Illustrating the Journey - Crowdfunding and Self-Publishing

We live in a beautiful world. Alexandria Neonakis offers a very unique and gorgeous perspective on both common and uncommon sights. “Places” is a personal art project that Alexandria started upon taking a giant cross-continental road trip with her sister last summer. Alexandria is now leveraging the power of her friends and fans to self-publish this wonderful collection of illustrations. I spoke with Alexandria about her journey and about the process of DIY publishing. What was the inspiration behind the visual art project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? The idea for Places came to me while on a cross-continental road trip with my little sister last summer. We drove from our hometown in Halifax, Nova Scotia to Los Angeles, California. North America is a beautiful continent, and each individual stop was absolutely flooded with incredible people and scenery. I used a flip camera to record pieces of the drive and little moments. When I got home and re-watched all of the videos, I decided to do a series of illustrations. I wanted to try to capture not only the places, but the feelings and memories I had there. It really just snowballed from there. I spend a lot of time traveling. I realized while working on the project that each place I’ve been has had a distinct impact on my life. A project of this size however takes a ton of time. To be able to complete a project like this would be a huge accomplishment to me as an artist. It’s a big goal, but I’m a pretty determined person… I drove 6000kms in 14 days in a Honda Civic even though people told me that I was nuts for even trying. I feel like I can do pretty much anything haha. Your work is great and your journey comes through in the images. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of art, particularly an innovative and new form of visual art - how are your supporters responding? Crowdfunding was something I didn’t fully understand at first. I stumbled onto RocketHub a couple weeks ago and started looking around. At first I thought my project was too small and wouldn’t get enough interest. Everyone else had things like songs and music videos and TV shows to pitch and all sorts of really interesting stuff. I am interested in my project, but would anyone else be? Also… it’s digital art. there will be a tangible book at the end, but do people want digital doodles? I pretty quickly learned that people love them, and that my network are just as excited about this as I am! I think a part of the reason the doodles were so widely appreciated is because I post them on the person’s Facebook wall with a little thank you message. It gets shared on their network, some set it as their profile pic… it gets shown off in a way that a real sketch on paper mailed to their doorstep probably wouldn’t. Each contribution from the $5 donation to the $500 donation gives me a little lump in my throat. It’s one thing to be passionate about something, it’s another entirely to have other people excited enough about you and your projects to give you what they can. That’s a brilliant use of Facebook and digital content. You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar project? To people who want to do this, just do it! Post it to your Facebook, your Twitter, your Deviantart, your blog… hit as many people in your network as you can! Don’t be naggy or beggy or anything like that, I just said “Hey guys, you know those drawings of places I’ve been making the past couple of months? I want to make those into a book, and I’m looking for contributions! Check out my RocketHub project” and it just went on its own from there. Having a good network of peers helps. All of the people who funded me so far are friends, fellow artists and fans of my work from Deviantart. If you’re an artist, whether you want to make a RocketHub project today or maybe in a few months, get to building your network! It’s not just about finding clients, it’s about connecting with your peers. I am always willing to help out with a cool arts project, and Places is proof that lots of people, both artists and fans of art, feel the same! I also try not to over flood my Facebook or Twitter with posts asking more people to contribute. Instead, I post the reward doodles I’ve been doing as I finish them, and that has built a ton of momentum. People see the rewards being given almost immediately, and that makes them more willing to contribute. I want to generate excitement and support, I don’t want Facebook and Twitter friends to stop following my posts because I’m begging too much haha. Lastly, don’t feel like your project is not worth it. It’s a lesson I learned from my RocketHub experience :) Perfect advice! Thank you Alexandria for your beautiful work and poignant insights. Reserve your copy of the book. -Vlad

