How do you get startup funding for your great idea for a sustainable, food-based business?

Maybe a wind-powered pub refurbished with reclaimed materials that only serves local brews from its taps? Or how about an organic catering service with a seasonal menu that uses a fleet of biodiesel delivery vehicles?Whatever your brilliantly delicious idea may be, you need some capital to get it going. The good news: the people are behind you. You’ve had nothing but excited encouragement from everyone you have shared your idea with and you suspect many others would hop on board, too. Who wouldn’t want to support a business that supplies food/beverages with a unique, sustainable twist? So how do you get these oh-so-enthusiastic people to put their money where their mouths are?

Crowdfunding, a new marketing trend that involves getting many small donations from a large number of people, is one route to try.  Indie GoGo  is making it easy for people to employ crowdfunding in their efforts to raise capital for passions like starting a business. Indie Gogo campaigns fall into such categories as art, community, environment, and entrepreneurial. People on Indie Gogo are using crowdfunding for everything from the budget for building the “Temple” at the Burning Man Festival to opening a taco restaurant in Texas to helping a couple in Florida have a baby. Each campaign tells the story of the project and the people involved, what the impact of the project will be, and what they need the money for. Folks from all over can decide on a level of contribution and many of these campaigns offer perks in return for funders’ generosity. Perks could be anything: a t-shirt from the band attempting to self-release an album, your name in the credits of an indie film being produced, or even homemade cookies from a ceramicist trying to make it to London for a design event.

An example of one such campaign is that of  in.gredients: the nation’s first zero-waste, package-free grocery store. Everything in the store — produce, cleaning supplies, beer, wine, baking supplies, grains, etc. — will be sold in bulk so that containers from home can be refilled again and again. The idea is to reduce the enormous amount of packaging that goes to our landfills annually. The in.gredients guys are offering perks like a professional photo shoot and a growler of local beer from their store in return for funding their dream.

Funders have pledged anywhere from $10 to $100 dollars each to the in.gredients campaign, which may seem like a drop in the bucket on the path to opening a grocery store. However, the in.gredients Indie GoGo campaign has already raised over $10,500. They are well are their way to more bulk goods than one could imagine in a grocery store. Crowdfunding may work for your sustainable, food-based business dream, too. It’s one way to get supporters to put their money where their mouths are.

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About The Author

Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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