Kickstarter has been a boon to an array of creative businesses, from small arts organizations to dance troupes to filmmakers — recently, it expanded to include more categories, such as food businesses and farming enterprises, and the result is delicious.
Started in 2009, the site is a crowdfunding platform where funders pledge to support a specific project within a certain timeframe. The fledgling enterprises set the dollar goal, and if pledges meet that amount by the deadline, they get the funds. If not, the venture goes unfunded.
It's an innovative model that's helped a number of local food projects, including Birchwood Cafe's renovation, better production space for The Beez Kneez, and an urban farm startup program by HECUA/Gandhi Mahal. What's next to get funded? Here's a quartet of projects-in-progress that showcase the kind of entrepreneurial-minded foodizens we have in the Twin Cities.
Imagine a sandwich shop that's also a market and bar, all dedicated to the pinnacle of hot dog creation. Prairie Dogs, a project created by Tobie Nidetz and Craig Johnson, could deliver such grandeur.
The pair envision a location that creates its own line of sausages, from andouille to bratwurst, using meats from local farms and ranches. After eyeing a space on Lake Street and staging several "pop-up" events around town, Nidetz and Johnson believe that a restaurant would be the next big step, and they're hoping local hot dog lovers will agree.
With 20 days to go, Prairie Dogs will need some major hustle to get to their $30,000 goal on Kickstarter. Currently, they're just under $3,000 — fortunately, there's plenty of precedent on the site for last-minute sprints that get ventures funded. So, if you're ready for some farm-to-bun wursts and wieners in the Twin Cities, consider pledging.
You've just finished a major cycling event, and you're happy but depleted. As you amble away from the finish line, you find out that your food options are energy bars, bananas, and white bread rolls. Wait, you rode 80 miles for this?
Local cycling teammates Andy Lageson and Max Becker think you can do better. The pair noticed that there are few, if any, fresh food options at cycling events around the Twin Cities. Racers are often rushing from work to races and don't have time to eat properly, or they're faced with bland choices after the event.
Their project, Wheelhouse, would be a mobile kitchen that would launch during the first part of the cycling season and eventually expand out to other types of races and events.
Wheelhouse is just past the halfway mark on their campaign, raising about $4,000 toward the $7,500 goal. If you're an athlete in the metro, think about this: would you rather have yet another slightly under-ripe banana as post-race fuel, or a roasted pork shoulder sandwich and potato salad with mustard and chives?
Like many local beekeepers, Rick van Vliet and his wife Cindy are devoted to keeping the bee population from dwindling. They turned to Kickstarter to expand their apiaries and increase honey production on the farms that host the hives.
For this year, they sought funding to buy packages of honeybees to repopulate the hives and are hoping to build up to 12 or 13 hives, an aim that came with a modest $825 goal on Kickstarter. But the bee-loving community has stepped up, and even though there are still 15 days to go, the sweetness is apparent: so far, they've surpassed their goal by over $700, and had to readjust their plans.
With the extra funds, the couple is hoping to grow the bee business even more with a honey extractor, more bees, and additional equipment. Go, bees!
Naples-style pizza with artisanal ingredients, bubbling gently in front of a wood fire: it's like a little glimpse of nirvana. And local entrepreneur Daniel Wilder will be wheeling it to a location near you.
WildEarth WoodFired has already surpassed its Kickstarter goal of $6,000, proving once again that Minnesotans can't resist a fresh pizza opportunity. In launching his campaign, Wilder noted that he's been making and refining his pizza recipe for his entire life, and once constructed his own backyard wood-fired oven a few years ago.
Now, he's ready to take it on the road, with a mobile oven that will cater to farmers markets, weddings, music festivals, and private parties. Wilder plans to include local maple syrup in the crust, and source as organically as possible. The project is hoping to stretch its goal to $10,000 to include more features on the mobile oven, so if we had you at "Naples-style," then pitch in.
(photo credit for WildEarth photos: Emilie Hitch)
Good luck to all of these projects, and the many others that are on the verge of launching — innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship have made the Twin Cities food scene zesty. Let's keep it rolling!
Elizabeth Millard is the editor of Simple, Good and Tasty and has worked as a freelance journalist in the Twin Cities for 15 years. In addition to farming with her partner, Karla Pankow, she enjoys searching for the best pasture-raised bacon in the state. Got a lead on some exemplary pork products or have an idea for what you'd like to see in Simple, Good and Tasty? Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org