Last fall I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise what seemed to me like an impossibly large chunk of money ($15,000) to help BATCH bakeshop move from the shared kitchen I've baked in for the past 3 years into a kitchen (with storefront!) just for BATCH. It's a bit of a vulnerable experience, running a crowdfunding project. Overall, as a society we celebrate folks that do things independently & achieve success by their hard work and hustle. These are worthy things to celebrate but often the flip side is that needing & asking for help looks a bit like failure and feels a bit lazy. Save the money yourself, get a loan, work harder/longer/better...these all seemed like valid alternatives to putting myself & my business out there as needing help. And they are all valid alternatives. But eventually I was convinced to launch my Kickstarter once I realized that I didn't just need help, I wanted help.
As a supporter of other crowdfunding projects, I love the feeling of connection to another business, organization, or person that comes from being part of a crowdfunding project. There's a growing community connected through crowdfunding, and it is exciting to be a part of what I view as a new modern system of patronage. And after three years of running a business on my own* I was beginning to feel disconnected and discouraged. I needed the extra money in order to move & grow BATCH, but I also needed to know if growing this business was something that anyone else cared about beyond my household & immediate support group. I wanted my business to get the help it needed by connecting with other individuals in a tangible way.
And so I launched the project and spent the next few weeks on an emotional roller coaster. People started to stop me at coffee shops or around Spokane and say, Hey aren't you BATCH? I love your stuff. I saw your Kickstarter. That’s awesome that you’re moving into your own storefront. or What the heck is crowdfunding/kickstarter/that thing you’re always talking about on facebook lately? These conversations didn’t always turn into monetary support on Kickstarter, but they gave me the reminder that my business was a fun & positive thing in Spokane and that people (strangers even!) were excited to see a local, tiny business growing. And that encouragement was what I needed even more than (okay maybe in equal amount to) the financial boost that my business received when the Kickstarter was successfully funded.
Recently, both SpoCOOL & the Inlander have asked if Spokane is reaching a saturation point in regards to crowdfunding or food-related Kickstarters specifically. I believe crowdfunding is as much about the crowd as it is about the funding. And that's why I don't think it's going away anytime soon. I don’t believe Spokanites will get tired of supporting the artists, organizations and businesses they love or stop being excited about helping launch a new business, a new event or a project. Crowdfunding will surely continue to evolve, and projects will sometimes fail to reach their goals. But I think when an individual project fails (or is successful) it will have to do with whether or not people connect with that individual project (and the rewards it has to offer them). Crowdfunding isn’t going away, and I think that’s totally awesome.
*3 years as a sole proprietor of a business with limited daily public interaction can mean I spend most of the day alone, in the kitchen or in front of the computer or running around doing errands. That can get lonely. But anyone involved in a small business knows that you don’t have a business “on your own”--and I certainly know I wouldn’t have BATCH if it weren’t for some pretty awesome people in my life & some amazing support from other tiny Spokane businesses.