Local entrepreneurs use website to kickstart a new business

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Regan and Carey Meador in front of what will soon be Southold Farm & Cellar’s tasting room. They will plant their ‘weird grapes’ on seven of the 23 acres behind the building.

Long Islanders with novel business ideas have been using the fundraising website to finance innovative projects that promise to add diversity to North Fork commerce.

Four local projects have received the green light thanks to the unique site, and another has high hopes of reaching its goal.

Unlike platforms that raise money for research or medical expenses, Kickstarter is intended to help people with creative ideas generate financial support for a new enterprise.

“There’s a lot of amazing, imaginative projects coming to life, and that’s great,” said Justin Kazmark, spokesperson for Kickstarter.

Everything on Kickstarter must have a specific goal, such as recording an album or publishing a book. Whatever the effort, it must produce a result, according to the Kickstarter website. Approximately 75 percent of proposed projects are accepted by the site.

The concept for Kickstarter emerged in 2001, when co-founder and CEO Perry Chen had such an idea, but no way to tell if it was worth the risk of investing in.

“He thought to himself what if there was a way to determine if there was a sufficient amount of interest in a project like that,” Mr. Kazmark said.

Mr. Chen, along with Yancey Strickler and Charles Adler, launched Kick-starter on April 28, 2009.

Project creators who turn to Kickstarter set a fundraising goal and a deadline up to 60 days away and are given a webpage to explain their goal. They may even include videos to help get their message across. To provide an incentive for donors, who can give as little as a dollar, creators also craft rewards for backers. If the project reaches its fundraising goal by deadline, the backers’ credit cards are charged. retains 5 percent of total amount of funding collected.

If the entrepreneurs don’t reach their goal, they receive no money, Mr. Kazmark said.

Since Kickstarter’s launch about 89,709 projects have been proposed and over $518 million has been pledged. More than 37,000 projects reached their fundraising goals, with about $435 million charged to backers’ credit cards, according to the website.

Four of those successfully funded projects are rooted in the North Fork.

Having spent eight years brewing at home, Central Islip couple Matthew and Lauri Spitz dreamed of starting a craft brewery. They created a Kickstarter campaign and met their goal on May 23, 2012. The couple raised over $30,000 to help establish Moustache Brewing Company in Riverhead.

“You basically have to sell yourself and your idea,” said Ms. Spitz. “Why should somebody give you money? Asking for money to fulfill our dream, it’s weird, but we figured we’ll give it a shot.”

The developing brewing industry moved closer to making the North Fork a craft beer destination thanks to another successful Kickstarter campaign.

Wading River hop farmer John Condzella surpassed his Kickstarter goal of raising $27,000 toward bringing a German hop harvesting machine to the East End. It will be available for cooperative use among start-up hop producers on the North Fork.

The hop processor will make the once time-consuming harvesting season fly. Without it, harvesting one plant by hand takes about an hour, Mr. Condzella said. “The machine will do that same plant in about 30 seconds,” he said.

Mr. Condzella reached his goal March 4 and raised $30,398 by March 10 with 320 people backing his project.

Just one day earlier, chef Keith Luce of Mattituck reached his $50,000 Kick-starter goal to create what he described as “true farm-to-table artisan products,” with cured meats from humanely raised animals from his family farm.

Mr. Luce raised $51,090 from 96 backers. He said social media was key to reaching his goal.

“I’m very active on social media and it’s one of the reasons why I decided to go down that avenue,” he said. “I believe I created a bit of a buzz, which is always good when you are starting a new endeavor.”

There was certainly a buzz about Southold couple Regan and Carey Meador’s Kickstarter campaign, “Bring Weird Grapes to the North Fork,” which met its $15,000 goal Saturday. The couple will plant four grape varieties distinct from others cultivated across the North Fork.

Their start-up vineyard, Southold Farm & Cellar, could have its wine ready for tasting by 2015, Mr. Meador said.

So far they’ve raised more than $22,000 from 133 backers. If they reach 223, the Meadors said they’ll let their backers choose the grape varieties they’ll plant next.

“We have reached our goal but we want as many people as possible to hear about it,” Mr. Meador said. “There is a community around what we’re doing and we want them to be part of the process.”

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