The Queens’ Tea Company Crowdfunds Gourmet Venture

In 2012, we had the opportunity to visit China for a neuroscience conference Michael was attending. We decided to make a tea trip out of it, since tea was one of our hobby interests, and since Asia is the motherland for the beverage. We explored numerous tea houses in China and Japan, met families who are tea farmers, and took classes from tea experts who have been trained in traditional tea history and preparation. We were completely enamored. The richness of the cultural traditions blended with the abundant health benefits represented a striking, fun overlap of our academic backgrounds, i.e., biology and history, respectively. It really was one of those electric experiences of discovery, and we became giddy to start sharing the culinary and cultural pleasure we were finding from tea. We like to say that tea is the original social media. It provides an ideal medium for connecting people to one another, to history, to other cultures, and to the earth. These are some of our core personal values, and we were energized to start a business that includes these principles in its corporate identity and vision.  Crowdfunding is still a largely underexplored creature. Running a crowdfunding campaign has certainly been a good way for us to market ourselves. Because of our campaign and its overt mission to develop a tea culture in our city, we’ve had the opportunity to appear on local television and participate in various radio and podcast programs to discuss our goals. All of this exposure has been valuable to us as a company. It is one of the secondary benefits we’ve experienced from running a crowdfunding campaign. It seems that because the crowdfunding approach to starting a business is so new, that many people are unclear why they should donate to a for-profit endeavor. People are conditioned to think of donations in the realm of non-profit charitable work, or the arts—not in the domain of business entrepreneurship. So part of the challenge we’ve faced is simply educating potential donors about the mechanism. It may seem obvious, but our experience is that having a well-produced video is very important for establishing a sense of instant credibility to a person who is being exposed to your idea for the first time. We’ve also seen people who were already fans and supporters who started to take us more seriously. Even though it cost us a little more upfront, a clean, professional-quality pitch video has been an asset. Secondly, if we could go back and re-do the campaign, we would have spent more time laying the groundwork for a fan group who would commit to be our cheerleaders during the course of the campaign. We would have focused more effort on building a base of enthusiasm before the launch. There is perhaps an expectation that one’s primary task in conducting a crowdfunding project is to simply launch the campaign, and that a well-designed video will instantly go viral and do the heavy lifting for you. This idea is illusory. We would have definitely laid out an editorial calendar and more extensive media goals, were we to do another campaign in the future.  - Seth Anderson and Michael Adam Ferguson, The Queens’ Tea Founders, Entrepreneurs, Crowdfunding Pioneers

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  • June 21, 2013

The Triagular Hot Dog Comes to Life - Crowdfunding Innovation from Sweden

For many years I was bothered with my sausages rolling off the gill into the dirt. Simple problem-solving resulted in the idea of a triangular hot dog. But it was first when I became a parent I saw the full potential of my triangular innovation and just had to do something about it. People are crazy about the product, they are already writing songs about it. But crowdfunding is new and strange for some and they send me envelopes with money. But I need the on-line support as much as the cash. The effort of many, putting in small amounts, is worth a lot more than you think. It attracts other funders and having many supporters is priceless in negotiations with suppliers and other partners. So, if you find a project you like, give it your support. Even if it’s just one dollar. Choose a project you’re passionate about. Figure out how you can reward your funders, tell everyone you know and go for it! I have at least two other projects that will be crowdfunded after I get this dog out on the market. Be amused and learn more from my many mistakes inventing stuff at my blog. - Martin Wande, Inventor, Dad, International Crowdfunding Pioneer

