The Pittsburgh Juice Company Funds their Delivery Truck with Crowdfunding!
If you’re a Yinzer, you might recognize The Pittsburgh Juice Company by their colorful bottles of raw, cold-pressed juices in your favorite coffee shop or local co-op grocery store, or you’ve stopped by their Lawrenceville location and stopped to chat with Naomi Homison, the founder and proprietor.
Naomi is a bold entrepreneur, starting The Pittsburgh Juice Company from her passion for living a healthy, green lifestyle, and since opening in 2014 has made it into one of the city’s most popular brands for health and wellness. Another example of her entrepreneurial nerve was her decision to take a chance and become the very first Honeycomb campaign!
As The Pittsburgh Juice Company began growing so rapidly, they needed to purchase a refrigerated truck to improve their distribution. Their Honeycomb campaign raised $38,850 from 67 investors and launched not only The Pittsburgh Juice Company’s trajectory, but ours!
Read on to learn more about Naomi’s story, her advice to entrepreneurs, and how The Pittsburgh Juice Company was able to leverage their community of customers to help them reach their business goals.
Naomi in the Lawrenceville location of The Pittsburgh Juice Company (picture taken before 2020)
Their juice is worth a squeeze
Naomi had been volunteering with the Peace Corps in Peru before moving back to Pittsburgh, and she was looking for a new passion to pour herself into. She was educated as an architect, which might not seem like a typical skill set for entrepreneurship, but gave her the ability to apply systems thinking and integrate the operations of running a small business.
“I really just started diving into other things and trying things out,” says Naomi. “My experience in the Peace Corps immediately after graduate school gave me a lot of confidence in tackling projects that I didn't necessarily have a lot of experience in.”
Having a raw, vegetarian diet has always been something important to Naomi and her brother, Zeb, so opening up The Pittsburgh Juice Company was a natural fit. Zeb owned a yoga studio, and a new storefront space was opening up in its building. The space was tiny, only about 350 square feet, but Naomi knew it was a perfect place to start juicing.
“I would say that with entrepreneurship, there comes a definite thrill of taking a risk and like making a jump and like going with the idea,” says Naomi. “I think that with entrepreneurship, it's very important to balance that with the part of you that's more analytical, the part of you that's going to like measure, like the risk and whether it's worth it.”
After opening, The Pittsburgh Juice Company grew in popularity, thanks to their partnership with the yoga studio and its location in Lawrenceville, a hip, health-conscious neighborhood in Pittsburgh.
“We quickly outgrew this spot in Lawrenceville,” says Naomi. “Back then, you would drive by the shop and you couldn't even see in the window because it was covered with boxes of produce that we were in the process of juicing and it was a little bit silly.”
Soon, it became apparent that The Pittsburgh Juice Company was in a position for growth, but they needed some infrastructure to make it happen.
Honeycomb campaigns can also help you reach the capital you need for finding and renovating a retail space for your small business
A small business loan for a growing juice business
Since The Pittsburgh Juice Company creates raw, fresh-pressed juice, keeping their products cold is a necessity - and makes transporting their products a challenge. Beyond selling out of their tiny Lawrenceville location, The Pittsburgh Juice Company had started attending festivals and markets and formed partnerships with local coffee shops and sports teams to sell their products.
“We often delivered to the training facility of the Pittsburgh Penguins. So you know, we're going semi-long distances. And on a day where it's mid 80s and sunny, the only other option would be packing everything in an ice chest. And that becomes a little bit cumbersome, especially when you're doing the sort of volume that we're doing lately.”
A refrigerated truck quickly became a necessity to scaling The Pittsburgh Juice Company’s business. But how would Naomi find small business funding for a project of this size?
Learn more about how Honeycomb connects small businesses with capital and increases their customer bases here!
Does Honeycomb go well with Juice?
“I first heard about Honeycomb through Ken Martin, one of the founders who also owns a few juice shops in Kansas City,” says Naomi. “He was drinking our juice while he was in town, and he mentioned this project, which I immediately loved.”
Naomi was looking at other options for funding, but the bank said her business was too young, online loans were too predatory, and Kickstarter’s rewards-based system didn’t seem as fulfilling to her or her customers as she would have wanted. So, Honeycomb was just right.
Ken had also faced a similar situation with trying to fund his juice shop, which is why he started Honeycomb with CEO George Cook. Many young, growing small businesses like The Pittsburgh Juice Company are trying to grow, but traditional lending sources like banks won’t give them the chance or offer fair capital options.
