In March, NatWest launched Back Her Business, in partnership with Crowdfunder. The aim is to support female entrepreneurs and help more women start and lead businesses. If you meet 25% of your crowdfunding target, NatWest will pledge a further 50% of your target (e.g. £1500 if your target is £3000). As long as you go on to raise the final 25% and reach your target the NatWest pledge will be yours!
I'm pleased to say that I was accepted for this programme, met my target and received NatWest funding which helped me launch my business Good Things: an online shop selling ethical and sustainable gifts for children. If you're in the early stages of setting up a business and meet the eligibility criteria this is an incredible opportunity to kickstart your business!
My approach wasn't perfect, but I hope you can learn from my experience. Here are my 7 top tips:
My campaign on Crowdfunder. You can see the video is in a prominent position.
1. Research and plan
I say this somewhat hypocritically! I learnt about the programme shortly before launching my business and just before (to my surprise!) winning the Fast Track to Growth award and gaining some press attention. This meant I planned and applied for this programme in a day. Not recommended! Most advice will suggest you allow at least two weeks to a month to plan.
You need to need to take time to consider each of the points below, and allow time to create your campaign and submit the required information. Bear in mind that it will also take several days before your campaign goes live, it first needs to be approved by Crowdfunder and NatWest so submit it for approval a few days before you plan to launch.
2. Mapping your networks
This is probably the most important aspect of a successful campaign. You need to map everyone you know and think about how you might approach them to support your campaign. This needs to go beyond close friends and family. Think school or university; previous workplaces; community groups or societies that might support or be interested in what you're doing.
Be as creative as you can and think about who, how and when you will approach them. Try to space this out across your campaign so pledges trickle in throughout.
3. Rewards people want
A key part of your campaign is offering rewards for your supporters. It can feel really hard to come up with creative, unique rewards. I spoke to a crowdfunding expert friend about this. She recommended rewards which money can't buy: e.g. if you're crowdfunding for a wedding cake company, offer to name one of your cakes after a supporter, if you've got expertise to offer, provide them with a service: can you write something for them, or use your financial expertise? I found this quite tricky but for my campaign discounts proved pretty popular. Be creative and run your ideas past friends to see what they think before going live!
4. Developing your story
You need to explain what you're asking for and why. People support causes and you need to be clear about what you're trying to do and why it's worth their hard-earned cash. Think about what will excite people, what will they want to rally around?
5. Your video
Crowdfunder will tell you your campaign needs a video. They're right. Keep it brief and don't worry about making it too fancy. People want to know what you're raising money for and why. Keep it short so you can share your video on social media. Upload it directly to Facebook for better visibility.
6. Creative sources of funding
You may need to go beyond a simple ask: could you go and talk about your new business at a local school or college? Could you ask for information about your business and campaign to be circulated in a newsletter? Could you hold a local event and ask for donations or charge entry?
7. Approaching the press
Make sure you plan when you will send out a press release; which publications might be interested - think local and specialist; and that you're providing a good story. An ask for funding isn't enough. Lead with the story of why you've created this business. Note: due to the last-minute nature of my campaign I sent out the press release sent to me by Crowdfunder. This focused on the Back Her Business initiative and didn't get any traction. I recommend using this template if you like but making why you've created your business the main feature.
8. Thank and update your lovely supporters!
The Crowdfunder platform comes with a helpful update tab which will send an email update to all your supporters. Let them know how things are going and most importantly how much you appreciate their support.
So, in short: plan, make it as compelling as you can and keep talking about it!
I wish you the very best of luck!
You can find out more and apply to Back Her Business here.