Running on Empty – do you need funding?

Their email opens with the standard knee-jerk response: “It sounds interesting.  I must state upfront though that we are unable to provide any funding for this project…”

That’s understandable.  South Africa is the only country In the world currently in a recession.  Our GDP growth rate was actually negative in the first quarter of the year.  If you are looking for support for your next project, you can expect a rejection before you have even asked.  And it’s is more difficult for creatives: “The road from being an entrepreneur to become a growing company is more challenging in the creative industries than for entrepreneurs in any other sectors.”

That’s why we went the in-kind instead of financial support route when launching South Africa’s inaugural Creative Business Cup.  Mvuyo Ngqulana and I met the Danish Founder at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March this year.  The local final starts on 31 August, 2017.

This takes a radical mind-shift.  It would usually not be possible to put together an event of this magnitude and complexity for anything less than R 2 mil.  The venue, marketing, catering, equipment, management fee alone come to about R 2 mil.  Then there is the airfare for the winner to attend the international final in Copenhagen.

Conventional wisdom says: if you can’t raise R 2 mil, you can’t run the event.  That’s not necessarily so.  There are other ways of meeting your needs.

Many businesses use or sell the very resources that you need.  Ad agencies have an in-house social media department.  Consultancy firms employ management experts.  Finance houses have PR divisions.  Airlines reserve seats for promotional purposes.  Caterers over-cater, just in case.

But how do you access these companies?  Networking.  Networking, and hustling.  That’s exactly what entrepreneurs do.  You do know someone who can introduce you to the decision-maker at a media house.  You also have mutual connections via LinkedIn with people at the consultancy you want to contact.

Entrepreneurs are also accustomed to rejection.  Just because you know someone who knows someone doesn’t mean that you will have their ear.  You still have to hustle and persevere.  Firstly, they don’t know you and whatever it is that you want, they can’t – or don’t want to – help you.

People are used to fending off requests for financial support so you will catch them off guard when it’s not money that you want.  You still need to frame your pitch around your USP and your value proposition.  Why would they support you?  And what’s in it for them?  Managing your support partners in-kind contributions is more difficult than spending their contribution.  They won’t just do what they’ve agreed to do.  They’re not used to integrating large scale favours into their routines and job schedules.

You are not just project managing yourself.  Your support partner’s priority job will bump off your critical process at the most disastrous moment.  And other’s will renege just when it is impossible to replace them.  Lots of Valium! In-kind support is not an alternative for the faint-hearted but it is a way to get a project done with less funding.



Click here if you want to discuss alternatives to funding.

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