Crowd-funding startup tries on a new size

Bonfire Funds founder Brian Marks. (Courtesy of Bonfire Funds)

Bonfire Funds founder Brian Marks. (Courtesy of Bonfire Funds)

Things are heating up for a one-year-old Richmond fundraising firm.

Bonfire Funds, a crowd-funding company that helps organizations raise money by selling T-shirts, this month moved into a new Innsbrook office and closed on a round of capital.

Founder Brian Marks said the 750-square-foot space at 10120 W. Broad St. would give the two-person company a central location and room to hire several interns and employees.

“We spent last year making sure we had a model that worked,” Marks said. “This year is going to be all about scaling and identifying markets we haven’t broken into yet.”

The new Richmond office also allowed Bonfire chief technology officer Dusan Nedeljkovic to relocate from Serbia. Previously, he and Marks had worked remotely.

Anyone can launch a Bonfire campaign and design shirts online for free. If someone sells at least 50 shirts at $25 each, Bonfire prints and ships them. The cause gets $15 per shirt, and Bonfire gets the other $10 to cover production and business expenses.

If a customer’s campaign doesn’t meet the minimum requirement, no one gets charged.

Last year, Bonfire hosted campaigns for a Hurricane Sandy relief group, Richmond-based Bonnie Blue Rescue, the Massey Cancer Center and Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Our model is applicable to so many groups,” Marks said. “We’ve worked with nonprofits, conferences, high school athletics, civic projects. And we want to keep expanding.”

Marks declined to discuss the specifics of the capital raise, but said he’s secured funding from three local investors. He’s still meeting with potential investors and said the long-term goal is to make the site more sustainable.

He initially financed the startup out of his personal savings. Before launching Bonfire, Marks worked for a division of Johnson & Johnson that sold medical equipment.

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John Murden

Neat! I got one of the VCU “RPI GREEN DEVILS” shirts through them last year, didn’t even know that they were a local biz.