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Crowdfunded Cupcakes?

Startups are small by necessity. Banks are wary and borrowing is burdensome for businesses that don’t fit into the traditional boxes. Friends and family financing only goes so far, and venture capital comes with significant strings attached—if you can even get it. That’s why the gluten-free folks at Bake Me Happy in Merion Village took [...]
J.R. McMillan

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Startups are small by necessity. Banks are wary and borrowing is burdensome for businesses that don’t fit into the traditional boxes. Friends and family financing only goes so far, and venture capital comes with significant strings attached—if you can even get it.

That’s why the gluten-free folks at Bake Me Happy in Merion Village took a different path to fund their social media outreach.

“I was introduced to Kiva and their expansion into Columbus, though I was already familiar with the international aspects of Kiva,” explained Letha Pugh, who founded Bake Me Happy with her partner, Wendy Miller Pugh in 2014. “Initially, I was hesitant because it didn’t even require a credit score. It’s kind of like crowdfunding, but it’s a loan.”

Kiva gained initial acclaim by helping transform the lives of ambitious business owners in the developing world through online interest-free funding. It enabled strangers a world away to invest in change, not just charity.

These weren’t startups so much as upstarts—turning skills and services into sustainable small businesses in some of the poorest countries on Earth. Helping women in particular achieve financial stability and independence in parts of the world where both were elusive created a movement.

The reason we refer to such endeavors as “movements” is because they eventually achieve their own velocity. Kiva has since expanded its mission and footprint to enable small businesses in a growing number of cities around the globe to receive “microloans” as well.

“We were looking to expand our marketing, but it was something that never seemed to fit into our budget,” Pugh said. “We’ve received SBA loans before, so we knew that process. But Kiva was surprisingly easy by comparison.”

Prospective Kiva borrowers create a campaign, not unlike Kickstarter, which investors can then fund at a smaller scale than most banks are willing to consider, with terms that are far more flexible. If you need a few thousand dollars, a bank will probably just offer you a credit card—and the juice starts running immediately. Kiva offers zero-interest loans that borrowers pay back on a monthly basis.

“It’s kind of a social credit score. Depending on the loan and what it’s for, Kiva tells you the percentage of folks you need to back your project before you go live and the campaign becomes public,” Pugh explained. “Once you hit that threshold, you start seeing investors from Arizona to Australia. We were funded in 20 hours once we went live.”

Kiva’s loan amounts may be small, but their repayment rates are the envy of the industry at around 97 percent. Defaults are relatively rare because borrowers have a connection to their investors.

“If you have a close network, that creates accountability,” she said. “Because if you borrow money from family and friends, you want to make sure you pay them back. You have to look these people in the eye.”

“We didn’t take a huge amount of money, but we’ve been able to do a couple of videos. And, we’re in the process working with a communications company to increase our Instagram presence, our Facebook presence,” said Pugh. “That’s the one thing we were missing as a wholesale bakery.”

Bake Me Happy’s recipe for success is as simple as the couple’s division of duties. Letha has the entrepreneurial insight that complements Wendy’s expertise in the kitchen. This partnership and shared purpose has helped the company expand rapidly.

Despite having started just two years ago, Bake Me Happy still balances commercial success with hometown street cred. Their plan to expand has paid off, as the Aramark vendor now supplies the OSU campus and the Horseshoe with gluten-free treats. But they’re also a stop on Hot Chicken Takeover’s 2016 Neighborhood Tour—featuring gluten-free fried chicken, biscuits, and mac and cheese. It’s community connection as much as it is commerce.

“Kiva does some social enterprise work as well. There’s a school where they teach folks how to help businesses improve their social media marketing,” Pugh explained. “You pay a minimal fee and they take folks who may have struggled to build a career, or may not have gone to school, through a social media boot camp.”

But it’s more than just a friends and family campaign that eventually attracts the interest of strangers. Kiva allows communities and customers to collectively fund local companies they want to support.

“It shows that we support small businesses, because funding is probably the greatest issue small companies like ours run into,” Pugh said. “You may already be up and running, but when you need to grow, you just hit a wall. [Kiva] proved that people believed in us.”

Unlike the impersonal business exchange typical of a bank loan, Pugh shares a genuine connection with her investors, sending them updates on the difference their dollars have made.

“The thing I love most is that it wasn’t just the money, you get a boost in confidence. People learn about your company, they read your story, and they choose to loan you money,” Pugh explained. “It’s been a great experience meeting other Kiva borrowers. I feel like there’s a support system built into the loan, building relationships with other Kiva-funded companies—giving people opportunities to help each other.”

For more about other local ventures funded by Kiva, visit us.kiva.org/columbus.

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Arts & Culture

Loop Daddy invades Columbus with first-ever drive-in tour

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The return of live music is going to be one of the trickiest industries to transition back into business as usual, if that will ever be the case. We’ve seen people getting creative, building concert stages within their own homes via live streaming. Some have participated in virtual festivals, probably the sector of live music to take the biggest hit.

