CROWDFUNDING ON THE STREETS

One Spark presents a way to spread crowdfunding in Jacksonville

Crowdfunding helps business such as the Sun-Ray Theater grow
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Crowdfunding is a way of raising finances by asking a large number of people each individually for a small amount of money. Traditionally crowdfunding has involved people utilizing networks including their family, friends and work acquaintances.

In the modern era, fund seekers are able to establish profiles on a website such as Kickstarter or Rocket Hub. From this platform they can utilize social media to spread their messages and provide opportunities for individuals to donate.

One Spark brought those opportunities to Jacksonville in a big way last year with its first crowd-funded entrepreneurial festival. This year the festival organizers have raised $310,000 in crowd-funded donations to distribute to the creators rated most worthy by festival attendees, who will vote for their favorites using a special app.

In addition, festival attendees will be encouraged to personally add their own funds to any project they like. This type of crowd-based funding provides start-ups with not only the revenue creators need to realize their dreams, but also with the validation they need to realize their dreams are worthy.

“Great ideas can come from anywhere, and they need a few things to grow into a sustainable entity: someone ready to take them to action, funding and resources,” explained Joe Sampson, the executive director of One Spark. “Our goal is to provide the platform that connects those people of action who have great ideas with the funding and resources they need to move those ideas forward.”

But it’s not the first time crowdfunding has been used in Jacksonville.

“Crowd funding is a great resource for folks who might not be able to raise funds through conventional means,” said Tim Massett, who raised 20 percent of the money needed to start up his business, Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville’s Five Points, from online crowdfunding.

While Massett’s own crowdfunding efforts took place a year before One Spark’s entrance on the Jacksonville scene, it’s an example of how the process can aid start-ups. In the end, Massett raised $102,450 via online crowdsourcing and private loans.

Events such as One Spark that utilize crowdfunding provide more than simply funding for creators, they also provide a platform ideal for generating traction. Entrepreneurs who have projects that are ambitious and well thought out are likely to garner interest from all over the world. Attendees and other interested parties will then have the ability to become contributors to projects.

The benefits of crowdfunding can also reach far beyond just helping creators and their projects. In most cases the creators had a project designed to fill a market need or solve a problem. Thus when a project is completed, it is the end users, the consumers, who benefit from the products and services provided. Additionally the economy benefits through job creation when these projects grow and create organizations requiring labor.

This type of local crowdfunding has inspired not only entrepreneurs just imagining their businesses but already established local businesses as well.

“It’s great to see Downtown Jacksonville being the focal point for the One Spark event,” Massett said.

This story was reported by Ignite Media, an independent news bureau created by University of North Florida students.

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