On Fear and Kickstarter

There are a lot of good things to say about Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites. It’s probably pretty obvious that I’m a fan, since I funded The Localist book through Kickstarter. My Kickstarter didn’t pay for everything, but it did let me pay the people who helped me put the project together (a book needs graphic design and editing and a website, and that stuff costs money), and it got me started on my book tour.


It was also really exciting to see money come in from people who cared about me, and from people who I didn’t realize cared about me until they supported my project. I got alerts on my phone whenever I got a new pledge, and it’s hard to describe how good it feels when you get an alert showing that not only are you closer to your dream, but also that an individual personally cared about you enough to help you get there.


It’s easy to remember those good parts, but there’s a lot of fear involved with running a Kickstarter campaign, too. With Kickstarter, if you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get funded at all — you lose everything. That’s a pretty big gamble, and it’s really scary when your pledges slow down and you start getting worried that you won’t make it at all. That you’ve put yourself and your dreams on the line for nothing. That, as much as you care about your dream, your community doesn’t believe in you enough to help you get there.


I was reminded of that recently when I ran into Rebecca Davis selling Ono Ice on a hot day at Saturn. Rebecca’s trying to turn her hobby into an official food truck, and she’s done everything right when it comes to Kickstarter: She’s worked for years running her business already, so she knows what it takes and that she can do it. She has a fun video (videos are hugely important in the Kickstarter community). And she asked for enough money — her goal is big, but to actually outfit a truck and pay all the fees with officially launching a food truck business, she’ll need it.


I checked out Rebecca’s numbers this morning, and she still has a long way to go in the week before her project ends, but that’s not a bad thing. She already has a strong start, and a week is an eternity in Kickstarter terms — lots of us like to swoop in at the last minute and save the day, and lots of us forget to pledge until the last minute, so she still has a good shot at making it. I don’t envy her the fear she’ll feel this week about whether or not she’ll meet her goal, but I do think she’s being brave to try it.


In a way, that bravery requirement makes Kickstarter a little like a boot camp for starting your own business. If you’re going to make it as an entrepreneur, you’ll have to risk embarrassment all the time. You’ll always have goals that you wish you could reach, and you’ll worry that you might not be able to get there. You’ll always be having to put yourself out there and wonder why people aren’t showing up. And your Kickstarter video isn’t the last time you’ll have to look goofy to support your business. Going out on a limb is scary — living out on a limb is what owning your own business feels like, at least in my experience.


If you’re looking for a way to make your Monday morning matter, and to make someone else very happy in the process, consider heading over to back the Ono Ice project on Kickstarter. I’m serious when I say even a $10 pledge helps — it was small and steady pledges, not big flashy ones, that made my Kickstarter successful and made The Localist book a reality. Hopefully they’ll help make this new Birmingham food truck a success, too.


Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.

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