By KATE MURPHYM, MIKE WHITEHEAD’S big idea was to design a better cast-iron skillet. Stephanie Turenko’s big idea was to make an animated short film about her Ukrainian grandmother. Colin Owen’s big idea was to manufacture a hard-to-steal bike light.
Many of us have ideas like that, hatched while staring out the window or doodling on a cocktail napkin. And that’s where the dream ends, stunted by a lack of capital, credibility and confidence.
Not anymore. Online crowdfunding is helping better cast-iron skillets and other big ideas become reality.
What started as a handful of websites promoting people’s pet projects has turned into hundreds of platforms that serve as vehicles for not only fund-raising — the record is $10.2 million — but also product development and market research.
ucceeding at crowdfunding isn’t as easy as raising your hand and saying you need money. It demands strategy and stamina, though a sincere appeal can still trump the slickest competitor.
“A lot of people think if they just put their project on Kickstarter, money will start rolling in,” said Mr. Whitehead, who used the popular Kickstarter crowdfunding platform last fall to raise $211,027. “It’s not as easy as it looks.”
Successful crowdfunding campaigns, most often 30 days long, take several months of preparation. With the help of an industrial designer, Mr. Whitehead first spent six months developing a prototype skillet in his Portland, Ore., basement so he’d have something to show potential backers. He then spent another four months reaching out to friends and family as well as culinary, technology and design publications, alerting them to his coming Kickstarter campaign.