Warning, this post has little do with with cookies and can be construed as a lot of mushiness.
On the morning after my bachleorette party a few years back, me and a few of my girlfriends woke up in a hotel room in downtown Boston. As we were putting ourselves together enough to go downstairs for breakfast, my good friend (and now member of the Scoopers Union #656) gave me the best compliment I had ever received.
"You have really nice friends"
Wedding stuff lends itself to the ultimate in worlds colliding. Work friends, family members, softball friends, hockey friends, long time friends, friends' spouses. Girls can sometimes be catty and mean. We've all been to a bachleorette party with one jerk or a room divided and whispers. AnnMarie went on to say how much she really enjoyed meeting my other friends. I've always been proud to say I surround myself with pretty great people.
What does this have to do with a CrowdFunding Loan? Let me tell you.
A couple months back, I attended an info session with a lot of my fellow entrepreneurs. As this loan was laid out, I was skeptical.
The way it works:
- Entrepreneur applies for loan.
- Loan approved
- Private fundraising starts within your network, meaning you invite people you know to give you a little loan. Once the requirement is met
- Loan is moved to public platform.
- If loan is funded in 30 days, it's paid out to the entrepreneur
- When the loan starts being paid back the lenders start getting paid back.
- Bonus: Boston LISC would be matching loans
My initial reactions was that it felt like a scam. I knew it wasn't, but it felt "off". I ran the premise by a wide range of people and got a wide range of feedback. Some of my friends wanted me to just come up with the figure I needed to get things going big time and have a Kickstarter. Some of my friends just wanted to loan me a decent size amount. Some of my friends also felt like something seemed "off" about the whole thing. Ultimately - I figured I would give it a go this way. The idea of owing one person a pile of cash was horrifying to me, doing a Kickstarter right would mean taking a lot of time to execute it. Top Shelf Cookies could use the cash to work on some rebranding efforts and for the wholesale license for the beginning of 2016. For some reason: AnnMarie's words ran through my head "You have really nice friends" I moved forward with the loan, hoping my really nice friends would help me out.
Friday January 8th at 4:30PM I got the call that my loan was approved and I would need to get 15 loans in the next 15 days. It was a Friday afternoon, spreading the word might be tough and to further complicate things. I was going away for a much needed vacation with my very patient husband. I felt truly like I would fail. Then I remembered, I have really nice friends.
So I sent out a Facebook status about the loan and a link to lend. First loan came in and was very generous, from my best friend and seatmate at the Bruins. While he and I joked about him breaking my knee caps if I didn't get it (and him paid back) I finished my email to friends. Then it was a tweet. I settled in to watch the Bruins and my phone started to light up like a Christmas tree. Shared posts, tagged posts, retweets, likes, emails, texts.
While I'm so grateful to everyone that contributed, something pretty cool happened that I wanted to highlight. I left my corporate job to follow this crazy path. Truthfully - I hated my job at the end. I was miserable, but it wasn't always this way. I worked for a cool startup downtown. I started as the receptionist/accounts payable gal. I became the utility player. Any job that was open, they gave me a crack at it. I loved that. I loved the people I worked with. I loved the energy. I worked hard, I believed in what we were doing. I was inspired, I felt like part of the team. Then in the same fell swoop, the company moved outside the city and was acquired by a multination giant. No longer was I the beloved utility player, I was technically not qualified for my job. I am not a college graduate. After that my job continued to get harder and harder. I turned into someone that I didn't like very much either. Slowly, but surely my friends started to disappear as they took other jobs and some people distanced themselves from me. I don't blame them. I could be difficult to work with due to my extreme unhappiness with my job. I'm not proud of that.
So one of the Facebook shares was an engineer at my old job, he has since went on to start his own company, which I interviewed with twice and was turned down! I always really liked him, he was always very nice to me. He surprised me over our time at Boston Public Market and bought cookies and hugged me and told me how proud he was watching this come together. We're Facebook friends, but we don't talk a whole lot - so I guess it took me a little by surprise that he'd been following along. So he posted the link and tagged a bunch of people we used to work with and told them the cookies are great and I was working hard. Then a ton of the tagged people did the same, each adding more names. What's great about this is, as each of these names were tagged I was able to remember a time that a lot of them taught me something. Working for a small start up, you can wear a lot of hats. You have to learn to do a lot with a little. Now, I live that EVERY day, and I remember the beginning of my awesome job. Having those people out supporting me, especially when I work in SUCH a different field, was one of the best feelings I've had in a long time.
I was nearly in tears by the end of the Bruins game as I had hit the 15 people I needed in just under 3 hours. I got up to find that I was 58% funded this morning. Emails from people, wishing me luck, telling me they were proud of me.
What's frustrating about this loan process is, it only shows me first names. So, I'm not sure which Jason in my life helped me. Then it was two Jasons. Then I had 2 Nancys, I have one for sure, so the other could just be a person that found the project and threw me a loan. As I looked around the names, some names are unique and they stand out. Hockey friends, softball friends, soccer friends, kitchen friends, my brother in law (I made him confess!) even twitter friends!
The day after my loan was live, I went to up to New Hampshire to see my folks and tie up some details before vacation and I spent a good part of my day refreshing the link and seeing how it was going. As the number climbed I felt more and more stunned. At one point I received a phone call (a real phone call) from one of my former coworkers, he wanted to just tell me how proud he was and he was glad to have the whole crew help. I pretty much haven't stopped smiling since then. He probably taught me the most in my time in a cubical.
As I sit here writing this blog entry the loan showed me funded and then rolled back (I believe it's the matching component) and now it's showing fully funded and I'm just waiting for an email confirming it. I have friends messaging me that they are trying to put in a payment and can't because I'm showing funded.
Technical difficulties aside...I have never felt so energized to move forward with Top Shelf Cookies. When you look at a list for 40 people that just gave you money to continue to follow your dream and take the next big step, I kind of want to cancel my vacation and just get to work. I have great plans for 2016 for Top Shelf Cookies.
I have really great friends. Like really, really great friends.