Monadnock Region to test new crowdfunding program

USDA-backed pilot designed to boost rural entrepreneurial ecosystems

Businesses in the Monadnock Region will be among the first in the nation to test community crowdfunding as a method to raise capital.

A group of Monadnock organizations is leading the effort after being accepted as a demonstration site by The Local Crowd, a Wyoming-based online platform developed to help rural communities activate entrepreneurial ecosystems and spur local investment. The platform has received funding as part of a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition to the online platform, The Local Crowd will provide educational training to the organizations involved, which includes Monadnock Buy Local, the Southwest Region Planning Commission, the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, the Greater Keene Chamber of Commerce, NH Small Business Development Center and Monadnock Economic Development Corp.

Jen Risley, executive director of the Monadnock Buy Local, said the effort is the result of an event held in April with author and local economist Michael Shuman, who discussed how economic development through self-funding had a greater impact than simply obtaining government grants.

The message was, “If we could actually have projects and programs that are self-funding, we could do more,” she said. “So we were really interested in doing a pollinator enterprise.”

Risley sought out individuals from other organizations in the region to help with the effort and filled out the application.

Under the program, she said, “we’ll allow entrepreneurs or want-to-be-entrepreneurs to put their project together, and the SBDC will meet with people who need capital and ask if they have thought of crowdfunding.”

She said the chamber and other organizations will be doing outreach through presentations with local groups “because a lot of people in our community don’t know what crowdfunding is, let alone what this platform is for them, so we’re going to spend a lot of time nurturing.”

November launch

For the next eight weeks, Risley and other designated members of the team from the participating organizations will receive training from The Local Crowd, along with teams in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. The six other communities will be able to talk about issues and share thoughts through an intranet.

The founders of The Local Crowd both have backgrounds working for decades in economic development in Wyoming, recognizing “the number one reason businesses came in was access to capital,” said co-founder and CEO Diane Wolverton.

Risley hopes to launch the crowdfunding site sometime in November. The site will be up for nearly two years, and then the Monadnock group will have to decide whether to continue. The platform costs $7,500 to get it up and running and $5,000 each year after that to keep the license for the program.

Even if they choose not to continue with the platform, Risley thinks the education component and effort will be impactful.

“I think this program, regardless of the crowdfunding demo, will bring us closer together to working on future opportunities,” she said.

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