Date of Conferral



Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)




Dr. Craig Martin


Although small businesses borrowed $1 trillion in 2013 from traditional lenders, 35% of small business owners were unable to obtain adequate financing and subsequently sought alternative sources such as crowdfunding. Guided by the pecking order theory, the purpose of this exploratory case study was to explore how 6 small business owners in Tennessee successfully used crowdfunding to start, grow, or sustain their businesses. Data were collected from semistructured interviews and a review of crowdfunding project data on the internet platform including the project description, target goal, amount achieved, number of backers, and locations of the funders. Data were inductively analyzed, first into coded phrases, then categories, and finally emergent themes. Findings revealed that these small business owners tapped into a strong social media network of potential funders for increased funding opportunities. They also advocated that project descriptions consist of high-quality project content and videos, 9 to 11 reward levels, and valuable rewards to entice funders to contribute to the campaign. These small business owners also noted that they devoted more time than originally anticipated during the planning, execution, and fulfillment phases, and they all faced preliminary transaction, fulfillment, and shipping costs when using crowdfunding. The risks included not receiving any funding, negative customer feedback, and poor reputation. These stories have implications for positive social change by illuminating the necessary resources to establish a successful business through employment of a social change mechanism. With funding for growth, the small business owner, family, and local community will promote economic prosperity.