Ann Ashby, the owner of Lorenz 2.0, says she's tried every method she can think of to keep her Linn Street shoe store open, as it has been for nearly a century in downtown Iowa City.
Still determined to keep going, she's trying one last method to raise the $20,000 needed to keep the business going: crowd funding.
Crowd funding is a relatively recent Internet fundraising method invented in the last decade and popularized in the last few years by sites like Kickstarter, Microventures, and Indiegogo, where charities, causes, businesses, or passionate groups and individuals can raise money for a goal with the help of Internet donors.
In return the fundraiser can offer its donors specific rewards based on the size of their donations.
Here is the Lorenz 2.0 Indiegogo page, where you can donate to the cause, see the rewards being offered in return, the progress they have made, and read more about Ashby and her challenges keeping the store open. The fundraising video for Lorenz is also attached to this article. Note, as the campaign is set to Flexible Funding, Lorenz will be able to keep the funds even if it doesn't make its full goal.
Ashby, 47, of Iowa City, took some time this weekend to answer some questions about her fundraising from Iowa City Patch via e-mail. The following is the edited version of that e-mail interview.
Iowa City Patch: Why crowdsourcing for the fundraising? Is this something you've done in the past or have you used other traditional methods like getting loans or funding from the city?
Ann Ashby: The decision to use crowdfunding was a difficult one, but it is my last chance to come up with the money to continue operating my business. I have used traditional methods in the past; bank loans, family loans, Iowa microloan and I applied for a city loan a year and a half ago.
Iowa City Patch: What will the $20,000 be used for?
Ashby: Operating expenses. Three and a half years ago when I re-opened Lorenz I started out undercapitalized, ever since then I have spent the majority of my time trying to come up with money just to keep the doors open. With the $20,000 I will take care of some older business and purchase new inventory for spring.
Iowa City Patch: What are the stakes of this fundraising effort? If you don't raise this money will it have to be raised in a different way?
Ashby: If there was another way, I would be taking advantage of it. Asking people for money is not fun. At this point, I will not continue on with the store without the funding. [Editor's note: Ashby says the funding is needed by the end of February.]
Iowa City Patch: What do you think Lorenz 2.0 offers that people should be interested in contributing for?
Ashby: Lorenz has been a staple in the Iowa City community for the past 94 years (minus the three years we were closed). We offer a prime retail location for over 20 local jewelers to sell their jewelry. We have a shop within our shop featuring a local clothing designer. We sponsor Linn St. Live bringing more live music to the downtown area. At least four times a year we donate 10% of our sales to different organizations,such as Alzheimer’s, American Heart Association, Leukemia and Lymphoma and Dance Marathon.
We offer affordable, trendy footwear along with a large selection of vegan footwear which is not available anywhere else downtown. We are a very unique small business and help contribute to the hip Iowa City image.
Iowa City Patch: What are your thoughts about the experience of using crowdfunding so far? Are you optimistic you will be able to reach your goals?
Ashby: Crowdfunding is very challenging for many reasons:
One, there are hundreds of thousands of people out there asking for money and you have to get your campaign noticed. We are currently on
page six out of 104 pages for small businesses.
Two, you also have to have a really good pitch that is positive and doesn’t makeyou sound desperate.
Three, because crowdfunding is fairly new a lot of people aren’t familiar with it and unsure about it.
Four, there is resistence from people wondering why would they give to a small business and not to a charity. It is a myth that all small business owners make a lot of money.
Five, to succeed, you need the support of your community.
One of the exciting things about crowdfunding is the perks. Each campaign offers perks to their funders so they get something back for their donation.
Overall, I am very optimistic about reaching my goal. If you think about it you have the world as your audience and you only need 4000 people donating $5 each, or 800 donating $25, to reach the goal!