Imagine wanting to go to your high school prom, but not being able to afford to rent a tux or buy a dress. Think about sitting at home that night, while all your friends experienced one of the most memorable nights of their lives. Unfortunately, about 25 students at a charter school located on Detroit's west side are facing exactly this predicament.
Fortunately, an online campaign has been launched to try and raise money and clothes for these students to celebrate with their classmates.
Several adults who know students at the school, Detroit Community High (DCH), have set up a crowdsourcing campaign to get them the clothes they need to make their prom dreams come true. They're even putting together a book of dresses to allow girls in the program to pick out a dress that fits their needs.
(Watch the video above and meet the students at Detroit Community High)
So far, the effort has raised $498 towards a goal of $2,000, as of Thursday, May 9, at 9:00 a.m. The deadline for the program is Friday. All of the funds contributed to the campaign at that time will be donated to the cause. Perks for contributing include formal portrait photos and videos of the students.
On the Indiegogo campaign website, one student, who identifies herself as a class secretary who will be attending Detroit's College for Creative Studies in the fall, expressed her feelings for the initiative as follows:
"I was struggling, wondering how I was going to get clothes for Prom. Then I heard about Prom attire on the intercom. I was nervous to go ask because I didn't want my [friends] to see me or anything like that so I never said anything. A few days later someone told my Mom about it and she said I should go ahead. I have my eyes on a pretty powder pink Cinderella dress."
Nick Tobier, a University of Michigan School of Art and Design teacher and a board member with the charter school, set up the Indiegogo campaign with his wife, Rebekah Modrak. His university students have been collaborating on projects with DCH students since 2009. Together, some of them even started their own screen printing enterprise, DCH Apparel.
Tobier, who is active at the charter school several days a week, has known some of the graduating seniors since the ninth grade. He describes them as incredible young people, but said some of their families are struggling just to get by.
"I grew up in New York. I was nervous about who to ask to go to prom, but I never paused to think about affording clothes," he told The Huffington Post.
The campaign supplements a Dress For Success program that is providing about 15 dresses for students to use. That effort was introduced by Sharon McPhail, a former Detroit city council member, who serves as a superintendent for Detroit Community Schools, the broader charter organization administering the high school. She has also brought in a similar program called Jackets For Jobs.
The Indiegogo campaign will help to get tuxedos and larger size dresses for the prom. Tobier and his wife saw the online drive as an opportunity to use their technical skills and social network to give the students a hand. They say McPhail and the DCH Principal Echelle Jordan helped students to come forward and get involved in the program.
Tobier said most of the students participating in the program are female, but six young men are also involved. He thinks there are even more students who may have a need, but are too proud to ask for assistance. In addition to funds, the campaign is also asking for donations of gently used dresses. Tobier hopes supporters will fund the initiative, and in doing so, give these students an opportunity to experience an important rite of passage.
"These guys are going to have one of the biggest social opportunities of their lives at this point, and they might opt out," he said. "I want them to start out this part of their lives confident to move forward."
For more information on this effort, visit the Indiegogo campaign page.
