Café Hopes Local Investors Will Make New Iowa City Location A Reality
Thirty restaurants. Thousands of members. One day.
That’s the goal Jon Stewart has been working toward for more than two years.
The 26-year-old from Bellafonte, Penn., has plans to open 30 New Perspective Cafes, including one in Iowa City, in mid-April.
Stewart, president of New Perspectives Cafe, and his staff plan to use a crowd-funding model to help finance the new cafes.
They will sell $50 memberships to each cafe and in exchange, members get special discounts and prizes. They also will have a voice in the decision-making process at their local cafe, Stewart said.
Members may get to vote on everything from the decor on the wall to the food in the menu, he said.
“All around us we’ve seen increases in customer access and choice, but we didn’t necessarily see that happening within restaurants,” said Stewart, who has a background working in restaurants and cafes as server, manager, and cook.
The company, which has about 10 employees now, has been working to secure locations and staff members in the 30 eventual locations, all of which are home to major universities, Stewart said.
He said he’s still looking for a location for the Iowa City cafe, which likely will serve flavored coffees, tea, bakery items, and possible fondue and cheese plates.
Now, the company is focused on recruiting local backers through a membership drive that begins Friday and runs through March 16. The goal is to raise $18,000 for each location, Stewart said.
He admitted that opening 30 new restaurants at once may seem like a lofty goal, but said his staff as been working on the most efficient way accomplish the simultaneous unveiling.
“We are hoping to make it more of an event where people feel like they’re part of a bigger movement,” Stewart said. “There’s still excitement when you open one or two cafes, but we’re hoping to really capitalize on that by opening them all at once.”
Crowd-funding as a way to finance start-up companies is becoming increasingly popular as social media and the Internet make it easier to connect budding entrepreneurs with those interesting in making small investments.
Rob Rouwenhorst, director of the Marketing Institute and lecturer in the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa, said the key to a successful crowd-sourcing campaign is to provide a unique concept that will catch the interest of potential investors.
“The big thing with all crowd-funding exercises is whether you can reach the tipping point that makes it a success,” Rouwenhorst said. “You have to have something noticeable that people are willing to invest in.”
Rouwenhorst said the New Perspectives plan is bold, but by opening all of their locations at once, they may attract more attention.
“It used to be I needed to know the right people and they needed to know the right people who would be willing to invest in your company,” Rouwenhorst said. “Now you just need to post it on the Internet and link to it on Twitter and Facebook, and it can have a snowball effect.”
Visit the company’s website, www.newperspectivescafe.com, to learn more about the cafe and about purchasing a membership.