Culture

What It Takes to Launch a Successful Food Kickstarter

The director of the company's food campaigns shares his tips
Kickstarter Food Campaigns
Photos: Kickstarter

Perhaps you were one of the 13,000 people who backed Misen's game-changing chef's knife. Or someone who agreed that, yes, you should be able to use a cast-iron skillet without spraining your wrist. Or maybe, you just really wanted this man to have his potato salad.

"One thing I would point out is that folks have been a bit more adventurous," Michael Stewart notes about the campaigns he's been watching on Kickstarter over the years. As the crowdfunding company's director of outreach in the food category, Stewart is tasked with supporting the site's food and drink community, helping campaigners get their concepts out into the world, or—in some cases—shooting them down. So whether you're a serial backer or a first-time entrepreneur to the site, you can trust that he knows what makes a successful campaign.

"An evolution that has been really exciting to watch is seeing the food space grow . . . people are doing really exciting things," he begins. What was first a popular way for independent food trucks to put down roots has now turned into a springboard for today's most popular sous-vide machine and a way for a chef to open her first restaurant.

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But it's not just newly minted entrepreneurs taking advantage of Kickstarter. Last year, Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas of the Alinea Group made waves when they announced they'd be self-publishing The Aviary Cocktail Book via a crowdfunding campaign. "Alinea choosing to do that certainly adds a degree of gravitas and legitimacy," Stewart says. But it shows one of the key advantages of using the platform: "That kind of transparency is incredible," he notes about the duo's reasoning for cutting out a traditional publisher, which in turn sparked a lengthy discussion about the harsh reality of writing a cookbook.

That chatter (whether constructive or controversial) is the one thing guaranteed about Kickstarter: "We see people using it for the community-engagement factor," Stewart says.

It's that potential for engagement that's the secret sauce for a campaign's success, he adds. "I've had to tell a lot of creators that Kickstarter isn't great for you yet. Folks who don't have a foundational community or haven't built a name for themselves—those are the failures we see the most."

And lastly, it's not necessarily a shiny, new kitchen tool that will grab the most attention. For Stewart, the most exciting entrepreneurs are the ones coming up with ways to make it easier to move to plant-based diets or photographers using their medium to show how climate change will affect the future of dining.

"We're a public benefit corporation," he concludes. "I see this opportunity within the food space and am focused on people just not doing new creative work, but on those who are incorporating some kind of social good component."

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