EmVision Empowered: Small Business Success
EmVision Productions harnessed the power of community to crowdfund for their small business and access grant funds through the Biz-M-Power program.
EmVision Productions is a minority, queer women-led media agency that creates videos at the intersection of science, storytelling, and social justice. EmVision is a full-service firm offering a range of solutions, from consulting to communications workshops to custom video production.
In 2023, EmVision acquired a building in Lynn, Massachusetts, a gateway city and hub for arts and culture, to create a production studio and creative space for artists and local organizations. With support from Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation’s (MGCC) Biz-M-Power program, EmVision was able to access the funds to make improvements and invest in equipment for their new space.
We spoke with EmVision co-founders, Dr. Tariana V. Little and Jonas Meyer, about their experience with crowdfunding and how their community stepped up to support their growth.
Dr. Tariana V. Little (she/her/hers) is CEO and co-founder of EmVision Productions, a social impact media agency that helps visionary organizations convey how they are changing the world. She has been civically engaged since high school, serves on nonprofit boards, and is an emerging philanthropist in her native Boston, MA. Personally, she is a queer, mixed race, first-gen college graduate from a Dominican-German working class immigrant family and holds a Doctor of Public Health from Harvard University. Driven by science, storytelling, and social justice, Tariana’s work embodies what she calls intentional creativity for social change. She lives on the north shore with her partner and two children.
Jonas Meyer (he/his) is Creative Director and co-founder of EmVision Productions. An award-winning producer, Jonas’ experiences of immigrating from Germany and studying in the Netherlands and the US has helped him design and manage projects with a lens of critical, cross-cultural awareness and inclusion. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Psychology from UMass Boston. Outside of work, he enjoys playing with his children, gardening, surfing and playing drums.
Patronicity: Why do you love where you live and work?
Tariana: We are partners in life and in business, so our lives and our work are often intertwined, wherever we are. Jonas is from Germany and I’m from Boston. We are grateful to live on the North Shore by the ocean and to work across the region, the state, and the country, depending on where our video production projects take us.
Patronicity: What interested you in launching a crowdfunding campaign to support your business?
Tariana & Jonas: In January 2023, our company EmVision Productions bought a building in Lynn, MA, a hub for arts and culture. The vision was for this building to serve as our production studio and a collaborative workspace–a place for artists and local organizations to use as well. It was an ambitious, risky endeavor, but also a growth opportunity. So much was at stake. We officially bought the building the same day that our doctor confirmed that we were expecting our second child.
We launched a crowdfunding campaign because we wanted to harness the power of the community to support the building’s renovation and thus the studio’s creation. As a social enterprise with a decade in business, we had a history and a mission of giving forward to the community through pro bono services (EmVisionary Grants) and student scholarships (EmVision Social Impact Scholarship Fund at UMass Boston), so we had cultivated a strong network of clients, collaborations, and community supporters. Nevertheless, at first, I was skeptical: Would this work? Would anyone donate? Would we meet our $20,000 goal in just 30 days? But I had to believe that others would see our vision.
Patronicity: What was your experience with crowdfunding? Did you have prior experience with crowdfunding or fundraising?
Tariana: Personally, I had crowdfunded $700 for a service learning project abroad during graduate school, and professionally through EmVision, Jonas and I had supported clients in leveraging video stories to fundraise for their organizations. We had never actually crowdfunded or fundraised for EmVision; we had been self-funding modest renovations but needed extra funding to tackle bigger projects faster in order to launch sooner.
We have learned three key insights through these experiences:
- Make it personal. At the end of the day, donors are investing in people, not just products or services. Why is this meaningful? What is the heart and history of the work? And what lies ahead? That is what folks are contributing to. With donors’ support, we aimed to launch the next decade of EmVision and increase ways for creatives in Lynn and the North Shore to gather, collaborate, create, and expand economic opportunities. We shared a clear narrative, illustrative pictures, and key milestones.
- Be specific about how you’ll use the money. How much are we raising and why? We were participating in MGCC’s Biz-M-Power crowdfunding grant, which matched 2:1 anything that we raised, up to $20,000 (so, a match up to $40,000). In total, we aimed for the full $60,000 for key investments: painting the aged building exterior, installing air conditioning and heating systems on both floors, buying audiovisual equipment, and furnishing the space for creative and community uses. We had to show donors where and how their contributions would help us.
- Set mini-goals. $20,000 sounded scary, but over 30 days it’s about $667 a day or about $2,700 a week. Doesn’t that seem more realistic? With every email, text, or phone call, we had to think about how we’ll raise the daily or weekly goal. And we did it day by day, week by week, until we hit our goal. Interestingly, as contributions increased, the momentum increased too. People seem to want to support a campaign that has some steam. One client donated the last $1,000; this generosity slightly exceeded our goal and completed the campaign. I was floored.
Patronicity: What have been the results of your crowdfunding campaign?
Tariana & Jonas: The results exceeded our expectations. We raised $22,157 from 72 patrons within 30 days, and immediately used those funds to complete our projects. We launched in September 2023 and have been renting the space to artists, local organizations, and community individuals.
Patronicity: Did your crowdfunding campaign help you to expand your network or connect with your community?
Tariana & Jonas: The crowdfunding campaign helped us to expand and deepen our community connections. We engaged our family, friends, clients, and community supporters–and, in turn, reached people outside of our immediate communities.
In addition, we partnered with the Creative Collective of MA for a ribbon-cutting launch and kept these dollars in the local economy by intentionally tapping local companies, contractors, and artists, such as commissioning an exterior mural from North Shore artist Anna Dugan and featuring a indoor painting exhibit by Lynn artist Michael Aghahowa. Because of the nature of crowdfunding–tapping into community for support–our business feels that much more in and of the community.
Patronicity: Do you feel like your business is stronger or better equipped for the future because of the investment you have been able to make because of the grant? If so, how?
Tariana & Jonas: Our business is indeed stronger because of the investment, but it’s more than the money. Succeeding in business is a team sport, and one of the most important currencies is community. The acquisition of the building was a team effort, made possible by the SBA 504 program, Eastern Bank, and Boston Impact Initiative (BII, which also served as our small business technical assistance sponsor for the MGCC grant). The renovations were accelerated because of our generous donors and the larger vision is being realized because of our team and everyone who has been supporting us. We’ve never done anything like this before and it’s a blessing when the community shows up to support our journey and dreams.
Patronicity: What advice would you give to other businesses exploring crowdfunding or the Biz-M-Power program?
Tariana & Jonas: Go for it. Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. It’s a fun challenge. You got this.