Some people think that the Internet is killing local businesses. Jonathan Moyal thinks that it can help them thrive.
Moyal is the founder of Lucky Ant, a new Internet business that helps local businesses raise money. The site opened on January 2 and has already gotten more than 10,000 visitors.
Like Kickstarter, Lucky Ant offers businesses and organizations the opportunity to raise funds for a project by offering deals, lessons, incentives, or rewards to those who choose to "chip in what they can" to help get the project funded.
Still in its infancy, the site is currently limited to New York City businesses. They plan to launch in other cities in the summer, Moyal said.
“A business that’s sustainable and profitable and does social good on the side is much more valuable than a charity,” Moyal said. “We provide the chance to help businesses grow and compete with the big corporations that come in and run a lot of people out of business. By giving people the chance to grow, [Lucky Ant] feels like a social website and it feels like a charity.”
The businesses Moyal is targeting are locally focused and woven into the fabric of a neighborhood community. They’re the mom and pop hardware stores and coffee shops that are constantly cast under the shadows of “the giant coffee chain with the green and white logo” and forced to compete on a nickel and dime budget.
These are the businesses that breed customer loyalty, and, as Moyal noted, the local community is often eager to support campaigns that will further cement a beloved business's presence.
"Users are getting something out of this deal. It's not about throwing money at a problem, and I don't think that would even be a good business model. People are getting the value out of it, and the businesses are getting something that they wouldn't get if they went with a daily deal site. The kind of response that we've gotten in the past ten or fifteen days shows that everybody's rooting for small businesses to do well."
That's something Bari Studio owner Alexandra Perez noticed through her high-end Tribeca health and fitness club's one week campaign to raise $5,000 and trademark its brand. The studio was Lucky Ant's first project, and it exceeded its goal with two days to spare thanks to a loyal customer base that showed up to support the campaign.
Perez set up five contribution tiers ranging from $5 to $500. Anybody who chipped in $5 toward’s Bari’s goal of raising $5,000 would receive a pair of Bari socks or a small workout ball. $25 donors would get the socks or ball plus a workout DVD. Premium donors—those who give $500 towards Bari’s trademarking efforts—received a one-on-one training class plus all the rewards given to other donors.
"Small businesses usually only have three or four people working there, so you really have no time for projects like this," Perez said. "And because we're such an expensive, members-only studio, we weren't sure how to put ourselves on the Web just asking for money. It didn't come off like that at all. This was an extra project, and it was a fun thing to do that actually helped us connect with our clients. They loved it because they thought they were helping us build the company, themselves."
Moyal said that he's meeting with different businesses every day about launching fundraising campaigns and that he already has plans in the works with two different companies in downtown Manhattan: a flower shop that wants to build a mobile app for quick transactions, and a bakery that needs to build a larger kitchen to meet customer demand.
"Small business are, without a doubt, the most important part of the American economy. It's not about which side of the [political] spectrum you are on, small businesses create jobs and are good for the community. You want to have the coffee shop where the owner knows your kid's favorite ice cream.
“The kind of response that we’ve gotten in the past fifteen days shows that everybody is rooting for small businesses.”