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5 Questions With Happy Buddha: How to Crowdfund A Brand New Venue
By Jan 12, 2018 Dining
Late last year, Lindsey Fine of Happy Buddha managed to launch not one but two simultaneous, successful crowdfunding campaigns to raise the roughly 150,000rmb needed to relocate to a new venue (just downstairs). Considering crowdfunding has a 75-90% failure rate, that's not an insignificant accomplishment. We asked her about the process. Any advice for someone looking to crowd fund a jianbing burrito van? Asking for a friend.


SmSh: So we hear you've crowd-funded a relocation. What are your plans for the space, what's the money going towards?

Yes! We are excited to be moving to the ground floor. Our current second-floor location is a bit hidden. We joke it's a vegetarian speakeasy. The money is going to help pay for the move as well as help us grow the business, but the rest of the hustle is up to us. We're re-purposing our furniture, touching up the space, and getting some equipment to reduce wait time for customers. I've also been writing down ideas for new foods. I'm excited to get in there!

Happy Buddha's current location on the second floor

SmSh: Tell us about the decision to crowdfund. Why not more traditional forms of funding?

After last year, we needed to make some adjustments. Luckily, Sprout Lifestyle wanted to swap places, but we needed a bit of capital to make it happen. After talking with our community, crowdfunding seemed like a great option. Crowdfunding happens quickly, doesn't involve equity and negotiations, allows the community to support something they believe in, and allows a small business to reciprocate with cool perks.

SproutLifestyle, the space Happy Buddha'll be moving into

SmSh: Running two campaigns on two platforms seems like double the risk, considering the vast majority of people running even one fail before the 30% mark. Tells about the challenges you faced on each platform?

It was a bit risky. Crowdfunding seems reserved for tech gadgets, iPhone cases, minimalist bags and watches. I was apprehensive, but I had seen some cool, successful F&B campaigns. I thought, why not?

I picked Indiegogo for friends and family outside China, and the biggest challenge I faced there was not enough pre-launch marketing. I definitely suggest drafting messages, creating contact lists, and, crucially, reaching out to the community and media at least a month in advance. The video is also an essential part, make sure you get that right (thanks, Elliot!).

We also ran a campaign on Zhongchou, for our friends and customers in China, and it actually made more money. I think Zhongchou's the way to go in China because of the WeChat Pay function, which nearly everyone has. Ironically, the biggest challenge was also the Chinese payment process, which was difficult to navigate for some. I had help from my husband's former student, Kevin, who worked on our Zhongchou page, and a big thank you to Vegans of Shanghai and Vegetarian Radar, who helped spread the word.


SmSh: Now that you're in the hallowed "successful crowd-funding campaign" club, do you think you'd do it again?

Right after the campaign I thought, 'Woah! That was crazy! This is awesome! We have tons of work to do! Ahhhhh!' It was inspiring, but also so stressful. Since it's all or nothing, there was no relaxing until the end. As we got closer, I started to feel less nervous, and once we passed our goal, it felt amazing. I really want to say thank you to everyone who contributed, in any amount.

I don't know how I feel about doing another one. I love the idea of something great happening as a result of people coming together, but I would like our next move to be a bit larger. Also, we are dealing with food, which is perishable and not shippable worldwide, so I think it limits us a bit.


SmSh: Final suggestions for people in F&B that might want to give crowd-funding a shot?

If you have a great product and a great group of people who already love what you do and support you, then go for it. You are welcome to come by Happy Buddha and discuss it with me sometime, at our new ground floor location!


Happy Buddha's new ground-floor location will be open on January 19th


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