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  • June 14, 2013

The Dirty Sock Funtime Band - Crowdfunding Kid-Friendly Tunes

The Dirty Sock Funtime Band has had some amazing experiences creating music, music videos and TV episodes for families around the world. When we started, the kids’ music industry was just getting off the ground. We released our first album and within one year, we were on “Jack’s Big Music Show” on Nickelodeon, traveling the country and releasing a new album. As the industry has changed, we have explored ways to change with it. So, instead of seeking out a traditional record deal, we decided to reach out to our fans directly and do a RocketHub campaign. We had been recording a new album, The Dirty Socks Come Clean, and knew our fans really wanted to hear it. But in order to release it to the world, we would have to raise some more finances. One of our friends, Tabitha St. Bernard, used RocketHub to launch her innovative zero waste fashion line Tabii Just, and we were so inspired by her success that we decided to work with RocketHub. While the campaign isn’t over, people are responding well, especially this week as the campaign is coming to a close. Our fans are attracted to the prizes, from an exclusive EP of new songs to pre-ordering the album. Many have jumped at the opportunity to help. We have also gotten praise and recognition for being able to go out and release the album independently. Other bands who have tried their own campaigns before have been really supportive. There have been challenges. For some fans, this new approach to releasing an album has caused confusion and it has taken explaining all that goes into an album release, such as marketing, manufacturing and making music videos, to help clarify why we’re even doing a crowdfunding campaign. My biggest piece of advice is to accept that it’s a big project, put all other major projects that need promotions on hold, except for projects that lead directly to RocketHub. Be honest with yourself. It takes time and effort to raise money and it is not an easy thing to do. Secondly, be prepared to work on fundraising every day. Make sure there is no lag time. Keep people engaged daily. Last, it’s important to be realistic about the goal and not overshoot your abilities. If you definitely have the capacity to reach certain goals, then you need to aim for that.  Anything else is icing on the cake. - The Dirty Sock Funtime Band

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  • June 11, 2013

Invitation to Dance - A Film About Disability, History, Community, Civil Rights, and Dance!

Though we’d known each other for years, we usually saw each other only once a year at the opening night of the New York Film Festival.  Then Christian read Simi’s memoir, My Body Politic and instantly saw it as a film. We’ve been inseparable ever since. At the beginning, we thought we might make a narrative feature, but it soon became apparent that the real people in Simi’s world and their stories offered richer and more interesting possibilities. And the documentary, INVITATION TO DANCE was born. We followed the advice we got from Vlad Vukicevic at RocketHub, and Matthew Seig at our fiscal sponsor the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) which was to first reach the people we know, or are part of the groups and organizations that we belong to. From the strong initial response of our “first followers” that strategy certainly seems to be effective. But word is spreading, and INVITATION TO DANCE is grabbing the attention of not only insiders in the disability rights movement and disability arts community, but a broad spectrum of people in the arts, social justice movements, education, the film world, and more. INVITATION TO DANCE is, of course, about disability, but it is about history, community, dance, civil rights and more. For crowdfunding success, begin building the community around your project from day one -when you start pre-production. Later on, this will be your first audience. The strength of this group determines your success. Work with pros, who care about the projects they commit to. The folks at RocketHub and NYFA are very helpful, engaged and knowledgeable. But be prepared to work non-stop for the duration of the campaign. You will have to find dozens of ways to tell your public that your film is important and their contribution will make a difference. - Simi Linton & Christian von Tippelskirch, Directors, Producers, Crowdfunding Innovators

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  • June 10, 2013

Dancing Entrepreneurship - Full Force Crowdfunds the Next Step

Full Force Dance Repertory has been around for about three years now. However for the first two years were seasonal, operating only during the summer months because were in school. Anginese was in graduate school for dance therapy and A.R. Kadeem was in undergraduate for dance. Upon graduation we decided to run Full Force year-round.  In our first full year of operation, we wrote our business plan. Writing this was our inspiration because once it was completed, we realized that we needed to have more financial support. We have performed at various venues throughout the past three years, including being featured Off-Broadway, however we never had our own full dance concert. That is something we feel is most definitely needed in order for us to grow as a company. Our goal is to have one by the end of the summer - not to mention paying the dancers is important as well! Crowdfunding is nerve-racking! Because we are pioneers in the this field, there isn’t a Crowdfunding For Dance Companies for Dummies.  We wish there was a manual on how to crowdfund for this sort of genre. We are always thinking about this project. Once we officially went live with our campaign, we actually both dreamt about the outcome for the first few days. Various scenarios have played in our minds of what could or could not happen. However, we have stayed positive (and been praying) through it all. This means so much to us. This is apart of our dream, so it we can’t help but to consistently think about it. Our supporters have been responding very well. We know that every crowdfunding project has its ups and downs. There comes a time in which people are constantly donating, then all of the sudden it stops. There is dead moment. When this happens, it is always best to go back to the drawing board to see what can be done differently and more creatively. And that is what we have been doing! For each lull we have, we rework something.  We immediately see a spike in our funding after that. Granted, it has been challenging; but without challenge growth is impossible. For success, be different. This is what we knew we had to do when we first begun our project. There are many projects out there vying for attention and are soliciting support. But the thing that makes one project standout from the other is not necessarily a cool invention or a great organization, it is the uniqueness of it. Make sure you know who you are first and based off of that see what else is out there so that you can be different. Reach out to everyone….EVERYONE. Don’t be afraid to ask for support from all people in your network and beyond. You never know how they are willing to support your project. - A.R. Kadeem and Anginese Phillips, Dancers, Choreographers, Entrepreneurs

