GH ‘With the explosion of people taking on challenges and adventures, there is a definite shift towards people abandoning empty calories and searching for 'performance' nutrition that will help them achieve their goals. There has also been a shift towards 'natural' fuel sources. However, this natural message has become increasingly confused with many brands claiming naturalness despite being filled with emulsifiers, preservatives and sweeteners. We believe the future is all about Natural Performance Nutrition, which helps people achieve their goals without filling them with chemicals.’