The potato salad Kickstarter campaign launched by Zack “Danger” Brown became quite the phenomenon, raising more than $60,000 (from over 6,000 backers) with more than a week left until it ends. What may have gone overlooked are a couple other successful local Kickstarter campaigns that could have a positive effect on Columbus. These campaigns may not have received the national attention and created internet fervor like potato salad, but the impact could be much greater.
The two local campaigns are from The Commissary, a mixed-use space focusing on food and drink, and the “We’re the Shazzbots!” TV Pilot. The Commissary is the creation of Kate Djupe, who plans to use the space as “a flexible space for pop-ups, meetings, and classes where food makers and farmers can experiment, create, collaborate, and share,” according to the Kickstarter page. The Shazzbots! are a local children’s rock band hoping to create a television pilot based on the group’s identity as a crew of space travelers who learn about science, music, art and more on the way to the next gig.
The Commissary needed to reach $40,000 for the project to continue, and The Shazzbots! required $20,000. Both made the goal, and then some, but it wasn’t without trepidation.
“I thought that people would really jump on it. Then you realize [how much] you need to get the word out and … trying to figure out how, besides Facebook and social media. For the past month it’s been non-stop campaigning — like you’re a presidential candidate. Okay maybe not that high, but a city council candidate,” said Ian Hummel (aka Captain Captain), The Shazzbots! frontman.
Hummel said he specifically timed the Kickstarter campaign to big shows at Comfest and the Doo Dah Parade. Still, it was touch-and-go towards the end, and there were sleepless nights, but a “perfect storm” of pledge matching and publicity helped the campaign raise $5,000 in one day.
Djupe experienced a similar roller-coaster ride with her Commissary campaign.
“I don’t know if I’d say [the experience] was enjoyable overall, but the last few days were great. I talked to a lot of people who had successful local campaigns before we launched, so I was prepared for some of the horror but it did make me a little crazy,” Djupe said with a chuckle, stating the best moment of the entire process was when The Commissary hit its goal and she turned off her phone and went swimming for a few hours with her children.
“Ian probably experienced some of the same things. There’s a solid week where nothing is happening … and that’s the week where you working the hardest; responding to emails and writing press releases. It’s a crazy beast,” Djupe said.
So why does a simple Kickstarter asking for a mere $10 (to make potato salad) explode, and others have to sweat it out until the end? One could just chalk it up to, “Well that’s the internet. It’s completely unpredictable how people are going to act.” But there’s an aspect to Kickstarter that seems to compel people to donate.
“People like Kickstarter and crowd-funding because of the dramatic things that can happen [and] the drama involved with it,” said Nix Comic founder Ken Eppstein, who’s run seven Kickstarter campaigns with only one not reaching its goal. “It’s more about the platform, and that’s the potato salad thing, too. The guy cracked a joke. Then it became something else because people related to that joke and it just went crazy. On the other side, there are some legitimate artists grinding their teeth because their projects don’t get the same play this gag got. That adds to it — there’s a joke on one side of it, and serious issues being discussed on the other side,” Eppstein said.
Djupe found potato salad in its infancy and backed it because she thought it was funny and a smart parody of Kickstarter. Hummel said potato salad’s shocking success “took the wind out of my sails a bit.” None of the trio interviewed expressed any bitterness towards Brown, and all admired his creativity. The Shazzbots! even received a donation from the tater salad maven.
“I just thought that was a cool move, a classy move for him to do that. I can’t be mad about it; he threw some money our way and maybe that also drove some traffic to us. Even before he donated, I realized … he was just making a joke, and it was all these other people who’re throwing hundreds of dollars at it.”