Crowdfund campaigns catch on in Canada

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Global News  |  Byt Aly Thomson via Canadian Press posted on July 26, 2013

Crowdfunding PEI

Crippled by mounting financial debt, father and son duo David and Brian Best had few options left to save the potato farm their family has operated in Tryon, P.E.I., since the early 1930s.

It was a customer who dropped in to Best Acre Farms to buy seed potatoes that sparked the family’s current bid to save their livelihood – crowdfunding.

“I told him I was pulling strings to find out how I can source money, and he said, ‘Well, you might try crowdfunding’,” said Brian Best.

Best did just that, and without a crop in the ground, he has dedicated much of his time to the online campaign, which aims to raise $200,000 by Aug. 1. As of Thursday, the campaign on Indiegogo.com has generated around $8,000.

“The people that are grasping it … know how important a family farm is to producing food,” he said.

Websites like Indiegogo.com are drawing people from across Canada to crowdfunding, and the types of campaigns they fund vary widely. Whether it’s building a school in Africa or trying to securing the release of an alleged video that appears to show Toronto’s mayor smoking crack cocaine, the possibilities are endless.

Regardless of the cause, the components of a successful crowdfunder often remain the same, said Sandeep Pillai, a graduate student at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management who has studied crowdfunding.

“That ability to engage people … is very critical in a crowdfunding campaign. Let it be a potato farm, let it be a solar watch, let it be a coffee down the street, whatever it is,” said Pillai.

“When a crowdfunding campaign does not become successful, it’s because you were not able to engage the crowd.”

Pillai said the idea of crowdfunding isn’t new, but its accessibility is.

“It’s a sign of the times,” said Pillai. “There’s a venue to do it, before there was not.”

In Halifax, residents can see the success of the Brooklyn Warehouse’s crowdfunding campaign as they drive past the restaurant in the city’s north end.

About two years ago, co-owners George and Leo Christakos crowdfunded $23,000 over 60 days to avoid the bank and expand the restaurant.

George Christakos said aside from the obvious financial benefit, crowdfunding also doubles as a marketing campaign.

“It is an incredible way to create awareness and marketing for an upcoming project,” said Christakos. “You’re able to give a customer a lot more. There’s a tremendous value to it.”

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