One of the most challenging pieces of starting a new hospitality venture is finding funding and developing a financing system that works in tandem with that project’s vision—and all funding begins with finding the right platform to serve as the foundation for the new project.
In March 2014, Kalisa Martin and Jeff Belizaire were feeling bogged down by the long New York City winter. The pair decided to escape to the warm, sunny shores of Jamaica for a long weekend. It was on this trip that they got the idea to open a B&B together. “We thought, why not?” they describe. “It could happen, and could happen right here in Jamaica.” Their brief vacation and respite from the hustle and bustle of the city re-energized them both as they returned home to start working on their new project. By June, they had laid the groundwork to set their B&B project in motion. By July, Martin and Belizaire had quit their jobs in the city and by October, they had settled down in Jamaica to open a bed and breakfast called The Runaway.
From the project’s conception, The Runaway Jamaica placed an emphasis on community and cultural experiences. This mindset led Martin and Belizaire to use crowdfunding website Kickstarter as the main method of funding for the property. Kickstarter allows hosts to set up project campaigns with a fundraising goal, and then the public donates money to the projects. In return, they receive perks for their donation if the project is fully funded. “Announcing the project on Kickstarter not only gave us a platform to spread the word and get some up-front capital. It also invited folks to take this journey with us and be part of the process,” they explain.
The Runaway is the first hotel project to receive the majority of its financing from crowdfunding sites, but Martin and Belizaire were confident that Kickstarter would provide the proper platform for their project to get off the ground. “We knew we were offering something markedly different. We also knew that our target audience was out there because we were marketing to people like ourselves,” they say. The Runaway surpassed its fundraising goal by over 50 percent, a total of $47,000.
The Runaway team found that using a unique platform like Kickstarter as a means for developing funding had several benefits. Namely, they had easy access to upfront capital—all of the money raised through their campaign went directly to them with no interference. And, due to the social nature of the Kickstarter platform, The Runaway Jamaica already had a strong social media presence before the project was even ready for guests.
“It’s amazing how in this day and age, sometimes all you need is a great idea and a demand in the market to build a business,” they explain. “Because of Kickstarter, we were able to focus on the vision first and the capital followed after.”