For any small, startup business, securing funding to help with expansion can be a challenge.
Two Oklahoma City-area beer makers have sought out a new-age solution that is becoming more mainstream: Use the Internet to ask the public to provide the funds.
Oklahoma City's Black Mesa Brewing Co. and Midwest City's Roughtail Brewing Co. both recently launched independent Kickstarter projects with aims of receiving enough financial pledges to achieve their goals.
Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) allows businesses, musicians, artists — anyone really — to post a project with a stated financial goal. Potential backers can elect to make a pledge toward the project. If the project reaches full funding by a specified date, the financial pledges are collected from donors. Applicants will typically offer prizes or goods in exchange for collected pledges.
If the project fails to reach its funding goal, no pledges are collected and potential donors are off the hook, while applicants are out the time and effort used to create the project.
For Roughtail brewmaster Tony Tielli, using Kickstarter to try to fund a $30,000 automated canning line makes sense.
“We decided to do Kickstarter because we believe there is a growing grass-roots craft beer movement in Oklahoma right now, and we believe that the craft beer lovers in our state will band together to help bring more great brew to the masses,” Tielli said.
Tielli and partner Blaine Stansel still have work to do to reach their goal. As of Friday afternoon, Roughtail's Kickstarter project had 59 backers pledging $5,215. The deadline for the project is 5 p.m. Monday. In exchange for pledges, they're offering prizes ranging from T-shirts to handblown pint glasses to interactive brewing experiences.
Tielli and Stansel, homebrewers who are attempting to turn their passion for beer-making into a successful business, say they are not daunted by what appear to be long odds against reaching their funding goal.
“Of course we'll be disappointed if we don't fund the project,” Tielli said. “However, we have been fighting long and hard to open this brewery ... and I can say with unwavering confidence that nothing will stop us from achieving what we have set out to do.”
The two have already faced numerous hurdles. They initially planned to open shop in Dallas, but found the market was beginning to flood with breweries, driving startup costs up. They secured a building near downtown Oklahoma City, but met several roadblocks in bringing the building into compliance with local codes. Now, they've settled in Midwest City, with plans to have their first beers on tap in local establishments by the end of the month. If the canning line is funded, the plan calls for having beer on liquor store shelves later in the year.
“We would love to pay for our canning operation through crowd-funding, and we believe that it would make a tremendous statement about the desire for great local beer in Oklahoma,” Tielli said. “If it doesn't happen now then we will figure out how to get the canning line up and running eventually, whatever it takes.”
Black Mesa Brewing's Brad Stumph said his team was drawn to Kickstarter because they had seen other breweries use the tool successfully.
“We found examples of nanobrewery projects getting funded across the country,” Stumph said. “The idea that project backers are willing to make micro-investments in their local creative community in exchange for some initial swag is liberating for project creators and backers.”
Black Mesa is seeking $17,990 to pay for eight months of brewing time at the OKCity Brewing Cooperative. Stumph and brewmaster Chris Sanders have already produced two commercial beers out of OKCity — a blonde ale and a style known as extra-special bitter — and felt having product on the market could boost their chances at Kickstarter success.
“Chris and I both felt that we had to give potential backers at least one example of what we are capable of before asking for their support,” Stumph said, citing Black Mesa Blonde, which was released to market in August. Their second beer, Black Mesa ESB, was released Jan. 1.
As of Friday afternoon, Black Mesa had received pledges of $3,995 from 38 backers. Their deadline is 11:59 p.m. Jan. 27. They're offering prizes ranging from stickers and posters to brewing lessons.
Stumph said their Kickstarter project was months in the making, and the fact that it coincides with Roughtail's project is coincidental. He said they would like to celebrate two Kickstarter wins by the end of the month — for themselves and Roughtail.
Tielli said the Kickstarter experience has been worthwhile.
“Regardless if we are successful in funding our project we feel like Kickstarter, and crowd-funding in general, is a great way to get the community involved in helping small business,” he said.
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