The Crowdfunding Chocolateers

Chocolate and crowdfunding go together like chocolate and…peanut butter. Crowdfunding is the new peanut butter? Michael Sacco thinks so. This renaissance man is successfully taking his chocolaty aspirations to the crowd. Michael is looking to fund the construction of two machines that are integral to his up-and-coming chocolate factory! I spoke to Michael about his endeavor: What was the inspiration behind the cool invention project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? ChocoSol was started as a research project at the grassroots in Oaxaca Mexico. Our goal is to create an ecological production model for making chocolate that is accessible to people with lots of initiative and only a little capital. Moreover, it is designed to be an example of alternatives to destructive development. The idea is to create beacons of change that utilize ecological agriculture and production methods, and in sharing the delicious and nutritious food products thereby produced to educate and engage people. It is similar to the trade, not aid philosophy of RocketHub, and in this sense we see ourselves as a learning community social enterprise. Experimentation is keep to good crowdfunding. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Honestly, I think we have kind of tapered off. The key to a good crowdfunding is consistantly promoting it. However, some of the cashflow constraints make this difficult. Perhaps a monthly payout would be helpful for small enterprises like ChocoSol. However, I have to say that the site and the idea are fantastic, and the infrastructure and design are very attractive and communicative. Successful crowdfunding takes work - keep at it and you will be successful. Check out this tasty project, here. -Vlad

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  • May 6, 2011

Backstage at Tomato’s House of Rock with Chris “Tomato” Harfenist

—- Crowdfunding is an empowering endeavor. RocketHub is a community, a platform, and a revolution empowering your crowdfunding adventure. There are many other valuable tools available to Creatives that make an impact. Because of this, we launch feature stories with a goal to highlight other organizations that share our empowerment ethos. —- Tomato’s House Of Rock (THOR) is a rock music school for seriously creative young musicians founded by Chris “Tomato” Harfenist, the leader of cult-fave alt-rock band, The Sound Of Urchin.  More than just a rock school or music club, THOR rocks elite venues (including The Highline Ballroom, BB Kings, and Brooklyn Bowl) and works with artists from world-renowned bands (including members from Furthur, Iron Maiden, Buzzcocks, Twisted Sister, Ween, Testament, Guided By Voices, and others). Through THOR, students have also met with executives from major labels, MTV, and VH1, and have performed on ABC and Sirius Satelite Radio networks. Tomato has 15 years experience teaching and mentoring young rock musicians and we had the chance to connect and get a firsthand look at the good work happening at THOR. We at RocketHub love the mission, vibe, and feel of Tomato’s House of Rock. What’s the most exciting aspect to you in regards to your role with the school? The most exciting thing for me is to watch these talented young musicians come into their own.  My main job, in regards to them, is to help guide their growth into becoming their own creative personality.  There is no lesson book for this kind of stuff, of course, so the reward for me are those moments where I see that spark of individual originality come to the forefront… it’s that thing that gets us into music in the first place and when I see it I know that I am doing something right. You have a fascinating background as a successful touring musician, and now you leverage that expertise by coaching and mentoring young artists - do you find that the kids “teach” you any lessons as well? Ha ha ha, of course!  They teach me all the time, and in so many ways.  I see parts of my young musical self in them at times, my current self, and even my future self.  The great thing about music is that if you love it, there is no real age-gap issue… I talk to the THOR members about music like I talk to my friends who have made hit records.  I haven’t met a good musician who feels they can’t learn anything more about music or the creative process. What live events does THOR have coming up the Spring and Summer? We just did a 9 band Original Music Showcase at The Knitting Factory and played the Tribeca Film Festival this past weekend, we are working with Steve Garvey from The Buzzcocks this coming weekend… we have a show in May in Stuy-Town, June at The Highline Ballroom with special guests including Alex Skolnick from Testament.  And then we are preparing for shows with Gene Ween and a “Big Three” 1986 Metal Tribute over the summer. Does that answer your question?  ha ha  It sure does! Much thanks for the insight and we look forward to seeing more great music emerging from your community. -Brian photos courtesy of tomatoshouseofrock.com