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  • August 1, 2011

Toronto’s That Choir Inspires Global Support

That Choir, conducted by Craig Pike, is one of Toronto’s newest and most exciting Chamber Choirs. The group has gone to their fans and music-lovers around the world to raise the funds needed to record its first album. I had the pleasure to speak with Craig about his inspirational campaign and about the lessons of crowdfunding. What was the inspiration behind the music project you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? That Choir was formed 3 years ago as a casual opportunity to bring 14 friends together and share a musical experience every two weeks. At the end of 4 months of rehearsal we performed a concert of 8 pieces of a capella music for 40 mutual friends at Trinity Chapel in Toronto, Ontario.  Since it’s inception, we have grown into a 32 member chamber choir of auditioned members of the Toronto Arts Community and beyond. We now perform to audiences of up to 250 people and our concert programs include up to 14 pieces of new and traditional choral works that include new Canadian Composers. The next step for That Choir is to record it’s first album. The groups artistic integrity has grown as has its audience base, so NOW is the best time to do so - and we are thrilled and excited for this venture! Choral Music is an integral part of the Arts. It’s marriage of storytelling with musical creation results in the ultimate experience for the listener. By recording our first album, That Choir is hoping to reach a larger audience, and expose more and more people to this wonderful art form ! How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of choir music - how are your supporters responding? That Choir’s experience as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of choral music has been an immensely positive one! I believe that everything happens when it is meant to happen…and NOW is the time for us to be undertaking such a venture. The world of fundraising is changing, and to offer patrons of That Choir the chance to contribute online at RocketHub, and also get rewards back in return from their contribution is not only convenient but creative! Being a new choir, we are financially dependent on the public and our audiences. Every contribution HELPS That Choir achieve our goal. The fact that you can contribute from $20 - $10,000 offers everyone a chance to support the arts dependent on their financial situation.  As a result, our supporters are contributing accordingly and generously. In our first 10 days of fundraising, That Choir has received contributions ranging from $20 - $1,000. We look forward to what the next 80 days of this campaign with RocketHub has in store for us!!! You’ve built a lot of momentum quickly. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a similar community project? Believe in your project and know your audience. That Choir, from the beginning, has been a community. From its members to our audience, we all love getting together to create music, and more importantly SHARING it. If you believe in your project - so will others - and those “others” will spread the word.  Be ambitious. Be smart. And ask yourself the tough questions. Is now the right time to be fundraising? What do you truly hope to gain from fundraising online with RocketHub? Are you willing to put the DAILY work of getting the word out to your fanbase and beyond?  And finally, you must show that what you’re fundraising for has integrity! Be clear about your mandate, and show the world what you have to offer thru video’s and audio clips.  Thank you Craig and thank you That Choir. Your crowdfunding advice is very appropriate and poignant. Learn more about this cool group and get involved. -Vlad

