Startland News is continuing its “Fund Me, KC” series to highlight area entrepreneurs’ efforts to accelerate their businesses or lend a helping hand to others. This is an opportunity for entrepreneurs — like Shari Coulter Ford’s campaign to donate healthy drinks to food banks — to share their crowdfunding stories to gain a little help from their supporters.
Who are you?
I’m Shari Coulter Ford, the CEO and co-founder of Tohi Ventures.
We are a Kansas City-based healthy beverage company. What makes our beverages unique is the core ingredient: Aronia Berries. Aronia is a specialty crop that we source directly from small growers across seven Midwestern states. The super power of Aronia Berries is in the concentration of antioxidants which science shows have significant health benefits — especially immune and heart health. Consumers are more focused than ever on maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a defense against viruses and chronic diseases. It’s exciting to be innovating in this healthier-for-you consumer product space.
Click here to read more about Tohi Ventures.
What does your campaign hope to accomplish?
We launched a gofundme campaign as a creative solution to help us defray the logistics costs of donating pallets of our healthy beverages to food banks and other organizations, like the YMCA, that can distribute it to those in need. The need is staggering — we’ve all seen the lines at food banks. We also know that food banks are experiencing food supply gaps — especially healthy items.
We are a small company, but with a little assist, we can make a high value, impactful contribution.
What’s your ‘why’?
The pandemic created so many challenges for small businesses. Tohi had only been in-market for one year when the pandemic hit. We entered 2020 with strong demand and had created inventory to meet the demand.
But everything changed and the route to retail shelves was completely disrupted, especially for emerging brands. There were no buyer trade shows, no opportunities for sampling or merchandising. So we are left with some inventory that still has shelf life but is aging.
Tohi is healthy for all ages, so it would be valuable in food box distribution programs, as well as YMCA — before and after school programs — and older adult programs. There is a lot of need and we can play a small part in meeting the need.
How much do you hope to raise with the crowdfunding campaign?
We have a target of $25,000.
How do you plan to use the funds?
The funds will be used to facilitate the logistics costs of transporting the product to these non-profit organizations who can distribute it and will also help cover the storage costs we’ve incurred.
Anything else our readers should know about Tohi or this effort?
We’re grateful to this community that supports local!
Tohi is on shelves at select Price Chopper, Hen House, Cosentino’s and Hy-Vee stores, as well as available at drinktohi.com and on Amazon.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.