Beth Kaiserman

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Cheryl Clements learned to love food and community from her mother. She now dedicates her work to food and community and is the founder and CEO of PieShell, a crowdfunding platform for food and beverage businesses.

In fact, The Pie Shell was the name of her mother’s first business, selling about 10,000 pies per year out of their home in Smiths Falls, Ontario. Everyone in the family helped the small business thrive.

“Food and beverage was always near and dear to my heart,” Clements said.

PieShell launched in October 2016 and is based in the West Village in Manhattan. The company “emboldens and empowers food and beverage entrepreneurs and enthusiasts to bring new ideas to life,” according to its website.

The site is a rewards-based platform where businesses can crowdfund to launch and bring their products to regional and national retail.

“It helps people really get their business out there and marketing themselves,” Clements said. “Passion is phenomenal, but that’s not enough: you need customers and sales.”

The site partners with other incubators, like Chobani Incubator in SoHo and Union Kitchen in Washington, D.C. The company has seen a 100 percent success rate since its launch, with about 30 businesses still successfully running.

“That they’re all still in business is astronomical,” she said.

After the October 2018 Pilotworks shutdown, Clements felt the pain of these small businesses scrambling to find workspaces. Since then, PieShell has been helping businesses stay afloat, starting by raising $5,000 from the PieShell community alone.

PieShell is partnering with New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to raise funds for the businesses. NYCEDC has contributed $50,000 to the fundraising campaign so far.

Via PieShell.

“The No. 1 focus is to get it to anyone and everyone we can — just try and get them something back,” she said. “It’s not like everyone’s going to get $15,000 but anything we can get back is going to be helpful in some way.”

There were 69 former Pilotworks members in the pipeline to potentially receive support from PieShell, and four of those have reported they are out of business, according to Clements. Still, she hopes that even small amounts can help sustain these businesses for now.

“At least [it’s] a little something and give them a little hope and keep them alive a day or two until something bigger and better can happen to them,” she said.

Some businesses kindly redirected their own shares of the funding to other businesses who were more drastically affected by the shutdown.

“You don’t see that today a lot, but I know it’s there in the food and beverage community,” she said. “It’s such a warm and heartwarming place — that’s one of the reasons I love the space I’m in. I wasn’t surprised at people being that incredibly generous.”

Clements’ mother later bought a tea room, which she owned until she retired in 2006 and passed away eight months later. She was almost working until the day she died, Clements said.

“I’m very much like her — there’s no rest for the wicked. I’m always working and love it.”

All photos courtesy of PieShell.

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