Beibamboo’s Nina Ignatius named one of Forty to Watch Over 40

Nina Ignatius BeibambooNina Ignatius, the entrepreneur behind the popular babywear brand Beibamboo, was last night named one of Forty Women to Watch Over 40 in 2013 by a panel of esteemed judges, amongst them Merrill Lynch’s Whitney Johnson, author of the popular Harvard Business Review blog. This highly regarded annual list is compiled of female innovators and role models who are creating momentum and changing the world through their creativity, vision and experience. Nina Ignatius joins other distinguished names including Anne-Marie Slaughter and Maria Thomas the former CEO of Etsy.

This year’s list was selected from over 1,000 nominations from around the globe. Only two Europeans made the list and we are thrilled to have Nina in there – as well as making waves on the FundedByMe platform with her innovative brand.


In the first month of crowdfunding the Beibamboo brand has raised over €21,000 from 40 investors, with an additional 175 investors having shown their interest to get involved. In addition to its crowdfunding successes, Beibamboo has also received a tip of the hat from the largest department store in the Nordics, Stockmann, which has already placed a second order for products, two weeks after the first order hit the shelves.

View Nina Ignatius’ Beibamboo crowdfunding project on the FundedByMe platform here.

Equity Crowdfunding Entrepreneur Q&A – Claes Stenmark of Virtuous Vodka

Virtuous Vodka co-founder Claes Stenmark is unique. That much is clear as soon as I get the response to my email asking him to participate in our popular Q&A feature on the FundedByMe blog. “Sure,” it reads, “But let’s do it over lunch instead”. And that pretty much summarised Claes right there – no frills honesty, a whole lot of passion and this unique drive to connect with the people around him, coupled with a burning ambition to make the world a better place. “There’s so much fake in the world, I want to help move us towards a planet that is more real,” he says while scratching his trademark beard. And, sitting across the table from him, I can’t help but believe that he is going to do that. Claes Stenmark is going to change the world into a better place. And successfully launching the ecological, natural-flavoured Virtuous Vodka into liquor stores around Sweden is only the first step in this process!

Claes Stenmark of Virtuous Vodka at the manufacturing distillery

Introduce yourself – what is your background, what are you passionate about and what are your hopes and dreams?

World domination. Through real flavour! At Virtuous Spirits (the holding company for Virtuous Vodka) we strive for a fake-free world. We want to touch real people. Provide real – and great – products. Be honest. And help everyone take responsibility towards the effect that we are having on our planet. I was born and raised in Sweden and have just always loved flavours. My mom tells the story of fetching me from daycare when I was four or five and asking me how my day was and what I had for lunch. When she then asked me how lunch was I replied, “Good fish meal, but they forgot to put wine in the sauce!” I mean, this was in the early ’80s…no one cooked with wine back in the ’80s! But in our family cooking and flavours was part of the make-up. My grandma and I spent hours together in the garden, picking herbs and then washing, chopping these…those are some of my best memories.

Virtuous Vodka - six flavoursHow did the idea for Virtuous Vodka come about? Describe it to us.

While at university I started working as a chef – it was the perfect job for me as it allowed the opportunity to explore my love of food and also helped pay the bills. After finishing university I ended up working in advertising and filming for a number of years, longing for the day where I could start my own business and, somehow, rekindle my love for flavours and cooking. Opening a restaurant was the natural choice, but the long hours, along with the sheer number of great restaurants already out there, didn’t really appeal to me. I wanted to make a difference and bring about change…

My brother-in-law is a super entrepreneur from Cuba who fled to the Soviet Union in the ’90s and was living in the Brazil at the time. We were always talking about different business ideas and I one day emailed him an idea to create an ecological vodka, flavoured with only natural ingredients. His responses always came back swiftly, but on this one he was quiet for a few days. When I finally pushed him about not replying to my email the response came back with a resounding ‘YES’! Fast-forward a couple of months and he had quit his job and relocated to Sweden and we were focusing all our attention on creating and launching Virtuous Vodka.

Virtuous Vodka Jimmy's Passion cocktail

Why did you decide on crowdfunding? What about FundedByMe appealed to you?

We see crowdfunding as marketing…Yes, the money was key, but the bigger motivator was getting this captive audience who tasted our product during the process when we invited them to tasting events, who became shareholders in our business and who would, today, move heaven and earth to help us succeed. That’s the power of crowdfunding! FundedByMe was a natural choice for us as it’s the largest player in Scandinavia and the platform was just launching equity crowdfunding, so we got lots of attention for being the first consumer brand in Sweden to raise funds this way. The fact that the team got really involved (I think most of them invested in us!) and that they really opened up their network to help improve our competencies was awesome.

