Now there's a Kickstarter for small business.
New York City-based Lucky Ant launched Jan. 2, hoping to link small businesses with their neighborhoods (and, of course, make some money in the process). In exchange for funding for improvement projects at local businesses—the site will feature one per week—users receive loyalty rewards and other perks.
Co-founder Jonathan Moyal said the idea grew partly out of his history: His great-grandfather in Morocco "ran a drug-store type thing," he told Street Fight. "Everybody knew him in the neighbourhood as the drugstore guy, and when he needed a loan to expand, he didn't go to a bank, because there were no banks back then. You would go to your neighbors and everybody would pitch in."
He saw a few local merchants on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, he said, "but there wasn't a local feel to it in the sense that I could fund someone that was three blocks away from me, or that I can fund the bakery that I get my coffee at every morning."
Lucky Ant was born. (Why the name? Partly because all the domains around worker bees—Moyal's original idea for a name—were taken.)
Moyal said the rewards for funders will not be Groupon-like: "If [the business] wants to give away a discount, they can run a Groupon; that's a whole other business model," said Moyal, who in 2008 founded One-Song, which helps independent artists sell and share their music. "What they're really selling, and what I'm really selling, is their story...it's being able to invest in your neighborhood." Instead he wants businesses to focus on things that will make Lucky Ant users feel connected and/or like VIPs. He cited an example of a bakery he's working with that may give away baking lessons—not something they currently sell, so it would be a type of VIP access—on Tuesday nights because that's when the shop closes early.
The ideal projects will be those for which a business can argue the community benefits.
"It's really not about businesses saying: 'Help us make more profit.' It's more about 'Help us add a terrace. We need money for a permit to build it, and you would benefit from us having that terrace because it's hot in the summer,'" he said.
Why only fund one project at a time? The site's founders think it will keep users focused.
Lucky Ant currently is working only with New York businesses, but hopes to expand quickly.
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