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  • July 22, 2011

Crowdfunding Spotlight With East Village Artist, Adnan Sabir

Adnan Sabir, an East Village singer/songwriter, arrived in New York from Karachi by way of West Haven, Connecticut. His music, much like his journey, is a reflection of his diversity and a personal evolution. RocketHub caught up with Adnan to discuss the creative process and his crowdfunding campaign called “Don’t Forget to Water Your Little Flowers” - that has one week left to go on RocketHub. What was the inspiration behind your project “Don’t Forget to Water Your Little Flowers” you are currently running on RocketHub?  Why is it important to you? Music became an important part of my life about 10 years ago. After being in a cover band for a couple of years I decided to take recordings of a few cover songs to some “people in the industry”.  They said they liked my voice but that I should come back once I had more original material. I walked away with my head down. Writing didn’t come easy, I wrote my first song “Daddy” about three years later. I was proud of it but still still uncertain of the genre I wanted to pursue. I decided to come to New York City. From the sheer musical talent I was surrounded by in Alphabet City, the important things in music became clearer. I started sitting in to sing a couple of songs here and there with some musicians I admired greatly. Then about a year ago I was down on my luck and had been laid off and the city had taken it’s toll. Pressing on, I reached out to a producer on a whim with little hope of anything actually happening in terms of recording. I was wrong. I had a collection of songs ready to go and we were ready to make some great recordings. How has your experience been as a crowdfunder in the world of music - how are your fans responding? The support has been pretty unbelievable. I have become overwhelmed a couple of times during the course of this campaign with the enthusiasm I’ve seen from friends, family, and fans. They believe in my talent, trust in my perseverance, and the results will speak for themselves hopefully. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a project? First and foremost, the RocketHub team has been great and they’ve been there whenever I needed them. The guidelines I received prior to starting my project were really valuable and helped me get a good grasp of not only explaining the relatively new idea of crowdfunding to potential project fuelers but also managing communication and my personal network which brings me to point #2. You have to have a network and know as Brian Meece puts it the “depth and the width” of it. Width being the number of people in your network and the depth being the depth in your relationship. I started collecting emails from friends, family, co-workers, fellow musicians, and fans every chance I got over the last few years. This helped me maximize the width of my network. I’ve had co-workers I haven’t seen in years contribute to this project which is a great thing to be able to say. I only wish I had done an even better job with keeping up the mailing list. Talk to everyone, get their contacts, you never know when it may come in handy. That said, if you’re not already selling thousands of records, I believe the depth of the network becomes more important. To sum it up: you really have to believe in yourself and your project otherwise there is little hope of getting others behind it. Being involved and establishing your network as I mentioned above is important. Along with the network communication is just as important. A network is useless if no one knows what’s going on in the project or they’re not reminded of it in their already busy lives. Lastly, and also obviously, hardwork is important. The more clearly your hardwork and passion are displayed in your existing work the easier it will be for people to get behind the project you start. You are spot on Adnan! Thanks for the good words and we are proud to have you in our Creative Community. - Brian

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  • July 19, 2011

From London, Beverly Gan Crowdfunds Her Fashion Collection and Paves a New Way

Beverly Gan is an up-and-coming London-based fashion talent. Her crowdfunding success has been stellar and fun to watch. Her new collection is very cool - so I spoke to Beverly about how she manages it all and how she’s approaching the fashion industry in a new and innovative way: "To launch my own label has always been a goal of mine from the moment I knew I wanted to pursue a career in fashion. My desire to do this only became more prominent in the past six months after applying for position after position and constantly being rejected, it slowly became frustrating. The lack of entry level positions within the fashion industry due to the exploitation of students amongst many other factors made me question the principles of the fashion industry. This project is really important to me because I believe in my designs and I also feel strongly about the unfair employment practices and the questionable ethics of the industry. This is my opportunity to not only do something that I love, but to be able to one day help change the way the industry functions. Competition is fierce, but I am a firm believer that if you strive, you will achieve.  London is super competitive and there are so many Creatives out there that not every one will receive the investment required to fund their projects. I am extremely, extremely overwhelmed and grateful for the support I have received, especially from my pattern maker and friend, Liat. She is super supportive and offers encouraging words which gave me the push I needed to dive straight into building a business. We started doing all the things that we could do that did not require money (i.e. designing, constructing patterns, sorting out contacts and suppliers), while sending out  tonnes of letters to different companies requesting sponsorship. Eventually I looked into other methods to fund my project and that’s when I came across RocketHub. Crowfunding was something I did not think was possible for me, but it became the funding platform I needed to continue on with the project. Through this experience I realised how much faith my supporters have in me and I am forever grateful for that. My advice: believe in yourself, don’t sell yourself short. Always keep on top of things and just get yourself out there. Social networking sites are powerful tools for crowdfunding, I was able to achieve my goal in a short amount of time by sharing my project everyday and making sure I thanked my supporters. Do everything you can to get yourself out there, you will be amazed by the people who will support you.” Thank you Beverly for having your work be a part of the RocketHub community. Enjoy Beverly’s collection and support her new business. -Vlad

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  • July 18, 2011

$80K in 10 Days, The Story of Extra Credits - As Told By Show Co-Creator James Portnow

