Crowdfunding is the new black. Almost every day, I receive another alert for a Gofundme, Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign with people asking me to donate for anything and everything, from funding weddings to medical procedures, to business endeavors. Businesses are finding ways to capitalize off of these initiatives, which may not necessarily be a bad thing. In this day and age, it’s difficult to get a substantial loan, especially for small businesses. But is there a way to crowdfund efficiently and effectively?
Companies may utilize crowdfunding for a number of reasons – to expand their inventory, grow staff, open a new store, or even get them out of debt. Earlier this year, there was a lot of buzz about the production of “CWK Straight Plates,” which promised nearly silky, straight hair without the use of heat, answering the prayers of many naturals. The project was successfully funded and backers are expected to receive their plates this fall in the first production run.
The owners of PuffCuff, an innovative hair tool that is NOT a banana clip, started an Indiegogo campaign to expand their inventory to various sizes of the PuffCuff, rather than produce it for the first time. They requested $3,700 from supporters in exchange for bundles with the new different sizes of the tool once funded. Unfortunately, the campaign did not meet its goal, but the original PuffCuff is still available for purchase.
In a bold move, ayurveda-based line AfroVeda started a gofundme campaign in order to get their “business back on track.” At the time, there were several complaints on the AfroVeda Facebook page about customers not receiving orders, so it seemed that they needed the funds to buy ingredients for their products and fulfill back orders. The owner stated that she would need to come up with “$7,520 in loans and over due debts that must be paid by the end of the first full week in August in order to keep the business open.” This campaign seems to have been deleted from the gofundme site, and you can still place orders on the AfroVeda site, though several items are on 3–4 week backorder.
What made the “Straight Plates” campaign successful while the other two were not? Opinions regarding crowdfunding vary among consumers. Ultimately, it depends on the presentation of the cause or product. This determines whether people want to contribute or not. If there is a great need for a product or it looks like a game changers, people may be more likely to contribute as opposed to an updated version. I asked some of my curlfriends what they thought of crowdfunding, and the opinions were certainly different:
“I don’t believe in donating money. To put it bluntly, you want me to give you money now to enable me to pay for product and give you money later. Ummm NO! I do believe in supporting, I do videos and advertise sales and new products on my FB sales page. I basically give loads of free advertising.”
“It depends on how much money they need to raise, the circumstances behind it, and whether or not they’ve fallen on bad times before and whether or not it relates to how they handle (or don’t handle) their finances. It also depends on their customer service. You can’t be crappy to people, then turn around and ask for a handout. I’m a nice person, but I’m not a fool so don’t take me for one.”
Okay, so the “bad times” point is a big deal to me. I’m all for supporting businesses and helping them grow, especially black-owned businesses, but please, don’t expect customers to pull you out of your debt. We’re consumers, we are not a bank. I also take issue with companies who have not shown their business savvy in the past and depend on consumers to bail them out of their situation. There is a difference between expanding your business and keeping your business afloat.
Obviously, people will contribute if they believe in the company or the person, but make sure you know where your money is going. And that’s all there is to it.
Do you contribute to crowdsourcing campaigns? Do you think crowdfunding is an efficient business strategy?