Linda Jenkins, March 25 2016
Are you considering starting your own eco-friendly company but are unsure as to how you will fund your new venture? One option you might want to consider is crowdfunding. There are a number of crowdfunding and alternative lending platforms available that are specifically targeted at environmentally conscious companies and green startups. Check out the curated list below to see if any of these eco-conscious platforms can help provide funding for your new business idea.
GridShare is a platform for matchmaking renewable energy and cleantech ventures with investment capital around the world. Whether your new business involves creating bio-diesel or you plan to convert waste products into renewable energy, you can solicit funding and feedback via their platform. You can also invest in international renewable energy projects through GridShare. This platform currently charges fixed fees for successfully funded projects - see their Terms & Conditions page for more information.
Ioby helps green projects find funding and grow community interest within their own neighborhoods. From rain gardens to urban farming, all can solicit funding and social media interaction via the Ioby.org platform. This platform currently charges a minimum 3% donation processing fee.
Abundance is a UK-based peer-to-peer lending platform for renewable energy projects. A fundable venture can be anything from adding solar panels on a school roof to adding wind turbines to a golf course.
Fund My Travel
If you want to travel to distant lands to research your earth-friendly entrepreneurial endeavor, FundMyTravel might be of interest to you. FundMyTravel lets you set up a funding site so that you can solicit crowdfunding for your adventure. Think of it like Kickstarter for globe trotters. This platform currently charges a 5% fee.
Start Some Good
Described as "The Crowdfunding Platform for Changemakers", Start Some Good connects environmentally-conscious investors with social entrepreneurs, non-profits and community groups in need of their funds. StartSomeGood.com has successfully aided 550 ventures to raise over $6 million for grassroots innovation projects! This platform currently charges a 5% fee for successfully funded projects.
SunFunder is a unique company that helps finance solar projects "beyond the grid". In developing nations, such as Tanzania, populations in remote regions depend on kerosene and diesel for energy. SunFunder.com provides short-term loans to leading solar energy companies from accredited investors to supply reliable, clean energy to these regions. SunFunder aims to raise and deploy $1 billion into solar projects around the world within the next few years.
WorthWild helps earth-friendly entrepreneurs, educators, researchers, non-profits and environmental leaders find funding for their ventures. Entrepreneurs with a new green product or service are able to apply for funding assistance. Non-profits also have the option of establishing a 365-page to collect ongoing donations for anything from recycling awareness to protecting natural habitats. WorthWild recently became fee-free.
Building a new business can be a tough battle. Finding funding adds an extra level of pressure. Turning to earth-friendly funding platforms that understand your cause just might help you alleviate some of those new venture tensions. Do you think one of these platforms can help you build your new green business?
Learn more about alternative ways to finance a business.
Top image courtesy Anusorn P Nachol via freedigitalphotos.net
Linda Jenkins, November 11 2015
The SEC is paving the way for small businesses to raise capital in exchange for equity through online crowdfunding campaigns. They recently issued a press release in which rules to permit equity crowdfunding and amendments to regional and intrastate proposals were announced. Highlights of these new rules include:
- Permission for companies to raise up to $1,000,000 in a 12-month period
- Investors with less than $100,000 in income or net worth can invest $2,000 (or 5% of the lesser of their income or net worth)
- Forms enabling funding portals to register with the Commission will be effective Jan. 29, 2016
You can read the full announcement here: SEC Adopts Rules to Permit Crowdfunding
According to Mary Jo White, SEC chair:
"There is a great deal of enthusiasm in the marketplace for crowdfunding, and I believe these rules and proposed amendments provide smaller companies with innovative ways to raise capital and give investors the protections they need. With these rules, the Commission has completed all of the major rulemaking mandated under the JOBS Act."
Top image courtesy freedigitalphotos & imagerymajestic
Linda Jenkins, October 10 2015
If you have a great business idea but don't have a lot of money to invest into it, crowdfunding is a good, viable option. You might have had trouble finding traditional investment and want to open your project to the community so that they can help you succeed. Several multi-million-dollar companies have been started via Kickstarter, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo and other crowdfunding platforms.
But for every idea that makes it big, there are many that fail to reach their goals on these crowdfunding websites. What separates the successes from the also-rans? More importantly, what do you need to do as an entrepreneur to ensure that your product or service is embraced by the masses?
