As the business grew, Bartley and her father realized they needed to purchase specialized engraving equipment. However, they didn't know where to turn for funding.
With the help of the Branson Centre, Bartley launched a crowdfunding campaign on ISupportJamaica.com. With every pledge, backers receive a handmade coaster, cutting board or tree planted in their honor — and the Bartley family is one step closer to purchasing industrial-grade machines that will help their business meet higher demand.
Around the world, entrepreneurs like Bartley use crowdfunding to market-test new products, engage customers, and raise capital. Unfortunately, this tool is not often used in the Caribbean... yet.
To kickstart the growth of crowdfunding in the Caribbean, the World Bank and partners have launched a free eight-week online course, “Crowdfunding for Caribbean Entrepreneurs." The course is funded by the government of Canada and facilitated by the International Training Centre.
The course was designed for entrepreneurs who already have a promising idea or prototype, but who need to raise money or market-test their consumer-facing product or service. The course will teach entrepreneurs to understand the benefits of crowdfunding for their business, to identify emerging trends and resources specific to Caribbean crowdfunding, and to build a robust social media strategy using metrics and social data tools.
In particular, the course will teach entrepreneurs about “reward” and “presale” crowdfunding, in which a campaign offers gifts to backers, such as t-shirts or access to purchase a product at a discount before its wide scale production. (These are the two types of crowdfunding currently permissible by law in the Caribbean.)
By the end of the course, entrepreneurs will have built their own crowdfunding campaign strategy. In addition to learning from a team of crowdfunding experts, course participants will be part of a vibrant and supportive online community.
Why choose crowdfunding compared to other methods of raising capital? This approach has a number of unique potential benefits for entrepreneurs.
Of course, the most apparent benefit of crowdfunding is in the name: funding. Given the limited scale of crowdfunding in the Caribbean today, it is likely that the amount of capital raised will be quite small. Yet even a small amount raised through crowdfunding could give rise to further fundraising opportunities from angels investors or banks, as the crowdfunding campaign will serve as proof of market demand.
Beyond capital, reward and presale crowdfunding can help entrepreneurs gather market intelligence on their product design and pricing strategy, and target customers in a relatively quick and inexpensive way. Among the entrepreneurship and academic communities that span the Caribbean and beyond (including the diaspora), presale crowdfunding is a promising tool for early-stage entrepreneurs to test their products before moving on to scaling their business.
The course will launch in early September and the application deadline is August 21, 2016. Interested folks can apply at this link: http://www.worldbank.org/en/events/2016/08/05/crowdfunding-for-caribbean-entrepreneurs-free-online-course