Laramie Chosen as Crowdfunding Demonstration Site
Laramie was recently selected as one of the first five communities across the country that will demonstrate the effectiveness of a new locally-focused crowdfunding platform as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture research project.
The Laramie Main Street Alliance will serve as the platform’s local host.
The Local Crowd, a Laramie-based company, received a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the USDA last fall to establish the demonstration sites. The platform is geared toward spurring local investment and helping rural communities activate entrepreneurial ecosystems.
“Think about KickStarter designed just for Laramie,” says Trey Sherwood, executive director of the Laramie Main Street Alliance.
The project aims to eventually commercialize a tool that provides improved access to capital for rural businesses and organizations.
“This is a best practices crowdfunding resource,” says Sherwood. “It includes extensive behind-the-scenes best practice studies, and then moving forward we’ll be able to help locally-owned businesses and nonprofits launch their own crowdfunding campaigns in a hyper-local way.”
Sherwood and others are learning how to put together a successful crowdfunding campaign in a nine-week training program. According to Sherwood, The Local Crowd will help customize a website to interface with the Laramie Main Street Alliance website where local users can submit project ideas, donate to projects or volunteer.
“Every dollar you donate through The Local Crowd stays in your community and has an impact,” says Sherwood.
Diane Wolverton, CEO of The Local Crowd, says the first five demonstration sites are set to go online in July. Wolverton’s previous experience includes time as director of the University of Wyoming Small Business Development Center and executive director of the Wyoming Smart Capital Network.
“Through those journeys in my career, I really saw the need for capital,” says Wolverton. “And when the crowdfunding came on the scene, I just felt that there was a way that rural communities could really take advantage of this.”
Wolverton worked with co-founder Kim Vincent to develop the local crowdfunding platform beginning in 2012. The Local Crowd has since secured a total of $600,000 in USDA grant funding for the project’s first two phases.
Now in its second phase, the project will involve 18-30 demonstration sites. Wolverton says the project is moving forward in groups of five demonstration sites at a time. Communities alongside Laramie in the first group of five include Bozeman, Mont., Sedgwick County, Colo., Teton Valley, Idaho and Toccoa, Ga.
Wolverton expects to announce the next group of five in June.
“It’s just been a great opportunity to work with really movers and shakers in the community like Trey,” says Wolverton, “and to imagine the possibilities for this new tool.”
“It isn’t too late to join us,” says Sherwood. “Webinars are recorded and much of the information is posted online.”
Anyone interested in the project can email Sherwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Local Crowd continues to seek applicants for demonstration site communities. Visit thelocalcrowd.biz for a downloadable request for proposals. .