When we started our business, we didn’t seek ‘crowd-funding’. When you support a small business, you are providing ‘crowd-funding’ in exchange for goods and services. The owners aren’t asking for ‘free-money’ for a niche item that doesn’t apply to you. They’re in your community. The business (or organization) is generously contributing to improve the available options for goods and/or services in your community. It might not be for you, today, but would you like for the business to be there when you need it? Would you like to have the business available to your family, friends and neighbours? Then ‘crowd-funding’ (people or families each supporting. a little) in exchange for products is a win-win. It keeps the business going for when you, your family and friends need it.
A friend of ours was so excited and proud for us (when we opened) that we were creating a real business, that would make change in our culture, that would make the statement: You deserve better. He said where he lives, people do ‘crowd-funding’ for the most meaningless, selfish, niche and preposterous things (his words, not mine). For example: He had a friend who wanted to collect funds for a ‘Cat Café’. If you’re a cat-lover, this is the place where you go with your cat-lover friends to discuss cat-loving or read fluffy books in thin sweaters, or discuss your next hipster trend. Pretty sure this is where goat-yoga came from.
Putting our name out there and Starting is hard. The approach we took was to build the building, pick the concept (healthy foods, real ingredients), thinking that there must be more people who want ‘better’, and get working. Taking the time to try products, see what you like, interact with our current culture, see where you want to go, and see how we can help… That’s what we’ve done. That’s market research.
‘Crowd-funding’ is often approaching your family and friends and saying ‘hey, here’s my idea, can I use your money to start?’ There are A LOT of great crowd-funded ideas out there that address cultural gaps. Non-profits for example (e.g. collecting funds to match or leverage government funds to build a rehab in your home town where there is a need) – that’s great crowd-funding. That should be community-wide crowd-funding. It shows commitment from the community for future investors (including government) to get on board. It’s a signal.
That said, the example my friend used is that he gets a different actual crowd-funding request from a different hipster-friend once a week. Unfortunately it’s for Cat-Café‘s and Goat-Yoga. Does it address a social-problem? No. It doesn’t. Does it address a social need? (Is there a gap in your town or culture?) – This is perception. I would argue no-one ‘needs’ a Cat-Café or Goat-Yoga.
This guy I found as an example made a pretty amazing ‘gun’ that shoots flies with table-salt (https://fundchaser.com/crowdfunding/the-most-ridiculous-crowdfunding-campaigns-that-were-extremely-successful/). His journey was interesting. He asked for $15,000 to research the project and was funded to over $500,000 because he was addressing something that MANY people would be affected by.