Mullins group learns about ‘crowd funding’

February 5, 2014

By Dianna Poston Owens, SCNow

MULLINS, S.C. — Amid the Mullins Chamber of Commerce’s annual accolades and honors for civic leaders was a message from the state’s Small Business Chamber of Commerce president to start dreaming about what Mullins, and Marion County, should and could look like.

And then work to make it happen.

The days are gone when the county should expect to get something along the lines of a Boeing or BMW manufacturing plant, Frank Knapp Jr., President and CEO of the SCSBC, said.

Instead, the state’s economy, and that of Marion County and Mullins, all depend on growth from within.

Knapp, who also owns and runs a public relations firm, co-founded the SCSBC in 2000, seeing the need for such a voice in the state. Healthcare, tax and employment issues have been tackled by the SCSBC, he explained, adding that in recent years, getting money to help start businesses has been a focus of the group.

The group has also supported national movements for finance reform and abuse of offshore tax havens.

The group’s mission, according to its website,, is to be a voice for the economic success of South Carolina small businesses through services, knowledge, and government advocacy.

Equity crowd funding, Knapp said, has the potential to change things for small businesses needing cash for operations. As Knapp explained to Mullins Chamber members, this style of funding has been around for years in the form of larger investors, but it hasn’t been available on a smaller scale, legally.

The game is changing and beginning this year, through the online portal, funding smaller business ideas in the state may be realized by asking for contributors, or investors.

Knapp challenged those in the room to dream, discuss and discover what the county needs, what the county’s business leaders and work force are able to do, and then to set about raising the money to make the dream happen.

The first campaign to be exclusively funded by a crowd of investors in the state is the one announced in January by Greenville entrepreneur Daryn Zongrone. Her plan is to create Greenville’s first indie-movie theater, The Film House.

The online portal will give businesses and nonprofits access to money through crowd funding from their immediate geographic area. The portal is the result of 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. also offers other services, such as copywriting, business plan preparation, videography, and campaign coaching, all to help business minded leaders to better run a successful donation and investment campaign. Some of these services are also available through the South Carolina Small Business Development Center offices around the state at no charge, the fund website said.

Instead of going to a bank or lending institution for a loan, a person with a business plan would make an “open call” to the community, through the online portal – a call that local donors can answer. By pooling resources, plans can be realized, Knapp said.

The movement has been a while in coming, Knapp explained, because the Securities and Exchange Commission has been working on the legality and risk of the venture. There will be oversight, reporting, that sort of thing, he explained.

“The concept is simple,” Knapp said. “Turn donations into investments.”

The beauty is local investment stays local, Knapp said. He added that communities such as Mullins need such investment tools and that by working together we can create from our ideas a viable economy.

“This state needs that,” Knapp said. So, he asked the group, “What do you want to be? … You have potential; and not only that, you have to have potential. The state needs you to be successful.”

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