Kickstarter was so six months ago. Now the newest way to fund a creative project — without taking a loan from a guy named “Vinny the Shark” — is a website called Smallknot, a Brooklyn-based company that aims to provide a media platform for local businesses, restaurants mostly, to raise money for specific projects.

How is it different from Kickstarter? According to Paul Choi, an independent marketing consultant who helped bring Smallknot to the West Coast, the difference is that “[Smallknot] is specifically tailored for local business, not just projects, meaning that investors can be sure that their dollars are going towards helping a small business in their neighborhood”. Smallknot labels its user contributions as “investments” to further add to the theme of grassroots support.

Three businesses in Los Angeles have currently signed up for fundraising programs. Beer Belly in Koreatown is seeking to raise $12,000 to construct an outdoor patio, Palms ice cream shop Scoops Westside is raising $8,000 for equipement to double their capacity and offer more flavors, and newcomer Float, a sandwich/coffe/ice cream parlor in Pasadena, is raising $1,000 to fund a “coming out party” at the Taste of South Lake event in October. Similar to Kickstarter, there are perks for different levels of donation, which are chosen by the businesses themselves.

For example, investing $25 in Beer Belly will get you a voucher for a Saturday lunch composed of a cheesesteak and two draft beers, while the max reward for a $250 investment is “regular status” which entails a year-long 15% discount and free reservations. Scoops Westside is offering $40 store credit for a $30 investment, or the ability to have your own flavor created for $150. At Float, $25 will get you lunch for two, or for $150, you can create your float flavor, have it on the menu for a month, and invite five friends for a fully comped meal.

Business owners interested in signing up for Smallknot can do so on the website (currently, the company has a verification process for applying business). In addition, Paul Choi's company Local Headquarters, which designed the three existing L.A. campaigns, is offering its services to area businesses as well.

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LA Weekly