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Why a small Phoenix drink company is using crowdfunding to expand beyond Arizona

In 2020, Dwayne Allen launched Big Marble Organics, a Jamaican-inspired line of organic soft drinks and mixers. Each bottle is produced in Phoenix, but now Allen says he’s ready to expand into Nevada and southern California.

“We’ve got a few folks, bars and restaurants, that are teed up and ready to receive our product,” he said. “We just need to figure out how to get it to them and that is what this campaign is going to support us being able to do,”

With high interest rates, Allen said debt financing was not an option. And when he considered investor financing, he determined, “We don’t have a strong enough hand to really command in any way the terms that would be presented. We are just not at a point where we want to give up equity in the company just yet–we’re too new, we’re too young.”

After an Arizona friend shared his online fundraising success to open a restaurant, Allen decided to give it a try. He created an Indiegogo campaign to raise $75,000.

“What we’re looking for here is to buy ourselves a little bit of runway,” he said. “As you can imagine, Monday morning, we’re in Nevada, for example, and Friday we’ve got payroll before we’ve sold a single bottle of product and, so, that’s why bringing in this little bit of capital is so important for us, just to ease the burden of starting up in these new markets.”

Allen said the funds will support hiring two people to establish distribution networks and "bring our compelling campaign of championing environmental and social sustainability to these new areas."

Crowdfunding in the United States is projected to reach $451 million in 2023, according to data collection and analysis firm Statista. The average raised is less than $8,000.

Statista said reward-based crowdfunding is experiencing steady growth because more people view it as a legitimate fundraising tool, the accessibility of platforms is bigger, and social media allows people and businesses to promote their campaigns to a wider audience.

In Allen’s case, donors can receive perks for amounts ranging from $25 to $2,500. They include a personalized thank you, an invitation to a cocktail social and their names being sketched onto the entrance wall at the Phoenix production facility.

“It is a true exercise in democracy,” said Allen. “Really going out to the community and saying, 'I’ve got this thing that I’m building and will you come along with me?’  I think it gives folks an opportunity to say yes and to really vote with their top dollars by supporting a company producing a product that they know and believe in.”

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.