From a fortuitous meeting in an Uber, two Melbourne entrepreneurs have gone on to build a groundbreaking dairy-free cheese company and now have the world on a platter.
Melbourne-based vegan cheese producer Hello Friend Foods has raised more than half a million dollars through an equity crowdfunding campaign that closed this week.
The crowdfunding raise is one of the largest ever for a company making vegan cheese, and Hello Friend Foods hopes to use the funds to crack into international markets.
Completed via Birchal, Hello Friend Foods closed the raise yesterday after blazing through its minimum target and receiving more than $600,000 from 572 investors.
According to co-founder Matthew Ronalds (pictured left), the company went down the equity crowdfunding route to give back to Hello Friend Foods' passionate supporters.
"As the community has always been on board and at the heart of what we do, it's important that everyone has the opportunity to come on board and join us as we grow this business and expand further into Australia and overseas," Ronalds said.
The story of Hello Friend Foods is certainly not typical.
Co-founder Bree Gaudette (pictured right) tried and failed for months to create vegan cheese products as she couldn't find anything on supermarket shelves that was up to scratch.
A chance encounter with Ronalds, who picked Gaudette up when he was driving for Uber, led to the pair going into business with one another.
"Little did I know that I had just met my future co-founder of a business that would turn both of our lives upside down," Gaudette said.
The company now produces a range of vegan cheese products, including mozzarella, haloumi, and cheese sauce.
Everything is handmade and free from lactose, palm oil, nuts and gluten.
"With our plans to switch to fully compostable packaging in the near future, Hello Friend Foods is on track to reduce plastic build up in our oceans and landfills," Gaudette said.
"Plastic free and animal free is the future of food, and we're here to make sure that it still tastes great.
"We want our customers to experience the benefits of eating well, and without compromise."
Birchal senior campaign manager Robin Holt said the company was thrilled to partner with Hello Friend Foods on its equity crowdfunding campaign.
"Companies like this are on the cusp of a food revolution and with demand increasing every year," Holt said.
"The dairy-free products industry is booming, and showing no signs of slowing down.
"Hello Friend Foods' products fit perfectly in this market and so we're very excited to offer this opportunity to Australian investors."
Business News Australia
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support