Website helps Dreams come true - maybe

2013-06-30T00:00:00Z Website helps Dreams come true - maybeKristen Cook Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 30, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Jeans, brew pubs, food trucks, even an inflatable planetarium. Poke around Kickstarter, and you'll find some pretty unusual stuff - often someone's dream. Many right here in our own backyard.

The online crowdfunding site lets dreamers see their wishes become reality, without having to pony up all the dough themselves.

But, it is a gamble.

Meet your funding goal - or even better, go beyond - and the project can come to life. Fall short, and that's it. No moola. At least not from Kickstarter, anyway.

Here's a look at three local Kickstarter projects - a photography book featuring unretouched pictures of mothers, a mobile piano bar and a money clip that also opens beer bottles.

"A Beautiful Body" photo book

Local photographer Jade Beall coaxed her friend into showing off the part of her body she hated most - her stomach.

The resulting black-and-white picture shows two sweet children, each with a hand on their mother's belly, the very spot that had once safely cocooned them, looking stretched out and puckered.

That photo also birthed a book.

When Beall posted the image on Facebook, she was flooded with so many responses that she decided to dedicate a book to mothers and their feelings about their post-birth bodies in a culture in which Photoshopping and altering images is readily accepted while embracing people as they are is not.

Her book-in-progress has received quite a bit of publicity and with just one day left on her Kickstarter campaign, Beall's project is definitely a go. Her $20,000 goal - so she could hire the two assistants who have been volunteering on the project - was eclipsed, and she's raised more than $50,000 with pledges starting at $8 and going up to more than $1,000. With the extra money she can fly in some of the women who wrote to her and photograph them for the book.

"These people don't know me. It's amazing, it still amazes me that they just donated money," says Beall, 33, who fell in love with photography while a student at Tucson High Magnet School. "I can't wait for them to have the book and actually see what they're a part of."

When Beall started work on the project after battling postpartum depression and bad body image after the birth of her son a year ago, she knew it had to be crowdfunded.

"I really believe in community, I love coming together," says Beall, who with Alok Appadurai, her partner in life and business, owns The Movement Shala, a dance, yoga and photography studio at 435 E. 9th St. "Crowdfunding, to me, is really exciting, to imagine three pages of names of people who made this project possible."

Donors who pledged certain amounts get shout-outs at the back of "A Beautiful Body," ranging from a listing to a quarter page devoted to a woman in their lives.

Beall says the hardcover book, which may cost $100, is 80 percent done and is expected to ship in February.

And for Beall, the dreaming has only begun. She plans this as the first in a series of five photo books on women, and she hopes to launch a quarterly magazine promoting healthy body image.

"The idea is a whole new media platform featuring this normalness of seeing women with acne, imperfect skin, wrinkles," Beall says. "You can photograph and make everyone look beautiful - without having to digitally enhance or take away."

Mobile piano lounge

Musician Kyle Bronsdon has had some pretty sorry studios - a garage, a plywood shed, most recently an RV. None were particularly conducive to creativity for the singer-songwriter.

While he was looking to upgrade his ho-hum, 40-foot, fifth-wheel RV to a snazzier motor coach, he hit upon this totally Shazam idea: a trailer that could be a studio/office and could double as his own mobile music venue.

In his mind, he pictured a piano, mini bar, bartender and bistro tables with room for a dozen, maybe even 15, fans.

"Better than I get at some of my shows," Bronsdon, 44, deadpans.

He ended up swapping his wife's '98, two-door red Mustang - with her permission - for a 1946 Spartan Manor trailer.

Playing off the whole Spartan thing, he dubbed it The Laconian. Here, he'll explain:

"Sparta was the capital of Laconia and, while I'm not going to claim to be the Leonidas of independent artists, we shouldn't forget the hundreds of Laconians that fought with the brave 300," says Bronsdon, who lives on the west side. "The music industry is the Persian empire in my little metaphor."

