Wayne Chi is the founder of the Ricebowlproject, a new (and one of the first) crowdfunding platforms for social entrepreneurs working with cause-based projects that benefit international, national, and local communities. We interviewed Wayne to find out what it takes to start a social enterprise like this and how his start-up is fairing so far.
Tell us a bit about how the Ricebowlproject works and how it benefits community and environmental projects.
Ricebowlproject operates on the principles of collective action where small financial pledges are pooled together to help fund a project. Projects must meet or surpass funding goals within a deadline or no money is exchanged. Project Initiators can organize, launch, promote, and manage their community-led, grass root fund raiser from anywhere, at anytime, and all on one site. This is a great way to gauge demand for a new project, raise money, and promote awareness all with no risk.
In exchange for their pledges, Patrons can receive pledge gifts created by the Project Initiators. These could be just about anything, a hand knitted scarf, research findings, perhaps a bag of the season’s first harvest.
Getting started is easy. First, whether you have a clear project idea in mind or need some guidance, click on the “Start a Project” tab. You’ll be able to review our project guidelines and find a free Project Initiator Resource Kit packed with helpful tips.
Second, you will include the who, what, when, where, and why as you fill in your project proposal form. To complete it, you’ll add high quality videos and/or photos, choose a funding deadline (from 1-90 days), and a funding goal. Although the funding goal is unlimited, we recommend choosing a reasonably obtainable goal.
Once your project profile is approved (we promise a quick turnaround time), you can either edit your content a bit more or launch your project. From then on, you should use our powerful social media tools to actively promote your project. Contact bloggers, media, and other outlets to get the word out. Each project gains traction differently, so expect to respond accordingly. Even if you have a great idea, it won’t raise any money or awareness if you don’t actively promote it. Ricebowlproject helps amplify your cause, leverage your relationships, and fully harness your gumption so you can break through the barriers of entry to make a positive change.
Ricebowlproject provides an additional fund raising platform based on the all-or-nothing crowdfunding model which I believe is one of the most efficient fundraising structures available. You can raise money and awareness, gauge demand, and gain traction all with ZERO risk. Ricebowlproject is also not your typical girl scout cookie fund raiser. As a web based platform, Ricebowlproject gives you full control of your project anywhere and at anytime. Lastly, since pledge gifts are provided when a project is successfully funded, you don’t need to spend any upfront money or time.
What was your inspiration for Ricebowlproject?
Ricebowlproject directly emerged from my logistically challenged fundraiser to end dolphin killings. Although I secured a great venue and terrific raffle prizes, I couldn’t properly gauge demand and funding success was restricted to those who could physically attend. My idea and motivation fizzled out and I soon realized the obstacles ordinary people face in doing good—from marketing to organization.
I created Ricebowlproject based on the all-or-nothing crowdfunding model which I believe is one of the most efficient fundraising structures available. Crowdfunding, however, is not a new concept. For centuries, people everywhere have used the principle of collective action to help improve their communities. [See our blog article titled, How Confucius and the Ancient World Crowdfunded].
In the ancient Buddhist tradition, for example, monks initiated projects to improve the well-being of their community. Without adequate sustenance, however, the monks could not fully commit to their projects. So the monks walked door to door every morning in an alms processional ceremony with a bowl seeking food contributions—mainly in the form of rice. As a collective whole, the power of the community transformed grains of rice, which alone could not nourish even one monk, into an entire meal that supported the monk and fueled his projects. In turn, the entire community benefited from their initial individual contributions. Ricebowlproject was inspired by this tradition of community giving.
Ricebowlproject was designed to give all project ideas that benefit the international, national, and local communities a chance for success.
What are the biggest challenges to getting people to start using the site?
The biggest challenge has been getting the word out. Those who know about Ricebowlproject love the site and our concept. Our registered user base is growing steadily every day. This was expected though since we pursued a soft launch of the site so that we can more readily adjust to any challenges that comes with a beta site.
How is Ricebowlproject different from other crowdsource funding sites?
(1) First to integrate online crowdfunding with social entrepreneurs working on cause-based projects;
(2) Easily categorize projects by END CAUSE and by PROJECT TYPE;
(3) Powerful social media tools to better organize and promote projects;
(4) At least 1% of Ricebowlproject’s profits will be donated to Oceanic Preservation Society (producers of the dolphin killing documentary “The Cove”) through our partnership with 1% for the Planet.
Are there any mistakes that you made on this entrepreneurial journey that you would like to share with other green entrepreneurs?
There are many learning opportunities with any new endeavor. Looking back, Ricebowlproject taught me to become even more creative, adaptive, and persistent. Looking ahead, there’s still so much more to do!
What advice would you have for other aspiring green and social entrepreneurs?
Have fun, stay creative, and persist. As Confucius once said, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”