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kickstarter-logoThe internet is rife with innovative ideas; and crowdfunding, if used correctly, can be a fantastic way of acquiring capital for fledgling projects, concepts and companies that may not have otherwise had a snowball’s chance in hell at succeeding.

Kickstarter is the name that pops into most people’s heads when it comes to crowdfunding services on the interwebs. It’s been very effective for artisan sauce companies Torchbearer Sauces, Patter Fam Sauces and Benito’s Hot Sauces at aiding in their efforts to expand.

And there are a few reasons why the aforementioned sauce makers have succeeded. One, they have been around for at least a few years and are established brands in spicy food circles. They’ve paid their dues through hard work, sweat and sacrifice. Two, they have developed many quality products that they currently sell in their inventory. Three, they have, to some extent, developed solid relationships with folks in both their own local markets (for example, Benito’s in Vermont, and Torchbearer is in Pennsylvania) and people online (in this later instance, with many bloggers and more visible people in the chilehead community). They may not be a household name like a Frank’s RedHot or Tabasco, yet many hardcore heat freaks are familiar with their names. And four, they offer very attractive incentive packages for their backers no matter what support level they choose.

I get frequent emails, tweets, and Facebook messages from upstarts asking me to post and retweet links to their Kickstarter campaigns. Now, I wanna help out as many deserving companies as I can, but there’s a little catch: I have no idea who most of these people are.

It’s not really apparent what the behind-the-scenes stories are for these unknown companies. Some of these may have had to struggle financially for a number of years or maybe even have an outstanding-tasting hot sauce or two. Unfortunately, I don’t have that firsthand info that will soothe my apprehension towards promoting your brand.

Chad Lowcock, head honcho and flavor maestro of Race City Sauce Works, has recently said publicly, “Kickstarter…welfare for lazy business owners”. I tend to agree with him for the most part. It’s lovely that you have a product (or twenty) that you believe in, but have you paid your dues? How much of yourself have you honestly put into the company? Or are you treating Kickstarter as a “handout” so that you don’t have to do as much? Methinks a lot of you who go this route just want the easy way out.

Again, since I do not know these up-and-coming hopefuls personally nor do I know if their product is any good, I have no idea. So this is where I will draw the line in the sand.

Even though I have not promoted or funded a food-based Kickstarter project in many a month, I’m making it my official policy not to promote a fiery foods company unless I know the owners well enough and can vouch for the quality of their products.

So this message goes out to all the newer sauce makers on the scene: work your asses off first, build a good, viable lineup of products (but not have it be too big), let me try out them out, and THEN come to me with requests for promotion. Remember, even though I believe wholeheartedly in helping the little guy, I also believe in NOT helping a fly-by-night little guy who tries to circumvent hard work and peddles mediocre products.

A Few Quick Thoughts on Kickstarter Campaigns
  • Joe Levinson

    I help fund all of the Kickstarter campaigns you mentioned above, and have no regrets in doing so. As you mentioned, I know ALL of them. Easy to consider that sort of help when you have a personal connection. Also, none of these were start-up businesses. They were all existing businesses looking to expand, not fledgling ones with no existing product line or chilehead “street cred.” Admittedly, I have a bit of bad taste in my mouth about Kickstarter now due to a non-chilehead project that I opted to help support. It seems as though the budding entrepreneurs managed the money poorly by not doing enough research on shipping and production, and their whole business idea imploded prior to even getting the rewards to a majority of their backers. In fact, the primary business order actually had to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and I’ve been getting court notices because I am one of the “creditors” because of this Kickstarter project who was ultimately owed something. Doubtful that I will ever again fund a project for folks I don’t know.

  • habanero500

    I had good experiences with Kickstarter with Torchbearer and Patter fams. It enabled me to try their entire product line for a discounted price. My nightmare was with Lees Homegrown Hot sauce out of Pennsylvania. Every time they hit another level of donation they said it would mean something extra for me. They took almost a year to send out the products. All these extras I never saw. My thing is if you say I get extras then you better send them!!! To top it off their sauces are terrible. Names sounded cool and so did ingredients but flavor was not present. Sauces are so bad I cannot give them away.

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