Anyone who's been following our ongoing story on The Bicycle Academy based in Frome, Somerset will be pleased to see this pic of their Andrew Denham being presented with a cheque for £40,290 representing the money raised from 169 people over six days in November on Peoplefund.it a crowdfunding website.
Crowdfunding, where large numbers of people contribute relatively small amounts of money over the internet to raise the start-up capital for start-ups that appeal to them have been one of the media stories of 2011, with hi-tech projects the usual profile to suit the often nerdy inclinations of the web-savvy participants.
Peoplefund.it however is a crowdfunding site with a difference in that it was set up by Keo Films the company behind the world of River Cottage in Devon with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the helm to expedite funding of projects that fall under the categories of 'sustainable' and 'green.'
Furthermore their first funding project The Bicycle Academy was a little bit different from the usual crowdfunding template in that it was raising considerable £500 chunks of cash for something as intangible as skills training but it otherwise fit the bill perfectly with a plan to set up a school in Frome under the legendary Brian Curtis to teach funders the traditional steel tube fillet-brazing framebuilding techniques. The added twist is that the first frame built by every participant will be going to the Re-cycle charity for use in Africa.
The objective was to raise the initial £40,000 needed to buy tools and machinery over a six week period starting at the beginning of November. As our stories at the time told however, the full amount plus a bit extra was raised in a record six days with additional participants already signed up on a waiting list once the initial trainees are accommodated starting this coming Spring.
For Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the Peoplefund.it project seems to be as big a passion as any of the high-profile causes at the centre of his recent TV work, "The success of our Fish Fight, Landshare, and Chicken Out campaigns have shown that solutions and impetus often come from grass roots collective action, and have the power to effect more remarkable change than we really ever imagined. Peoplefund.it builds on that momentum and gives people the means to take their ideas forward. We want it to be a fantastic tool for entrepreneurs and idealists who capture the popular imagination."
According to Andrew Denham, who met Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the River Cottage headquarters in Axminster, Devon just before the Christmas holiday, "It was pretty surreal to be presented with a big comedy cheque for £40k from HFW. Only a few weeks ago the whole thing was no more than a well intentioned idea, now thanks to all my backers it's really going to happen!"
Meanwhile, The Bicycle Academy has been named a Top 20 Business Startup of 2011 by the business site startups.co.uk.