By: Pete Chatmon
Let’s face it. Not all projects are the same. They come in different shapes and sizes with a variety of adjectives to define them. You’ve got your “cool” projects, your “big idea” projects, your “pet” projects—I could go on and on. But, no matter how your project can be described, if it’s not fundable, it’s a waste of your time.
Now, before we dive in here, let’s take a moment to define “project”. Whether it takes shape as a product or a service, a project is something you do or create with the ultimate goal of generating revenue and further establishing your brand.
Here’s a real world example of how you can make a project fundable:
Before anyone ever hired us to do anything, and I mean anything, we were our very first client. The project, was my debut feature film, “Premium”, for which we needed to raise over $500,000. This was no small sum for a kid not born with a silver spoon and less than $1,000 in savings. I’d spent more than five years writing the script, traveling the festival circuit with short films I had directed, and teaming up with a squad of hungry artists and entrepreneurs selected to assist in transitioning the film from script to screen. I had a plan, yes I did! As a matter of fact, you couldn’t tell me that the project wasn’t fundable, but for many years — it simply wasn’t.
Entrepreneurs often consider funding or investment in our projects a preordained reality. We wouldn’t be working on the project if we didn’t think we’d see it through to completion and completion means we’ll secure the funds necessary to execute. But, why then are so many of our friends, colleagues, as well as our very own projects perennial eyesores on the proverbial to-do list? Because we easily fall victim to that all too common entrepreneurial ailment: assuming that people care about our project as much as we do.
All those years, I woke up every single day and thought first about “Premium” and then about going to the bathroom. I am sure that’s a little TMI, but it was that serious. What I failed to understand was that no one else shared my obsession. Until I could ignite similar feelings — until I took the time to ponder what aspect of the project would inspire support and investment—I’d have an un-fundable project on my hands.
After more than 300 meetings across two coasts hadn’t panned out as desired, I decided to take a closer look at our approach. I realized that there were gaps in our presentation that caused potential investors and collaborators to tune out. Once I finally accepted that no one cared about my dream as much as I did, I developed a handful of key strategies that enabled our team to meet our financial goal and cast some amazing talent in our “little film” including Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek).
1.Set A Timeline
This is more for you than anyone else. Once you set a deadline for each stage of your project, starting with the fundraising period, you tend to wake up with the same priorities I mentioned above. It also illustrates to potential investors, collaborators, and supporters that you are serious. Only a person who means business would say “I intend to have x-amount of funding by this day.”
2.Shape the Path
Sure, you’ve got the whole thing figured out, but your project is a meal you will not be cooking alone. Outline the ingredients, the process, and the all-important hows and whys behind every single move. The more people can understand the plan, the sooner they can be as excited as you are about seeing your project come to life. This helps your project become their project too.
3.Profile For Your Cause
Think about every person or group you hope to speak with and create a profile. What I mean is, you just need to be prepared with something that appeals to each of these different groups so you can speak to the points of your project that would be of most interest to them. For “Premium” there were friends and family, people looking to diversifying their portfolio with a film investment and there were folks who supported the script’s positive portrayal of African-American life. There were also a few investors who saw some of themselves in my hustle, as well as those who may have responded to things I did not foresee. Think about the authentic, organic elements of your project that would appeal to each potential group and don’t be afraid to lead with your best punch. The words you speak must not only be heard, they must provide impact.
4.Educate Your Audience
Every time you pitch your project is a teachable moment. Whether it’s a film, a new technology, or the next great soft drink, explain the art and science behind what you are doing. This transforms you from a beggar to an educator and allows everyone you come in contact with to be that much smarter because of their conversation with you. Yes, you. Do this right and they’ll also be thinking about how they can help this exciting new project come to life.
5.Tap Into Your Community
Once you’ve determined the best way to navigate all of the above, it’s time to start testing the waters. Make all of the introductory information on your project easily accessible online, and then work your network like you’re Barack Obama trying to win the Iowa Caucas.