Home » OPINION » Columns » ALAN TURNER — Equity crowdfunding comes to Mississippi

ALAN TURNER — Equity crowdfunding comes to Mississippi



Entrepreneurs often share one tough obstacle: the difficulty in obtaining capital funding for their ventures. Banks and traditional lending institutions are often reticent to provide funds for enterprises which have a generally high failure rate, so unfortunately, many worthy businesses simply never make it to the launch stage.

One trend that has been spreading in recent years is the concept of equity crowdfunding, which is now a legitimate process in the state of Mississippi.

Recently, I chatted with Jennifer Gatewood about the concept. Jennifer is the founder of Peer Elevate Funding, and she sees herself as the “pioneer” in the Mississippi equity crowdfunding arena.

Born in Jackson, Jennifer graduated cum laude from Belhaven, and then began a successful career in the telecom, banking, and information technology industries, serving as a project manager in recent years, before starting her firm this past April.

“You might think of my company as the ‘middle-man’ in this process,” she said. “My job is to bring together entrepreneurs and Mississippi investors, and facilitate the process so that it results in a successful transaction, namely, the funding of a specific venture.”

The concept is simple: the entrepreneur gets access to the funding he or she needs to get an enterprise up and running; the investors get a “piece of the action” in return for risking their money. If all works as it should, everybody benefits. Otherwise? Well, it’s not called “risk capital” for nothing.

“I guess you could say that I was smart enough to do it–and dumb enough to do it,” Jennifer said, referring to the challenges and obstacles she has had to contend with along the way to getting her own business up and running.

She is passionate and committed to the program, however, believing that “this can be of great benefit to Mississippi’s economy and business community.”

Equity crowdfunding originally came into play in 2012 with Title 3 of the Jobs Act, which authorized the process. Under the current rules and regs, only Mississippi investors may invest in Mississippi businesses; however, that is due to change in the coming year, when the way will be opened to investments across states.

Jennifer has spent considerable time, effort and money getting her venture up and running, including multiple meetings with state and federal officials to put the programs together.

What kinds of ventures is she working with?

“One major trend is in real estate,” she said. “We see opportunities here for revitalizing empty properties, and that will benefit communities immensely, helping to drive economic growth.”

She deals in “raises” (referring to the amount of capital) of up to $2 million, although many projects tend to fall into much smaller amounts, typically $20,000-50,000. Many are tech or other small business ventures.

“The great thing about equity crowdfunding is that it’s open to everybody. If you have a terrific idea and a great business plan (an absolute necessity), you have a really good shot at getting the funding you need,” she said.

One of the things that Jennifer does is to vet the entrepreneur and the business plan, and folks who are seeking funding typically must go through a fairly lengthy and involved process.

“It’s important for investors to know and understand what they’re supporting,” she said.

She enjoys her role, which allows her to be involved with many different aspects of a venture, including the entrepreneur, the investor, banks, and state and federal government agencies.

“That’s the kind of thing I did as a project manager for years, so this is right up my alley,” she said.

Interested parties can visit her website for further information and details about equity crowdfunding: www.peerelevate.com.

A short video featuring Jennifer can be viewed on our website, msbusiness.com, or on our YouTube channel, mbjournal.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.


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