A Free Way to Check Your Product or Service: Organize a Crowdfunding Campaign

Crowdfunding is a way to test a business, whether it is social or not, and check if your product or service can find paying customers. Yet another offline training of the Biz4all-2 programme, held in Minsk on May 5-6, offered the teams a chance to learn from crowdfunding experts, and find out how to hold a successful campaign and why failing to raise the target amount is also a positive result.

Biz4all-2 training is part of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” programme organized by ODB Brussels (Belgium) in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands) with financial support from the European Union.


After the move, Ў Gallery has become bigger and more ambitious

The first day started with a presentation by Valliantsina Kisialiova, curator and director of Ў contemporary art gallery, who spoke about the lessons she learned when opening a gallery of contemporary art in Minsk. At the end of last year, the iconic gallery vacated the premises at 37A Niezaliezhnastsi avenue, where Valliantsina worked for almost 9 years. Finishing touches are now being added to the new building in Oktyabrskaya Street, which will welcome its first visitors in June. Read more about the history of Ў gallery, its problems, challenges and victories on our website: Developing Social Entrepreneurship in the Creative Industry.


Valliantsina Kisialiova, Director of Ўcontemporary art gallery

Photo by: culturepartnership.eu

The new space in 19 Oktyabrskaya Street is now being renovated. The gallery has rented a large space of 1,000 square meters, having signed a five-year lease, so that they can feel relatively confident and stable. “In the new space, we are repeating an already familiar model which we had in our old building, but now the space is much bigger. Our exhibition space used to be just 150 sq.m., and now we have 500 sq.m., meaning that we can exhibit serious large-scale projects. We will have a separate large space to organize events, meeting and conferences (200 sq.m.). Ў is now going to take up 170 sq.m."

Valliantsina put special emphasis on the fact that the new space is going to be fully inclusive, and the founders are trying to develop an environment where every single person could feel a part of the community. The opening date has already been moved twice because creating an accessible environment has been a big challenge. The new gallery will have two wheelchair lifts and restrooms fully equipped for people with disabilities. Accessibility here is understood in a much broader sense: exhibitions will be accessible to people with poor eyesight, learning difficulties and other disabilities. This is a challenging process: it is going to take more than a year to build up capacity to ensure that mediation for every single group of people at every single exhibition. Valliantsina also spoke about projects implemented by Ў contemporary art gallery, like Ў Gallery Children’s Creative Workshops, which used crowdfunding to publish two children’s books: Belarusian Art of the XX Century and Malevich for Children. 

Crowdfunding is a test of yourself and your product

Masha Charakova, expert and social entrepreneur from the Netherlands, shared her experience of three successful crowdfunding campaigns in the Netherlands and Belarus. “Crowdfunding does not mean investments, crowdfunding means sales of your product. It is necessary to get the initial amount of money directly from customers and not from grants or investors. The campaign will test whether people are ready to buy your product. Be prepared to tap into the whole contact network you have. Crowdfunding is very stressful, because you are selling yourself, which is scary. Throughout the campaign, you will feel the whole range of emotions: from negative ones to the best and most positive ones. You have to be morally prepared to failure: if you are not able to raise money, it is okay: you are going to get experience you would never have been able to get in any other project. A lot of crowdfunding campaigns fail for various reasons”.


Masha Charakova, expert and social entrepreneur from the Netherlands, mentor of Biz4all projects, at a Biz4all training in Minsk, 2018

Masha organized her first crowdfunding campaign in the Netherlands 6 years ago. They were raising money for a musical start-up, totalling about 40,000 euros. The expert underscored a number of lessons they learnt: one has to have a clear campaign plan, but always be flexible and constantly ask oneself “What can we do today?” in order to adapt to the situation and “go with the flow”. Each day is going to be absolutely new, bringing new emotions, people and experiences. “Be prepared to deal with surprises, but you will learn who and where your target audience are, so you can go target them directly, and that is excellent practice”.


The second campaign was organized on the Belarusian crowdfunding campaign ulej.by for the Heta Belarus Dzietka project. The team wanted to write two more books for the series and decided to get pre-orders in order to test the existing demand. This resulted in the campaign raising 122% of the declared target. “We were creating an exclusive product, so our campaign put a lot of focus on the fact that sponsors will only be able to purchases these books in the campaign. It was interesting that a third of the target amount was raised over the first three days, and another third – over the last three days. However, we worked every day, and every day we reminded people about ourselves”. Masha cited a number of important lessons they learnt during the campaign: for example, that it is better to look for a business ready to purchase a large quantity of products rather than focus on one private customer. 


Masha’s third crowdfunding campaign was posted on a large American platform kickstarter. They were raising money to publish Minsk in Socks, an English-language tour guide for Belarus, and sponsors could pre-order the book. Each book came with a pair of socks knitted by Belarusian grannies. To a large extent, it was the business orders that helped the campaign to reach its target amount. During the rest of the day, the teams went on to do practical things and listened to expertise from Masha Charakova on how to develop a campaign for your product (service).

Text by: Valeriya Nikalaichyk

Photo by: Alyona Lis

The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.

The material was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with support from the European Union.