Scotty Bruce and some of the products offered by Mi Farm Market in Ellsworth.
Scotty Bruce is one of those ubercreative guys who just seems born to be an entrepreneur.
His creative mind, coupled with a strong work ethic, thrives on generating moneymaking opportunities. At his 2004 Ellsworth High School graduation, much to the chagrin of school officials, Bruce sold advertising space on his graduation gown.
“I sold ad space to 15 businesses for $75 each and made over $1,000 that helped with tuition at Albion (College),” he recalls with a smile.
During summers from Albion, he peddled ice cream and other cool treats as the owner of “Mad Scotty’s Desserts.” He’s also been a designer and builder of web sites.
And now, along with family members, he’s turned his energies to a new venture – Mi Farm Market. Launched in October 2010,
Mi Farm Market compiles food products from more than 20 different Northern Michigan farms and orchards, mostly in Antrim County. These tasty items are then presented in attractive hand-crafted, custom wooden crates.
While many farms and orchards offer their own gift baskets and selections, Mi Farm Market enables buyers to choose their own favorites from a variety of vendors. For example, customers can enjoy six different jams, jellies and foods from different vendors, such as Brownwood acres, Cherry Republic, Rocky Top Farms, Friske Orchards, and many others. Mix and match is the name of the game.
Their top seller is the Mighty Mackinaw Brunch, featuring eight helpings of tasty breakfast items. It’s priced at $69.95. Another favorite is the Family BBQ Crate, with nine different BBQ taste delights. It’s $74.95.
Getting Mi Farm Market up and running took several months of planning and meeting with farm and orchard owners.
“Friske Orchards was the first vendor we approached and it couldn’t have gone better,” recalls Scotty’s father Ray Bruce. “Everyone we visited has been really nice. And now we have vendors calling us. But we’re going slow. It has to be the right product, the right fit for us.”
Right now the company operates from the Bruce family home in Ellsworth, but they’re planning a move to a larger location in the village. Scotty, along with his parents Ray and Patricia Bruce and sister-in-law Satin Bruce, own and operate the mostly online company.
But they’ve been so successful, that the family has been attending a few local events, including the National Cherry Festival in July.
“It was intense, those 13-hour days for eight straight days,” says Scotty Bruce. “But the cool thing was that so many of our customers were from out of town. At the festival we sold products from over 18 local growers, many of who wouldn’t normally have the resources to attend such a big show. We were able to give festival tourists a true representation of the diverse products offered from our region. The biggest comment we got from folks was ‘Wow, they’ve got everything right here.’”
At the Cherry Festival, they also passed out more than 500 brochures and visitor guides to the Ellsworth area, urging TC visitors to make the scenic drive up to Antrim County. Sales and feedback were so strong that the family decided it’s time to move the business from the family garage and into a larger facility in Ellsworth. But first they needed to raise about $12,000.
“We figured since this amount is far too small to be considered by angel investors, we would turn to our Northern Michigan community,” says Bruce. “We stumbled across a few web sites that facility a technology called ‘crowd funding,’ which allows businesses to raise capital for their businesses in the form of contributions as little as $1.”
Rather than try to find one or two financial backers, the Bruces decided to raise cash in small amounts from a larger group. “I even came across a story where a man used a web site to raise $21,000 for his brewery in the U.P.,” says Bruce.
So far the company has raised about one-third of the needed cash. Visitors to their website – www.mifarmmarket.com – can make a donation as small as $10 which will get their name listed as a contributor. There are a variety of funding levels:
• For $25, donors get their name listed on a wall at the new headquarters as “The People Who Started it All.”
• For $100 to $299, donors receive a maple cutting board and your name on the office wall.
• For $300 to $499, donors get a one-year membership to the Food Club and receive 8 to 10 food items each month.
• For $500 to $999, donors receive a store credit equal to the contribution, plus 25 percent. For example a $500 gift would enable the donor to buy $625 in store items – a great opportunity for business owners who provide gift baskets to clients and customers.
• And anyone giving $1,000 or more will have a gift basket named after them or their company. Mi Farm Market will work with the donor to customize the basket, tell the donor’s story and feature it on the company web site.
In less than a year since the operation began, Mi Farm Markets has already shipped Northern Michigan products to 38 states.
“Our overall goal is to utilize the latest technologies in the areas of ecommerce, social media, mobile, and search to provide a new avenue through which to sell Northern Michigan’s finest products,” says Bruce. “We’ve doubled our web site traffic since March and we expect to double it again come November.”
Mi FARM MARKET VENDORS
Back Draft Coffee
Cherry View Orchards
Front Porch Café
Harwood Heritage Gold
Lil Terror Hot Products
Old Beck Mustards
Rocky Top Farms
Tom & Jerry’s Dog House
Traverse Bay Farms