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  • June 6, 2013

Venture for America Announces Fellow Innovation Fund to Support Projects in Detroit, New Orleans, and Other Cities

Fellows gain access to American Express OPEN Forum’s Network of Entrepreneurs and RocketHub’s Crowdfunding Platform to fund their ideas. New York, NY — Venture for America, a fellowship program that helps recent grads become entrepreneurs, announced today that it will be offering its Venture Fellows the opportunity to use RocketHub, a crowdfunding platform, giving them the chance to compete for $25,000 in funding for their projects and ideas. For the first time ever, this “Innovation Fund” will offer the opportunity for these young entrepreneurs to access money available only to Venture for America Fellows. Additionally, American Express OPEN Forum, a sponsor of the Venture for America since 2012, will provide support for VFA Fellows with access to its advice-sharing platform, featuring powerful expert insights and a community of entrepreneurs. VFA Fellows will be able to leverage OPEN Forum’s network of entrepreneurs to exchange advice and make informed decisions related to a variety of business topics. “We are thrilled to give our Fellows the opportunity through the Innovation Fund to begin launching their projects and ideas,” said Andrew Yang, Founder and CEO of Venture for America. “This is really the first step toward giving our Fellows the opportunity to one day launch their own businesses and create jobs.” The projects competing in the challenge include a non-profit that teaches entrepreneurship in middle schools in New Orleans and Detroit, a networking app based in Providence, RI, and a sandwich shop in the up-and-coming “Over the Rhine” neighborhood in Cincinnati, OH. The Fellow that raises the most money through RocketHub between now and July 8th will receive $10,000 from the Innovation Fund, with other prizes for second and third place. To learn more about their projects and contribute to their ideas, you can visit VFA.RocketHub.com. “RocketHub is excited to partner with Venture For America to support their initiative of revitalizing American cities through entrepreneurship,” said RocketHub CEO, Brian Meece. “Crowdfunding now plays an important role in bringing innovation, jobs, and opportunities to communities across the nation.” Venture for America’s Fellows are recent college graduates chosen through a rigorous, multi-stage application and selection process. By giving these aspiring entrepreneurs a pathway to join startups and providing them with training and mentorship, Venture for America hopes to mobilize these young people as entrepreneurs moving forward. Fellow Innovation Fund Projects can be viewed at VFA.RocketHub.com. About American Express OPEN Forum: American Express OPEN Forum is an advice sharing platform featuring powerful expert insights and a community of entrepreneurs. Our focus is on unlocking the collective knowledge of entrepreneurs and growth-minded business owners by creating a community where they can come together and share their experiences. To learn more visit OPENForum.com. About RocketHub: RocketHub is an international, pioneering, open community that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, and social leaders raise millions of dollars. Part of RocketHub’s mission is to educate the public on the power of the crowdfunding model. As a result, the founders have lectured on crowdfunding at top schools and conferences around the globe, and have even testified in the U.S. Congress on the power of online fundraising.