The Extra Credits RocketHub project has raised over $80,000 in under two weeks with over 3000 Fuelers - making it a bona fide crowdfunding hit. What’s most exciting is that this project still has 45 days to keep going. We caught up with Extra Credits co-creator James Portnow and as he shares his story, gives an update on how Allison is doing - and how he’s using the overage to form a fund that helps independent game developers publish their games.  Let’s turn it over to James… Our story is simple. Over the last year we’ve built up a web series discussing game design and the positive impact that games can have on humanity. We’ve used it to get people looking more deeply at videogames and to get them thinking about what they can take away from their games and add to their lives.   Then, out of the blue, I got a call from our artist, Allison Theus.  She had injured her shoulder.  If she didn’t get surgery soon, she’d lose the ability to create art.  It’s the one thing she loves in life and the thing she’s dedicated her whole life to - yet in that moment she was about to lose it forever. I knew I couldn’t let that happen, that I wouldn’t let that happen, but I didn’t know where to turn.  Each episode of the show had cost us far more to produce than we ever saw from it, and so at this point I’d spent all of my reserves.  I’d never felt more helpless…so I took a shot at doing the only thing that could help change Allison’s life, I turned to the fans. I knew that millions of people watched the show every month, and so I’d hoped that if we could find some way to reach out to them we could raise enough money to cover her initial expense and buy us time to figure out a long term solution.  So at 6 PM on June 29th I put up a RocketHub page. I was asking for fifteen thousand dollars.   When RocketHub asked me how long I thought it would take to raise this money, I put in 60 days, then I hopped on Twitter and Facebook to let the fans know what our situation was.  I was trying to give them minute by minute updates as I heard from Allison while juggling the phones trying to figure out what I personally could do. By six fifteen, we had raised four thousand dollars.  At six twenty I was on the phone with a friend who runs a local startup, trying to raise three thousand dollars selling him computer equipment.  By six thirty the word had spread about Allison’s injury and donations were starting to come in - by six thirty we had reached nine thousand dollars. At six thirty five I was on the phone with every local game developer I knew, trying to gather them for dinner to talk about holding an industry fund raiser for Allison.  By six fourty-five I was out the door for our meeting. Twenty minutes in, at a quarter past seven, I received at text: you’re at fifteen thousand dollars.  Ten minutes later, I received a text saying YOU’RE AT TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.  By the time the dinner had wrapped up I had received a flood of texts pouring in numbers, ending with YOU’VE ALMOST CRACKED 30K!!!  I could barely speak at that dinner.  I’ve never been so impressed with humanity or proud of a community.  All the things they say about “gamers” are false. Within three days we had raised over seventy five thousand dollars. This Friday, Allison goes in for her first surgery, which will be followed by months of physical therapy, but she will continue to do art for the rest of her life and her passion, our show, Extra Credits, will go on.  Any overflow we have will be used to pay it forward and create a fund to help independent game developers publish their games, the way they should be published, without the onerous terms of the major publishers and without having to give up all the rights to their ideas. Hopefully out of this we can not only heal Allison but create a few more jobs in this economy…and see a few more people doing what they love. JP Thanks for these insight James! This story is an exciting one indeed. -Brian All images courtesy of James Portnow and The Escapist    

