Posted on Thursday 20 June 2013 by Ulster Business

Mike s Fancy Cheese

A local entrepreneur has been able to launch his new cheese business after completing Northern Ireland's first capital crowd-funding deal.

After being turned down by banks, Michael Thomson took his fledgling business idea, Mike's Fancy Cheese, to London-based online crowd funding platform Seedrs.

"I have created a Stilton-type unpasteurised milk cheese which I want to put into production to distribute to delis and suppliers such as Neal's Yard Dairy who supply high end retailers like Harrod's and Selfridges," said 27-year-old Michael, who is from Belfast.

"I tried to raise £80,000 from the banks but got turned down time after time. Then some friends of mine in Dublin got crowd-funding support for a music project, so I did my research and found out about Seedrs.

"I chatted to their people and 32 days later I had 98 investors from all over the UK who each put in sums ranging from £10 to £15,000. I am currently establishing a unit at Ards Business Centre and hope to be in full production by the autumn."

Seedrs, which is the first crowd funding company to receive FCA approval, is now working in partnership with Halo, the Northern Ireland business angel network.

Thomas Davies, Seedrs' Investment Director, said: "It's a non-exclusive, informal relationship designed to make it easier and simpler for NI companies to gain funding.

"Companies listing on Seedrs via Halo will be clearly branded to make it much easier for NI angels to identify those investment opportunities nearer to home.

"Companies will be able to raise funds via Seedrs, via Halo and Seedrs in parallel, or more likely by crowd funding - followed by Halo angel investing later."

Alan Watts, Director of Halo, added: "Halo has raised nearly £6m of angel funding for NI companies and we see crowd funding not as a threat, but as a great opportunity to increase this."

Michael Thomson qualified in social work before he realised it was not for him and went to work behind the counter of a Belfast deli which was having difficulty sourcing a raw milk cheese.

So he went off to England to attend the School of Artisan Food, where he completed a year-long dairy course, then got on-the-job experience at a Leicester dairy farm producing three raw milk cheeses.

"I can't reveal the name of my new cheese until the unveiling but my mission is to make cheese cool and unstuffy – for example, I would love to set up a cheese club!

"I source my milk direct from a Newtownards dairy farm and what the cows eat throughout the year affects the taste of the cheese. This is hugely important when it comes to producing high quality, natural products," he said.

"Ultimately, my ambition would be to work on-site at a dairy farm, creating a range of unique but accessible cheese which can be sourced at specialist counters throughout the UK and Ireland."

For more on how seedrs works click here.

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