After a year of operating their company Pie Corps, partners Cheryl Perry and Felipa Lopez decided they were ready to open their first retail location. The two chefs had achieved a fair amount of success selling their wares at farmer’s and public markets like the New Amsterdam Market and Hester Street Fair and now it was time for a home base. But after finding a prime location on Driggs Avenue, across from PS 110, the duo quickly discovered, as do all entrepreneurs, that everything takes a little longer and costs a little more than expected.
The partners considered different funding options, and eventually came across the newest entrant to the “crowd funding” world, Lucky Ant. After meeting Lucky Ant founder Jonathan Moyal and business outreach coordinator Nate Echeverria, Perry and Lopez became Lucky Ant’s first Greenpoint client and their sixth overall.
Under the Lucky Ant model, the public is invited to help fund local small businesses in exchange for a variety of perks. In the case of Pie Corps, those perks start at two baked treats valued at $7 for a $5 contribution. A $500 contributor has the option of receiving a Pie Corps baking class for 10 or a catered event for up to 25 people. Either choice comes with four tickets to their grand opening. Their goal is to raise $7,150, which will go toward buying a larger stove to double their baking capacity.
Following their initial brainstorming sessions, Lucky Ant filmed a video for Pie Corps, helped coach them on their message, wrote the copy for their web site and reached out to the press to get the word out, said Moyal. Once the project is completed, Pie Corps will be sent a list of their funders, how much each gave, what rewards they earned, and of course, a check for the amount they raised.
Moyal takes a hyperlocal approach to Lucky Ant’s business model, which he believes makes them a better option for local small business than other crowd funders. “Our process, which is different from the bigger crowd funding plans like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, is that we do all the hand holding,” he said. “All of it. We basically babysit the project from inception to funding to even redeeming rewards.”
Moyal conceived the Lucky Ant idea in July 2011 and launched his company in January 2012. He said that he has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and had already done a start up while still in college – a website that allowed independent musicians to sell their music directly to their consumers. “It was a ‘poor man’s iTunes,’” said Moyal.
After college, Moyal worked on several business plans and did a short stint in investment banking. One day, while working on a plan for a car sharing service, the idea for Lucky Ant came to him. “It was in the middle of the Groupon phenomenon, in March of last year, and this kind of hyperlocal movement was really gaining traction – the idea that the internet had connected people from across the globe and now was reconnecting people back home in their own neighborhoods,” he recalled. “I knew that for small businesses cash flow was a big issue, so why not crowd fund them? And if you’re going to crowd fund small businesses, you’re going to have to do it locally. That’s really where closing the loop happened.”
Unlike small business online venture capitalists like Smallknot, Moyal does not believe a large enough population of local small business supporters exists, which explains his rewards structure. “Lucky Ant is much more of a simple pre-selling service for small businesses,” he said. “As a consumer, you get your reward now and don’t need to be the biggest fan of small business to appreciate what’s going on. Anybody can go on today, see the Pie Corps project and say – ‘you know this is a really great company, and look: for $25 I’m getting $35 worth of pie’. On top of that there’s the human aspect of it.”
Moyal hopes to grow Lucky Ant into an international online phenomenon, neighborhood by neighborhood, which he said hasn’t been done successfully yet. “If there’s one part of the mission that we won’t compromise, it’s this neighborhood feel to what we do.” Up next is North 10th Street’s Breakin’ Boundaries, who want to buy equipment to help teach yoga to autistic children.
“At first I had my trepidation about crowd funding,” Perry said. “But, I decided that it takes a village, especially in New York City, and if [my community] can help and support us and make this happen I feel like it’s the first step in my believing that we are going to be a success.” Recognizing that reaching their goal would require around 100 funders, Perry said, “That’s a lot of community support.”
77 Driggs Avenue
Anticipated Opening: June 1, 2012
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