Crowdfunding helps reopen White Hart Cafe

Less than six months after the doors of the White Hart Café in downtown Lynchburg closed — seemingly for good — coffee is flowing once again.
New owner Abe Loper, like tens of thousands of artists and entrepreneurs throughout the world, turned to the power of the masses to get the Main Street hangout back up and running.
“I want my coffee shop back, don’t you?” Loper wrote in the intro to a web page dedicated to raising funds for the relaunch of the downtown staple.
After buying the coffee shop, Loper set up a campaign through crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to raise money for repairs and new equipment. The campaign, for which he set a “dream goal” of $15,000, had another advantage, Loper said: it gave community members the opportunity to be part of the White Hart’s rebirth.
“It was mostly people who’d been to the White Hart,” Loper said of his donors. “If you’ve been here, the White Hart has found a place in your heart.”
In total, the White Hart campaign collected $11,101. More than 150 people in 15 states donated, Loper said.
After the official campaign closed at the end of August, he added, more community members reached out directly, bringing the contribution total to more than $12,000.
Indiegogo, the site that hosted Loper’s Bring Back the White Hart campaign, is one of several crowdfunding websites used by artists and entrepreneurs to pay for projects from albums to films to art installations to quirky startup businesses. Through these sites, supporters make pledges in exchange for rewards such as a free T-shirt, a signed CD, or even a walk-on role in a film.

Each site has unique project funding specifications. For example, projects funded through crowdfunding giant Kickstarter only receive supporters’ donations if they reach a set goal in a set period of time. Indiegogo, on the other hand, allows projects to receive the amount donated even if the ultimate goal is not met.
According to Kickstarter’s statistics, the site has successfully funded almost 50,000 of more than 115,000 launched projects since 2009. Since it was founded in 2008, Indiegogo has hosted over 100,000 campaigns, a spokesperson for the company said in an email.
In Virginia, Richmond has the most projects listed on either site, with more than 100 active or funded projects listed on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Charlottesville also has a strong crowdfunding presence, with more than 90 on Kickstarter and more than 20 on Indiegogo.
But for Lynchburg and neighboring Roanoke, the number of projects is relatively meager. Lynchburg residents have used Kickstarter for around 10 projects and Indiegogo for fewer than 20, while Roanoke has 15 Kickstarter campaigns and only four on Indiegogo.

Eleanor Kennedy


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