What lies on the horizons for a startup following a successful equity crowdfunding raise?
“Engagement!” says Sandra Marlowe, CEO and Founder of Baqua. “Our investors, as well as customers, are pivotal to our future.”
Baqua, the first female-led company to find success on StartEngine, concluded its campaign in December 2016. After receiving new capital from the crowd, Marlowe was newly able to focus on Baqua’s future with a robust product road map ahead.
In the nine months since new capital was raised, the Kentucky-based beverage business has established an in-house Marketing department and is preparing to launch two new flavors — Cherry Lime and Blackberry Red Currant — by year end. “Some days it’s overwhelming, but it’s always exciting as the Baqua brand evolves and grows,” she says.
Some of the new capital was spent to hire new marketing talent. The addition of a graphic designer sets the foundation for Baqua’s social media and marketing strategy. Graphic design can mean more to a small business than you might think.
“Consistent visual identities are especially important for smaller businesses to build consumers’ brand awareness,” says Marlowe. Effective social media presence plays a key role in consumers’ perception of a brand. What’s more, psychological phenomena such as the mere-exposure effect can positively impact sales. This is where a dedicated Marketing Department is invaluable in building excitement and engaging both investors and consumers for young companies.
Baqua’s brand development is being guided by a Marketing Director who is strategizing for growth in target audiences and new locations. Baqua is preparing to launch a children’s line in the next nine months. They will also enter larger markets, a decision driven by SPINS data, which lists the Los
Angeles area as the national market leader in sales of single-serve, healthy functional beverages.
Equity crowdfunding’s most important attribute, in Marlowe’s opinion, is its ability to attract both consumers and equity partners. Shareholders essentially “have skin in the game,” she says, “and are excellent brand advocates.” As a young startup, Baqua enjoys a sense of intimacy with its investors — a defining characteristic that tends to dissipate as companies grow. Marlowe has connected with investors through emails, phone calls, and text messages to drive community engagement. “It is very satisfying to hear their voices and answer their questions!”
Since Kentucky is relatively new to equity crowdfunding, educating investors is yet another task on Marlowe’s plate. As a successful entrepreneur on StartEngine’s platform, she considers Baqua “on the leading edge of networking and helping other businesses learn about crowdfunding.” She has
hosted organized meetups in Lexington to help peers learn specifics of the industry.
As the public’s understanding of equity crowdfunding develops, Marlowe hopes more entrepreneurs will solicit support from the community to help realize their dreams.
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Thanks to Ryan Hynes.