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Blog: As Kickstarter turns 10, take a look back at local projects

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Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter turns 10 years old today.

During the past decade, 16 million backers pledged $4 billion to 160,000 projects in 22 countries, CEO Aziz Hasan wrote in a blog post released this morning.

“Tens of thousands of creators have built meaningful, direct relationships with their audiences,” said Hasan, who began leading the business last month, in the post. “They have exchanged advice and mentorship; they have stayed up late together to watch a project’s funding tick over the finish line. Most importantly, they have been able to protect their creative independence .”

“Creative independence” is certainly a good phrase to describe projects with origins in Springfield. Whether the campaigns sported how awesome Missouri is or brought extra large blankets to the market, these campaigns showed the creativity on display in the Queen City.

Here’s a look back at some of the most notable projects.

“Missouri is Awesome”
A Kickstarter for T-Shirts was much more than that in 2013. It was awesome.

“The Mystery Hour” host Jeff Houghton, who’s become a master in viral videos with his biggest hit in “Instagram Husband,” starred in a video for then Five Pound Apparel owner Bryan Simpson. Both would go on to do more Kickstarter work. More on that later.

“You may think that Missouri is boring or full of hillbillies or lacking a culture. You’re probably thinking of Arkansas, because Missouri is awesome,” Houghton said in a video promoting the campaign.

Later in the video, he appears in a faux-censored shot — blurred out below the waist — stating the Show-Me State got its nickname because Missouri’s first governor, Alexander McNair, was “known around the state as a prolific flasher.”

It’s the kind of campaign that embodies what Hasan called “creative independence,” and customers flocked to it.

It raised $33,215 via 799 backers, who received shirts with sayings such as, “Missouri: The Gateway to Awesome.”

“Biggest, best blanket ever”
Sticking with Houghton and Simpson, they returned in late 2018 for “the biggest, best blanket ever.”

Houghton again served as the promoter, with Simpson — now at Hook Creative after selling Five Pound — co-founding Big Blanket Co. with Josh Stewart, Dane Watts and Anthony Tolliver.

“I had a gut feeling that people would hook onto it and it would resonate with them,” Simpson told SBJ in November 2018.

He was right.

The campaign quickly surpassed its goal and landed at $94,286 through 591 backers.

Drunk ducks
Gaming is a popular category on Kickstarter, and locals looked to capitalize on that trend.

The most recent success story was a repeat for Caleb Stokes, a Galena High School English teacher who, as a side hustle, makes board games and co-hosts a podcast.

In his latest project, Stokes partnered with Spencer Harris and others on a board game called Party Fowl: The Game of Drunk Ducks.

With the goal of being “the coolest duck at a party,” the game and its comical, beautiful artwork earned $17,687 — ahead of a $14,000 goal — via 430 backers on Kickstarter last year.

Houghton, again, comes into play here, as Stokes and Harris appeared on “The Mystery Hour” in February to promote Drunk Ducks. It was the late-night talk show’s first sold-out show at The Gillioz, featuring “The Office” actor Leslie David Baker.

Stokes also successfully kick-started tabletop game Red Markets and others.

Another gaming example came in 2013, when Pixelscopic LLC raised $150,745 over a $75,000 goal to develop video game “Delver’s Drop.”

It has yet to come to market — one of the pitfalls of backing a Kickstarter — though demos released to backers were promising.

Female empowerment
Last year, Springfield artist Ellen Schaeffer returned to Kickstarter to launch two new sets of women’s history trading cards in her Persistent Sisters product line.

It was a powerful statement embodying the culture of #MeToo, as 223 backers pledged $9,350 to bring the trading cards to fruition. They feature powerful women in history, such as the four female justices of the U.S. Supreme Court: Sandra Day O'Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

More important than the product itself, the campaign was a reminder to young girls and women that they deserve respect in what continues to be a male-dominated society. A shift is in the air — for the betterment of society and the business world.

There are myriad other examples of local creativity in action via Kickstarter. Check our archives for more, and be on the lookout as we cover future projects. “Missouri is awesome,” indeed.

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