Two North Fork businesses that used Kickstarter to realize dreams

02/20/2012 10:30 AM |

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOGregory Heinz and Jennilee Morris in front of the 2 group La Marzocco Espresso Machine that they customized for Bonnie Jean's in Southold. The two will begin their Kickstarter campaign in February.

Besides hard work and a clear vision, what do the entrepreneurs of two small North Fork businesses — one in Southold and one in East Marion — have in common? Kickstarter. What? Yes, Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects, according to its website, kickstarter.com.

The website states, “Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

“Kickstarter is focused on creative projects … Every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.”

You may not have heard of this relatively new fundraising tool but it is probably only a matter of time before you become a potential donor. At some point your Inbox is likely to contain an email from a friend or relative updating you about this unique fundraising tool and possibly seeking a pledge.

As part of the program, rewards are given to family, friends and interested backers for donating a specific amount of money. The project creators set an amount of time they think they’ll need to accomplish their goals. If meet their goals in the time frame, they’ll receive the money. If a project doesn’t reach its goal, the donors will keep their money. Kickstarter takes 5% of the funds raised.

Fork & Anchor exceeds its Kickstarter goal

Having purchased the former Angel’s Country Store last fall, Fork & Anchor owners, Erin Fitzpatrick and Lucy Muellner, now call the general store in East Marion home. The two successfully used Kickstarter to expand and restore a 2,000 square foot barn on the property.

Lucy says, “Erin and I have been long time donors of Kickstarter and were really impressed with the wide range of creative projects that they fund. When we came to the North Fork looking for the right home for our own project, we knew that we wanted something that had additional space for storage and a place from which to distribute CSA (community supported agriculture).

When we came across Angel’s, we knew we found it. The space was perfect and there is a gorgeous early 1900s barn on the property. We had an inspector come and check it out and he said that it was in great condition, better than most he sees. Good news for us, and this is where the Kickstarter idea began.

“The way Kickstarter works is that you send in your project idea to the Kickstarter board and with a few emails back and forth, they either accept or pass on your idea. They want projects that they feel will get funded and that they also believe in. As advised by Kickstarter, we made a short video so that people could understand our vision and see the space that we were raising the money for. Our goal was $10,000 to help renovate the barn for a CSA pickup, storage and a possible community space. Our project was up for 22 weeks and we were overwhelmed with the support of friends, family and strangers. Not only did we exceed our goal, but we have met some wonderful people who have supported us and who live in the community. We loved the experience and would recommend it to anyone starting a business and who needs some extra financial help.

“Part of our goal for Fork & Anchor is to help build a healthy community, keeping all the staples that our existing customers rely on and also focusing on the abundant agriculture around us. We will be adding fresh fruit and vegetables in the season, with local dairy products, eggs and meat as well. Some of which will only be available through the CSA.”

Donors are rewarded for taking part

Project creators inspire potential donors to pledge by offering smart, fun and tangible rewards. Rewards offered at different pledge levels by Fork & Anchor were: For a $25 pledge, a cozy Fork & Anchor t-shirt and a custom created postcard by local Greenport artist Cindy Pease Roe; for $100 or more, a Fork & Anchor tote bag with two homespun products, a Fork & Anchor pin and a custom yo-yo; for a pledge of $1,000 or more, a tasting and tour for four at a local winery with a lunch catered by Fork & Anchor, a Fork & Anchor t-shirt, a custom yo-yo and a Fork & Anchor pin.

Long Island Coffee Roasters — Using Kickstarter to help realize their dream

Jennilee Morris and Greg Heinz are launching their Kickstarter campaign in February. Jennilee says, “Greg and I have been roasting and wholesaling coffee for the last three plus years. We were introduced to it and started out of Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck where I was the general manager. After two years of roasting out of the kitchen we decided to take it to the next level and scrounged up every dime we had to buy our own roaster and launch our own small-batch coffee business, Long Island Coffee Roasters.”

Jennilee says that since then the two have slowly built up their coffee business, using every dime they had and never taking a bank loan or borrowing from anyone. Greg single handily remodeled their garage to accommodate roasting production. Jennilee says, “It’s quite challenging to start a business that way but it’s possible with a little elbow grease and a lot of patience. “

That same year, the opportunity to buy the Country Corner Cafe in Southold came along. “I fell in love. I swear it’s all I could think about, day and night. Mind you, I had just spent every penny I’ve ever saved in my 10-plus years in the restaurant industry on a coffee roaster. How could I possibly buy a restaurant? What bank would give a 27-year-old that kind of money? Not these days.

That’s when the most beautiful people to ever grace my life stepped in. My friends. My family. All modest, blue collar, hard working people willing to lend me their savings. So with that and a little more financial creativity Bonnie Jean’s was born.

“As much as it seems I started going in a different direction than our coffee venture, the restaurant was just what the coffee company needed. An outlet. A place to showcase Long Island Coffee Roasters. We won Best Coffee in Dan’s Papers Best of the Best this year. However, the restaurant is limited in what we can do on the coffee end. We have so much more to offer with our original blends and different brewing methods.”

Kicking into gear

With obvious pride, Jennilee says, “Greg is part artist, part scientist when it comes to coffee. Unfortunately he continues to work two full-time jobs. Carpenter by day, coffee roaster by night. Last summer we were fortunate to learn that the charming old house next to the restaurant was for lease at a very reasonable price and zoned commercially. It was a no-brainer. We move the coffee roasting facility to a proper home in Southold and Greg can finally build the coffee house he dreams of and give the North Fork the expertly crafted coffee it so deserves.

“Of course all of this costs money. Up until now we have gotten so far on our own without dealing with banks. Thinking that we had proven our capabilities we applied for a loan. Denied. Not enough this. Not enough that. Sorry.

“We come from humble families. What we have is guts, talent, drive and a burning desire to give this world everything we have to offer. Which are basically the credentials for a Kickstarter Campaign. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It’s where you are going. It’s what you have to offer the world. Kickstarter levels the playing field for everyone. It lets real people vote for what they want to support, not big banks and corporations. It’s personal, it’s community support, it’s having a voice in who deserves a shot at their dream. It’s opportunity meets preparation. It’s about pushing through, being resilient and following your dream. Does it work? I’ll let you know in a few months.

“Until then, I know it has worked for others. There are many success stories. Kickstarter is just one more parallel to prove true one of my favorite quotes, by Napoleon Hill: ‘You can do it, if you believe you can.’ ”

This story was published in this year’s Annual Report, the current issue of the Riverhead-News Review. Pick up a newsstand copy before Thursday.

lpeters@timesreview.com