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Are there people in your social network who may be willing to help you bankroll your business? Need a way to reach them and a way to handle logistics? Try crowdfunding. Used by both young startups and established small businesses, crowdfunding enables entrepreneurs to raise a pile of cash in small increments from those they already know and from complete strangers. Interested businesses can sign up for one of the <a href="http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/2853-13-Crowdfunding-Websites-to-Fund-Your-Business" target="_hplink">many crowdfunding platforms</a> and create a profile that reveals <a href="http://shareable.net/blog/best-practices-for-crowdfunding-campaigns" target="_hplink">why they're seeking financial support</a>. Once the campaign is designed, crowdfunding services help users promote their campaigns via e-mail and social media. In most cases, crowdfunding services require entrepreneurs to create a goal for contributions (generally less than $50,000), along with a deadline to achieve that goal by. The services typically take a 4 to 6 percent cut of the funding goal if it is reached, and often hold the donations that come in until the goal is met. If the goal is not met by the deadline, some crowdfunding sites will return the funds to the donors, while others will take a cut of the donations that's larger than if the goal had been reached. <a href="http://johntrigonis.com/2011/07/26/the-tao-of-crowdfunding-a-practical-guide-to-crowdfunder-etiquette/" target="_hplink">Click here for a primer on crowdfunding etiquette.</a>
AngelList is a social network that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/20/naval-ravikant-angellist-startups-investors_n_966167.html" target="_hplink">connects startups with investors</a>. An <a href="http://angel.co/envisionier" target="_hplink">Atlanta-based startup</a> that sells medical iPad apps, for example, can <a href="http://angel.co/intro" target="_hplink">sign up on AngelList</a> to connect with <a href="http://angel.co/texassuperangel" target="_hplink">an investor</a> interested in bankrolling a healthcare startup based in the South. How exactly does AngelList work? Startups <a href="http://angel.co/intro" target="_hplink">create a profile</a> and <a href="http://venturehacks.com/articles/angel-picker" target="_hplink">pick</a> which investors can see them. As soon as they <a href="http://blog.angel.co/more-ways-to-share-your-startup-part-1" target="_hplink">share themselves</a>, investors see the startup in their feed. Investors see 10 to 20 new startups in their feeds each day, in addition to the startups AngelList admins send to investors based on the interests they've indicated. As angel investors continue to <a href="http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2011/oct/lw11seed.cfm" target="_hplink">play a vital role</a> in the financing of young businesses, platforms that connect entrepreneurs to angels have risen in popularity. Even traditional venture capital firms, as they increasingly target early-stage companies, are signing up and find such platforms to be valuable sources of deal flow. Other online services that help startups track down investors -- and vice versa -- are <a href="https://secure.caplinked.com/" target="_hplink">CapLinked</a> and <a href="http://www.chubbybrain.com/#axzz1hKJs0neW" target="_hplink">ChubbyBrain</a>. But before you start seeking out angels online, get familiar with the papers you'll need to sign before a deal can close, also known as the <a href="http://www.feld.com/wp/archives/2008/06/revisiting-the-term-sheet.html" target="_hplink">the term sheet</a>.
Online Pawn Shops
Is there equipment lying around your office that no one seems to be using? Perhaps you're willing to part ways with some jewelry until your company gets up and running? Well, a new crop of Web-based pawn shops has emerged -- and they're drastically <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203518404577094701656317574.html?mod=WSJ_SmallBusiness_LEADNewsCollection" target="_hplink">under-cutting the fees that typical pawn shops charge</a>, <em>The Wall Street Journal</em> recently reported. Brick-and-mortar pawn shops offer immediate short-term cash loans in exchange for collateral -- but the service fees, which typically range from 10 to 20 percent of the amount borrowed, can make the loans quite costly. New Web-based pawn shops, including <a href="http://www.Pawntique.com" target="_hplink">Pawntique.com</a>, <a href="http://www.Pawngo.com" target="_hplink">Pawngo.com</a> and <a href="http://www.Pawnup.com" target="_hplink">Pawnup.com</a>, now charge service fees that can be as low as 3 percent. How it works: Borrowers complete an online form describing the items they wish to offer as collateral. The online pawn shops decides whether or not to make an offer, and if a loan agreement is reached, the borrower is sent packaging materials to ship the items, typically at no cost. Once the online pawn shop receives a borrower's goods, it will wire funds within 48 hours.
Friends And Family
Friends and family are often seen as the <a href="http://www.inc.com/magazine/20031201/gettingstarted.html" target="_hplink">first stop on the fund-raising trail</a>. And the advantage of tapping people you already know for startup funds is clear: They're easy to find. But there are three main disadvantages, Paul Graham, a Silicon Valley angel investor, <a href="http://www.paulgraham.com/startupfunding.html" target="_hplink">writes</a>: "You mix your business and personal life; they will probably not be as well connected as angel or venture firms; and they may not be accredited investors, which could complicate your life later." (The SEC defines an "accredited investor" as someone with over $1 million in liquid assets or an income of over $200,000 a year.) No matter who your friend or family member is, Fred Wilson, a New York venture capitalist, suggests executing the deal with a<a href="http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/jan2011/sb20110125_145583.htm" target="_hplink"> convertible note</a>, which is a type of loan that turns into equity in the event of a significant cash infusion. Wilson, in a <a href="http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/05/financing-options-friends-and-family.html" target="_hplink">recent blog post</a>, recommends that entrepreneurs set up the deal so that friends and family get a discount during the next round of financing, and founders give away no more than 10 percent of their companies to friends and family early on.
