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Crowdfunding provides seed for hemp tea startup

Esther Molenwijk, Dutch Harvest & Albert Dun, Dun AgroEsther Molenwijk of Dutch Harvest, and Albert Dun, Dun Agro
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It was less than a year ago that Dutch entrepreneur Esther Molenwijk picked up a handful of leaves from a hemp field, took them home, dried them and brewed up some tea — to the delight of friends and family.

“I was at a hemp harvest event, and found out that they just let the leaves lay on the ground,” she said of her initial inspiration.

Since then, she’s been busy founding Dutch Harvest Hemp Tea, with the first production expected from this year’s hemp yield in The Netherlands.

After connecting with Dutch hemp veteran Albert Dun, of Oude Pekala-based Dun Agro, one of Europe’s biggest hemp farmers and processors, Molenwijk went to the public for seed capital via a crowdfunding campaign on oneplanetcrowd.com where she quickly passed an €9,000 goal, so far based mainly on Dutch funders.

Hip and sustainable

“We’re attracting young people who like hip and happening, sustainable innovation — and we’re attracting the health conscious too.” Others who opened their coffers are older business angels who found in hers a “sympathetic” project, said Molenwijk, whose startup is framed by her experience promoting sustainability as a Corporate Social Responsibility adviser.

While she says she is “fascinated by the hemp plant and its huge potential” across a number of industries, for now she’s totally focused on tea. “We need to make this work before moving on to other opportunities,” she said, noting that many aspects of getting Dutch Harvest to consumers are “still gray areas.”

While most hemp crowdfunding projects fail to catch the fascination of the funding public, Molenwijk believes she hit on the right balance by focusing on a simple consumer product that’s relatively inexpensive. Slick packaging design and a cheerful, humorous film also helped, but she mainly credits teaming up with Albert Dun as the key reason for her success on oneplanetcrowd.com.

While his firm has a diversified farming and processing operation on an industrial scale, he also has experience in hemp drinks, as a partner in Sana Hemp Juice, a product that quickly found a market in Holland after launching last year.

The funding

Dutch Harvest’s funding categories range from €5 — which will get you a sitdown with the company’s founder over a cup of Dutch Harvest — up to €1,000, with funders at different levels being able to collect a range of products, gifts and bonuses. At the highest level the company is offering co-branding opportunities. (Better hurry: The campaign closes this Thursday, Aug, 13).

As for retail potential, Molenwijk said she’s pre-sold some of this year’s production to small specialty stores, a channel she’s working to expand while also building out an online shop, but it’s all an exercise in learning.

“Really, I still have to find this all out as we go along,” she said. “It’s all a very new and exciting experience for me.”

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