Greenville film house the 1st campaign for S.C. crowd funding website

January 9, 2014 

GSA Business

By Ashley Boncimino 

South Carolina’s first state-exclusive crowd funding website locked in its first campaign, rallying around local entrepreneur Daryn Zongrone and her business plan for Greenville’s first indie-movie theater, The Film House. is a portal that gives businesses and nonprofits access to capital through crowd funding from their immediate geographic communities. Launched in late 2013, the project is a partnership between the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, The American Sustainable Business Council and Mission Markets Inc., a New York-based securities firm.

Zongrone hopes to raise $30,000 through the crowd funding site and raise the rest of the $1 million required to open through investors and large donors. The campaign goes live on March 7.

The Film House has been Zongrone’s dream since she graduated from USC Upstate, where she studied film. After graduating, she realized there was no community outlet to continue to learn and share her passion. “I wanted to create a space where people could come and learn about old films,” she said.

Set tentatively for the Keys building at 307 E. McBee Ave., plans for The Film House include three theaters with around 300 seats total, a ticket counter, a concession stand, and a bar serving beer and wine, as well as open space with tabletops where people can discuss the films. Zongrone and the business’s film series director Adam Renkovish have already screened weekly movies at Coffee Underground in downtown Greenville since Nov. 23, including Hugo and the Charlie Chaplin classic Gold Rush.

“We want to make it into a nice big operation, bringing more money into the Upstate, bringing more people into the seats, make it an attraction, a destination for people to come to,” said Zongrone, who added they would base movie selection on online community surveys. She plans to avoid pitfalls of earlier indie-theater attempts by looking to the community for support and advice, focusing on advertising and avoiding the nonprofit route. “It’s very much centered around film education, but we also want to bring those current indie films to people who want to see them.”

Zongrone had previously used a national crowd funding site Indiegogo, but found that those who supported the concept online were mostly locals, according to S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Frank Knapp. “You’re really not going to get someone from California funding your (local) campaign.”

The portal will host campaigns by local entrepreneurs, businesses and nonprofits with business ventures that community members can monetarily support through donations. The site also facilitates financing through private placements, which involves high-income individuals investing in a business for an equity position.

Knapp hopes to include a third financing option by May or June that would allow community members to also invest in an equity position regardless of income. Combining the three options into one state-centric site would be the first of its kind in the country, said Knapp.

The difference with is that it encourages communities to take control and support their own local economies more directly, said Knapp.

“We’re really serving a great need for small businesses and nonprofits that are trying to raise capital but cannot get it through traditional markets,” he said. “This is an alternative for them.”

According to Knapp, the S.C. portal would also charge lower fees than national crowd funding sites. “We have the resources. We have the money. We have the ingenuity. We have the talent. We have the leadership,” said Knapp. “We don’t need to be looking outside our area.”

Zongrone’s Film House project is the first campaign funded by the portal and will be followed by campaigns in Columbia and Charleston soon, according to Knapp.

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