Bronsdon - who has five self-released albums and performs a weekly webcast on his site kylebronsdon.com - and his friend John Strasser have spent the past 10 months working on The Laconian. Bronsdon estimates he's sunk about $12,000 into the project. As the bank account dwindled and he couldn't find any takers to buy his old RV, he decided to try and raise $7,500 on Kickstarter last month to help defray the cost. He quickly put together a video showing a sledgehammer wiping out shelves along with still photos of the work in progress and concept photos of the finished Laconian.

Bronsdon's normally a low-key guy who doesn't send out many self-promoting emails. "I don't want to be that annoying uncle who's always trying to sell insurance at the family barbecue," he says. "But in this case, I worked it hard.

"I emailed everybody, posted on Facebook, Tweeted," he says.

Then he watched - as his idea tanked.

During the monthlong campaign, The Laconian got 14 backers who pledged a total of $962.

He points out that if he'd tried to raise the funds on his own website, he'd have nearly $1,000 in his pocket. But the idea isn't dead. Not yet.

"I'm committed to it now," says Bronsdon, who may have to settle for The Laconian serving as just a studio if he can't scrape together the cash for pricey batteries to make it mobile. "I have to finish this thing."

Carbon fiber money clip

Sargent Research is a small company. Very small - just three people.

And they're all really busy.

Slammed, in fact. One guy is in back, building an airplane wing, which is what the company does - designs and manufactures parts for aerospace and defense industries. Everyone else, plus a bonus guy (President Michael Sargent's older brother volunteered to help), is busy manufacturing Flexy, the company's first consumer product.

An ultra-thin money clip that also opens beer bottles, Flexy was fully funded on Kickstarter in just a few days. In the end, 577 people pledged nearly $13,000, well above the $2,500 goal.

"I was expecting to go over our goal, I wasn't expecting to go more than five times over the goal," says Sargent, 26.

The money allowed Sargent Research to produce mass quantities of clips made out of expensive carbon fiber at a consumer-friendly price. Flexy will sell for $20 on carbontactics.com

"I'm one of those guys who usually carries around a huge wallet," Sargent says. "Since I made Flexy, that's all I carry."

Carbon fiber is stiff stuff, but the way Flexy is designed, there's enough give to slip credit cards and cash into it. Plus, Sargent points out, "It opens beer."

"It's just a fun item, and I think it's pretty useful," he says.

Sargent made a handful of prototypes before kicking off the online campaign. For him, the hardest part was starring in the marketing video that shows off Flexy - and a wry sense of humor.

"That's the first video I've been in since, I think, the fifth grade," he says. "I'm your typical engineer - I just do my work and try to get it done and make sure the things I make are fully functional. So, it was out of character for me to do a video like that."

Though this was Sargent's first Kickstarter project, it won't be his last.

"I plan to do a new project probably every six weeks, if I can," says Sargent, who's lived in Tucson for most of his life. "I think Kickstarter is a really good platform to test out ideas and see if the market likes those ideas. If I put something on Kickstarter and it fails, then it's a good thing. It saves me time and money."

Kickstarter

Online website Kickstarter.com allows people to raise money for their pet projects. Creators set a funding goal and deadline, and people can pledge money. Kickstarter funding is all-or-nothing, so if projects don't reach their goal, they're not funded.

Since its launch four years ago, more than 4 million people have pledged $600 million-plus for more than 43,000 projects, the site says.

Kickstarter collects a 5 percent fee of the money collected for successful projects.

The crowdfunding site isn't involved in project development, nor does it guarantee projects. CNNMoney recently reported on a scam in which thousands of people pledged more than $120,000 for beer-fed Kobe beef jerky. Kickstarter canned the campaign just before it ended after site users and a documentary team making a film about Kickstarter uncovered inconsistencies.

Contact Kristen Cook at kcook@azstarnet.com or 573-4194.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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