Here are five tips you can use to make sure your crowdfunding campaign stands out from the competition:
1. Know your audience beforehand.
A shocking number of entrepreneurial ventures fail because the founders don't perform enough market research. Having a broad idea of your audience is simply not good enough. You have to understand the mindset of a person who will visit your campaign page and agree to contribute their hard-earned money.
You can find a lot of information about your customers by researching online or attending events where businesses similar to yours convene. You have to understand specifics, such as age range, gender, marital status and average income, to have the ability to refine your campaign.
2. Appeal to your contributor's emotions.
You are driven by emotional responses. In fact, most of your buying decisions (even the ones you convince yourself are driven by rational thought) are the result of an emotional connection to the product or service. Use this phenomenon to your advantage.
Make sure your campaign is driven by a strong emotional message. Craft your call-to-action and the copy on your page around this central emotional message. You want to frame your product or service as a chance for your contributors to be a part of a unique adventure or trend. After you've done this, you have to add sizable rewards and incentivize your audience to become contributors.
3. Create top-notch content.
The "Coolest Cooler" campaign was a failure when it originally appeared on Kickstarter. After the original campaign didn't make it, so the creators went back to the drawing board and relaunched it with a different message and better content. "Coolest Cooler" went on to become one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time. The product was unchanged, but the content made the difference the second time around.
Make sure you put a special emphasis on your content. If you're not good at creating copy, find someone who is. Get a good photographer and put up some amazing shots of your product or service in action. Find someone who can shoot a cool-looking video to showcase your idea. In the competitive crowdfunding marketplace, content is king.
4. Find the influencers and super-fans in your niche.
A large percentage of your overall contributions will come from a relatively small group of backers. These are people who believe in your product intensely and are willing to put down a sizable amount of money to see it succeed. Leverage the power of these fans and empower them to become ambassadors for your brand.
Additionally, look for people who are experts and authorities in your niche. Talk to these people, send them a demo and convince them to promote your product. If your idea works as advertised, most people will be happy to endorse it.
5. Update your campaign constantly.
Frequent updates are a great way to convince your audience their dollars are being put to good use. If you're away from your page for weeks at a time, people might get nervous about their contributions, and this could lead to backers pulling out, which in turn can result in negative press.
To avoid this, make sure you're always posting updates on your page to inform your backers about the progress of the project. Include any photographs and additional content that is relevant as the project begins to take shape.
Crowdfunding campaigns are a boon for new small business owners and entrepreneurs who have a great idea but don't want to navigate the VC landscape. According to estimates, the crowdfunding market was worth $16 billion by the end of 2014, and it's constantly growing. If you want to be a crowdfunding success story, make sure you're using these tips to effectively market your campaign.
Image courtesy freedigitalphotos & hywards
Linda Jenkins, April 12 2015
Just raised a heap of money via crowdfunding for your startup? Congrats. Forgot to plan ahead for your small business taxes? Uh-Oh...
If you raked in more than $20,000 via crowdfunding campaigns in a single year, be aware that you may receive a 1099-K for the total amount. Yes, the IRS considers your good fortune to be income! If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having just closed out your business year, your options are limited, but a good small business CPA (certified public accountant) may be able to work some magic for you. Assuming you are not already using accrual-based accounting, making the switch now may allow you to apply related expenses from a subsequent tax year; or, if your company is not already organized as a C-corporation, making that change could allow you a few more options.
Ideally, the best way to deal with this is to plan ahead. If you have control over when your crowdfunding campaign ends, plan it for early in your business tax year. That way, you will be able to apply related expenses, and avoid having a year in which you record high income and low expenses.
Don't forget about state taxes. Have you recorded all of your contributors' zip codes and transaction amounts? If your crowdfunding platform does not already do this automatically, you will be responsible for gathering this information, and will likely have to report transactions from your home state as sales tax.
Be aware that collecting crowdfunding proceeds is new territory, so as of April 2015, a search on irs.gov will get you nowhere. If you are now in a panic over your small business taxes, calm down, and then contact the nice CPAs at jenkinsco.com for further assistance and tax savings .