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  • June 5, 2013

Social Palates - Crowdfunding a Local Artistic Business

I am a chef by trade and a photographer by passion. I have always had a desire to be a strong supporter of my community no matter what professional hat I have worn. About a year and a half ago I finally decided that my body and mind had had enough of the unforgiving, often unrewarding restaurant industry. I initially began as a Social Media marketing agency (consisted of me, myself, and I) and found that so many places/people/organizations did not have the media or photos to create an exciting vibrant engaging Social Media presence. My version of Social Photography was born. I spent almost one year covering (photographing, blogging, sharing) anything I could possibly could from city events and politicians to non profits to giant festivals to local small businesses, 95% of which I did for free. I live in the Halloween capitol of the world, it is also the home of historic spice routes and a vibrant community of forward thinking people that creates a constantly active and changing facade that provides more fodder than one man can handle! There are at least a dozen events every week in Salem alone. I have accomplished my mission of creating a reputation and almost mystique about my photography. I have been described as the best street photographer in the city and a city’s best friend by the city’s tourism specialists. Just recently I have begun to get paying gigs and figuring out an active business model. An opportunity presented itself to get one of the city run artistic incubator spots and I thought “This is my chance to break out and create something fantastic and new.” Social Photography, in my humble opinion is any photography that evokes that same feeling you get when you are out and experiencing things live and then on the flip side you want to tell everyone about it (That is where my social media background and proficiency really helps). I have created a business model that is a combination of Photographer, Social Media Marketer, PR, Artist and small business friendly entity. The spot that I am trying to create will hopefully be the hub of am extremely active, yet disjointed artist community. Having this location in the middle of the city is kinda the logical next step and makes total sense since I have immersed myself in the fabric of the community in such a way. Now I will have a home to make it even more personable and I really hope, profitable. Financially I chose to crowd fund because of all the work that I have done in the past year and the amount of people that I have turned down hand outs from or those that say “I owe you.” Crowdfunding allowed me to still give something back and have those same people invest in artwork or services ahead of time giving me the funds to open a storefront / Studio location and finally purchase my camera equipment (I have been renting at almost $300 a week for a little over a year now, really giving me nothing left to work with at this point). The other reason I thought crowdfunding would work was it was a visual opportunity to show people from outside my circles that I am an up and coming force in the photography world. I used RocketHub specifically after doing a ton of research because I really liked how small business friendly you were. The support has been tremendous…From my circles, I have not figured out how to get other people invested in this project. There is some pretty fantastic and unique artwork up for grabs (I love the goods model as opposed to me just having a fundraiser or trying for a loan that will crush me with interests rates and such). People are invested in me and what I do and that is such a fantastic feeling and another reason I love the crowd funding model. They are not just supporting me, they know that I will in turn support the community and so it is a fantastic trade off. The cool part for the local people that are supporting me is they have been able to watch my progress (I had actually considered cashing out of the fundraiser because I have 7 days to open the shop and 30 something days left on the campaign, someone didn’t calculate properly haha). But I am trying my best to scrounge up what I can at least for the soft opening  and hopefully hit the goal or at least a larger number sooner rather than later. Honestly the only negativity I have received is people that are frustrated they didn’t try it first or that they don’t understand why they are going to help me raise money for my business and completely are overlooking the goods model (Again its a misunderstanding more than a lack of wanting to contribute). One of the biggest challenges was the marathon tragedy that happened not 20 minutes from where I am and one week after I launched my campaign. I honestly stopped all promotion and took awhile (And it never has been back in full swing) to start the promotion back up. I can’t and don’t want to try and compete with that. I was on quite a role and then it kinda went stagnant with little pops here an there. For success, have an active network. It is advice I give to clients as well. If you are not active and engaged in the community then you can not expect people to all of a sudden pay attention to what you are doing. Also, know the proper channels to reach your potential supporters, the back end (i.e.. The share button that pops up the widget) is fantastic if people even know how to use all those things..I almost would tell anyone going forward with a campaign to spend a couple months networking and spending many sleepless nights and countless hours networking and being an active online member of society before even considering going live. I use a combination of Facebook, Twitter, Buffer, Linked In, Pinterest, the HTML code on my site, newsletters, old school hand outs with QR codes, posters and more. I pulled in favors from blogger friends to write about me and more…I am pretty aggressive when things are full steam ahead. - John Andrews, Chef, Photographer, Marketer, Entrepreneur, Community Leader, Crowdfunding Pioneer

