I won’t lie. When the idea of crowdfunding, and using it to raise funds for #thefitout, was first suggested to me I was cynical. I had heard that the platform had been a great success for fledging projects, particularly in the social enterprise sector, but for us? Would there be a groundswell of support for a little cake café in Rowlands Road? Would the local community engage with it? Would I be completely heartbroken, embarrassed and question everything I was doing if it fell flat on its face? The latter, on reflection, probably being my greatest fear.
It turns out I had no need to worry. It worked out blooming well amazingly. Phenomenally in fact and we smashed our target of £2500, raising an amazing £2695 from 142 backers. That’s 142 people (138 if you discount my family who were obliged to pledge) who believe in Baked and that what we’re doing here is worth pledging their money for.
A pretty powerful concept once you start thinking about it.
How did we do it?
We kicked off the campaign on Wednesday 24 July, and on the advice of Duncan (our Crowdfunder UK mentor) we took a strategy of initially publicising it to, and drawing on the support of, my close family and friends (i.e. those that had from the start told me how great the whole thing was, and hence, would feel totally obliged to pledge). The idea being that this would create a buzz of support, which, when we took it more public, would ensure people that were not so close to me knew that I, and Baked, had credibility and that it was a project that had legs.
So with my close friends and family aware of the campaign, and beginning to back it, I contacted, via email, those who had also been on the Baked journey with me – friends from the Chamber, those who have provided me with business advice and support, suppliers I have built up relationships with, my buddies at UnLtd and SSE, etc. Basically, those guys who had helped and supported me so far and who I felt would really love to be involved.
The power of social media
From this, we then took it to our Facebook page , the thinking being that these were people who had chosen to like us and therefore, (you would hope at least) people who were interested in how we were doing. And it turns out they, and our followers on Twitter, really were interested.
While I knew the sharing potential of both was powerful, the crowdfunding really illustrated just quite how powerful it was, with posts reaching in excess of 10,000 people. Twitter was the same, with favourites, retweets and replies happening all over the show and reaching in excess of 35k accounts. Pretty staggering stuff from a little, not-even-open, cake café in Worthing.
The equally impressive (and for me at least, the really lovely part of the power of social media) is the community we have built up. I had a couple of ‘moments’ this week when people from said community, people who I have never met in person before, have popped in to see how we’re doing, to ask how the crowdfunding campaign is going and to congratulate us on its success (those who know me know that I am about as emotional as an ice block so these ‘moments’, in general, are few and far between, this week, largely down to the crowdfunding, they have been become pretty much a daily occurrence).
Pinpointing when it ‘went viral’
I can’t pin down what I did exactly, or what happened, but on Tuesday morning, with 1 day left and about £1300 of the target secured, the campaign kicked off big time. I sent an email to friends, family and supporters, emphasising that the deadline was approaching and it would be great to have their support, posted similar messages on social media, and it just all went mad. Each time I refreshed the page the total leapt. It was amazing. And overwhelming. And kinda made me want to simultaneously cry and freak out at the realisation that so many people were behind me.
From that start, I tried to take an approach to the campaign that was honest and sincere, not desperate, needy and sales-y. I have had great feedback on the frankness and personal nature of all of our communications and I had no reason, or inclination, to change this just to raise finance. I wanted people to pledge because they wanted to become part of Baked’s story and to help me create a little bit of positive social change through the medium of cake and coffee. Not because I had bombarded them, or guilted them into doing so.
So who backed us?
Family, friends, those local to Worthing who I have never even met in person, the Worthing business community, friends who now live in the States, friends from Uni, friends I met when living in Norwich, friends I went to school with, fellow cake bakers across the UK, people from all over the UK who read about us and loved the idea. A real cross-section who people who engaged with the story.
£2695, 142 backers. A massive thank you to every single one of you.
Back down to earth
And so, 1030pm on Tuesday, when we had just smashed through the target and I was emotionally sky high and overwhelmed by the support and faith people have put in me and Baked, I had a phone call from my neighbour at the shop telling me the fire alarms were going off. Cue me standing on our newly fitted worktops trying to stop the beeping at 11pm…Highs and lows highs and lows.