Want to turn every customer or friend into a potential backer of your business? Since regulations changed in 2016, small businesses have been able to raise money from non-accredited individual investors. While equity crowdfunding, as it is now known, can be complicated and expensive, it's also been lucrative for some businesses that have taken the plunge.
Over the past several months, Inc. followed four founders and CEOs who raised money from big groups of people. What they learned: There's no one right way to crowdfund. You can do this sort of fundraising on your own, or you can rely on third parties; three of the following startups paid a commission to use a new Indiegogo platform, which handled their technical and marketing and investor-relations headaches. You don't even have to stick to selling traditional shares of your business. Indiegogo lets the companies that use its equity platform sell debt or preferred stock or other securities instead. (Several of these companies also thanked their investors by giving them sample products, T-shirts, or other types of the rewards that crowdfunding first became known for.)
So if you're curious about all of crowdfunding's possibilities, the following companies explain why it worked for them--and why it might someday make sense for you.