Small Business

How Siren Fish Co. launched a retail product line

From professional opera singer to sustainable seafood entrepreneur, Anna Larsen never followed a traditional path — or expected to own her own business. After attending an inspirational retreat for leaders in the food community in 2011, she felt inspired to help fix our nation’s broken food system: “What could I personally do? I had to change the world.” And thus, Siren Fish Company was born.

Through Siren Fish Co., Anna connects people who enjoy eating impossibly fresh seafood to the good folks who catch, handle and fillet it. As a new mom simultaneously getting her new business off the ground, Anna was inspired by — and intimately familiar with — the ways people actually want and need to consume their food.

Customers quickly clamored for more of Siren Fish Co.’s finest local and sustainably caught seafood — beyond its operational headquarters of Sacramento, California. Anna knew she needed to take a step back and devise a long-term plan for getting into more retail stores, but she lacked the capital to launch her new frozen product line. “I needed significant cash to design and buy new packaging, but I knew that putting it on a credit card and taking a year to pay it off was a bad idea.”

Siren Fish Co. screenshot

Anna started her search for sustainable funding at the same large national bank she’d always depended upon. However, she quickly learned that for a traditional bank, her application was a catch-and-release. “I was told upfront by my bank that their approval rate was really low, and that I’d go through a lot of work for nothing.”

As a fairly new business owner, Anna scraped further down the fish barrel for funding options, but only found a sea of sharks claiming to have her best interests at heart. “I got three calls a day from MCAs and it’s a horrible proposition, financially, when you look at the interest rates and terms. It’s a mess.”

That’s when she found Funding Circle and immediately raced through the simple, online application process. She also threw out a line to other lenders like credit unions, but she was approved by Funding Circle first at an interest rate lower than the lowest possible rate at her bank. “The bank made me feel like I was a small fish — too small to care about. Funding Circle made me feel important, and was genuinely excited about my business — not just my credit score.”

“Funding Circle put us in a position where we didn’t need to jump on the first bad offer. We didn’t need to take any bad deals. We got a great rate right away.”

Within four days, Anna had $51,000 and the freedom to avoid bad financing deals and make her entrepreneurial dreams a reality. “As a small business owner, I’m constantly worried about cash flow. Funding Circle gave me the freedom to think about building my business and getting my product to market, instead of just covering my expenses.”

Anna hired the packaging designer of her dreams to christen her new retail product line and will shortly launch a new website to connect even more local customers directly to the eco-friendly fishermen they love. Today, Siren Fish boasts over 500 subscribers, which constitute about 60 percent of its revenue; the other 40 percent of Anna’s customers find Siren through local butcheries and innovative retail channels like Grubmarket and Good Eggs.

anna larsen | siren fish co

Anna Larsen | Siren Fish Co.

What’s up next on the horizon for Siren Fish Co.? Anna and her team of three employees hope to expand her sustainable seafood to new locales by partnering with fisheries in other coastal hubs nationwide who want to replicate her business model. “Not many fishery managers have my experience in value-added processing. I know more about shelf life, packaging and working with brokers – and want to apply that to help other fisheries grow and work with the ways most people actually want to eat.”

Anna’s top piece of advice for other well-seasoned small business looking for financing to grow their business? “Anticipate what you might need so that you have time to make a good decision. Whether you’re buying supplies, hiring a designer or getting a loan — don’t wait until you’re without options or with a couple of bad options. Be ready for the right one.”

For more information about sustainable seafood, follow Siren Fish Co. on Twitter and Facebook, and check out Anna’s blog.

Ready to set sail in the next chapter of your small business story? Learn more here.

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