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A crowdfunding platform seeks to help raise money for entrepreneurs in northeast Wyoming

A crowdfunding initiative for the five northeast Wyoming counties aims to give different initiatives access to funding to jumpstart various ventures.

The Local Crowd is a nationwide crowdfunding platform that hosts numerous ventures that are raising money. The NEW Crowd initiative “is a collaboration of regional economic development organizations working together to increase access to capital to both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors throughout Northeast Wyoming,” according to a release.

“The NEW Crowd initiative is to get folks in northeast Wyoming if they have projects to raise capital,” said Curtis Burdette, Vice President of Energy Capital Economic Development in Gillette. “So, whether that's nonprofit or whether that's for-profit, entrepreneurs, or nonprofits can use this for specific projects to raise a certain amount of money, setting up that goal.”

Currently, the dollar amount is limited to what can be offered, which ranges from $1,000 to $10,000. The initiative received its funding earlier this year and has worked to gain its footing.

“It doesn't make a huge difference for most businesses, but [for] a small idea or project or a nonprofit, $1,000 to $10,000 could make a huge difference,” he said.

Access to capital has consistently been a major factor in getting different startups off the ground.

“We get a lot of folks who come in, so does the SBDC [Small Business Development Center]. And they say, ‘Hey, what are the grants for small businesses?’ Almost zero, so there's not free money out there for businesses who have an idea,” Burdette said.

The idea to implement a local-based fundraising service isn’t something that’s new. But Burdette is excited about this initiative that replaces the Northeast Wyoming Economic Development Corporation that recently lost its funding to serve the five northeast counties.

“When we saw the opportunity to go after this funding, which came from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center network, which came from some federal dollars, as part of the Wyoming Community navigator program, we said this is a great opportunity to help entrepreneurs and to help bring our communities together,” he said.

So far, only about $3,000 of $4,500 has been spent, which has paid for software and training from Local Crowd of the $25,000 total. Another $1,500 will be used next year on marketing and other associated costs.

Thus far, the initiative doesn’t have any campaigns yet, though he said two entities each in Crook County and Sheridan counties have expressed interest. Each entity that raises money will be responsible for fulfilling the objectives regarding what the money is raised for.

“It works just like Kickstarter or Indiegogo or GoFundMe,” Burdette said. “They put their bank account right into the right through Stripe. The Local Crowd uses Stripe as their financial partner. And so, on the back end, what they will do is register right to Stripe, so as they're raising funds, those funds go directly to the projects.”

Incentive money is also paid out of the grant, which aims to entice potential entities to join. Those that do may receive up to $200 as a thank you gift. The goal now is to have two entities in each county sign up to raise funds through the initiative. Though the NEW Crowd is still working to get off the ground, there are many opportunities that present themselves for future growth and expansion for different initiatives that may seek to get onboard. Burdette envisions the initiative as fitting in the broader spectrum of economic development initiatives that are aimed at improving communities.

“I think you have to have the full range [of initiatives and funding sources],” he said. "And we're really missing that.”

Other crowdfunding initiatives involved with The Local Crowd in Wyoming include TLC Laramie and Advance Casper.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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