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  • May 5, 2011

From Argentina with Love and Care

Crowdfunding can be a powerful source of pro-social good. The Por el Barrio Libertad team is proving that social support can be galvanized from across the world. Through RocketHub, this passionate team is helping children in impoverished area of Buenos Aires. Here is how they see it: What was the inspiration behind the international education and support project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Our main motivation in the project is the Barrio Libertad´s children and their ability to access to better opportunities in the present and future through education, art and recreation. Barrio Libertad is a very humble neighborhood of the Buenos Aires province. Nearly seventy families are living there in an unhygienic situation. The homes are dilapidated and without access to key public services. In major cases, the vital needs are not fulfilled. Children face very difficult conditions for development. After an intensive 2010 we are focusing the project on the district’s children. The project mainly aims to set up a place for the children between five and twelve years old, in which they could receive school support, entertainment and supervision. We believe that these first years of life are fundamental. It is critical for them to get tools that allow them to interact and integrate in the society and in an increasingly complex world – a complex world which for sure is difficult, but that also offers new opportunities. RocketHub is one of these opportunities. It is an innovative way that enables us to share our project, to find support, and to make it visible to the world. Something that was impossible to achieve some years ago. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of pro-social work in Argentina - how are your supporters responding? Many social projects exist in Argentina, but we believe our project “Por el Barrio Libertad” is innovative. It aims to integrate the physical space with the web space to generate concrete actions that impact children´s life quality. We use social networks to go near more collaborators. We receive support from donors who are part of our circles of contacts, but also from the USA, France and England.  In Argentina, we are pioneers in this area. We confront difficulties with strategy; because in our country people are reluctant to use their credit card online. This use is emerging, for that reason we designed a video explaining how to use the platform. Experiences of this nature will be more frequent in a few years, gradually people will know and trust the system. We invite all Argentines to dare projects!  Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? The platform is not only a presence online, it is a dynamic thing. Design the page on RocketHub to let people know that both the project and the Internet site are transparent and sure - is a first step. Then you have to update the content permanently, to answer and to try to anticipate the reactions you receive. Do not expect donors to come, but go and find them with an active broadcast of the page and the project. Internet allows everyone a fast and easy access to a lot of information. But information must be innovatively clear to be understood and well received. We endeavor to give visibility to projects, and so to realize our dreams! Thank you for taking this brave approach to Argentina. Get involved, here. -Vlad

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  • May 4, 2011

RocketHub’s Takeoff Artist of The Month, April 2011 - John Schmitt

Spike Hill in Williamsburg, Brooklyn hosts RocketHub’s Takeoff Tuesday - a weekly music series designed to entertain and support musical artists through networking, workshops and career enhancing showcases.  Every month an exceptional artist is highlighted here on RocketHub, and the April spotlight goes to John Schmitt - one of New York City’s most exciting young storytellers.   John Schmitt was born and raised in Buffalo, NY, and his songs are a direct reflection of his experiences growing up there. John is a three-time ASCAPLUS Award Winner for new artists, a 2008 winner of the SongCircle Songwriting Contest, 2006 ArtVoice Magazine nominee for best musician…Now he has the distinction of being RocketHub’s Takeoff Artist of The Month for April 2011. We had the chance to talk with John about his creative process and upcoming projects: Tell us about what subjects inspire you as a songwriter I get inspired by so many things!  People I see on the subway, writing on a billboard, other friends’ music, and my own personal interactions.  Lately, I’ve been using images from popular literature, like Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” as imagery to use while writing.  I really don’t have a set system for writing, as a result! I saw that you opened up for Dave Matthews Band! That’s pretty awesome, how did that happen? The DMB show was really incredible.  I got to play it with my friend Caleb Hawley, and Byron Zanos.  We were contacted by SongCircle, a NYC-based company that runs showcases and songwriting contests, and asked if we could play.  I immediately jumped at it, and my Mother flew in from Buffalo, along with my sister and my aunt.  It was such a great time, the crowd was great, and best of all, I had a great vantage point to see the DMB show! What projects do you have upcoming that are most exciting to you? My next project is to record my song “Going Back”, my newest song.  Everyone tells me how much they like that song, and wish they had a definitive audio version.  So, I’m using RocketHub to fund the project, which should be up this week.  I will be touring the Midwest, the South, and California this year, and will be going to Europe in 2012!   Congrats John! and much thanks for being a part of our creative community.  -Brian John is currently touring the U.S., and has opened for major artists such as Ingrid Michaelson, Allison Kraus, and Dave Matthews Band. For more info on what John is up to - check out http://johnschmittmusic.wordpress.com/   