Linda Jenkins, February 27 2015
Are you a small business owner hoping to increase capital for your company? Or do you dream of launching your own startup, yet realize your company is too young to get financing through traditional means? Thanks to crowdfunding, ambitious new business owners have a cornucopia of funding options at their disposal. If the thought of asking your neighborhood banker for a loan makes your stomach lurch, you might want to consider the possibility of using crowdfunding or crowdlending to grow your small business. Following are five helpful options you can consider:
Invest Next Door
Invest Next Door is available to US-based businesses. Business owners are able to list details of the type of funding they are looking for, including financing specifics like length of funding and repayment procedures. Interested investors can review a variety of businesses hoping to receive funding and pick business owners they believe to be sound financial investment candidates. An owner seeking funding can choose to accept financing from either a single investor or multiple investors.
Available to both UK and US-based businesses, Funding Circle connects small business owners with approved investors. Funding candidates can take up to five years to repay their investors and can even repay their investors early without worrying over early repayment charges.
Lendio helps business owners find funding by offering a variety of potential financing options. Borrowers are able to choose the financing option that best suits their long-term goals without having to approach traditional banking institutions to request a loan.
Rebirth Financial specializes in peer-to-peer lending. Whether you are hoping to refinance your business loan or sell your company to an outside investor, Rebirth Financial can put you in touch with the appropriate resources. Options include everything from startup loans to commercial building loans.
Created by startup founders for startup founders, Fundable is a Columbus, Ohio-based firm focused exclusively on helping small business owners raise capital. Fundable is one of the fastest growing crowdfunding platforms with over $200 million in committed funds. (fundable.com)
There are a growing number of funding options now available to small business owners. No longer do motivated individuals have to rely on big banks and credit unions to fund their business dreams. Thanks to the rise of crowdfunding, business owners now have more funding options to consider than ever before. Will you be considering any of the above-listed crowdfunding tools for your small business?
You should also read: Entrepreneur's Cheat Sheet: Top Tools for Finding Funding
Linda Jenkins, January 30 2015
Crowdfunding is still a relatively new concept, and many people find the process of creating a campaign intimidating. Plum Alley, a crowdfunding platform geared toward female business owners, aims to make campaign creation as easy as possible with their sleek, easy-to-use platform. Plum Alley's team also helps their campaign creators achieve success by providing professional support at every stage of your campaign.
What Makes Plum Alley Different?
Plum Alley is a website focused on raising money for female-run enterprises. This unique market position is the key reason the platform is able to boast success rates of more than two times the rate of other crowdfunding sites. While each campaign at Plum Alley has a different mission, style, or message, the platform as a whole is geared toward supporting women's success.
Plum Alley was founded by entrepreneur, CEO, and funding expert Deborah Jackson in 2012. She started the site with the goal of highlighting contributions made by women in business and technology. The platform has gone on to see great success since its inception; Last year, Plum Alley was listed in Forbes' Startups to Watch. Having showcased over 100 women entrepreneurs in the last two years, Plum Alley has built a strong network of supporters of female entrepreneurship and innovation.
The Plum Alley team is comprised of distinguished, accomplished women with extensive experience in corporate, start-up, political, and non-profit sectors. These amazing women are dedicated to using their decades of professional expertise in e-commerce, finance and capital markets, angel investing, and cause-related fundraising to help campaign creators meet their goals.
The men and women that make up the Plum Alley network are invested in the success of women-owned businesses. Unlike larger crowdfunding sites, Plum Alley's unique platform provides you with a targeted group of potential supporters outside of your current network. While the majority of your funds will likely be raised within your network, Plum Alley gives you the opportunity to connect with other people who may be interested in your product, company, or cause.
Create a Campaign in Minutes
Setting up a new campaign at the Plum Alley website takes only minutes. After entering some basic information about your project, you'll be walked through a six-step process to get your campaign up and running. Throughout each of the six stages, you'll receive on-screen support and helpful information about creating a successful campaign. The platform even has built-in social sharing tools to make managing your project easy; any updates to your campaign are automatically shared with your network.
A particularly useful feature of the Plum Alley platform is the ability to run and manage multiple campaigns at once. The simple six-step setup process makes the platform especially useful for smaller campaigns, such as testing new products or demonstrating public support to potential investors. While funding your company or product is the main goal of the site, the Plum Alley platform can also be used for non-moneymaking activities as well.
If you've been putting off crowdfunding because the process seems too daunting, Plum Alley is worth considering. A few simple clicks is all it takes to have a new campaign started and a wide network of supporters at your side. And with the minor details of your campaign worked out in six streamlined steps, you can put your focus back where it counts most - raising awareness for your company, project, or cause.
For more crowdfunding tips, read Boosting Your Crowdfunding Campaign, or check out our ebook, Creative Financing: