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Budding independent retailer Ferhan Ashiq was struggling to raise money to open his new community-focused store, Levenhall Village store, until he came across crowdfunding.“I managed to raise enough money to buy the property so I could focus on learning as much as possible, but I was battling with the banks to raise the rest,” he said.
Ashiq has decided to raise the money using crowdfunder.co.uk and launch a campaign to raise the rest of the cash to fund the refurbishment of his store. The online campaign will kick off on June 24 for four weeks, aiming to raise £40,000.
“The money will provide the community with their own village store and I will give back to them as much as possible,” said the Scottish-based retailer and community councillor.
The inspiration for crowdfunding came from his friend who used the website to help fund her studies in America. Ashiq believes retailers could use it to make their own great ideas and projects happen.
“For many independent businesses it is difficult to get financial backing from the bank. If it’s successful, or more people become aware of crowdfunding it’s another source of funding,” he says.
“This way of funding isn’t begging – it’s a way to get a community response. I will offer those who donate discounts and free items. If they use their money wisely they could easily get their donations back.”
Crowdfunding is thought to have originated in America in 1997, where rock band Marillion were unable to offer a tour and fans took to the internet to pledge their support.
This form of financial backing has been used by start-up companies and co-operative stores internationally. But Ashiq believes he is possibly the first independent convenience retailer to use the tool.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for to fully integrate my store into the community and to deliver the services they really need.”
If the funding is successful the store will be open within three months and promises to offer the latest in convenience retail. Levenhall Village Store will offer click and collect, a partnership with the launderette for a drop-off service, an ATM, food to go, local East Lothian produce and energy-efficient equipment.
However, Ashiq has concerns as to whether he will get the financial backing from the community he has placed his trust in and warns that crowdfunding isn’t an easy ride.
“I’ve got my worries. Will I be over-stretched with this and my current Day-Today store? Are residents just excited about the idea? I’m not asking for a lot, it could even be £10,” he says.
“The store will open if I don’t get the crowdfunding. It will just take a lot longer and will not be fully equipped to serve my community at its best.”
The independent retailer is using regional newspapers, Facebook and contacting suppliers, including wholesaler Batleys and Wrigley, to attract attention. If 800 people donate £50 each he will reach his £40,000 target.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to fully integrate my store into the community and to deliver the services they really need,” he says.
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