When the last day of their Kickstarter campaign rolled around, Bobby Mullins and Yianni Arestis of Armadillo Ale Works were getting nervous. Although they had been approached by investors who wanted to help them open Denton's first craft brewery, a lot of that money was contingent on the two young entrepreneurs bringing plenty of their own cash to the table. They turned to Kickstarter, promoted their campaign with fundraisers, put up posters all over town and provided constant updates via Facebook and Twitter. Still, less than 24 hours away from the end of the campaign, they were several thousand dollars away from their $30,000 goal. Pledges were coming in, but not at a rate that would push them over the top.
"Before we did the campaign, we reached out to the other breweries that had been successful with Kickstarter," Arestis told me at Banter, two weeks after the end of their campaign. "They all told us, 'You're going to get a big bump at the beginning from your friends and family, it's going to go dead in the middle and you'll think you're not going to make it, and then at the end, especially the last 2 or 3 days, you're going to get a crazy boost,' and that's exactly what ended up happening."
The crazy boost that took them over the line was a $2,500 contribution from Don Thorp, a recent Denton transplant and the Android platform lead developer for Appcelerator.
I asked Arestis to explain how they found out they met their goal. "Bobby and I were on the phone, we were like, we're getting so close! What are we going to do if we don't make it? Bobby was talking, and I saw an email pop up. It was a notification of a new Kickstarter backer in the amount of $2,500. And it kind of didn't register at first, and I clicked on it, and it took me to the Kickstarter page, and I was like, Bobby. Bobby. Bobby. Stop talking. We did it. We just did it! He was like, no, really man, stop messing around -- he thought I was kidding. I was like, check your email right now."
I reached out to Thorp to ask why he wanted to get involved -- $2,500 is a lot of money to give to two guys you never met. "Someone on Twitter sent me a link to their Kickstarter campaign, so I started following it on Facebook so I could keep track," he said. "I'm fairly new to Denton, but I love the community. I saw they were trying to open up a brewery, and we don't have one yet, and I like beer. So I thought this is something I can do."
I pointed out that there are probably a thousand other new Dentonites who like beer. So again -- why? "Well, primarily because I can. I'm old enough now that I can make a difference that way. I've been doing software startups my whole life, so a couple of guys, starting out on their own, trying to get a business going, that appeals to me." Thorp is quick to say that although he has backed several other Kickstarter campaigns, including one for Denton-based musician Karyna Cruz, he wouldn't describe himself as an angel investor open to pitches.
"I'm not looking for places to put money. I don't normally give the kind of amount I did for Armadillo Ale Works, but given the capital expenses they have, I didn't mind doing that."
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So the next steps for Mullins and Arestis just got clearer. For the next few months, they will be working on signing a lease, ordering their brew system, and acquiring all the necessary licenses and permits.
They're hoping to sign a lease soon for a large space in Denton's industrial district off Shady Oaks Drive. Denton's new A-Train goes right past the building several times a day, which Arestis sees as a good advertising opportunity: "The landlord told us if we get this location, we could put a big sign on the front or the side so people gong by on the train would see it. That'd be pretty cool. The brew system takes between 8 to 12 weeks to build. So once we know it's being built and there's just a few weeks left before it's ready, that's when we'll sign the lease so we have a place to put it."
That's when the rest of the federal, state and local permitting processes can start. Fortunately, Mullins' experience as a professional brewer for Saint Arnold Brewing Company in Houston gives them a leg up. "He knows the ins and outs and what to expect. We have a schedule and timeline all laid out," Arestis said.
Their goal is to be open for business next summer. It's looking more likely every day, thanks to a big assist from a stranger.