Money is the source of everything in a business, and ultimately determines many of the decisions we make, from pricing to expenses to marketing decisions. And since this issue is focussing on investing and RRSPs, I thought I would look at finances from an online perspective.
The internet has revolutionized what it means to finance an endeavour. In the past you would have to either 1) sell your idea to a relatively small group of close friends and family or 2) approach large institutions for business loans and/or 3) get backing and support by an industry partner in return for, ultimately, being “owned” by them (as in the case of record labels or publishing companies).
But at present, with just a small amount of online know-how, if you can dream it, you can build it. The basic idea is called “Crowdfunding”, and this describes the process whereby instead of approaching a small group of people for a large sum of cash, you do the reverse and ask a very large group of people for very small sums of cash! In this way you are not asking any one person for a large, possibly painful investment; rather, each individual is giving away a very small amount of money (even as small as $5) Now of course as in any transaction, no one gives anything away for free, so the participants in return are given a small amount of “ownership” in the project, and this can mean anything, depending on how the project is set up.
One major online version of this is Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/). At the time of writing of this article, the website boasted 138k+ projects. Essentially a person or group pitches their idea, the cost of that idea, and then details a multi-tiered pricing structure. At each tier is a suggested donation/investment amount, and tied to that amount might be the result of the project itself (i.e. a book, or membership), or perhaps something larger if you contribute more (i.e. invitation to an exclusive event). The great thing about this idea is that if you are particularly passionate about an industry, and want to consider giving to this cause, you can be very detailed about the kind of project you’d like to support! As established businesses, this is a great way to give back to your community or industry; essentially possibly paving the way for a younger generation who will eventually be filling our shoes.
I found some Canadian examples ranging from a shoe start-up, to a self-published mystery novel, to a group seeking capital to build an indoor children’s playground.
While it seems like a dream come true (you mean people will just hand me money??) in the reality a crowdfunded project requires a great deal of planning and marketing. You will need to build a successful tiered pricing point structure that suits everyone’s budget, and a strong social media presence to build a following. Your idea should be somewhat noble in it’s cause, and if it’s not, you should be prepared to offer an excellent product or service that rivals or exceeds your competitors. You may have to give some of your product away (e.g. share a chapter of your upcoming novel, or offer to write music for a donor, or plan a launch party event) But in the end all of this just builds community and support which will ultimately lead to a more successful launch. What are you dreaming of building?