But when an industry made up of innovative creatives always trying to come up with the next big idea is faced with incredible hardships, they respond with quick-witted imaginative solutions.

One of the first trends that popped up in the revolution of bringing back live music was the implementation of drive-in lots. Luckily for Columbus, the darling of the internet DJ scene Marc Rebillet aka Loop Daddy will be taking his first-ever drive-in tour through the Buckeye state in mid-June.

Captivating audiences with his participatory DJ scratching and immature antics, extremely goofy sex appeal, and sleazy porno stache, Rebillet was an act poised for a breakout summer before the pandemic shut music concert venues down. If you have access to a car, though, you’ll still have a chance to catch the wild virtual sensation.

On June 14, Rebillet will be pulling up to the South Drive-In for the third stop of his Drive-In Concert Tour. Rebillet will also be showcasing short films as part of his drive-in experience.

As far as sound is going for these events, a lot of drive-ins are opting to go the radio transmission route to encourage people to stay inside of their vehicles.

A very few grouping of tickets remain, which include three-person and four-person car passes. Tickets are running $40 per head (plus additional fees), which seems to be the average across the new wave of drive-in concerts. Two-people/one-car tickets have already sold out.

If you don’t want to miss out on this unique opportunity, act right now. Tickets can be purchased at:

https://nightout.com/events/marc-rebillet-drive-in-tour-columbus-ohio-south-drive-in-presented-by-hotbox/tickets.

Social distancing guidelines are outlined at the point of purchase.

The South Drive-In is located at 3050 S. High St. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show beginning at 9 p.m. Attendees need to arrive before 8:45 p.m. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

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Live music allowed again in restaurants and bars: how will these establishments respond?

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A major step forward in the return of live music in Ohio took place over the weekend. The Ohio coronavirus guidelines were updated to reflect the new COVID-19 Dine Safe Ohio Order.

The order outlining the guidelines on live music in restaurant and bars is as follows:

Musicians and bands may perform in restaurants and bars as long as the individuals who are performing maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people including, but not limited to, fellow performers and restaurant and bar patrons and staff.

DJ's are included along with musicians and bands in the order.

Something that was on the mind of a lot of musicians with the reopening of restaurants and the indefinite closing of large venues was how restaurants and bars were going to respond to the immediate venue demand. Places like Woodlands Tavern that already have an infrastructure for live music will have no problem complying with the updated order, but will restaurants and bars that depended on jukeboxes before pivot to a live music model?

With a lot more space available in restaurants due to capacity cuts, does this leave more room for a live music set up? Or will restaurants have to get rid of even more tables if they want to make room for a performer?

The thought of live music in a venue setting is alone enough to get excited about. How these places that now have the ability to host live music execute freeing up space for a band to set up or a DJ to bring his rig in while practicing social distancing is what makes this situation a tricky one.

Not being able to get down in a MojoFlo Soul Train line will be pretty tough, but it’s a tradeoff we’ll have to accept for the return of live music.

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Arts & Culture

(614) Music Club: Sarob

Julian Foglietti

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Every week (614) Music Club teams up with your favorite local artists to build a playlist of what they’re listening to, and what’s inspiring them. This week’s playlist is brought to you by the R&B artist Sarob.


Photo by: Wyze

Tell me about some of the songs you’ve selected.

"The first one is Sobeautiful by Musiq Soulchild. So every week with my vocal coach, I have to learn a song. And I've been trying to figure out how to do vocal gliding. Which is not a strong point for me, and I remember hearing that song and being like, OK, this is it. The song is just beautifully written and composed, so when you add the technique to it, it’s just great. The other song was Workin On It by Dwele, who is one of my favorite artists of all time. Workin On It uses this J Dilla beat that just feels really timeless."

Have the past few months changed the direction or mood of the music you're creating. 

"So I have been making stuff here and there, and then I'll go into something creative for like two days. I'll just be making like a bunch of songs and then I'll stop for two weeks, not even want to look at a microphone or anything. I mean, it's a lot more inward, so I’m learning how to better communicate the things I'm experiencing, and set the scenes for people and talk about what is going on. Also not having my band has been a challenge. I’m more of a thinker, I play the keyboard, and I can build a song, but I’m not the most gifted musician so having to build a lot of it on my own is tricky."

Do you have any plans or releases coming up? 

"Yeah, so I had a song Pleasures U Like that was made for my last album, but it didn’t quite fit the story of the album. So I just forgot about it until recently and I finished the vocals just before the lockdown, and now I’m releasing it on Bandcamp as part of a fundraiser for The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio. All of the proceeds from the song are going to go to support their Pandemic Emergency Fund, and it just felt like a good way to do something that would impact everything going on."

Sarob's Playlist

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