Every time I see a Kickstarter or similar Internet based financial campaign for a food business, I raise an eyebrow. For one, I don't understand why people want to invest in a business with no model for return. Sure, some of the better campaigns award nifty incentives for their donors, but the small gifts hardly make up for the investment, financially speaking. Participants are basically pissing their money away, which maybe isn't all that different from investing in a restaurant the old fashioned way.
The other reason I'm skeptical is because these fundraisers never seem to go anywhere. Remember those pickle sisters? I can't even find their Kickstarter page these days and the website for the company doesn't exactly exude success. The Jackalope Vegan Mobile Kitchen did was a flop too. They raised a little more than 10 percent of their goal before their campaign tanked.
Kickstarter requires participants to set both a goal and deadline, and if they don't hit the target the entire effort is null, so the Pearl Cup decided to use indiegogo for their campaign. That platform ditches Kickstarter's restraints and lets participants collect funds no matter how few financiers step up to the plate. Pearl Cup's campaign topped out at $410. Whoop!
Joel Malone, on the other hand completely demolished his Kickstarter goal, raising nearly twice the $10,000, amount he'd originally hoped to. Malone attributes a well thought out, tired system of donations and incentives, at least in part, to his success.
A backer who gives just $5 gets a measly sticker, but at the $22 and higher donation level things start to get pretty good. There are T-shirts, pint glasses and a nifty beer stick bottle opener as the donations go up. At $70, the incentives take a turn towards social advocacy as backers are presented 5-foot-tall apple tree that produces a rare variety of apple. Malone says making some sort of social stand gives potential backers an idea they can feel good about -- suddenly they're participating in preserving unique strains of apple trees.
But there's no short cut. The best way to execute a successful Kickstarter campaign, according to Malone, is to have offer something that people can buy into. "We're selling an idea," he said.
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While the craft beer movement is taking Dallas and her suburbs by storm, Dallasites with celiac disease have been left behind. Cider, which is by nature gluten free, allows people with this disorder to participate.
There's also a dearth of great cider available in the Dallas area. Fans of the beverage frequently relegate themselves to big box producers who peddle cloyingly sweet and often terrible beverages. By offering a unique product that fills a specific niche, Malone's Kickstarter campaign had a good chance of success from the start.
Malone says even with a good idea, you've still got to put some work into your Kickstarter campaign. "People think that just because their project is on Kickstarter it's going to bring them money, but there are thousands of projects on the website," he said. "It's got to be blog worthy," he added, and then "you got to go to the people that care." Malone talked with local bloggers and news outlets who ran with the story. Now he's raised more than $18,000 on a campaign he initially hoped would get him $10,000.
So when can we start drinking? A few permitting issues have Malone tap dancing down at City Hall, but he's hoping to start selling cider sometime in June and when he's permitted he's planning on doing some brisk business. In addition to raising money that's helping to offset his rent costs while he's waiting to open, his Kickstarter campaign has created some serious buzz. Malone says more than 20 restaurants have already contacted him about carrying his ciders as soon as they're ready. That's something to drink to.