Nicole Denholder is the founder of Next Chapter, a new crowdfunding platform for female entrepreneurs. Formerly on the Global Capital Markets consulting team at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Nicole shares her ideas on entrepreneurship, crowdfunding and marketing.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT NEXT CHAPTER
A Hong Kong-based crowdfunding and marketing strategy service, Next Chapter focuses on helping female entrepreneurs launch successful businesses and products. Nearly a year old, Next Chapter's long-term goal is to build a network of investors and partnerships, so female entrepreneurs have greater access to capital.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
Who’s your target audience for Next Chapter?
I am 100% focused on Female Entrepreneurs in Hong Kong and across Asia. Even more specifically, on women looking at crowd funding, how they're setting up their business, and how they want to take their business forward.
What’s your advice on crowdfunding?
There is a lot of prep that you need to do before starting the crowdfunding. The success rates can be quite low across the industry, so my goal is get higher rates of success while working with women on Next Chapter.
What are your typical success rates?
We have had seven campaigns so far, and in 2016 had a 100% success rate. They have included distributors, retailers, building projects -- a lot of variety and a lot of direct results.
We worked with Zarie leggings, a line of slimming leggings. She has her second product range coming out, and she is already talking with international distributors. We have had two books come through, both have been stocked at Bookazine.
What’s a big misconception about crowdfunding?
People think that crowdfunding is easy, and if you put your project up online people will just give you money. It takes time -- 30-40% of the funds that you will probably raise will come from your immediate network.
But how do you jump over that? How do you use your network to get this ripple effect, where people who don't know you, fund you? It is a marketing strategy. A lot of women are coming to me because they want marketing -- and funding.
What’s the best thing about crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a great equalizer -- it’s democratic, as you don't need to know someone rich, or be rich. You must be smart and strategic, and you can launch your business with crowdfunding. It’s great for getting outside of your circle and reaching a broader audience.
You won’t be putting out too much capital because you’re validating the idea with a 30- to 60-day campaign in a safe environment. You set a target that you need to achieve, which enables you to get validation, get funding, get feedback and hear about the colors, the style, the target audience.
What kinds of businesses have the best chance of crowdfunding success?
It’s good for innovative products, or something with a great story behind it -- either the entrepreneur’s story or the product story. That’s what I love about crowdfunding.
You don't even have to be in Hong Kong – some of the people are working from home somewhere, others travel frequently yet are all making this happen. Crowdfunding enables them to start this business journey.
A FEW MORE QUESTIONS
What is one organizational tool you can’t live without?
I am a major list writer. I couldn't live without them.
How do you get energized in the morning?
I must have breakfast, otherwise I am starving by the end of the day.
When does inspiration hit you?
Inspiration hits me if I get a peaceful moment, or a half hour when my head isn’t spinning from a thousand things to do.
What are the must have items in your purse?
Lipstick for sure -- the color really depends on the day, but I am normally a baby pink girl. And I always have a notebook (or two!).
How do you relax?
I relax by getting foot massages, mostly at Happy Foot, or hanging with my kids.
Any favorite resources?
How about meetups and networks?
Where is your favorite meeting spot?
Metta is one of my favorite meeting spots. I like the community, and I love the fact that they recognize that entrepreneurs need a coffee spot for meetings, but it doesn’t have to be a formal office. Also WeWork is another great place to work from.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
The best advice was from something I read. I am a big believer in a Minimum Viable Product. It doesn't have to be 100% perfect.
Your audience will give you feedback and you will always be pivoting. Get something that you’re comfortable with, that can evolve -- I think that’s quite important.