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Mi Farm Market

Al Parker - August 15th, 2011

Scotty Bruce is one of those uber-creative guys who just seems born to be
an entrepreneur.
His creative mind, coupled with a strong work ethic, thrives on generating
money-making 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.

PEDDLING MICHIGAN
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 on-line 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.’”

BOOSTING ELLSWORTH
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.”


 
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