Today Virtuous Spirits employs three of us full-time. Additionally we have about a dozen people putting in long hours and an additional 117 ambassadors spreading awareness and helping us out by connecting the Virtuous brand to their networks… It’s awesome.

The Virtuous Vodka delivery bike in Stockholm

What was the best part about running a campaign on FundedByMe? And what was a challenge?

The equity crowdfunding phenomenon in and of itself is probably the highlight. The FundedByMe team was super approachable and easy to talk to, helping us along the way and becoming our biggest fans! The challenge is the amount of work it takes to really make an equity crowdfunding campaign succeed…uploading a strong presentation is only a small part! Once your campaign goes into Pre-Round the actual work starts. We contacted a lot of press to help educate the world about our product. When you launch a new concept, in our case naturally flavoured vodka, education is key. We also hosted four exclusive tasting events to potential investors and I’m proud to say that 25% of the people who tasted Virtuous Vodka became investors in our brand.

Virtuous Vodka shots lined up

Would you recommend other entrepreneurs to consider crowdfunding – and FundedByMe – for their financing needs? Why? Any tips or advice to those considering it?

Do it! Have a good pitch. Show how you plan to make money. Explain your product or service in a simple way. Have a great elevator pitch. Then work it. Be accessible. Be proactive and don’t be shy to talk about your campaign. It’s all about how you explain your brand and you have to get to the point very fast!

Virtuous Vodka founder Claes Stenmark showing what happens when everything is done the 'eco' way with real berries for flavouring!

Now that your crowdfunding campaign has closed, what’s next?

Well, we just got accepted to sell through Sweden’s Systembolaget, the nation’s only liquor outlet. We are working on exporting our product outside of Sweden and are establishing relationships with wholesalers in key markets. Right now our next batch of ecological vodka is macerating (that’s a fancy word for ‘infusing’) at our production facility in Nynäshamn, 60km outside of Stockholm.

The real work is just beginning.

Virtuous Vodka raises 1M SEK in less than 8 weeks

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A phone call made by Claes Stenmark, co-founder and CEO at Virtuous Spirits AB, last summer to FundedByMe’s office in Stockholm was the beginning of an adventure which would eventually lead the company to a fully financed round of equity crowdfunding, while simultaneously becoming the first ever company in the tech-savvy nation to accomplish this.

Claes Stenberg Virtuous VodkaWhen the phone call came in, Sweden’s largest crowdfunding platform FundedByMe, had just announced their plans for a pivot towards equity crowdfunding and was starting a period of extensive testing in stealth. Virtuous Vodka was the first company on the platform when it went into pre-round on 1 September 2012. A company in pre-round has access to a set of powerful tools in order to validate ideas, market value and connect with potential investors. In the same pre-round potential investors are able to report their interest in investing in the company, the entrepreneur, however always keeps control over who can ultimately invest in the company. 

Not more than 8 weeks ago the company opened their round, allowing the crowd to invest in the ambitious vodka brand. And the crowd did. FundedByMe has found in Virtuous Vodka the perfect partner to pave the way for many other ventures interested in using equity crowdfunding for financing their businesses. Claes and his team have worked out a bullet-proof campaign with a personal touch, and succeeded in closing their round by being dedicated and able to engage a large number of (potential) investors. By hosting monthly tasting sessions, inviting their investors to spread the word and taking the time to speak with every investor they quickly gathered a crowd of engaged investors, which the company is proud of.

Last Friday, on 11 January, the goal of 1 million SEK was reached and Claes closed the round on FundedByMe’s platform. In a first response Claes Stenmark states, “We are extremely happy and proud to be the first ever company in the Nordics that closes a fully funded equity crowdfunding-round!” He continues, “The capital raised (SEK1 million) will come in handy, but the key is that we have more than one hundred key members who will be good ambassadors, contributing with their skills and their networks. These brand ambassadors, along with the enhanced cash, will help make a greater impact with our first product launch. This spring, the naturally flavored series of Virtuous Vodka will take the Swedish market by storm. We are confident that the market, just like us, crave the authentic taste!”

Running a successful campaign isn’t simple, there is a lot to it. Virtuous Vodka however has set a good example and will serve as inspiration for many other fellow entrepreneurs throughout the Nordics. FundedByMe is excited about the traction on the platform which shows a conversion rate of 62% and an average investment of SEK 9710:- per investor. A large number of investors have invested in more than just one startup, which provides promising conditions for future startups which will be featured on the company’s platform.