Christopher Norris is a serial entrepreneur, majoring in the arts, media, entertainment and fashion sectors. He joins the dots between book publishing, digital media, television, music, theatre, fashion and film by being passionate about making things happen, publicising excellence and helping others achieve their creative goals. He has not followed a traditional career path, rather he has taken opportunities as they arose that has led him in some exciting directions.
Qualifying as a primary school teacher, Chris started his journey with the educational publisher, Charles Letts & Co., known for its revision guide titles. After nearly 2 years of editing and marketing books from Key Stage 1 of the National Curriculum to undergraduate level, he was made redundant and began to freelance with a range of trade publishers and the literary agency, Laurence Pollinger Ltd. After a while he felt restricted by copy-editing and proofreading tasks, so he pitched a proposal for an Adult Book Weekend of television programming to the generic marketing ginger group, Booksn, comprising senior book trade figures keen to explore ways for the sector to promote the benefits and joy of reading for pleasure. Cutting a long story short, his proposal was realised as the magazine-format ITV book series, You’re Booked!, presented by Craig Charles, James Whale, Nathan Blake and Eve Pollard, which aired on London Weekend Television in the second half of 1994. The series was due to be recommissioned but fell victim to the takeover of LWT by Granada in early 1995.
From 1995 to 2000, Chris worked for a variety of independent television production companies, whilst continuing to take on freelance work in the book trade. Whilst working for Real World Pictures (1995-97), Chris convinced the book trade to run a UK version of World Book and Copyright Day, convening a historic meeting of stakeholders at the Publishers Association in December 1996 that established a Steering Committee on which he served for the first World Book Day (held in spring 1997). At the same time, Chris secured support from UNESCO and the Millennium Commission for River 2000 (an expedition to circumnavigate the world by river, lake and canal) to become one of 12 headline projects for the Millennium Dome exhibition, representing the 12 Time Zones. These plans were squashed by the incoming 1997 Labour Government. Chris moved to Creative Media Marketing Ltd in summer 1997, where his first project was the world’s bestselling tribute video to Diana, Princess of Wales after her death in Paris: Diana, The People’s Princess spent six months in the top 10 on the US Billboard video chart.
Invited by the book trade in 1997 to pitch a project to a Millennium Commission committee, Chris envisioned a multimedia, interactive museum space called ‘Utopia’ – based on the seven archetypical characters in fiction – which, for internal political reasons, was not taken forward. This proposal morphed into StoryCode, the web 2.0 recommendation engine for fiction, which launched in 2005 and almost secured £10m in venture capital funding in 2006. StoryCode appeared on BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den in September 2006, but did not receive any investment from the show. StoryCode ran out of cash: it was ahead of its time.
Needing to survive, Chris took a day job as an NHS administrator in order to build up his freelance platform once more, to establish companies and positions that remain part of his portfolio career. He established the editorial and marketing publishing services company, CopyGhosting, in April 2011; took on the role of Editor and Development Executive for the global Insight Film Festival in May 2013; embarked on a campaign to promote Jolabokaflod, the Icelandic ‘Christmas Book Flood’ tradition, in November 2015; and joined CrowdPatch as Head of Crowdfunding in March 2016. Chris began to work in these roles full time on being made redundant from the NHS in June 2016. His additional current ventures include the Meetup group, The Wisdom of Crowdfunding; the SMRT Startup blockchain platform for smart contacts, current in its pre-ICO phase; and the ‘Artist in Your Own Residence’ mentoring scheme for creatives that is run by Seeds, one of two charities for which Chris acts as a Board Director (the other being the Arts Centre Group). Chris has also written six published books.
In March 2018, Chris was interviewed by BYP TV about Jolabokaflod and gave two presentations at the Author Awards Workshop Day. In April 2018, Jolabokaflod CIC exhibited at the London Book Fair for the first time, running a keynote seminar on the Icelandic tradition, and CrowdPatch launched an revamped ‘dotcom’ website to attract prospective project owners from all over the world. Chris feels that his career is just getting started.
LOST WHEN IT COMES TO FUNDING?
Christopher Norris, Head of Crowdfunding at CrowdPatch, explains how crowdfunding can help authors and entrepreneurs to realise their dreams.
