Saranac Lake, NY — When Victoria Vazquez moved to the Adirondacks in 2016 to attend Paul Smith’s College, she had not intended to settle down in the area. Eight years later, she not only still lives in Saranac Lake, she owns and operates a small business here. Vazquez is continually making improvements to Main Street Exchange, her downtown consignment shop, and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support her latest project.
“This is going to be a space that the community can use to express their creativity through a variety of mediums,” said Vazquez. “Whether it’s painting, sewing, writing or photography, we want to make this a space for all makers. We’re so grateful to ANCA and the local community for supporting this exciting new chapter for Main Street Exchange.”
ANCA relaunched its Ignite! program in October to address the challenge among local entrepreneurs of securing capital for small projects that would make a substantial impact on their growth. Utilizing ANCA’s new website and updated crowdfunding platform, Ignite! is currently hosting project campaigns for two women-owned, creative businesses in Saranac Lake — Main Street Exchange and ADK ArtRise.
“Grants and financing for businesses are often designed for big projects that require large sums of money. The smaller projects that can really make a lasting impact for small businesses often go unfunded because they’re just not eligible,” said Lauren Richard, ANCA Small Business Services Coordinator. “The crowdfunding model engages businesses’ existing audiences and clientele, and works by collecting small investments from lots of people.”
Richard said Main Street Exchange and ADK ArtRise each have a strong local following and an active social media presence, which are key for gaining crowdfunding support. She said that both Vazquez and ADK ArtRise co-owner Britt Sternberg are community leaders who inspire creativity and collaboration. Their projects will not only help their own businesses grow, they will also benefit other local businesses and the community as a whole.
An advocate for “slow fashion” — a movement that promotes environmental and social justice in the fashion industry and aims to reduce the overproduction and overconsumption of clothing — Vazquez is carrying out a vision for her business that includes the consignment store, a photo studio to support an online sales enterprise, and a shared makerspace for DIY projects, including her own fashion design endeavors. Her “Creative Haven Makeover” is estimated to cost $3,000, which is a significant up-front cost for her young business venture.
ADK ArtRise, owned and operated by three women artists including Sternberg, is raising funds to revamp their downtown retail space in time for the holiday season. Their “Retail Rising” campaign will also fund an online inventory system that will help them better curate and track their retail operation and better respond to their customers’ shopping preferences.
“We are so grateful to have a local organization like ANCA that is invested in helping small businesses achieve their goals,” said Sternberg. “Over the past year, they have helped us find resources like educational opportunities and grants, and connected us with local partners. Now, the Ignite! platform is helping us reach a broader audience and get the word out about our campaign and how ADK ArtRise would like to grow and continue to build our presence in this community.”
Both Ignite! campaigns offer gifts for project supporters depending on their level of investment. From stickers and retail discounts to courses and consultations, supporters can choose to receive a reward for their campaign contribution.
Based on national crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and paired with responsive, real-life, local support from ANCA staff, Ignite! has supported several area businesses with needs such as infrastructure improvements, specialized equipment, publication costs and marketing tools. The cost of Ignite! projects range from $500 to $3,000 and significantly boost individual businesses’ resilience and growth. By providing a more regional focus for investment, Ignite! allows supporters to invest in entrepreneurs who are part of the economic and cultural fabric of North Country communities.
Small businesses located in ANCA’s 14-county North Country region are invited to apply to the Ignite! program. Business applicants then meet with ANCA staff to discuss their project idea and marketing plan. Once drafted, an anonymous advisory committee reviews and provides feedback on their campaigns. Richard said this process ensures that participating businesses are well set up to reach their crowdfunding goals. Interested applicants and supporters are invited to learn more at bit.ly/igniteadk.
ANCA is an independent, nonprofit corporation with a transformational approach to building prosperity across northern New York. Using innovative strategies for food systems, clean energy, small businesses, and equity and inclusion, ANCA delivers targeted interventions that create and sustain wealth and value in local communities.
Photo 1 courtesy of Main Street Exchange: Main Street Exchange owner Victoria Vazquez is utilizing ANCA’s Ignite! crowdfunding platform to support the development of a community creative space in her consignment shop’s basement.