Crowdfunding is a popular way to raise donations or startup funds online via sites like Kickstarter, in exchange for perks like products or credits. But is crowdfunding ready for cannabis?
Cannabis is legal in almost half the country and business owners in the legal cannabis industry are gaining creditability. Stonerpreneurs should be able to enjoy the same business benefits as mainstream startup founders, including crowdfunding. They especially need crowdfunding because bank loans, accounts and even credit cards are often denied to the industry. Sadly, the mainstream crowdfunding community has been less than receptive, perhaps scared that their companies will be shut down by the federal government.
Here’s my recent experience with some of the top crowdfunding sites:
Crowdfunder: They don’t want people that support hemp or marijuana legalization to use their site. You don’t have to sell or grow weed to be banned. Just support education or advocacy in any way and your company is removed as part of the “vice category”! I was sent this letter in August:
Not only did I found this email downright offensive to our community, I also found it strange since I noticed several marijuana companies on Crowdfunder including WeedWall. Maybe Crowdfunder changed their tune? I sure hope so since not having a company profile on Crowdfunder blocks users from participating in the numerous startup funding competitions nationwide, putting stonerpreneurs at a distinct disadvantage.
Kickstarter: Kickstarter has hosted 50 or more successful campaigns to crowdfund coworking spaces like The Hub Oakland and Forage Kitchen. They refused, however, to crowdfund a coworking space for medical marijuana patients, saying it wasn’t “art” because they didn’t want to state the real reason, even after we appealed.
To be fair Kickstarter does host many comedy and documentary projects about marijuana, but anything product or business even remotely related to marijuana seems to get a stamp of rejection. Don’t waste your time and money making a video and preparing a lengthy and complicated campaign only to be rejected with no reason.
Teespring: This platform crowdfunds campaigns by selling t-shirts, with profits way higher than Zazzle or Spreadshirt. They’ve sold thousands of shirts for NORML, and CEO Walker Williams reached out to me and asked how he could help get our first campaign off the ground. They even adjusted our goal mid-campaign from a too ambitious 250 t-shirts to an easy 23, so we still got our t-shirts printed.
TOP PICK! Easy to work with, high quality t-shirts and fast payment. This is my go-to crowdfunding site for marijuana advocacy groups and businesses.
The downside is Indiegogo has a much higher failure rate than Kickstarter (80% vs. 60%), suggesting that even though Indiegogo may host your campaign, you may be wasting your time. Make sure you have supporters ready to donate on day 1 to ensure success.
WeCanna: Funded by the ArcView Group, WeCanna is the first crowdfunding platform specifically for the legal cannabis community. The site has been in private beta for a year, so it’s not clear if this company will ever launch. Also, as a niche industry platform, it’s likely it won’t see high funding rates like mainstream crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Let’s hope WeCanna launches soon and projects heavily promoted and funded by the cannabis community.