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How Basque bar raised $38,000 for a roof top bar in ‘superfast’ time

How do you raise $38,000 in a week to build a roof-top bar without writing a massive business proposition? Spanish-themed bar Basque has just the right formula. It exceeded its funding target of $30,000 through crowdfunding platform PledgeMe, landing the best Christmas present and avoiding the nightmare of exorbitant interest repayments.

The Wellington bar at No 8 Courtney Place was started by three friends — Maria Boyle, Lydia Suggate and Stacey Walsh – who among them (and a couple of other friends) also own the successful Little Beer Quarter, Beach Babylon and Bebemos.

When the idea of a rooftop bar was first generated, the owners went to their bank for some money. “Unfortunately we were told by our bank manager that it wasn’t going to happen without a high interest loan,” Suggate wrote in the bar’s campaign. The bank they had approached was looking to charge about 16% for funds, Suggate says.

She told Idealog that the idea for alternative funding came after they read about the success of craft brewer Renaissance Brewing, but they decided to pursue social crowdfunding rather than equity crowdfunding, the latter requiring more financial information. 

Wellingtonians fell in love with the concept of a rooftop bar, and within a week, Basque’s campaign had pulled in $30,000, in what Anna Guenther, CEO at PledgeMe described as among the “coolest” things seen in 2014. The campaign was kicked off in the week of November 21 and by November 28, $30,000 had been pledged and more came later.

Against advice

Why was Basque so successful in their campaign?

“Basque did so well because they already had a crowd behind them and track record, and some pretty awesome rewards,” Guenther told Idealog. “For $500 you got a $500 bar tab, and a 10% discount for life (or as long as the bar is open).” Crowdfunders also get a $100 bar tab for their birthday every year, no hire charge for booking functions, and a yearly members’ party, among other benefits.

Guenther adds that campaign got people really interested because it had appeal, and funders were offered a good deal.

What did Basque do differently to other campaigners? According to Guenther, Basque went against the advice about creating a video.

“It was funny, they actually went against our advice about creating a video because they’d seen a few naff ones in their time. But that didn’t matter, their rewards were so enticing and their crowd so attentive that they pledged anyway – pitch video be damned!” Guenther adds.

Statistics provided by PledgeMe show that in the fundraising for Basque:

  • 5 people pledged $20
  • 4 people pledged $100
  • 60 people pledged $500
  • 1 pledged $1,000
  • 3 pledged $2,000

Those who pledged above $2,000 got a $2,000 bar tab, a 15%-off VIP discount card for life which includes all drinks, coffee & food, and a $200 bar tab for their birthday every year.

Basque’s rooftop bar will be “winter-proofed”, fitted out with heaters and retractable awnings to let in the Wellington sun whenever possible, or block out that wind.

Basque had a stretched goal of reaching $45,000 in its fund raising but that was not reached. The campaign closed on Dec 26, 2014.

?Basque’s shrine for the beer gods. Picture from Basque’s Facebook

Suggate is confident Basque will be able to meet its meeting the rewards pledged to its funders. The bar is in the process of getting consent from the council to proceed with renovation. She says it has been quite frustrating dealing with the council  as information on the requirement is never presented completely, all at once.

“This is a huge headache for us (providing new reports and information for consent),” she says but is hopeful the rooftop bar will be open for business before summer is over.

The PledgeMe crowdfunding platform has helped raised $3.32 million for 737 projects.

Loves peanut sauce, tennis, taichi, stockmarkets, and cool entrepreneurs – not necessarily in that order. In her previous reincarnations, she was an intranet worker bee at Mercer HR Consulting, a Reuters worker ant, and a NZ Herald mule.

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