One of the biggest challenges that face a growing small business is funding. Bank loans can be excruciatingly burdensome or simply out of reach. Online lenders and credit cards can get you funds fast—but at a costly payoff. Running a traditional crowdfunding campaign can feel like asking for charity from your customers.
And that’s where this local, community-focused crowdfinancing firm comes in.
Honeycomb Credit is a Pittsburgh-based company that enables small businesses to borrow expansion loans from their own loyal customers and fans. The loan campaigns allow community members to invest $100 or more in the businesses they love. The key term is invest, not donate – if the campaign is successful, the business gets funds for their growth project. After 60 days, they begin making monthly repayments back to their investors, who earn back the principal, plus interest.
Since launching in 2017, Honeycomb has successfully raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for more than a dozen local businesses, including My Goodness, Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream, and Clarion River Organics.
They’ve also expanded to help fund businesses in areas outside of Southwestern PA, including Cleveland and Upstate New York. An example of their expansion is Vico Restaurant in Hudson, New York, which is looking to consolidate high-interest debt and finance renovations in their dining area.
When a business is interested in raising funds, they have an initial chat with Honeycomb about their growth project. To get the full picture of the business’s impact in the community, Honeycomb considers both quantitative data, such as financial documents, and qualitative factors, like the strength of the business’s customer following and social media engagement.
While many of the funded businesses reached out to Honeycomb initially with growth projects in mind, the crowdfinancing platform has also made it a point to seek out up-and-coming local businesses, like the Pittsburgh Pickle Company.
Honeycomb first approached the company in March 2018, to see if the pickle brand needed additional funding. At the time, co-owner Will Patterson says, the company didn’t – but the opportunity to grow their business with community support was too enticing to pass up.
“We thought, ‘Sure, we could use the money, we’ll figure out how to use the money,’ but it was also, from a publicity standpoint, a way to build some brand awareness,” Patterson says.
The company’s initial campaign asked for $10,000 to buy large pieces of pickling equipment, with a fundraising cap of $50,000.
Honeycomb encourages companies that it works with to launch their campaigns on a small scale first, sharing with friends and family before promoting the campaign more widely.
“It makes sense,” Patterson says. “If you already have some funding, it becomes attractive to other people. Between our friends and family, we were funded in 24 hours.”
Meaning, the company funded their initial $10,000 goal before widely promoting the campaign, making it one of the fastest-funded campaign in the platform’s history.
“Your friends and family always say ‘How can I help you guys out? I want to be a part of this,’” says Pittsburgh Pickle Company co-owner Joe Robl. “Well, this is a chance for them. And, they make money back.”
Naomi Homison, of The Pittsburgh Juice Company, says that giving her customers the chance to buy into the business was the deciding factor for her, when deciding to launch a campaign.
“It provides a way for customers to support businesses that they love by the business in this concept, is actually giving back to the business in return,” says Homison. “The customers are actually getting sizable interest that you would be paying to the bank.”
Homison launched a Honeycomb campaign last year, raising $38,850 to purchase a refrigerated delivery truck, allowing the juice company to reach more customers.
“Typically, I had done bank financing, and it’s a lengthy process, but I was just so thrilled at being able to pay out my customers with interest payments,” she says.
The additional funds used for campaigns have bought small businesses everything from a new ice cream truck for Millie’s Ice Cream, to industrial coolers, to an outdoor pavilion for a Salisbury, PA distillery.
For the Pittsburgh Pickle Company, the extra $50,000 in the budget meant that they could buy new pickling equipment and make facility upgrades. The new equipment has allowed the business pursue co-packing for the products of other local businesses.
“It’s allowed us to expand our capabilities,” says co-owner John Patterson. “Now, we’re able to co-pack products like salad dressings. The goal was to put that machine to work more regularly.”
And that extra work means extra money for the business.
“It’s a new revenue stream for us,” Will Patterson says. “So, as we’re growing sales on the pickle side, it’s letting us grow the packing at a reasonable pace, so we can co-pack another product and make some extra money. It’s really nice to not have our backs against the wall.”
To learn more about how to grow your business with Honeycomb Credit, visit them online.
Crowdfunding Small Business Loans FAQ
How does it work?
Interested small businesses can call (412) 387-8467 to get started or learn more at www.honeycombcredit.com/grow. After the initial chat and evaluation, Honeycomb works with the business to tell their story and launch the campaign. Once the campaign is live, anyone over the age of 18 is able to invest for as little as $100.
How do the interest rates compare to other lenders?
Honeycomb’s interest rates range from 8-14%, and the interest is paid directly to the community investors. In comparison, interest rates on credit cards are usually over 20%, while online lenders can charge rates as high as 120%.
Who can invest?
Anyone can invest, as long as you’re older than 18.
How do investors get paid back?
After a campaign is successful, the business receives the funds raised and has 60 days to work on their project. After 60 days, the business begins making monthly repayments on their loan. Investors receive their share of the repayments on a quarterly basis.
I don’t own a business, but I know someone who does. Does Honeycomb have a referral program??
Yes! To refer your favorite growing business, visit www.honeycombcredit.com/refer. You could earn $250 by connecting Honeycomb with a business you’d love to see growing successfully in your community.
Still have more questions?
This post has been part of a sponsored collaboration between Honeycomb Credit and Good Food Pittsburgh’s advertising department.