For entrepreneurs who run profitable businesses, and are looking to raise money without the loss of control that comes with venture-capital investments, or the fixed interest payments attached to a typical bank loan, revenue-based financing may be their best option. Revenue-based loans allow interest payments to fluctuate "when a growing company has inconsistent cash-flows or lumpy or seasonal revenues," <a href="http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2011/10/revenue-based-financing.html" target="_hplink">writes</a> Andy Sack of Lighter Capital, an investment firm that offers RBF financing. The interest payments generally amount to 2 to 5 percent of a business's monthly revenue, no matter how high or low that month's revenue is. RBF financing is most appropriate, Sack writes, "for companies already generating revenues but without hard assets typically required to get bank loans." Partners in Demand, an online consulting service for entrepreneurs, <a href="https://www.partnersindemand.com/Startups_Raise_Cash" target="_hplink">adds</a> that these types of deals are best suited for startups that are generating $1 million to $10 million in annual revenue, need an extra $100,000 to $3 million in cash, and have at least 50 percent gross margins. <a href="http://www.lightercapital.com/" target="_hplink">Lighter Capital </a>and <a href="http://nextstepcapitalpartners.com/" target="_hplink">Next Step Capital Partners</a> are two investment firms that specialize in revenue-based financing for startups.
Contests And Accelerator Programs
Contests and Accelerator Programs that target entrepreneurs are all the rage these days. Contest winners receive cash prizes that typically range from $5,000 to $50,000 and rarely dilute stock ownership. Startups also derive exposure from the contests that can lead to crucial connections. At the same time, accelerator programs are popping up everywhere (click <a href="http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=112855557233451857050.00046658b0725db4e7e42&z=2" target="_hplink">here for a map of accelerator programs</a> and here for a list of the <a href="http://techcocktail.com/top-15-us-startup-accelerators-ranked-2011-05" target="_hplink">top 15 U.S. accelerators</a>). The programs require entrepreneurs to apply and, if they're accepted, move to a set location for around three months, where they get free office-space, mentorship, the opportunity to pitch their businesses to investors on the last day of the program and, sometimes, an automatic equity investment. At Y-Combinator, for instance, the most well known accelerator, each startup gets <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2011/01/28/yuri-milner-sv-angel-offer-every-new-y-combinator-startup-150k/" target="_hplink">$150,000</a> upon being admitted.
Though Bank of America, Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo say they are increasing their small-business lending in 2012 and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/12/small-business-loans_n_1121955.html?ref=small-business" target="_hplink">recently shared their criteria for small-business loans with HuffPost Small Business</a>, many banking experts believe small businesses may find better luck seeking funds from small banks or community banks, which "aren't as exposed to the European debt crisis as the large banks are," says Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist of <a href="http://economicoutlookgroup.com/" target="_hplink">The Economic Outlook Group, an economic forecasting firm in Princeton, N.J.</a> Ami Kassar, founder and CEO of <a href="http://www.multifunding.com/" target="_hplink">Philadelphia-based MultiFunding</a>, points out that small banks, with $500 million or less in domestic deposits, account for 31.5 percent of all small-business loans, even though they account for only 11 percent of deposits. To help you in your search for a bank loan, MultiFunding recently released a <a href="http://www.multifunding.com/banks/" target="_hplink">tool that grades every FDIC regulated bank in the nation</a> according to its commitment to small-business lending. And if you think banks are only helpful for traditional small businesses, with years of consistent revenue, think again. A growing number of startups are opening up business checking accounts with so-called "venture banks," such as <a href="https://www.square1financial.com/" target="_hplink">Square 1 Financial</a> and <a href="http://www.svb.com/accelerator/" target="_hplink">Silicon Valley Bank</a>, which can act as <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/14/entrepreneurs-befriend-ba_n_807791.html" target="_hplink">strategic partners in the hunt for cash</a>.