Running a crowdfunding campaign around the holidays could be a brilliant strategy. People are in shopping mode already, looking for unique and local gifts. They're also expecting requests for donations every time they open their inboxes or front doors. Hitting "Contribute Now" or "Back This Project" can be a satisfying mix of altruism if the funds go to a cause you deem worthy and the perks go to a loved one.
Gneiss Spice, based in Bethel, is hoping to hit that sweet spot with less than a week remaining in its Kickstarter project. Beth Weisberger, who runs the company with her husband, says for the past five years they've made magnetic spice racks that stick to the fridge by their lids, which saves space, makes cooking more accessible, creates a colorful, attractive honeycomb pattern, and is just fun. With an extensive line-up of photos and a charmingly low-tech campaign video, Gneiss Spice is over halfway to its $10,000 goal.
Beth uses Etsy as her sales platform, but it's not customizable enough for what she wants to do: Allow customers to create their own spice set-up for a personal touch. "We're raising funds on Kickstarter to get a custom website built for us that will include a way for customers to 'build their own' spice kit, personalized to their pantry," she says.
Until now, Etsy has worked well as a digital home for the business, which Weisberger explains was more of a hobby until a year ago. She'll continue to sell on the indie platform as needed, but would like to take the next step. "I've had the shop on Etsy for the past 5 years, but it was always more of a hobby...we've been doing this full time the past year. We're trying to become legit!"
The company is working with local design firm Might and Main to improve its branding, and hopefully get that custom website built. If not, the business won't collapse: "The back up plan right now would be that we are still building a website, but it won't have any of the customizable features. A custom built website was out of our price range." If Plan A falls through, though, Beth is certain it will set back growth. "It won't break our business if not funded - but I think it is impossible for our business to grow until we branch off of Etsy."
In a savvy move for the holiday season, many of the perks offered for the campaign are at her normal rate or even discounted, and Weisberger promises backers will receive their rewards in time for the holidays. That is, if the campaign is successfully funded. "I didn't realize how quickly we'd get buried on Kickstarter! (Yes, this was probably naive.)" Weisberger thinks funding thus far has come three-quarters from past customers and Facebook fans, and hopes to make the final stretch.
Catbird Creamery, based in Westbrook, is running its own IndieGoGo campaign, seeking $60,000 for relocation and upgrade costs. The company started with production only in 2010, borrowing space from a friend to make ice cream and truffles for wholesale, then in 2011 opened its current production space with a public shop, producing everything from cones to toppings in-house. The creamery has now reached a tipping point, needing a variety of improvements and a new home:
While bootstrapping a business like Catbird Creamery has been a continuous challenge, we have always been able to take the next step. However, we have reached a point where the next one is a doozy. In order to sustain our growth and increase our efficiency, we need a new home, some new equipment and a lot more visibility. Currently our space has become too expensive for us to remain and unfeasible to upgrade. Since it has happened rather suddenly, we need to move fast. Unfortunately, this is a larger scoop than we can eat by ourselves.
Co-owner Corey DiGirolamo, who runs the company with her husband, says they don't have a location picked out for a move yet. "Right now, we are looking at all possibilities for a new space. What is most important is that it is the best fit for our growing manufacturing business and has plenty of visibility for our retail side."
The flexible funding model of IndieGoGo, though, means Catbird's owners have options available even if they don't hit 100% or more of their funding goal. "IndieGoGo seemed the appropriate model for a small business. Any funding we can raise will go towards the business; the amount we raise will decide what we can do."
The campaign also runs for 60 days (rather than the standard 30 of Kickstarter), though only half of that will fall under the protective umbrella of holiday shopping. Right now there are only seven perks available, but DiGirolamo says they'll increase that number. "We will be adding more perks, but they are still in the works. Not sure if they will be edible, educational, or wearable...but we will put them out and make announcements with each one."
Considering the nature of the product depicted so salaciously in the campaign materials, additional edible perks at various price levels seem like a no-brainer. Supporting a local business for the holidays...with ice cream and truffles? When in doubt, sweeten the pot.