MBJ: Memphians start crowdfunding site for African-Americans
Almost three years ago, two Memphians founded a crowd-funding platform geared towards African-Americans and the underserved in urban communities.
Since then, Urban Fundr has raised about $34,000 for indie films, softball equipment and middle school trips to Washington, D.C., according to its founders.
Todd Harris and John Hamilton initially met in 1998 when they were both students at the University of Memphis. Harris, who graduated with a degree in economics, works in the banking industry.
Hamilton graduated with a degree in graphic design and went on to get his MBA from Strayer University. Today, he is an e-learning developer for customer discovery. He also develops websites and has a film production company.
But, the idea for Urban Fundr began in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Harris is originally from St. Louis, which is 10 miles away from Ferguson.
“All of the interest started back in St. Louis and the energy of the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for tools that generate economic — not just development — but circulation of dollars in the community,” Harris said. “We started getting ideas about getting in the crowdfunding space.”
After reading an article on Mashable about a group trying to start a black crowdingfunding site — and that site’s struggles — Harris and Hamilton decided to start their own.
According to Viacom’s Millennial Disruption Index, banking as an industry is at the highest risk of being transformed by millennials. Knowing that, Harris and Hamilton wanted to get in front of the disruption in banking.
“Just like podcasts, indie films are growing; cable is going down,” Harris said. “There is a shift in how people consume info and apply resources.”
Urban Fundr’s fees are less than those of competitors like Kickstarter or GoFundMe, according to Harris. Urban Fundr also helps set up the campaigns and film the pitch videos.
“We want to be funding campaigns that help our community,” Hamilton said.