Quick Shift Deva Kate Emmerson On Crowdfunding

Quick Shift Deva Kate Emmerson On Crowdfunding


Vital Stats

In September of 2014, South African motivational speaker Kate Emmerson was given a unique opportunity: The chance to feature in an American motivational film called The Secrets of the Keys.

But there was a catch. Emmerson would need to come up with $20 000. The film was to be created in the same way that books are self-published. Everyone featured in the film would have to pay their own way, and would only have an opportunity to make their money back once the film had been made and DVDs could be sold.

A need for cash

So Emmerson had a short-term need for some serious cash. “It’s an interesting model,” says Emmerson. “A film such as this is not a vanity project — you can’t pay your way in — but you need to foot your own bill. I needed to pay $20 000, which included marketing material and 1 000 DVDs of the film that I could sell, but this could obviously only be done down the line.”

Emmerson knew that she wanted to grab hold of this opportunity. “I just knew that I had to be in this film. This opportunity had come my way for a specific reason.” But she didn’t know how she would pay for it.

An obvious solution was to find an investor. Once the film had been made and DVDs were sold, she was sure that she could offer an investor a very decent ROI. So, with this in mind, she approached an investor who quickly got on board.

But it wasn’t to be. The investor backed out, and, as quickly as the money had appeared, it disappeared.

“This was a huge setback,” says Emmerson. “I tried not to panic and trust in the universe somehow. It was the first week in February 2015, and the film was being shot in April 2015, but I wasn’t going to give up. I wasn’t willing to let this dream go.”

Related: Kickstart Your Business Through Crowdfunding

Help from her tribe


“I believe that, in order to be successful, you need to be bold, fearless and innovative. So, I decided to try a way of fundraising that I had never attempted before: Crowdfunding.”

Importantly, Emmerson decided to put her own spin on the concept. Instead of throwing the net wide, she decided to contact those who were already in her network. If she could get 30 of her clients, colleagues and friends to each invest R10 000, she would have enough money for the project.

“I decided to make an appeal to my ‘tribe’. I initiated a cryptic teaser campaign on Facebook, stating: 1/30, 2/30, 3/30, etc. — without blatantly telling people what I was up to. I also distributed a mailer to approximately 20 of my tribe, and received my first ‘yes’ back on day one. Money started pouring in. I reached R230 000 within four weeks, but still needed more.”

To close the gap, Emmerson decided to go public. She started selling VIP tickets to a local premiere that she decided to put together at R1 000 per ticket. All sold, she managed to secure 20 investors who had each contributed between R20 000 and R5 000 each, and sold 24 tickets to the premiere. She had enough money to head to the US for the filming.

Providing a good ROI

And what did Emmerson’s investors receive? Investors got a DVD and a ticket to the premiere. More importantly, though, they got their money back at the end of January 2016 (after the premiere had taken place and DVDs had been sold), plus 12% interest.

“Crowdfunding isn’t just about big websites like Kickstarter and Indigogo. It’s often smarter — and easier — to start with people who know you and are willing to bet on you,” says Emmerson.

“As I’ve said, be bold and fearless. Never be afraid to ask for what you want. Make use of the connections that you have. Appealing to friends, family and even clients is not a show of weakness. Your connections can be your biggest asset.

Related: 10 Steps To Starting Your Business For Free (Almost)

“Also, you need to be innovative and think out of the box if you want your dreams to come true. This obviously applies not only to funding, but to all aspects of business. A challenge can seem insurmountable at first, but smart thinking will allow you to overcome it.”

GG van Rooyen
GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.