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  • July 15, 2011

Take a Ride On the Good Bike in Toronto

"The neon bike outside of the OCAD U Student Gallery was conceived as a simple art project that we thought would beautify and energize the grim strip of Dundas Street West where we work. The bike’s bold, graphic and current aesthetic was an instant hit with passersby." The Good Bike Project is an innovative visual arts endeavor led by Vanessa Nicholas and Caroline Macfarlane. Both are curators at the OCAD student gallery in Toronto who are taking real-world art to new places. "The two of us work at the OCAD U Student Gallery on Dundas Street West in Toronto. Whilst working on a window display this past winter, Caroline noticed the sad, rusted bike parked on the sidewalk out front and suggested that we plant flowers in its basket come spring. Over the weeks, our idea evolved and what resulted was the neon, painted bike. This simple act of spontaneous creativity became a city issue when the bike was ticketed by the police; and from there we’ve managed to start bigger conversations about pubic art, cycling and community here in Toronto. We’re completely committed to this project because of this meaningful ripple effect. The support has been overwhelming. After being ticketed, we appealed to the public for support. We didn’t want to remove the bike as we’d already had so much positive feedback from passers-by. The emails and phone calls poured in. To date, we’ve received over 250 emails from as far as England, Brazil, Belgium and Australia. Our neighbors have been wonderful too. Fellow artists, local bar tenders and corporate sponsors alike have all been so generous and helpful. It’s been so fun meeting so many great people and feeling so connected to our community.” The project has garnered global support and press coverage - including a great recent piece in The Toronto Star. "I think we’ve generated so much positive support because our initiative is all about community building and regeneration. We’re looking to give a lot back to the city, and so we’re finding enthusiastic people at every turn." Take a peek at this fun and rewarding project. Thank you to Vanessa and Caroline for their work and for being a part of the RocketHub community. -Vlad

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  • July 14, 2011

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming for this Jimmy Pardo PSA

"Scott and Alison first met working together at "The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien." Scott used to crack Alison up reading letters from TV Guide during rehearsal and from that, an idea for a web series was born. In the spring of 2010, Alison and Scott had some down time after "The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien" ended, so they used that time to bring TV GUIDE LETTER THEATER to life. The web series launched in the summer 2010 to many laughs and was featured on the comedy website, Funny or Die, and in the magazine that had served as their inspiration, TV Guide. The people who write those letters are hilariously devoted to television, and we felt they deserved to have a web series devoted to them or to what we think they would be like." This dynamic duo, is now engaging their community of fans to make the second season of the show into a reality. Alison gave us more: "So far, it’s been great. I’ve seen a lot of support on Facebook and on Twitter from both friends and fans. I was impressed that people who I’ve never met, and just know me from Twitter, had donated. It’s a great feeling. We are both really feeling the love and support out there for TV Guide letter-based comedy." Thank you Scott and Alison for this hilarious project. And a special thanks to the talented Jimmy Pardo for his awesome PSA. Join the fun, support this project. -Vlad

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  • July 12, 2011

Crowdfunding a Peace-building Documentary - The Future Guardians of Peace

Everyday Gandhis Project is a nonprofit organization with mission is to educate and inspire the public by supporting peace through sharing stories and experiences. "Future Guardians of Peace: From Child Soldiers to Peacebuilders," is their documentary about a group of former child soldiers, who struggle to rebuild their lives in post-civil war Liberia. Thanks to Robert Majak from Everyday Gandhis Project, we get a deeper look at this film, the meaning behind it, and their current RocketHub crowdfunding project. What was the inspiration behind your project “Future Guardians of Peace” you are currently running on RocketHub? In 2005, Everyday Gandhis staff members met former rebel commander Christian Bethelson on the Road to Voinjama in Liberia, when his car was broke down and we offered to help him. It turns out he was on his way to a neighboring country to go fight as a mercenary, because he needed money to provide for his family. We persuaded Bethelson to not go fight in the conflict, and from that moment on, we hired him and we have been working with him on his own healing journey, and eventually, he became one of our full time peacebuilders. It was Bethelson that brought his former child soldiers Akoi, Morris, Ezekiel, Mohammed, Lassana and Varlee to our compound to begin rebuilding their shattered lives. It is because of these remarkable and unique people, their stories and their deep capacity for peace that we felt inspired to create this film, and the documentary has changed all our lives and brought us more joy than I can express. We feel that it’s very important to tell the the stories of The Future Guardians of Peace, and the stories of them being child soldiers and finding their new identities as peacebuilders through photography.This film shows despite the fact that these kids have endured so much tragedy, they still have this incredible capacity for compassion and peace. The United Nations estimates that there are between 250,000 to 500,000 child soldiers that are active worldwide, with uncounted numbers of former fighters who remain traumatized and vulnerable to being re-recruited. The Future Guardians of Peace in our documentary show us that there is hope in the hopeless, and this documentary will show people that anything is possible if you give people an opportunity to rebuild their lives, even if these people may have committed the worst atrocities. Much thanks for this insight on a very powerful subject matter. How has your experience been as a crowdfunding pioneer in the world of pro-social film - how are your fans and community responding? Taking part of a crowdfunding is quite exciting because you are engaging your funders directly, and there is a great sense of community about people helping you fuel a project, because they support your ideas and project, and they want to see you succeed. Any advice for Creatives looking to crowdfund a project? Crowdfunding requires a lot of effort and a lot of faith, and you have to keep people interested and engaged in the crowdfunding campaign. Generally speaking, people want to be want to see your campaign do well and they will support you if you provide them with enough reason to get involved. Thank you Robert and Everyday Gandhis Project for shedding light on your mission and this film. - Team RocketHub 