“What Honeycomb offers is a way to do funding, which every business owner needs at some point for something if they're ever going to grow and expand. But in this concept, the funding is actually through customers who then are able to reap the benefits of interest and make money,” she continues. “So, it just seems like a really great way to give back to the community that we are working so closely with.”
Not only was this 2018 campaign The Pittsburgh Juice Company’s first experiment with crowdfunding, but it was Honeycomb’s first campaign, ever!
“Being the first campaign, one of the obstacles that we faced was explaining to people what we were doing, because when it was first presented, there really wasn't any precedent,” says Naomi. “It was hard to explain to people that this is an actual investment in which you will be making a sizable amount of interest. And it's actually, you know, very beneficial to you, not only for the business. So that was the aspect of it that was most important and interesting to me. And it was so important, as a first campaign, to convey that message to our customers as well.”
On top of raising the $38,850 needed to purchase the van, Naomi found other perks to running her Honeycomb campaign. “One of the best things about running the Honeycomb campaign was meeting so many people, being exposed to so many other people, and in the long run, actually becoming a part of a community that continues to grow.”
What small business loans are out there for restaurants and food businesses like Pittsburgh Juice Company? Find out here!
The blended benefits of small business crowdfunding - blame it on the juice
Buying the refrigerated truck for The Pittsburgh Juice Company was a game changer. “The juice truck is absolutely pivotal to our operations, keeping the juice cold is just necessary in order to get it to the people,” says Naomi.
The new truck allowed them to expand their wholesale operations as well as their festival presence. “We're a small business, we make things happen, one way or another, we do it. But what the juice truck has done is enable us to do it better, do it more efficiently. Do it quicker,” says Naomi. “I remember one festival that we attended in Maryland, where my Subaru was just packed full of coolers and ice. And it was ridiculous. transporting all that juice in such a way but in order to grow and in order to serve more people, the refrigerated check was absolutely necessary.”
One of the other benefits of unlocking the capital for the refrigerated truck was that it allowed Naomi the chance to put her energy into other things to grow the business more sustainably.
Since funding the truck, The Pittsburgh Juice Company has been on a serious growth trajectory of expanding wholesale, and Naomi was able to take a look at her business operations and make sure that her team was solid in order to reduce burnout and keep their multiple locations running smoothly.
“I'm really focusing on just honing in on what we're good at and getting our base to be solid so that we can do what we do best, which is make juice and get it to people who can enjoy the benefits of it,” says Naomi.
Finally, another positive that came with the Honeycomb campaign was that it introduced Naomi to a new group of customer-investors. It also allowed her the opportunity to strengthen The Pittsburgh Juice Company’s relationship with its already loyal customers in the process.
“I definitely met quite a few people through the investment process, just from the press that Honeycomb receives. But, a lot of our longtime customers were involved in the campaign as well. So it's great in both ways,” she says.
“Just the other day someone stopped by and mentioned that they were a Honeycomb investor and got a smoothie bowl. And we had a nice little chat. So they're popping up all the time. And I'm always very grateful.”
Honeycomb crowdfunded loans can get your business mobile! Just ask Naomi, or another Pittsburgh favorite, Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream.
This connection to customers is important to Naomi, because she sees them as an integral component of The Pittsburgh Juice Company’s seven years of success.
“At the end of the day, our customers are us. They're what make us, they are what allow us to grow. And in the case of Honeycomb, they're also what allowed us to purchase a refrigerated vehicle.”
Since running their first (and our first!) Honeycomb campaign, The Pittsburgh Juice Company has continued to grow immensely in the past 4 years. They now offer their juices wholesale in 40 locations across the Pittsburgh area, and still turn out delicious juices and smoothies from their flagship store in Lawrenceville. Two of those locations also happen to be Honeycomb alums - Harvie Farms, a local farm delivery service, and The Speckled Egg, a brunch restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh!
Over the past seven years, Naomi and The Pittsburgh Juice Company have fueled the city with fresh, cold-pressed superfood juices, and the community in turn fueled them with the funding they needed to reach a new step in their business. We’d like to raise a glass (or a bottle) to Naomi and wish her continued success for The Pittsburgh Juice Company for years to come!
Gas up your small business with community capital!
Do you have a small business growth project like Naomi, but are wondering where you might find the capital for it? Whether it’s new production equipment, transportation, or even a brand-new location, crowdfunding a small business loan from your network of loyal customers is a one-way ticket to get you there.
Learn more by checking out www.honeycomb.com/grow and sign up below for more information!