Some small businesses have turned to an interesting place when in need of a cash infusion: GoFundMe. The donation platform’s CEO recently revealed that thousands of independent businesses have launched campaigns in 19 countries.
“These independent businesses become pillars in a community, and when they can’t stay open, the communities really rally,” Rob Solomon said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder in Manhattan, learned this firsthand when he launched a GoFundMe campaign after having difficulty coming up with the money to move his flagship store from 18th Street to a more affordable space in the Flatiron District. Aimee Skier, who frequently takes her 3-year-old son to story time at the store, gladly donated $25 to the campaign.
“It’s a quaint little independent store,” Skier said. “Story time, the programs and readings that they do — there’s no charge for those, and you can spend time there. To me, that’s worth something.”
Other customers have been just as supportive, explained Glassman. “They understand that the things that have gone wrong for us are things beyond our control,” he said. “The attitude is, ‘It’s a miracle you’re still here.’”
Since launching on October 22, the Books of Wonder Campaign has raised more than $23,000 of its $250,000 goal.
Glassman isn’t the only NYC-based business to turn to GoFundMe for help. Nicky Perry, owner of Tea & Sympathy and fish-and-chip shop A Salt & Battery in Greenwich Village, launched a campaign year ago, raising nearly $52,000 toward its $100,000 goal.
“We just couldn’t pay the rent. The rent is so astronomical,” Perry said, adding that she has been amazed by the reaction to the fundraiser.
“We couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I’ve had little old ladies on two different occasions waiting for me outside on my bench to give me $50 checks.”
Rising rents, a raise in the minimum wage and mandatory sick leave are just a few of the obstacles that can leave small businesses strapped for cash.
“If a business is struggling, it’s much harder to get a bank loan,” said Jessica Walker, president and chief executive of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. “It’s most helpful to people such as women and people of color, who don’t necessarily have access to a ton of wealth within their networks or an abundance of angel investors waiting in the wings.”
But more than the boost in cash flow, the community support a business receives through a GoFundMe campaign can truly be invaluable, explained Bruce Bachenheimer, a professor at the Lubin School of Business at Pace University. In fact, a successful fundraiser can be a sign for an owner that their business is still worth fighting for.