Conception Fund brings crowd funding to small Vineyard businesses

The home page of Conceptionfund.com, a new online crowd funding platform created by Arthur Hardy-Doubleday of Oak Bluffs.
Photo courtesy of Conception Fund

The home page of Conceptionfund.com, a new online crowd funding platform created by Arthur Hardy-Doubleday of Oak Bluffs.

The Pit Stop and Martha’s Vineyard Community Supported Arts are trying out a new online crowdfunding platform, Conception Fund. The website was co-created by Kelly Moran and Arthur Hardy-Doubleday. Mr. Hardy-Doubleday grew up in Oak Bluffs.

Crowdfunding is a way to collect resources from many individuals to support other people or organizations, usually utilizing a website. Mr. Hardy-Doubleday said that Conception Fund’s mission is to help local businesses (both for-profit and nonprofit) expand by raising capital directly from the community these businesses serve.

Conception Fund’s long-term goal is to qualify as an equity crowdfunding platform under the Jobs Act.

“In April, President Obama passed a law that private businesses can crowdfund so that anybody can invest in a business, rather than just accredited investors. That was never legal before,” Ms. Moran said. “We are still waiting for all the regulations to be passed. It is set for January of 2013, but it might be longer than that.”

For now, the website is running on a donor model. First, a business creates a campaign explaining their needs that is publicized on Conception Fund’s website, perhaps in the form of a short video. Then, members of the community are encouraged to contribute varying amounts of money. In return, the donors receive increasingly desirable gifts from the business, depending on level of donation. The businesses set both a target sum and a date to end the campaign. If the goal is not reached by this date, the businesses do not receive the money.

The basic premise is similar to Kickstarter, another crowdfunding online platform that helps individuals raise money. However, while Kickstarter is aimed at specific projects, such as the production of a band’s album, Conception Fund’s objective is to help small businesses sustain themselves in the long run.

Donald Muckerheide, owner of The Pit Stop in Oak Bluffs, said that Conception Fund “sounded like a good idea. I’m not a professional fundraiser myself, so it was an opportunity to try something new.” The Pit Stop is attempting to raise $15,000 to add a reading room and a café that will allow the listening room to hold longer hours and create cash flow.

Mr. Hardy-Doubleday said, “There was a lot of back and forth between Don and I about the longevity of The Pit Stop. We want to make sure that how businesses are expanding is value added to the community. We want them to be there to stay.” Last week, Mr. Hardy-Doubleday wrote a Letter to the Editor explaining the importance of supporting small businesses.

The second campaign, the Martha’s Vineyard Community Supported Arts, has a goal of $25,000. Both campaigns have an end date of September 3. As of July 30, the website showed that Pit Stop’s campaign had raised $870 and Martha’s Vineyard Community Supported Arts had raised $500.

Although Mr. Hardy-Doubleday said he eventually wants to be the local crowd funding platform of New England, he explained that the first two campaigns were tested on the Island because of the “vibrant community and campus feeling” in the summertime.

“Maybe they don’t call it ‘local-vesting,’ but people here understand the idea that buying local food may be more expensive, but it supports the local economy and might be better for the environment,” Mr. Hardy-Doubleday said. “That’s why we started the campaigns here. The Vineyard really gets it.”

For more information, visit conceptionfund.com.