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  • May 3, 2011

Classical Theatre Becomes New in Toronto

Scott Moyle is bringing classical theatre to the future. His Urban Bard Productions is a recently-formed Toronto theatre company. They do classical theatre in unusual places, staging awesome plays in urban locations to tell the story in a way that is fresh, accessible, and exciting. Their previous productions of ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ were huge successes. Now, Scott is looking to crowdfund ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and was gracious enough to share his thoughts about the process with me: What was the inspiration behind the classical theatre project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Urban Bard Productions is at a tricky point right now: we’re really starting to pick up creative momentum, and our reputation is picking up substantial momentum beyond our immediate circle of contacts. But we’re running on empty financially, because part of our mandate is keeping classical theatre accessible with a Pay-What-You-Can admission cost, so we’ve only ever managed to break even. RocketHub seemed like a great opportunity to get the season on its feet, while also raising some awareness of the company. This specific project, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is a play that’s very dear to me: it was the first play I directed way back in highschool, it’s one of Shakespeare’s funniest works, and it’s a show that we have exactly the right cast for right now. Oh, and it’s a great contrast to the show we’ve got planned to follow it up: the dark and disturbing Richard III. Sounds like it’s the perfect time for a crowdfunding campaign. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of theatre in Canada - how are your supporters responding? I’m having a great time. I knew we had plenty of people who support and value our work, but I had no clue how dramatically RocketHub would galvanise them around this project - I just about fell out of my seat when our first $500 fueler showed up! It was also a fantastic exercise to think through potential rewards, particularly the ones that take advantage of Urban Bard’s unique approach to staging the classics. This whole experience is proving tremendously fun right now, and (at the time of writing) our campaign still has seven weeks to go, so I’m really excited to see what happens next. Our supporters are responding with an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and generosity - we’re 10% of the way through our campaign and we’re nearly halfway to our goal. I couldn’t ask for better friends, colleagues, and supporters. We’re glad that we can play a small part in your success. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Having a good bit of video seems to have made a substantial difference. It’s crazy enough that strangers are intrigued, but sticks close enough to the aesthetic of our previous shows that our fans can relate to it. Janine Harris of Keyring Media donated her time and equipment and expertise to make the video look as professional as it does, and we went through a lot of drafts of that speech to make sure the message was clear, entertaining, and representative of our brand. And, of course, a small army of my talented friends showed up and did amazing things on the day of the shoot - the actors were so great that we got it in just three takes! Never underestimate the power of the soft sell! Very few of the messages that I’ve sent around have had a request for financial support, because the video does that all on its own. All I’ve done is ask people to check out the video (promising a swordfight and knife-juggling probably helps), and linked them to the RocketHub page. A hard sell right in the initial message could turn potential fuelers off, but there’s a lot of merit in showing them a sample of of our work before asking for their support. And finally, though this may seem obvious, the blog at rockethub.org has an insane amount of priceless advice for potential Creatives. A great deal of what we’ve done has followed the strategies laid out on the blog, and it seems to be paying off spectacularly well. Rather than reinventing the wheel, potential Creatives would do well to look at what successful campaigns have in common. There is huge room in a campaign’s content for originality, but I think the structure of a successful campaign is probably pretty clear. Thank you Scott and Urban Bard for your awesome project and innovative take on theare. Check out one of the best pitch videos we’ve ever see, here. -Vlad  

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  • May 2, 2011

From Italy: Gallo & The Roosters Make a New Sound

Danilo Gallo is looking to make his third record by leveraging the power of a global crowd. He comes to RocketHub all the way from Italy and I had the pleasure to quickly learn a bit more about his campaign: What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? The music project I’m running on rockethub is basically the band which I lead and for which I write, I compose and arrange everything. So on one hand it is a challenge, on the other hand, it is the natural evolution of my musical point of view, as I’ve already made two albums with this band, and this project will help to make the third one. So it’s very important for my musical growth. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music in Italy - how are your supporters responding? I heard about RocketHub from friends, musicians, and so I was very curious and I find this way of crowdfunding very innovative and “fresh”. The response is quite good, I don’t know if I’m a pioneer, but after me many other musicians and collegues got interested with RocketHub and will try to do the same with their projects. Thanks Danilo for flying with team RocketHub. Check out Danilo’s great music here. -Vlad

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  • April 28, 2011

Building the Future through the Manguinhos Complex - Crowdfunding for the Present

