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Hackensack library holds "Crowd Funding" seminar

posted May 24, 2013, 11:58 AM by Sallar Khorram   [ updated May 24, 2013, 12:01 PM ]
In an effort to bring more technology-based seminars to residents, the Johnson Free Public Library hosted a group of entrepreneurs and writers, who, with the help of "crowd funding" websites reached their project goals.

Crowd funding, which usually takes place on the Internet, is a collective effort where individuals pool their money to support endeavors initiated by others.

Though the seminar initially focused on the website Kickstarter — crowd funding, in general, and business advice ended up being the main topics of discussion.

Hackensack teacher Toney Jackson joined Tanya Gomelskaya, Louisa Luisi, and Robert Stone in explaining to those in attendance how crowd funding assisted them in their ventures.

Jackson, a teacher at Nellie K.Parker Elementary School, detailed how writing has always been something he gravitated towards. Though he decided to embark on a career in education, his passion for writing followed him.

"I used to print up my books…for free," he said amidst laughter. "I won't tell you where! But I used to print them and hand them out to students and other teachers. It was a fun little thing I did."

It wasn't until one day, when he went on a crowd funding website to "back" a product, that he decided it would be the perfect platform to earn money to publish a book.

"I said, 'Let me just try and put every creative thing I can into this effort,'" he said.

While he sought to raise $2,000 in order to fund his goal, backers exceeded this number.

Because of the success he's had through crowd funding, he is in the middle of publishing two books: "I'm Jack. I'm black" and "There's a button in my belly!" — the first being a story about accepting one's differences and the latter a collection of poems.

Two other children's book authors also spoke about their experiences: Gomelskaya and Luisi.

Gomelskaya was a dental assistant who went to art school. With aspirations of writing a children's book and hating her job, she decided to quit and dedicate herself to her dream. She relied on crowd funding to launch her book "Buttons Kings and Strange Little Things" with all illustrations done by herself. She met and exceeded her funding goal of $7,000. Her book will go to printing in roughly two weeks.

"I was a little skeptical at first," she admitted. "I did my research on crowd funding and other children's books [and] asked myself, 'Why not try it?...When you have an idea and you know where you want it to go, but do not have the money to launch it, [crowd funding] is a great way to do it."

Luisi, who authored "Your Best Coaches," mentioned that, just like any other business venture, one must now how to market their product or idea in an online platform in order to get the funding needed.


Hackensack's Johnson Public Library held a seminar focusing on 'crowd funding' — the collective effort where individuals pool their money to support endeavors by others. The seminar included a panel of authors and entrepreneurs who used crowd funding websites to reach their goals.

Hackensack's Johnson Public Library held a seminar focusing on 'crowd funding' — the collective effort where individuals pool their money to support endeavors by others. The seminar included a panel of authors and entrepreneurs who used crowd funding websites to reach their goals.


Gabriel Aronovich — a frequent backer who supported Gomelskaya's efforts — was also present at the event. He gave insight as to what backers look for and how to be enticing to an audience. A "backer" is someone who donates money via a website to help fund an idea.

"The amount of funds you are looking for has to be reasonable," he said. "If a potential backer goes to your [idea's webpage] and sees a huge number there, they won't back you up."

Aronovich explained that a large figure could drive possible contributors away because they will think you won't be able to reach that amount in a set number of days or that others will contribute more money.

Robert Stone, an entrepreneur who, along with a group of friends, developed a camera stabilizer and sought an initial backing of $27,000 but exceeded $31,000, further elaborated.

"[Backers] want to be part of a winning team," he said. "If they feel that the number is too high too reach, they will not fund your project."

All participants in the panel also stressed that one must be aware of a crowd funding website's guidelines and the fact that on many sites, if the amount being sought is not reached by a specified time, one will not receive any funds. They also said that most websites charge a certain percentage of the fund when it is met. Because of these two points, one must always take them into consideration when coming up with a target figure to fund your project.

Aronovich also stressed the importance of having a definite idea for a project. He also said that one must be aware what projects are and are not supported by certain crowd funding websites. For example, charities are not allowed on some sites, while they are on others.

Though crowd funding is an up-and-coming option to finance one's idea, the entire panel stressed the importance "traditional" business legalities — copyrighting, patenting, securing a bar code and ISBN for one's products, books, and ideas.

"What you are striving for is a business," Luisi said. "I would suggest cover all your bases."

The event, which ran overtime due to the panel answering audience questions, proved a success according to technology and reference librarian Radwa Ali.

"[The library] is trying to provide at least one technological seminar a month," she said. "We came upon this cool [crowd funding] idea. We hope this inspires other people. Many people have all these ideas but they think they can't do it, that it is unattainable…..we want to show the people in town that they can always aspire for more."

Audience member Stacey Gordon enjoyed the seminar and felt inspired.

"Events like these helps people that have passions but aren't sure how to make them a reality," she said. "It's great because like-minded people can gather and become each others support system."


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