Kickstarter is an online platform for raising funds through crowdfunding, a process in which individuals come together to financially support projects or organizations. It has recently gained popularity with independent businesses for its easy accessibility for newcomers and incentives for supporters. Here is a spotlight on a few local Austin businesses that recently used Kickstarter to successfully raise funds:
For Amelia Raley, funding through Kickstarter is familiar territory. While she’s currently funding a project to expand her Hyde Park vegan ice cream parlor, Sweet Ritual, she also used Kickstarter to fund its initial opening back in 2011.
“We had a really fun time with the funding. We got a lot of positive responses from people from all over the USA who were excited about our ice cream,” said Raley. “We offered generous backer rewards and made a lot of new customers and friends, including a couple who pledged to the level of ‘Free Ice Cream for a Year.’ It’s always nice to see them!”
Kickstarter implements rewards for various levels of “pledging,” or donating specific amounts of money. For example, Sweet Ritual’s pledge rewards range from $10 for a free ice cream cone to $1,000 for free ice cream for a year.
Kickstarter isn’t exclusive to pre-existing businesses — or even adults, for that matter. For eight-year-old Tobin Wine and his “Monster Crabs” card game, Kickstarter has been both a successful method of funding and a learning tool. Alongside his younger brother, Griffin, Tobin has turned what started out as a venture to raise money outside of chores into a full-on project with the help of his father and neighbors.
“They are doing a lot of the work, but more importantly, we’re all learning what it takes to run a full business rather than just a lemonade stand,” Aaron Wine, the boys’ father, said. Slated for release in November, Monster Crabs, a game that “combines war with rock, paper, scissors,” will use its funding to pay for the cards’ illustrator, printing costs, shipping supplies and reimbursements for legal fees.
“Our neighborhood is very tight-knit and has a great forum to contact each other where we were able to get the word out initially,” Wine said. “[With Kickstarter], we have customers in the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Australia, and keeping everyone informed on our progress is easy.”
With more than 18 years of combined experience in the food industry and prior Kickstarter experience, implementing the website once again for their food trailer was a natural choice for Eric Neier and Michael Brinley, co-founders of Snorin’ Dog, a Sonoran-style food cart that features Sonoran hot dogs. Sonoran hot dogs, which are wrapped in smoked bacon inside of a Mexican bolillo hot dog bun, have yet to see much popularity in Austin, but Snorin’ Dogs hopes to change that with the introduction of its food cart.
“Everyone in Austin knows that food carts are popping up everywhere and have become serious players in the food game,” Brinley said. “Being from Tucson, Eric and I didn’t think twice. If we’re going to open a food cart, it’s going to be Sonoran hot dogs.”
“This city is just brimming with young, talented, creative people that have a very entrepreneurial spirit,” Neier said. “Small business is something that makes our city so great. It’s a community that supports itself and has the numbers to do so. That’s a beautiful thing.”
Meghan Krasnoff and Belinda Espinoza used Kickstarter to open up Sugar Circus, the merging of Krasnoff’s Sugar Tooth Bakery and Espinoza’s SugarPOP Sweet Shop. While the two admit that the process of asking others to help contribute money to their dream was initially a challenging experience, especially since food is one of the lowest-netting categories on the site, they were astounded by the amount of support they received in acquiring their funding goal.
For anyone new to the concept of online crowdfunding, Krasnoff and Belinda recommended personalizing the experience by letting your supporters get to know you and never missing an opportunity to talk about your project to anyone who will listen.
“You never know how far it’ll get or who will surprise you with their support,” said Krasnoff. “Have fun, and don’t take it so seriously. Even if you don’t make it, you’ll find a way to make your dream happen if it’s what you really want.”