Turned down for a bank loan but determined to get her knitting book business off the ground, Shannon Okey joined the growing ranks of entrepreneurs raising start-up money online.
She sent out an appeal to her 7,000 Twitter followers and offered books, knitting designs and even a custom-knit sweater to people willing to pledge their support on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter.com.
Crowdfunding began as a way to raise money for artistic projects.
Bands asked their fans to donate money so they could put out a new album. Filmmakers swapped DVDs of their projects or even producer credits for pledges. Museums got into the game as they sought new ways to raise funds for exhibits, as did charities.
It has grown to become a powerful tool for startups, and a way to market new products.