Kickstarting Brooklyn: Hyperachievers

A Scott Terpin donut. His website has many, many more. Yum.

IN THE SINGULAR ECOSYSTEM that is Kickstarter, one will encounter many evolutionary dead ends—projects, visions and dreams that wither away unfunded. Then there are the mysterious campaigns that don’t just meet their targets, they blow by them and reach double, triple or stratospherically higher funding results. Why and how do these hyperachievers succeed, and can we learn any lessons by studying their success?

Here’s one that caught our eye at Brooklyn Artisan. Scott Teplin was creating his massive, quirky and highly detailed drawing called Big Canal and asked Kickstarter support for a hefty $4,500 to complete it. On the face of it, Scott is like many an artist—with a pen, a brush and a dream. But by the end of the campaign, his project was overfunded 11 times, garnering more than $49,000, which is a goodly chunk of the annual salary for a Brooklyn artist.

Big Canal, by Scott Terpin, a very successful Kickstarter project

Big Canal is one of those drawings with lots of quirky details that demand hours to explore—Where’s Waldo? without the people, Richard Scarry without the cute animals. What is the secret of its funding phenomenon? The campaign video stars Scott and, though mildly amusing, won’t win a Palme d’or. Maybe it’s the many photos on his Kickstarter page that engage the viewer in the overall process. Or it could be his suggestive marketing that positions the reward as a great poster for a kid’s room. Or maybe it just appealed to the random whim or previously undetected want of the Kickstarter audience.

One thing is certain: The man can sure draw donuts.

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Kickstarting Brooklyn: Candles in a New Mold

Lace: an elegant example of Andrej Ulem’s architectural candles

ANDREJ UREM IS BUILDING CANDLES THAT ARE DEFINITELY IN A NEW MOLD. Straying far from the traditional cylinder shape, they explore form and texture in intriguing directions—creating what the artist terms “livable art pieces.” His Kickstarter campaign seeks funds for a 3-D printer that will enable him to create more precise and complex molds for future designs. Backers are rewarded with their choice from his current line of candles.

Kickstarting Brooklyn

Sogoal Zaghardi produces gorgeous, artful and sometimes irreverent cookies and is seeking to expand her Sogi's Bakeshop with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.

Just one of the many Brooklyn projects raising funds on Kickstarter:
Sogoal Zolghadri produces artful and sometimes irreverent cookies
at her Sogi’s Honey Bakeshop.

THE MOST RECENT CREDIT CRUNCH began in 2008 and  reportedly ended this summer. Remember those images of Lehman Brothers staff tossed to the sidewalk with their little boxes of belongings? In the months following, credit dried up and small businesses were starved for the financing needed for growth and hiring, laying the basis for a long grueling recession. But also within those same months—in April 2009—a small startup launched in Manhattan that has become the go-to funder for creative projects: Kickstarter was born. In the four years since its founding, Kickstarter has gone viral and raised pledges of more than $870 million in crowd-sourced funds from more than 5 million backers. (Like any good Internet company, it posts its stats online.)

The premise of Kickstarter is that entrepreneurs, artists, designers, musicians or filmmakers with ideas bigger than their bank accounts can launch a campaign on the Kickstarter site, set funding goals (which can grow over time) and deadlines, provide incentives to investors for various funding levels, and generally plead their case to gain followers (think Facebook “likes” with dollar bills attached). The ideas flourish or languish, gaining financing or not in a mysterious financial Darwinism. Some projects blow past their target budgets by tens of thousands of dollars, while others fizzle out despite their merit.

Given the power of Kickstarter for small creative inventors, makers and producers, Brooklyn Artisan will be covering it as a financial and manufacturing beat, highlighting the notable, successful, hopeful, and even the occasional noble-yet-doomed project. As well, we will provide advice, tips, strategies and tactics to aid in successful campaigns.

Brooklyn is certainly well represented, with more than 2,000 projects currently raising funds, more than double the number of projects coming out of London, for example. To look for promising projects or to make sure your investments stay in borough, Kickstarter provides city-based discovery.

The Brooklyn Brief commuter bag by Owen & Fred of Greenpoint comes with a handy inspirational
quote screen-printed on the inside.

Today, we’re highlighting two projects. The first, by Greenpoint-based Owen & Fred, is a series of bags (above) that is tantalizingly near to reaching the $45,000 campaign goal. The bags are promised to be durable, sustainable, meticulously detailed and U.S. made. One nice touch is the inspirational quotes screen-printed on the inside, for your eyes only.

Sogi’s Honey Bakeshop (picture at top of post) set less ambitious goals: raise $6,500 to buy supplies and a bigger mixer to aid the creation of the hand-painted cookies that have already attracted the attention of Martha Stewart Weddings and are popular on Etsy. Happily, baker Sogoal Zolghadri has raised the money and then some.

It can be a lot of work and planning to produce a campaign that meets or surpasses its goal. Kickstarter itself provides some basic tools and information to get you started. But who knows—next time there is a big shakeup in the financial world, those staffers might be seen shlepping their belongings in one of your Brooklyn-produced duffel bags.

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