Caira Conner is heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to help build an infrastructure redevelopment project focused on improving quality of life in the surrounding favelas. She is utilizing the power of her family, friends, and other supporters to get her there. Lead architect Jorge Mario Jáuregui and his team at the Atelier Metropolitano began the project in response to demand by the city government of Rio de Janeiro. Jáuregui’s goal is to integrate the favelas into the rest of the city by introducing infrastructure, landmarks, and facilitating services like water and electricity. Here is a glimpse into Caira’s journey and her future role: What was the inspiration behind the international research project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? This project stemmed from a research paper I wrote on the World Cup as a potential catalyst for peacebuilding and socio-economic development. I spoke with a number of scholars (including ones who felt that to-date, the WC had not effectively impacted its respective host countries’ economies in the slightest), and the most significant feedback I received was that if it could indeed be a catalyst for change, it certainly wasn’t going to happen under current measurements. I discovered Jorge Mario Jáuregui (the lead architect behind the Manguinhos Complex) at the Museum of Modern Art in an exhibition called “Small Scale, Big Change.” Jáuregui’s work emphasizes the idea of public space as a social connector and I just fell in love with that concept. In light of the World Cup research I was already doing, it seemed like a reasonable move to try and connect the two. So much of the criticism of the World Cup I read was based on ignorance of, or lack of sensitivty to, the local culture of its host countries:  for example, razing down buildings and infrastructure to make way for new stadiums that probably won’t be used again once the tournament ships out. I thought what Jáuregui got especially “right” was the idea of not beginning from scratch. The vision of his organization is rooted in fostering existing potential, as in the case of the Manguinhos Complex. I pitched the idea to a professor who then encouraged me to enroll in his Applied Peacebuilding class. What I hope my research will be is an examination of how Jáuregui’s methods could be an example that the coming of the World Cup is opportunity for beneficial develpment for societies in disequilibrium.   A worthy cause for travel! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of pro-social work in Brazil - how are your supporters responding?  It’s been a positive one thus far. That said, it’s tricky asking people for money, no matter the cause. (At least I think so.) However, I’m fortunate to have an extraordinary number of extraordinary people in my life willing to vouch for me. This project was originally presented in a grad school class at NYU and is still very much a work in progress-there’s a lot of questions to which I don’t have the answers and may not for some time…if ever. The people supporting me in this venture are especially fantastic because they’re giving me constructive criticism. I certainly have my work cut out for me but I’m looking forward to getting to Brazil and gaining some on-the-ground research experience. Very cool. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project?  I decided to use RocketHub because I was turned down for a research grant for this project. I’d been hesitant to even apply for the grant in the first place because it was so competitive and I doubted my chances, as well as my grant proposal writing capabilities. When I expressed my uncertainty, my uncle commented, “If you don’t apply, I can assure you that you will absolutely not get it.” So I applied, and then I didn’t get it. (Sigh.) Crowdfunding wasn’t the original method I had in mind when I thought about financing this project but I realized the research likely wouldn’t happen at all if I couldn’t figure out a way to pay for the plane ticket. I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve thought about crowdfunding a project and then didn’t because they didn’t want to engage in the awkwardness that can arise by reaching out to your network and asking for financial assistance. I certainly understand that perspective, but my uncle’s logic still applies. Even if I don’t hit my target goal, my project still gets exposure and I still get feedback on how to improve it. Thank you Caira for being so brave and for trying out crowfunding - it seems to have paid off. Help Caira get to Brazil, here. -Vlad

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  • April 27, 2011

RocketHub’s Gibson Music Retreat Video Recap

Browser does not support iframes! Documenting the Gibson Music Retreat in NYC - including music and interviews with NONVIOLENCE, and our own Brian Meece.

