When Marge needed funding to get her farm up and running, she used LoanWell to try to crowdfund the loan she needed. She raised her full goal amount (and then some) and is now in the process of putting that loan to use. We sat down to talk with Marge about her experience using LoanWell.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and about the story of Good Rhythm Farm?
Yeah. I guess I first kind of got interested in farming in college.
I studied nutrition, actually, and just started volunteering with a community garden in Tallahassee, Florida, where I went to school. And then after that I kind of jumped around and a couple of different farming internship experiences -- one was in Connecticut and one was in Virginia.
And I just fell more and more in love with the farming lifestyle, and that's kind of part of where the name Good Rhythm comes from. It kind of highlights what I love about farming, which is the natural rhythm and pacing of the seasons changing and how it can be like really chaotic and busy during the summer. But then you get slower months in the winter and time to rest and plan, and kind of get re-energized for another year.
So, yeah, it just kind of worked out perfectly that an opportunity arose to get started this year, 2019. It's been a wild ride in a way.
It definitely happened sooner than I expected. But I think this incubator farm that I am renting land from in Orange County really provides a great opportunity for somebody new and young and without a ton of capital to get going and start a business without having to buy land or a bunch of infrastructure. So that's really made it possible to get them off the ground this year.
How many people are involved with Good Rhythm?
Right now it's primarily me. My wife and I own the business together, but she has her own full-time job so she'll definitely be doing stuff behind the scenes and helping at market.
And then within the next three months or so I'll bring on a part-time employee to help with harvesting, and I'm also fortunate to have a bunch of friends who live in the Triangle area so I'm sure I will be enlisting the help of them at times as well. But I am the main full-time person.
How did you hear about LoanWell, and what convinced you to go that route?
I went to the FSA conference, which is a farming conference that happens in Raleigh, and there was a financing workshop that was led by Carol Hewitt, who is the woman behind Slow Money NC. And she named LoanWell as kind of like a financing site that helps facilitate loans.
I just immediately was interested based on how she described it because I hadn't really heard of a platform like that. I guess I was familiar with Kiva which I kind of think of as a similar option but I knew that Kiva had like restrictions on the maximum amount they would loan you.
And so after that workshop, I immediately looked into it and thought it would be a good fit.
What was your experience of running a LoanWell Campaign? How you were able to pull people into your campaign, and what kind of networking did you do in order to make the crowdfunding process happen?
I first and foremost wanted to check in with my family members, and so that was kind of the first wave that I sent out, just a fundraising email to some family members. And that time actually coincided with the holidays, so I also got to go home and talk to some of them in person about what the campaign was. So that was kind of my initial wave that came in.
Then from there I expanded and sent that same fundraising email out to more friends who I thought couldn't give as much, but could still kick in like five hundred dollars or less and still make a difference to the campaign.
And then the final big push which I couldn't have done without Slow Money NC was Carol helping by sending out the campaign to some people in the Slow Money community who were interested and who were giving loans to people in the food network locally.
I was kind of hesitant at first, to be honest, to publish a bunch on social media because I had it set as a private campaign. And I also wasn't I wasn't sure how I felt about like broadcasting [my campaign] through social media to like, you know, friends and acquaintances from high school and way back.
So that’s why I kept it more private for a while, and then to kind of get my last thousand dollars I opened it up more broadly and used Twitter and Instagram.
And actually, I should have done that way sooner. That helped so much, and it happened really fast after I did that.
And what were the results? How did things shake out?
I actually fundraised even a little bit over what I was hoping for, which is really awesome.
I had two different family members see the campaign but then decide to just donate instead of giving money as a loan, so that helped. And then I adjusted my campaign goal and even surpassed it. So, really excited that I made my total startup financing goal.
And with that, I'm going to be able to buy some pretty integral tools that I still need, and also help to go for like seed money and fertilizer. Things for the greenhouse and for market equipment (because I'll be selling at farmers’ markets). So yeah, just really helping plug the gaps of those operating costs and helping get things going.
What was your experience using the LoanWell platform?
I first of all felt like what was really helpful was having the like chat option through the site, and I generally felt like [LoanWell Co-Founder] Bernard -- and other folks at LoanWell, I'm sure, too -- were really great about communicating with me about any questions I had, and that made me feel really comfortable with getting things set up.
I really liked just how easy it was to edit things and add pictures and communicate. I sometimes used the ability to message people through LoanWell, which was kind of nice just to reach out or check in.
I had a few cases where friends started the agreement process but forgot to sign or forgot to transfer the funds. So I was able to like message them, and I'd be like, "Hey! If you still want to do this, please complete these next few steps." That was really great. And yeah, overall I feel like I had a really positive experience with it.
I'm really excited about what LoanWell offers, and I feel like it really worked out super well.