Last year several Cincinnati startup companies used Kickstarter to launch or expand product offerings with varying degrees of success, including several Greater Cincinnati food companies that exceeded their fundraising goals.
For urban mushroom farmer Alan Susarret, Kickstarter offered a way to increase production at Probasco Farms
while supporting a community building project, Cincinnati Food Not Bombs. Susarret reached his Kickstarter goal in just over a week, raising more than double his target with 47 backers pledging $1,896.
A larger gourmet Kickstarter project involved Newport’s Carabello Coffee
, looking to fund the remodeling and expansion of their facility. They exceeded their goal with 269 backers pledging $42,155.
Local foodie favorite Skinny Pig Kombucha
leveraged Kickstarter to expand its brewing and bottling capacity. The campaign was selected as a Staff Pick by Kickstarter, and 139 backers pledged $10,800 to surpass the project goal.
“Kickstarter was a great way to build excitement about our product and help educate people on what we're trying to do,” says owner Algis Aukstuolis. “We ended up building a new brewing facility in South Fairmount in the former Lunkenheimer valve factory. This unforeseen change gave us a lot of delays, but we were finally able to start production in November. To help us grow, we’re working with Stagnaro distributors locally and will try to get into some more large retailers.”
Two Cincinnati-based clothing manufacturers also did well with Kickstarter campaigns to launch new production facilities and product lines.
Drew Oxley’s social enterprise company The Parative Project
produces bags, T-shirts and flags with messages that raise awareness of human trafficking. Its successful summer Kickstarter campaign has allowed Oxley to partner with Freeset and The Aruna Project to move its production to India, where Parative will employ women rescued from human trafficking. The Parative Kickstarter campaign exceeded its goal with 305 backers pledging $23,022.
“We're currently working on a new website that will sell the goods made by the women of India,” Oxley says. “We have several new shirts and flags we’re excited to release. The site will also host a blog sharing practical ways for others to take action against social injustices.”
Another Kickstarter Staff Pick was the campaign to launch Victor Athletics
, a new clothing line by Noble Denim to be made in Tennessee from organic materials. Their ambitious $100,000 goal was exceeded by $23,002 and supported by 1,166 backers, allowing Noble Denim and Victor Athletics to open a brick-and-mortar store in Over-the-Rhine. While working to ensure the store is a success, Victor Athletics has plans to expand in 2016.
“Based on the feedback from Kickstarter and our first season of sales for Victor, we'll hone in our fits and add a few new styles for Spring,” says co-founder Abby Sutton. “We want to aggressively grow our online sales in 2016 to continue to hire more sewers back and slowly tip the scales toward U.S. manufacturing.”
Unfortunately, not all of the local Kickstarter product launches were successful in 2015. Nutty Jar
, a treat dispenser created by Cincinnati-based dog toy company Zigoo, cancelled its spring Kickstarter campaign. Education and hand-writing tool Grip Wizard
fell short of its Kickstarter goal to launch large-scale manufacturing in Forest Park.
For those considering using Kickstarter in 2016, some of the 2015 campaign alumni have advice to offer.
“My wife and I were in Kickstarter mode 24/7, constantly showing our campaign to bloggers, networking with local groups and pushing on social media,” Oxley says. In hindsight, “I might have done more pop-up events as there was definitely more traction when people came across the campaign in person.”
“Kickstarter Campaigns are such a vulnerable experience because success is rarely measured so publicly,” Sutton says.
As their campaign launched, Noble Denim/Victor Athletics also faced technology issues with the Kickstarter platform that presented challenges for fulfillment and communication with campaign supporters. Although they were able to solve the problem through a third-party platform, Sutton and husband Chris took special care to acknowledge the campaign backers.
“We recognize that Kickstarter backers have a very unique relationship with the company because they get a different experience than a normal customer,” Sutton says. “To honor this, we gave our backers a discount code for life as a ‘thank you’ for their unique role in launching Victor. They deserve a price break forever for their faith in us, their patience and their ongoing support of the ethic of the company.”