‘Crowdfunding’ success for Norwich entrepreneur

Simon Middleton of the Great British Banjo Company and the prototype banjo he is now going to manufacture with the backing and support of customers via Kickstarter. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

One of Norfolk’s newest enterprises is about to begin manufacturing after funding the business in a way many people would not even know is possible.

When Simon Middleton set about launching a banjo manufacturing company in the heart of Norwich he knew banks “would never go for such a crazy idea”.

So instead, he turned to the masses, appealing for funding in exchange for rewards on the US website Kickstarter, a leader in the growingly successful ‘crowdfunding’ phenomenon.

Under the rules of the new fundraising model, Mr Middleton, of Cotman Road, Thorpe Hamlet, made a video pitch and had 60 days to achieve his £30,000 target or he would receive nothing.

Any fears that his would be one of the 57pc of businesses that fail to achieve their funding goal through the website quickly evaporated as investors passed the target with ease – finally committing £48,000 to the business.

The size of the investor’s reward depends on their donation with £10 investors receiving stickers for musical instrument cases and £300 investors receiving their own Shackleton banjo.

Mr Middleton said: “We have had about 150 advance orders, including 120 that came in via fundraising on the website.

“Now we have started spending the money; we have placed an order with Premier Drums, a top company in Manchester, to make 200 rims by hand and the necks are being designed in Sheffield and manufactured in Blackburn.”