PLAN Bee, which offers sponsored sustainable bee-keeping as a corporate social responsibility initiative, has turned to crowdfunding to widen its investor base, and is moving into education.
The Lanarkshire-based company has joined the Crowdcube platform with a target of raising £175,000 by early June, and has so far attracted £36,420 from 32 investors, according to the Crowdcube website.
But founder Warren Bader said that he expected to more than double that total in the near future, and that would trigger substantial pledges from further investors which take the fund-raising past £100,000. "It looks a bit bleak at the moment but the position will change. I have already got investors pledged for £75,000 once I reach £25,000." The platform says the fundraising target would equate to 34.4% of the company's equity.
Mr Bader, formerly a film producer in his native South Africa, started the business at Wishaw in September 2011 alongside the 'plan bee' campaign to reverse the decline in honeybees, which are critical to biodiversity and estimated to be worth £1bn to UK agriculture. Plan Bee has over 50 beehives, which it leases to businesses in return for enhanced sustainability and community credentials and a couple of dozen jars of their own ethical honey. Its customers include Balfour Beatty, Clyde Dental Group, the Two Fat Ladies restaurants,Caledonian University, Glasgow's Holiday Inns, the Royal Troon golf club, and Highland Spring, which Mr Bader said had expanded its involvement.
Nine months ago it raised £65,000 from Kelvin Capital and a matching £65,000 from the Scottish Investment Bank under the tax-efficient SEIS scheme which offers 50% tax relief on small company investments of up to £150,000.
The crowdfunding offer shows that investments may qualify under the Enterprise Investment Scheme.
Mr Bader said the proceeds would be used to buy processing and extraction equipment, add to the stock of beehives and bee colonies, and take on more staff.
He added: "We are getting a lot more involved with councils and extending the service into the educational area, what we do ties in with the curriculum for excellence." Plan Bee is running programmes in schools which include training in how to look after beehives, Mr Bader said, with North Lanarkshire and Inverclyde were among the authorities already involved.
On the crowdfunding initiative he said: "It is about getting the community behind it and understanding the philosophy, a lot of people today want to invest in ethical companies."
On other ambitions, which include persuading councils to turn gap sites into temporary wild flower meadows to attract pollinating insects, Mr Bader said: They are taking a bit longer to educate people but we are making slow progress."
Plan Bee says it offers organisations "the fastest way to make a natural positive impact on their local environment and produce traceable, provenance-driven honey and by-products of the hive, for sale regionally and internationally", and that its service "allows companies to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, as well as boosting the bee population around the installation sites".