Entrepreneurs turn to crowd funding

Entrepreneurs turn to crowd funding
Oceanside resident Jessica Lewis is among a new generation of entrepreneurs turning to crowd funding platforms such as Indiegogo.com to raise capital for new business ventures. She hopes to generate enough donations to expand her online “Rockabilly” women’s clothing store to a brick-and-mortar venue on South Coast Highway. Courtesy photo

OCEANSIDE — Jessica Lewis needs $110,000 to realize her dream of opening a women’s “Rockabilly” clothing store on South Coast Highway. 

It is the natural extension of a successful online store, darlingdames.com, where she carries the Too Fast, Lowbrow Art Company and Sourpuss labels.

“I grew up in Texas and started wearing Rockabilly when I was 15 or 16,” she recalled. “It’s really big there and is truly for all generations.

“The 1950s were a fun and romantic time. I’ve had several customers from their 50s to their 60s look at my clothing line and say, ‘Oh, my gosh! I remember that dress!’”

Lewis is both sentimental and tech savvy. She is among a new generation of entrepreneurs turning to crowd funding platforms such as Indiegogo.com to raise capital for her project. The $15,000 she is trying to raise will be used for the 10 percent down and related fees to secure a Military Express Loan. Lewis’ husband, Chief Warrant Officer Jay Lewis, is stationed at Camp Pendleton.

Shannon Swallow is head of marketing communications at Indiegogo.com. She explains that one of the biggest mistakes people make is having a “Field of Dreams” attitude that as soon as they launch a campaign, money will start pouring in.

Lewis received her bachelor’s degree in fashion design and merchandising from the International Academy of Design and Technology in 2009, and also took an entrepreneur class. The knowledge gave her the ability to prepare a professionally written business plan and press release.

“Another tip for running a crowd funding campaign is to be proactive,” Swallow added. “Campaign owners should keep funders posted on the campaign’s progress by giving them updates on a regular basis. Indiegogo has found that campaigns that write updates every one to five days raise an average of 100 percent more than those that don’t, so campaign owners should make sure to let everyone know about their latest perk or ask people to promote the campaign on their social networks. This is crucial to keeping funders and potential contributors active and engaged.”

Since launching her Darling Dames campaign on June 9, Lewis provides updates every four or five days. She has also developed an incentive program beginning with just a $5 donation at the “Sweet Heart” level that includes a thank you on the Darling Dames Fan Page and handwritten note. A $500 donation, at the “Forever Grateful” level, includes the previous incentives as well as other rewards such as free and discounted merchandise.

Lewis is confident in her abilities and will not be deterred if she falls short of her objective this time.

“If I do not reach it my goal, I still plan to raise funds through my online sales,” she said. “I will not give this dream up. I just have to keep trying.”

Ruben Garcia is district director of the Small Business Administration and says there are many local resources for entrepreneurs.

“The San Diego Young Entrepreneur Society in La Jolla is a great group for young people, ages 13 to 39, who want to start up a business,” he explained. “There is also Counselors to America’s Business (formerly called SCORE).

“The Small Business Development Center has four centers including one at MiraCosta College.”

Garcia explained that the SBDC teaches would-be entrepreneurs how to market and promote themselves, and what do when business starts booming.

“It’s important to know that growth is going to have repercussions,” he added. “They may make twice as much money, but they’ll also have to hire more employees which costs even more money!”

Garcia emphasized that the first step is to write a 10- to 50-page business plan that includes a powerful, one-page executive summary.

“That needs to captivate the lender so they have a reason to read the entire business plan,” he said. “It needs to cover what you are going to do, how you are going to do it, how the lender will benefit and how you are going to make enough money to pay back the loan if you get it!”

Lewis’ Darling Dames funding campaign will close Aug. 7. For more information call (512) 541-1612 or email customerservice@darlingdames-ca.com.

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