Jim Hake, the entrepreneurial founder of Spirit of America, raised US$1.52 Million so far through the Internet, media, and blogs, among other sources. The money will be used to fund requests by Americans serving overseas on behalf of the countries where they are stationed. Most recently, Spirit of America raised funds to buy broadcasting equipment for several Iraqi TV stations, so they can re-open.
From a business perspective, what I find so interesting are the entrepreneurial lessons of Spirit of America:
- Set a Goal. It’s amazing what you can do starting with not much more than a goal. Entrepreneurs are a can-do lot. Give them something to focus their efforts on, and [****] happens.
- Find a Niche. Even in a mature saturated market, small startups can thrive. They just have to find the right niche. To do that, you have to identify a need that is not being met. That’s what Spirit of America did. Spirit of America defined its mission as raising money to help Americans who are serving overseas respond to needs in the countries where they are stationed. The US seems to be overrun with non-profits, with some group or other raising money for just about every cause you can imagine. But none was serving that exact niche.
- Excite Others. It’s important to get others behind your dream. Make your dream become their dream. That’s how successful entrepreneurs build a team. It’s even how they attract funding. An entrepreneur can’t do it alone. They need others — partners, employees, customers, bankers, investors, and even service providers such as lawyers and accountants. Everyone wants to root for the home team. Get a banker or a customer to view your small business as “their” team, and you will have more than just a banker or a customer. You will have someone actively helping grow your small business.
- PR is Powerful. The typical non-profit in the US uses traditional marketing, i.e., local fundraising events, direct mail and phone solicitations, etc. Spirit of America did something different. It leveraged the Internet, the media and the blogs. Spirit of America understands the power of public relations, especially the kind of grassroots support that can come from blogs. And not only is PR powerful, but it can be very low cost.