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SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: Eden Fresh Network co-founders show how crowdfunding is done

By Frank Cetera

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Mark Pawliw, co-owner of Eden Fresh Network, speaks at a business event. (PHOTO CREDIT: EDEN FRESH NETWORK)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — If one were to look at the playbook for how to set up a successful crowdfunding campaign, Mark Pawliw would check all the boxes.  He and his co-founder and co-owner of Eden Fresh Network (EFN), Leah de Rosa, successfully crowdfunded the launch of EFN in May.  Community members from the duo’s networks, along with public marketing and outreach, resulted in a debt-equity raise of $65,750 from 70 investors. 

As Pawliw and de Rosa explain on the crowdfunding campaign page at Honeycomb Credit’s crowdfunding platform website: “Eden Fresh Network is a hyper local food hub — serving as a distribution center, online market, and educational initiative, in which local farmers and specialty food producers are able to expand their market and connect more directly and daily with their consumers. By building this bridge between farmers and consumers, we are strengthening and growing the local food system in Central New York, based in the greater Syracuse region.”  

Crowdfunding success doesn’t appear out of nowhere; it is grounded in years of hard work, experience, and relationships as Eden Fresh Network proved.  Prior to EFN, Pawliw worked for six years as the mover and shaker behind “Farm-to-Fork 101.”  Founded in 2015, Farm-to-Fork 101’s mission was to reconnects the farmer with the consumer to “create a sustainable, community-based food system that will promote and enhance the environmental, economic and social health of Syracuse and its surrounding areas.”  Farm-to-Fork 101 was also born from Mark’s 25 years of experience in the

Leah de Rosa

corporate food and restaurant world, and his frustrations with that food system.  Co-owner de Rosa’s 30-year background in health care and her own chronic illnesses, led her to join Pawliw with a passion towards promoting and providing access to health-conscious lifestyles through the simple theory of ‘buying local and supporting local’. 

Mark initially met with me at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in October 2017 — after a few years of offering monthly special events, such as Farm-to-Form dinners and cooking demonstrations, looking to expand to a brick-and-mortar location, and combine events with product sales.  Over the intervening years, as client and advisor discussed strategy, financial projections, goals, and mission, Mark continued strengthening his network ties and offering the community building dinners and outreach events such as kitchen demos at the NYS Fair Wegman’s Kitchen stage and the NOFA-NY (Northeast Organic Farmers Association of NY) Winter Conference.  

I also advised and informed Pawliw throughout the sessions about crowdfunding and the different options to consider.  When a favorable location came to the market for EFN, and the COVID pandemic waned, the years of collaboration culminated in the development of the Honeycomb crowdfunding debt-campaign success. 

The money raised will be used for a number of startup costs — about 35 percent of the funds will be used for a walk-in cooler, a freezer, a delivery-vehicle down payment, and working-capital operating costs (salaries, POS system, starting inventory).  The remaining funds will purchase an IQF machine.  An IQF, or Individually Quick Frozen machine, will extend the growing season of upstate New York by freezing farm-fresh fruits and vegetables during the harvest seasons and making them available “out of season” to consumers and institutions.  

“Crowdfunding and specifically Honeycomb gave us the structure and framework to make a successful run into raising capital for our Eden Fresh Network project. Overall, crowdfunding relied on the many years of creating networks throughout Syracuse. We were grateful to have known and gained the support of so many people that truly believed in our thoughts and ideas the crowdfunding process showed us that people really do want to see us succeed,” Pawliw says.

EFN currently provides online ordering for twice-weekly delivery or pick-up of fresh vegetables and local products sourced within 65 miles of Syracuse, as well as a weekly in-person farmers market on Sundays from 12-3.  EFN also is continuing the tradition of farm-to-form community dinners. For more information on Eden Fresh Network, visit: www.edenfreshnetworkcny.com.

Business Advisor’s Tip: Debt crowdfunding through loan capital, as demonstrated in this example, is only one of four types of crowdfunding options. Other options include equity investment, pre-sales and perk rewards, and donations or gifts.  Contact your advisor to figure out which type of crowdfunding is most appropriate for your project.      


Frank Cetera is an advanced certified business advisor at the SBDC, located at Onondaga Community College. Contact him at ceteraf@sunyocc.edu