How crowdfunding craze is taking Worthing by storm

AN INTERNET fundraising initiative is taking cyberspace by storm – and generous Worthing residents have got behind some of the biggest UK success stories.

WH 080814 Lauren Roffey, right of Baked, in Rowlands Road, Worthing, successfully raised £2,500 through crowd funding. Pictured with Jessica Patterson. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-140808-132031001

Crowdfunding is an all or nothing gamble by those with an idea.

They must raise their required sum entirely, offering rewards to entice would-be backers in.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

The latest success story saw Bar 42, in Marine Parade, which appealed for £5,000 soundproofing to stop noise complaints which threatened its future.

“I’m chuffed we got there as it shows how much people love the place, not just in town but actually all over world,” said owner Mark Knowles.

“It’s like a Dragons Den-type idea. You can offer a product as an incentive when it’s made.

“With ours we had to rely on people loving the bar. The incentives were good, too.”

Worthing-based crowdfunding took off last year, when projects by Baked café, in Rowlands Road, and a mother’s call for the first advanced disabled toilet, were named in one site’s top 12 campaigns of 2014.

They demonstrated the wide appeal of the idea – one helping a start-up business to open and the other providing a much-needed community facility.

Worthing musician Alex Thomas, 27, of Selden Road, used crowdfunding to releasing his debut album.

He said: “My experience with crowdfunding was zero before I decided to give it a try and jump in. I had heard horror stories about acts not achieving their goal but on the flip side of course lots do reach the goal they set out for.

“I would recommend crowdfunding to anyone, it has many benefits, but jumping in with no prior knowledge is risky. It’s best to research exactly what you want to do before starting up. I think it’s a great way to connect with fans and gain new fans and the exposure is great at all times.”

Crowdfunding rose to prominence in the United States through a website called Artishare, for musicians seeking funds for digital recordings.

According to research by David Freedman and Matthew Nutting, artist Maria Schneider won a Grammy award for her 2004 album ‘Concert in a Garden’, with one fan who contributed £10,000 listed as its executive producer.

The success of Artishare prompted a growth in the number of websites, including Crowdfunder and Kickstarter, the latter of which has funded nearly 200,000 projects.

The researchers revealed the most popular crowdfunded project as Coolest Cooler, an American invention combining a cooler, speaker and blender. It raised over $13 million, after exceeding the $50,000 target.

Another famous hit was the Pebble invention, a digital and customisable smart watch. A total of nearly 70,000 backers contributed $10 million and the product is now on the market globally.

Commenting on her experience, Baked founder Lauren Roffey said she was sceptical at first but quickly realised it was a smart move.

She raised more than her expected total, putting the excess funds towards costs of converting an empty space into a community meeting space.

She said: “It was really emotional and quite overwhelming.

“With crowdfunding, you have a set amount of time to raise your funds, otherwise you don’t get any money. We had people backing us we have never met before, as well as family and friends.

“I was sceptical at first but it worked really well.”

After the disabled toilet facility was funded in November, plans have been progressing to convert the disused toilet block opposite Worthing Dome, as part of a wider £90,000 refurbishment.

Work is scheduled to start on March 16.

The facility will include a ceiling hoist, large changing bed and space for carers to assist – the only one of its kind in Worthing town centre.