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  • May 29, 2013

Studying How Bats Speak and Crowdfunding Science

I’ve always had an interest in bat ecology, as well as a strong interest in communication and animal behavior. We as humans have always assumed a level of simplicity in the communication signals of animals, and more and more research is proving how wrong we are: animal communication, especially vocal, is so much more complicated than we originally thought. Bats are especially interesting because they can vocalize over a wide range of frequencies, up to 10x human’s ability to create or hear sound. Recent research has shown bats can recognize individuals by their echolocation calls, and I am interested in how this recognition and vocal signatures plays into the larger ecological picture.  Many of my contributors are family and friends and it’s great knowing I have their support for my studies. My mother is a teaching aid at an elementary school and has been able to get some of her students interested in the project and bat conservation, which is especially rewarding. Animals like bats tend to have bad reputations with the general public, so it’s great to get these kids interested in bat conservation so young. I’ve also reached out to some list-servs and group of bat researchers from North America and around the world and received some interesting and helpful advice and thoughts from people around the world, which is amazing.  For success, make sure you can communicate your project in a way that invests the audience; make them care about your cause. Be prepared; I didn’t upload a personal video or include more information about my project till later, I think that it has affected my success. Try to have a plan together before you officially launch your project.  Don’t be afraid to promote it, but don’t overdo it. Share it with your friends and family, encouraging sharing with their friends and families. - Alyson Brokaw, Biology Graduate Student at Humboldt State University, Bat Ecology Expert, Science Crowdfunding Pioneer

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  • May 23, 2013

In Plain View - The Art of Crowdfunding a Web-Series

The inspiration for the story was the brutal execution murder of a Boston Police detective many years ago. The brutality of the murder, he was shot five times in the face in the sign of the cross, compelled me to write the story. As it turned out, telling the true story would prove incredibly difficult and costly, so over the years I decided to write an “inspired by true events” version. I took from many other “real world” events and characters, highly embellished them, then wrote my final script in a full-length feature structure. The digital age is an enigma, it comes fraught with much hype and clutter, and expectations that are often “stretched.” With that said, once you do your homework and research through the hyperbole, you see a world the real world that offers great opportunity to a content maker, especially those on a modest budget. The bottom-line is simple, although the “New World” of digital distribution offers unlimited possibility, like anything it requires a solid plan, from creating the art to marketing what you create. This crowdfunding project is showing me that even with a great a project and great cast, an incredibly focused and well executed campaign is required. It is not an “if you build it they will come” scenario by any stretch. Your advocates must be aggressive in campaigning for you, the email list is crucial, but it is the constant reminding, without being annoying, that makes or breaks a project like this. It’s amazing how many crowdfunding projects people are receiving on any given day. You have to have something that stands out, if not a brand already, then something incredibly exciting and different, whether a film or a gadget. Then you have to a great way to market that excitement to potential donors. It’s not easy if done correctly. With that said, we are doing well, I asked for a lot-$50,000- and I started my campaign on the same day as the bombing tragedy here in Boston. That obviously had an effect, but I’m seeing the crowdfunding power of small donors vs, the heavy hitters. Those smaller donations add up and it’s incredibly exciting when you check your email (like an addict) and see a donation email from RocketHub. The fact that I can call Jed Cohen with questions and for help is an added plus with RocketHub, I don’t believe I could do something like that with any other crowd-funding platform. Key lesson, most potential supporters must be groomed in a very respectful way and your advocates must do that, if you have weaker advocates, you’re in trouble: And be ruthlessly realistic in what a project not already branded can raise. You really need to eventually get very deep into each circle of influence, stretch it to its max, to be successful. And lastly, it is a very fatiguing process, you will be “on” 24/7 thinking about what you’re missing. It’s a time-locked battle, so have a really trustworthy small team. And remember not everyone will jump at the first chance to give you money: isn’t that surprising? Even some of those close to you. They have busy schedules and must be reminded, or even with some, nicely cajoled into donating. Some advocates will do better than others, so DO NOT get mad at anyone who may not be that aggressive, not everyone is a salesperson. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that this isn’t life-threatening. - Joe Conforti, Filmmaker, Screenwriter, Producer, Crowdfunding Innovator

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  • May 21, 2013

From Canada with Love - Crowdfunding Strategies from Brian Meece

Our friends at MaRS invited us to lead a crowdfunding workshop and discussion in Toronto, Canada. Here’s the great content that come out of it: MaRS is an incredible organization in Toronto and beyond. “MaRS is where science, technology and social entrepreneurs get the help they need. Where all kinds of people meet to spark new ideas. And where a global reputation for innovation is being earned, one success story at a time.” So if you’re looking for support and a great community, check them out. - The RocketHub Team

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  • May 17, 2013