By Cheryl V. Jackson

Chicago entrepreneur Shawn Smith is working with scraps. He says that’s a good thing, for his business and the environment.

In 2013, Smith, co-founder of the Chicago-based Shawnimals design studio, and a business partner started a company to repurpose unused paper into artists’ sketchpads. They raised more than $52,000 for their Resketch in a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Now he’s thinking smaller — launching a Kickstarter campaign for a pocket-sized version called Resketch Mini.

But this time, his company isn’t doing it alone.

Smith’s project is part of Seed Chicago, a program that boosts potential crowdfunders and highlights their efforts on a curated Kickstarter page. The effort by Accion Chicago aims to give Chicago crowdfunding campaigns by small businesses and underserved communities broader attention and access to networks and coaching.

MillerCoors sponsors the program, which grew out of a collaboration among the City of Chicago, World Business Chicago and Accion Chicago, a nonprofit organization that provides loans and coaching to underserved entrepreneurs in Illinois and Northwest Indiana.

Haley Marceau, associate of development and communications at Accion Chicago, coaches project owners on concepts, rewards, updates and social media strategy and even sends emails on their behalf — all important elements on the all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform.

Seed Chicago is currently helping its ninth group of entrepreneurs. It says 52 percent of the projects from the first eight groups succeeded, topping Kickstarter’s overall success rate of 37 percent.

“Crowdfunding is not an easy task,” Marceau said. “Through our experience with social media and online marketing, we’re able to provide that high-touch technical assistance to entrepreneurs. It’s free marketing for their projects. They gain access to our network of followers. It helps them cast their net wider.”

Read the full article here.