I’ve written about Kickstarter before. The Boy pledges to a lot of projects. I pledge to some. Usually when there’s something on offer that I want. Very occasionally out of the goodness of my heart.
Matt Haughey recently wrote a good post about a bad experience he had with the site. I haven’t had anything bad happen (though I acknowledge there’s always a risk), but I have had a really good one, so let’s talk about that.
I rarely pledge to food-based projects. Even though I am obviously a confirmed fan of food, most of them tend to be people trying to start businesses without enough money. Food businesses don’t just need money to begin, they need excess money. Relying on donated funds just to open your business means you have no wiggle room if you don’t break even or make a profit straight away. Others just seem to be unoriginal ideas — you wanna make cookies or brew beer? Great, but there is basically no incentive for me to support you, as good bakeries and craft breweries are hardly in short supply here (though The Boy did help fund one micro brewery in return for a tshirt, and displaying the name of a brewery no one has heard seems to earn him kudos with beer nerds).
But here’s a food project I did pledge to, and I’m really glad. Lofty Pursuits is an old school soda fountain (apparently THE old school soda fountain; check out the graph pr0n here) in Tallahassee, Florida (no, I have no idea where that is) which also specialises in “Victorian era candy”. When I first saw it, I though, “Hmmph, just looks like boiled lollies to me.” And that’s because it is. Some backstory:
When public primary school kids from my home state of Victoria went on school camps, we’d inevitably go to some dinky little former gold (if you’re lucky) or coal (if you’re not) mining town where we’d spend a few days sleeping in cold dorms and eating terrible food and teasing the kid who has to bring plastic sheets. The one thing these towns usually have going for them is an “olde lolly shop” that sells traditional boiled sweets—humbugs, barley sugars, lemon acid drops (my favourite) and maybe some Castlemaine Rock if you happened to be in that part of the state. Our parents were allowed to give us a maximum of $5 to spend at this store.
I thought these sweets were all pretty standard. Apparently not. It turns out that Australia is one of the last places in the world that still practises this kind of lolly making.
So there’s this lolly store in Lake Mary, Florida (also have no idea where that is), with owners who learned to make boiled lollies in Australia. Then this kid ends up learning the trade from them, and eventually ends up working at Lofty Pursuits, where he now makes them as a sort of performance (and, of course, to sell and eat; because boiled lollies are delicious).
So the owner has been buying Victorian candy making equipment and restoring it to use in the store. And that was the point of the Kickstarter campaign.
This is one reason the campaign was cool (to me, at least). They have a successful business. They are experts at what they do (also, being an expert at soda drinks and candy making are such cool things to be an expert at). But they wanted to use both of these things on an unnecessary, but totally awesome project. It would be hard to read about what they wanted to and not want to help them do it.
So that’s part of it. But they also went about it in all the right ways.
- They made a video. It’s not a great video, but it helps you see who they are and what they’re doing. When I wrote a story about Kickstarter a while back, Kickstarter’s former CTO told me that projects with videos are far, far more likely to succeed.
- The rewards were really good. I’d have usually argued that there should have been another reward between the $5 and $25 mark — because $25 is a big commitment for many people — but basically anyone supporting this project probably wanted candy out of it, and that is not an unreasonable amount for rare, hand-made candy plus shipping, especially as a quick look at the donor list shows many people don’t live anywhere near the store.
- They were asking for a reasonable amount of money. I have seen some projects in the tens of thousands get funded, but I instinctively ignore projects asking for huge amounts, because they seem unlikely to succeed. And again, if you’re asking for THAT much, I tend to question how viable your project is.
- The page outlined exactly what the money would be used for. If I see a sizeable figure, but no breakdown of what it’s going to, I assume the person hasn’t actually done the maths on what they really need, and has just pulled a random figure out of their arse that sounds “about right”.
- As soon as I pledged money, the store owner sent me a personal thank you message, and a detailed response to my reply, telling me some more historical info about the candy.
- They provided regular, interesting updates as the project went on. Not just “hey thanks, we’re almost near our goal” updates, either — pictures and videos of machines they were working on, candy they were making, and other bits and pieces. These updates get sent as emails too, which really kept me following and rooting for the campaign to succeed, instead of just pledging and forgetting as I usually do.
- They kept going once they met their goal. Once it became likely they would succeed, they offered to up the rewards if they hit an even higher goal, and detailed what they would do with that extra money.
The Kickstarter campaign ended today, raising $7,172 — $1,322 above their goal — amongst 180 backers.
If you’re lucky, I will share my boiled lollies with you.