Sarah Holt talks to burger guru Tom Reaney about launching his Kickstarter campaign to crowd-fund his disco-burger-baconjam business.
If you’ve never heard of Tom Reaney, chances are it won’t be long before you do. He’s part of the biggest bear story since Goldilocks.
For the past few years, he’s been running his Burger Bear street food stall, from the site of the old Red Market in Shoreditch, London. Last month, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to find funding for a more permanent home for his brand. Last week, he finally secured the money he needed.
His big idea is the sort of thing that could wipe the smile of a certain burger clown’s face. He’s going to create a diner inside a shipping container where burgers, bacon martinis, and his signature product – bacon jam – are sold against a soundtrack of disco.
“I’ve loved burgers for my life,” said Tom. “They’ve been one of those things ever since I was a kid. Whether I was in a fancy restaurant or a pub in the middle of nowhere, I’d always want the burger.”
Despite this, Tom didn’t start his career as a cook. He worked in restaurant management and even did a stint in Dubai before he got behind a grill.
“I’d always fancied cooking burgers in a market,” said Tom. “But then I thought I could make something bigger, more amazing. I don’t exactly know where the Burger Bear brand came from. I’ve always been brand-minded and I knew I wanted to come up with something with life. I wanted people to relate to my food.”
The word ‘life’ only goes half-way to describing the brand that Tom already has. Burger Bear’s colour is a psychedelic pink and its burgers have names like Grizzly Bear, Greedy Bear and Angry Bear – that one comes with hot sauce. But for all Tom’s creativity in the kitchen and skill in the ideas department, his biggest hurdle so far has been getting set-up on Kickstarter, for admin reasons.
“Kickstarter was my stumbling block,” said Tom. “I struggle with words and admin. It’s an easy site to use, but I struggle with writing words and plans. It took a year for me to launch the campaign. In the end my wife’s parents helped.”
One of Tom’s main pieces of advice for other entrepreneurs and start-ups is ‘never be afraid to accept help’.
“It takes balls to open your heart up on Kickstarter,” said Tom. “You have to say you don’t have the money to do your project on your own and you have to ask for help from strangers. But you just have to do it. I live every day like it’s my last. If you want something, you have to ask. I’ve been turned down for lots of things in the past, but what’s the worse that could happen? Anything is possible if you want it enough. There’s never a morning when I don’t want to get out of bed and go to work.”
As well as determination, Tom believes it takes a sense of humour to succeed in business. That’s why one of the rewards he offered to incentivise high investors on Kickstarter was the option to have their name tattooed on Tom’s body. Fortunately, he reached his funding goal without having to go under the needle.
“You’ve got to do things with a sense of humour,” said Tom. “The real entrepreneurs are out there having a great time.”
To find out more about Tom’s plans, find him on Kickstarter, or follow him on twitter @burgerbeartom.