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  • April 26, 2011

Skating with a Crowd - A New Way to Fund an Athletic Career

Michelle is a 13-year-old skating talent. Kate is her dedicated, passionate, and supportive mom. Together they have taken the best parts of crowdfunding in order to support Michelle’s career. From Fox Television to prominent figure skating blogs, Michelle and Kate have captured the attention of many new fans and have built incredible momentum. I had the pleasure of chatting with Kate about their awesome campaign: What was the inspiration behind the ice skating project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? I desperately needed to find a way to fund my daughter’s skating career. It is a very expensive sport, and we have very modest means. I was considering more traditional methods of fundraising like a dinner and silent auction, but I had done that before and it is a very labor intensive way to raise money. Then I caught a story on the morning news about crowdfunding, and I decided to do some research. I looked at a number of crowdfunding sites, and settled on RocketHub.I liked the format, the easy to follow directions and the fact that it was not ‘all or nothing’. Plus, it seemed a little more welcoming to diverse projects like our sports oriented one. This project is crucial to keeping my daughter on the ice this year. There may possibly be more money available from sponsors, scholarships and grants as she moves higher in the sport, but at this level there is not a lot of those options.  We’re proud to have you on RocketHub :) How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of sports and in support of your daughter - how are your supporters responding? My experience, and I think I can speak for my daughter as well, has been life changing. I have been profoundly moved by the support we have received from family, friends, and total strangers. We have received money from across the entire country, and support from people in Asia and Europe. How cool is that? I have connected in new ways with relatives and old friends, and made some wonderful new ones. Plus we have shared Michelle’s story with so many people, and now they will be able to follow her career in the coming competitive season. We have amazing supporters. 1100 people have viewed her YouTube video. 63 people have shared her RocketHub page on Facebook, and another 43 have recommended her Fox9 news story. Countless others have shared her page with their email lists, and 4 blogs have connected to her RocketHub page. One friend connected us with the local news, another posted Michelle’s story on a Chinese community forum. We have received donations from $5.00 to $1000, and they are all important to us. We are very grateful for all the help we have received. You have a great story and you’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? I think the most important thing to realize is that this is also a lot of work. It cannot happen by itself. It has to be nurtured and continually fed. Every avenue you can think of must be explored and you have to be ready to stretch yourself and step outside your comfort zone. I spend time at least every other day reaching out to more people, updating the page, thanking people, and trying to think of ways to keep it fresh. Just try and remember that your job is to get your story out, far and wide. Everyone who encounters it is free to help or walk away. The more encounters there are, the more yeses there will be. I encourage Creatives to research and reach out to blogs in your area of interest. They can be invaluable. We have recently been contacted by a Korean figure skating blogger who learned about Michelle’s story through another blog that posted about our efforts. He posted a story about her today. So the connections continue to grow. The news story was a big boon to our efforts, also. Even that was a direct result of crowdfunding. A friend of ours is a reporter in Washington, DC. She read our initial posts on FB and thought it made a compelling story so she shared our story with a reporter here in the Twin Cities. That reporter contacted us, and did a great job in telling our story. I am not sure how many people saw the initial airing of our story, but we were able to share it far and wide. It convinced a number of people to give a second time, which completely took me by surprise. Lastly, I would like to say that if I can do this, than just about anyone can. I am 51 years old and while I am not technologically illiterate, this is all new to me. But I was able to take the tools RocketHub offered and use them successfully. You’ve done everything right and worked very intelligently. Thank you Michelle and thank you Kate. Support this project here. -Vlad

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  • April 25, 2011

Vickie Raye Hits the Radio

Vickie Raye has a passion for making good music. Now she is engaging her fans and creating a new record and radio release through the power of the crowd. We caught up with her to get the scoop behind the music. What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? After so many years of putting my music career on hold, for one reason or another, I finally really focused my efforts the last 5 years 100% on my music, initially as a songwriter in Nashville, and now as an artist. It took a lot of time and dedication as a songwriter to really earn the respect of some of the writers I respected and once I started to achieve that someone beckoned the question “why aren’t you an artist? You have a great voice.” Well after some thought, I returned to my “artist” roots and really started attacking the industry with artistry as my focus. I believe that I have something to say and breaking the stereotypical norms of the business became a catalyst for me. So finishing THIS project is different than the rest because it’s totally deliberate. Every song, every production. I didn’t want to just throw  bunch of songs onto a CD and sell it….I realy want to make a statement with this next album. I am older than a lot of artists that people will find now a days and it’s important for me to show that dreams are possible at any age and music has no age limits…Good music is good music, and a great song is a great song….It’s about being REAL…. I am so excited to see what the future holds for me and others like myself; and RocketHub has provided a phenomenal launching pad to really get out there and flying. Rock on! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of music in Nashville - how are your supporters responding? Ha ha! I don’t know if anyone can call ME a “pioneer”….but the crowdfunding concept that RocketHub provides is such a unique opportunity I couldn’t pass it up. Many here in town use some of the other companies out there, but something really spoke to me when I discovered RocketHub. I think my supporters are responding well to the “soft launch” so far….we’re getting ready soon to really rev things up and hopefully exceed our goal. Very nice - thank you! Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? Great question. My only advice, for what it’s worth, is 1.) to really take the time to THINK about the rewards you’re offering and give possible supporters something that they can’t get anywhere else, 2.) Don’t be scared to just take the chance and see what happens (you have nothing to lose with RocketHub) 3.) You have to believe in your project 150% and trust that your passion will translate and be contagious to the possible supporters. and lastly, enjoy the whole ride no matter where it takes you! Thank you Vickie for your music and inspirational campaign. Check out her songs here. -Vlad

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  • April 22, 2011