At some distant point in the past, local businesses were common and chain stores were a novelty. Now it’s a battle just to keep a single street free of big chains (see the fight over San Francisco’s Valencia St. corridor). The flailing economy isn’t exactly helping keep local businesses afloat, either. But maybe the Internet--which is partially responsible for the decline of local businesses in the first place (cough, cough, Amazon)--can help.
Lucky Ant, a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding site, launched this week with the goal of revitalizing local businesses with cash from the community. The site, which is only active in downtown New York (for now), asks the crowd to pledge money to local business projects--a fancy new website or outdoor seating area, for example--in exchange for perks.
One example currently on the site: Bari, a fitness studio, wants to trademark its brand. In return for a $5 donation, community members get a pair of Bari socks or an exercise ball; $25 gets a workout DVD in addition to the aforementioned perks; $50 gets a free class at the studio along with everything else, and so on. In addition to the physical perks, though, you also get a real connection with a business near you--a feeling that is rare in the big-box era.
So far, Bari has raised $1,440. The studio hopes to collect $5,000 over the next five days.
Does the world really need another IndieGoGo or Kickstarter competitor? Maybe not, but Lucky Ant weeds out all the goofy personal projects found on those sites (currently on IndieGoGo: PetBookNow, a free social network for pet lovers) so you can focus on helping out that coffee shop down the block. Lucky Ant may use a similar crowdfunding platform to Kickstarter, but it’s not about funding other individuals’ dreams; it’s a platform for revitalizing neighborhoods and connecting neighbors.
Right now, however, Bari is the only business on the site. For Lucky Ant to succeed, it will need more businesses to get onboard--and more New York locals to make the site a regular destination.