Crowdfunding is a channel for raising money, building networks and creating and marketing and publicity buzz. CrowdPatch offers a way for social entrepreneurs to succeed in all three strands.
Crowdfunding is coming of age
At a time of austerity, crowdfunding is breaking through as an exciting, viable alternative to the patronage model of funding across business, government at all levels, public services and charities.
According to NESTA, the crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending market in the UK in 2016 was worth £3.2 billion (the latest year for which figures are available), an increase of 84% on 2015: 97% of crowdfunding in 2016 operated on a ‘contributions for rewards’ business model. By 2020, the projected market value will be £12.3 billion.
At its most basic level, crowdfunding is a process of asking for money to support projects from many people, rather than the traditional model of pitching a business plan to a bank manager. But crowdfunding is about so much more than raising cash.
Think of crowdfunding as a combination of three equally important components:
The ‘contributions for rewards’ business model is a win/win scenario. Project owners receive money towards their target figures and contributors receive perks that are either useful for their own enterprises’ bottom line or compliant with their CSR objectives.
People love projects: ‘making things happen’ and ‘telling stories’ are surefire ways of engaging our interest and our participation. Exciting crowdfunding projects attract the attention and support of like-minded enthusiasts and experts, often with incredible ideas and direct access to great contacts.
Crowdfunding campaigns are developing stories that have the potential to be newsworthy. When project owners share the process of running their campaigns – their triumphs, their problems, their solutions – they are building a brand by transmitting messages that their audiences love. As Thesis 1 of the Cluetrain Manifesto states: ‘Markets are conversations.’ This statement remains truer than ever.
CrowdPatch is the crowdfunding platform for commercial and social entrepreneurs. The platform comprises highly interactive areas of interest called ‘patches’ that nurture and incubate themed projects and attract like-minded fans and followers. Free to use throughout the process of running a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign, project owners get to keep all the money they raise. There are also opportunities to engage volunteers, via a one-click sign-up process, and plenty of scope to encourage fans and followers to share news about projects via their own social networks.
CrowdPatch’s unique relational approach to crowdfunding means that the network effect is built into the functionality of the site, so that projects that reach over 25% of their target amount can go viral both inside the platform and externally around the web.
CrowdPatch supports a vibrant ecosystem of registered members who can monetise the skills they add to the platform’s database. A project owner can seek out registered members with the skills they need to make their crowdfunding campaigns succeed. Members may wish to volunteer for the project or else offer to work on the campaign for a fee on a freelance basis. The agreed fees are added to the target figure required by the project, which in turn incentivises the new freelance member of the team to spread the word widely around his or her networks. CrowdPatch personnel can earn money by offering bespoke premium services to project owners on a freelance basis.
Project owners can now also promote Eventbrite events at CrowdPatch alongside their crowdfunding campaigns
Helping project owners to reach their targets
CrowdPatch also offers tailored training and digital marketing packages that can be integrated into project budgets. CrowdPatch works alongside commercial crowdfunding platforms (such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter) to help project owners to optimise their chances of raising the funds they need for projects to happen.
CrowdPatch collaborates with organisations and networks (such as the RSA) that have a strong social enterprise ethos and that aim to support social cohesion in local communties.
CrowdPatch also works alongside other crowdfunding platforms with a commercial focus, sharing links to projects that have social enterprise elements.
CrowdPatch also supports start-up businesses and SMEs to raise seed money for their initiatives without having to give away equity in their companies too early.
CrowdPatch offers an unbiased broker’s service to advise project owners as to the best channels to use to optimise their chances of securing target funding and network growth (e.g. followers; fans; and expert connections).
In 2016, CrowdPatch ran a successful pilot scheme programme with the RSA in the organisation’s London and South Central regions. The three crowdfunding projects that ran at the RSA London patch are as follows:
- Bloomsbury Beginnings (project owner: Ann Nkune) – campaign to refurbish a coworking space to improve facilities for parents with young children who need to work flexibly to accommodate their home responsibilities;
- Small Gatherings for Big Thoughts (project owner: Luisa Spina) – campaign to encourage dialogue between strangers through cooking collaboratively;
- Quality Interactions and Creativity (project owner: Talmud Bah) – campaign to train young adults to work creatively with vulnerable children at risk of exclusion from schools in Lewisham.
Each of these campaigns raised their target figures and generated significant local support, interest and matched funding.