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  • July 6, 2011

Declaring Independence, One Crowdfunding Step at a Time

We’re happy to celebrate Independence Day alongside our friends, family, and fellow Creatives. Today is a great opportunity to reflect upon everything that we’ve accomplished together as a smart, supportive, and very creative community. Thousands of artists, entrepreneurs, and organizations have galvanized hundreds-of-thousands of Fuelers to support incredible projects. Along with the historic revelry of July 4th, today we also celebrate a newfound independence: crowdfunding has empowered thousands to declare independence from the stodgy inustries of the past. Together, we have taken the first step in launching a new era, in establishing a new creative economy that is fair, democratic, and independent. Happy Independence Day from the whole RocketHub crew.

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  • July 4, 2011

Crowdfunding is Micro-Patronage for Lena Stefon

Lena Stefon is a talented young woman. Based in Grandville, Michigan - she is leveraging the power of her community in order to crowdfund her first album. In her project description, Lena presents one of the most clear and eloquent explanations of crowdfunding that I’ve ever seen: What’s crowdfunding? It’s like in the old days when a rich person wanted a new painting, sculpture, or piece of music; they would commission an artist to create it for them. Crowdfunding is the same idea, but instead of one person commissioning an artist, it’s a bunch of people supporting an artist in the creation of their art, and receiving something in return. This clarity combined with a compelling story has given Lena much success. I had the pleasure of chatting with her and she explained her process even further: After the first song I wrote and sang for my family, my dad wanted to direct me in a music video. That encouraged me to continue writing music. I sang my songs for friends and family, and they encouraged me to share them with more people. Then I found out about RocketHub and began to think that perhaps I could record a CD. I’m looking forward to making the music videos with my dad latter this summer after we finish the CD. Becoming a singer has always been a dream of mine, and I want as many people as possible to enjoy my music. It’s a gift I give to other people. God gave me the gift of music, and I want to share that gift with others. My crowdfunding experience has been extremely rewarding. I’m very happy with the results so far. It is truly amazing. I had no hope for anything this great, and without RocketHub this project would not have happened. My supporters think RocketHub is really cool. They’re saying how glad they are that RocketHub is helping me with the opportunity to make this CD. I took the advice RocketHub gives about getting the word out, even before we went live on the site. Share what you’re doing with other people. Don’t think it will happen by itself – you’ve got to talk about it. It helps a lot if you have a few people partnering with you. My mom and dad really believe in me and my music, and have been willing to put a lot of work into helping me. I also have friends who are willing to spread the word about what I’m doing. It takes a lot of effort to do this, but it’s definitely worth it. Very good advice. Thank you for your sincere project and good luck with your young music career. Check out Lena’s work. -Vlad

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  • June 28, 2011