The world of crowdfunding is awash in potato salad, thanks to a spud enthusiast in Ohio called Zack Danger Brown. Promising only that, upon raising ten dollars, he was going to make potato salad – “I haven't decided what kind yet” – Brown raised nearly $50,000 in two weeks on Kickstarter. (The total was well over $70,000 before Kickstarter cancelled several donations it said couldn’t be verified.)
Fifty G’s in two weeks is a lot of money – about two-thirds of projects that meet their goal on Kickstarter raise under $10,000. And it’s spawned all kinds of spin-off campaigns, from Pasta Salad to cole slaw to Better Potato Salad. Meanwhile, Portsmouth filmmaker Kathleen Cavalro is looking to raise nearly $40,000 for a documentary film about Seacoast chefs called The Kitchen Cinq. As of Monday, she’s raised $1,801.
Does Brown’s potato salad gag bug those running less tongue-in-potato-salad-filled-cheek campaigns, like Cavalho?
“I think it's hilarious,” she says. “Everyone always claims every oddball project is going to ruin Kickstarter. They said that about Zach Braff funding his independent film. They're saying that now about the potato salad project. Kickstarter will continue to work, in my opinion, for projects that people want to see created, no matter how many potato salad projects there are out there.”
As for her project, Cavalho says she’s run up against a common problem for those who turn to crowdfunding – “getting word out to a wider audience than your local one… I think in hindsight, I should have gone with [a crowdfunding site] that is not all-or-nothing. But I suppose every project manager who doesn't get funded probably says the same thing.”
Cavalho’s film aims to tell the story of five chefs in and around Portsmouth, and give a window into the broader food community there. Some of the people producing food and drinks on the coast are also crowdfunding their projects. Michael and Louise Potorti of Portsmouth are in the midst of a second Kickstarter campaign to fund craft beer at the Beara Irish Brewing Co. “Every popular thing gets spoofed at one point or another,” Michael Potorti says of the potato salad project. “We can only be as transparent as possible [about our project] and hope people get out there and contribute.” The Kegs For Beara project has raised about $1,200 of its $30,000 goal, with about a month until the deadline.
If nothing else, Zach Danger Brown has shown that crowdfunding success can come down to luck – of having the right idea at the right time, even if the idea is just making potato salad. Or having the right person leading the charge to raise funds around an idea. Kevin Johnson of Dover exceeded his $7,500 goal to raise funds for Embers Bakery, a wood-fired artisan bread oven. He says the idea was unique enough to grab some attention – “who doesn't love fresh sourdough bread?” – but also credits his wife’s “tenacious marketing” for the oven while he was on a military deployment to Qatar. “She handed out flyers at farmer's markets, sent emails and posted endlessly on Facebook. Social media played a big role in garnering interest in the project and sourcing new backers that were not already connected to us in some way.”
Like Kathleen Cavalho and Michael Potorti, Johnson has nothing bad to say about the potato salad project, saying only “we wish him the best of luck in making all that potato salad!”
By the way, if you think a $10 Kickstarter for potato salad is weird, check out Freakstarter, a blog dedicated to the strangest, most offbeat crowdfunding campaigns of all time. And if you want your own potato salad, try one of these 5 Perfect Potato Salads from Saveur.com.