As bitcoin continues to grow in popularity, small businesses around the world have begun accepting the digital currency as a method of payment.
Many of these businesses have seen only a very small portion of their customers pay with bitcoin, but that doesn't necessarily make the venture into cryptocurrencies a failure.
Dr J Anthony Allen, CEO of the Minneapolis-based music production school Slam Academy, said bitcoin payments at his business have been "very successful," yet Slam Academy has seen just one customer pay with the digital currency since Allen began accepting it in November of 2013.
With only one total sale it may be hard to see why Allen considers his foray into bitcoin a success, but the answer doesn't actually lie in the money. Allen said:
"So only one sale, but the more important thing is the press we've received from [accepting bitcoin]. I hate to say that we started accepting it just to get press, but it's turned out to be a great side effect of accepting bitcoin."
Allen first began accepting the digital currency when he made a post on reddit in hopes of finding new ways to promote his business. A user suggested he accept bitcoin and another joked that he should accept McDonalds gift cards as well.
"It really got me thinking," Allen said. "I thought, 'They are both right, actually. I would totally accept McDonalds gift cards if I could pay my rent with them. I would accept just about anything if I can pay my rent with it. Who am I to turn a customer away no matter what they want to pay with?' So I looked into bitcoin, and when I realized it wouldn't be very hard at all to actually pay my rent with it, we implemented it into the site."
Other business owners have had experiences similar to Allen's. Robert Hohne, owner of New Orleans general store Homestead, mentioned that accepting bitcoin has brought in customers who otherwise might not have shopped at his store.
"We've been fortunate to have met some great customers who only found us because we accept bitcoin, and have also sparked the interest of customers who come in and ask us what this bitcoin phenomenon is all about," Hohne said.
Other than simply being a tool to bring in publicity, bitcoin provides other advantages for both businesses and their customers.
Nick Pappas, owner of the Flamestone American Grill in Oldsmar, Florida, began following bitcoin when it was valued at about $30. As he watched the value rise over time, he began to see how it could be incorporated into his restaurant. Pappas said:
"After doing some more research, I realized bitcoin was another option I could give my customers to be able to purchase gift cards from our website using it."
"From a business standpoint, it cuts out the middle man and eliminates any transaction or credit card fees. Also, by accepting bitcoin we are the ones accepting the volatility and the risk, not my customers. That was important to me."
Like Allen, both Pappas and Hohne have only had a handful of customers pay with bitcoin, but each mentioned that they think bitcoin payments will become more popular and widespread in the future as the general public becomes more educated about cryptocurrencies and their benefits.
"I think once people understand bitcoin better they will embrace it more," Pappas said. "Let's face it, this is something that has never been done before and it is difficult to comprehend how it works. Once people do start understanding, I think the popularity of it will boom."
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