Earlier this month, I shared my small business trends for 2014. In this post, I’ll start expanding on some of my predictions. Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts and experiences.

Crowdfunding

Predicting an increase in the use of crowdfunding in 2014 is almost a no-brainer. While there are signs the traditional lending market is getting better for small businesses, access to credit will remain tight. Let’s face it, even in the most robust economic times, start-ups and small businesses have difficulty getting the funding they need to grow. Therefore, in many cases, crowdfunding will be the answer.

According to the Crowdfunding Industry Report from MassSolution, crowdfunding campaigns raised about $2.7 billion in 2012 and while the statistics aren’t out for 2013, that number was expected to double. Just as small businesses realize they can’t be all things to all people, crowdfunding sites are popping up to target specific markets. The number of niche and locally-focused crowdfunding sites is burgeoning

For example, there are sites focused on non-profit campaigns such as CrowditForward.com. Founded by Kendall Almerico, the platform is a non-profit foundation that helps raise funds for deserving organizations. Its website description notes: “One person can make a difference. A few people with coordinated efforts can make a bigger difference. A crowd of people coming together and spreading the word can change lives, outcomes, the way people think and act – and ultimately – the world.”

Petridish.com was created to fund science and research projects. While still in its beta phase, the site boasts a number of completed projects including one called “Using Dogs to Save the Planet.” (Anything with dogs catches my eye.) The campaign raised over $5,000 to help researchers train and provide dogs to assist field workers in the area of Wildlife Conservation. Similar to the way dogs can sniff drugs and bombs, this group plans to use dogs to detect certain species of plants or animals.

On a little less serious note, there’s Gambitious.com, which supports independent game developers in attracting the funding they need to complete the project and bring it to market.

While the sites I’ve just mentioned reach a global audience, hyper-locally focused crowdfunding platforms are gaining popularity. CommunityFunded.com’s tagline is “Empowering communities for good.” The site has nearly 6,000 members in 51 states and 85 cities. Projects such as, “Save the Fort Collins Bike Library,” connect with funders to obtain the money they need to sustain this community resource.

Think crowdfunding could be right for your small business, organization or community project — there’s a site out there that’s right for you.

Local Collaborate Alliances.

I just noted how communities are coming together to fund local projects and businesses. There is also a strong movement toward local collaboration to help small businesses grow. Business communities recognize they are stronger together. So local communities are stepping up collaborative initiatives to reach a broader base of potential business. Whether it’s two local businesses cross-promoting or an entire business district creating an event, the affect of collaborative outreach is significant because it’s targeted and relevant.

“It typically starts with one business sharing another’s event or promotion with their Facebook fans and then evolves from there as others observe that behavior and join in,” explains Eric Grove, who is a founding team member with Alignable.com — a new social media platform that facilitates these local business opportunities. “For example, a local a merchant association increased ‘holiday stroll’ attendance by 20 percent because they coordinated merchant outreach (via email marketing and social media) to reach over 70 percent of the town’s population.”

A survey from Constant Contact found that communities want to support local businesses. When asked if they think being locally owned and operated is a major reason why customers support their business today, 51 percent of respondents said yes, up from the 42 percent who thought it was a major reason why customers supported their business five years ago.

So if your New Year’s resolution is to grow your business, thinking locally may be the key to your success.

Wishing you a prosperous and joyful 2014.

 

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.