Kick-Starting the Hamptons on Kickstarter

Grant Monahan was at school in South Carolina racking his brain and searching for direction to take his photography last year when the idea finally hit him. It took a conversation with a stranger who has been to Ditch Plains, where Monahan was born and raised, to suggest portraits of the locals when Monahan returned home for the summer. “Why haven’t I thought of that?” Monahan asked himself. Maybe because funding an art project isn’t very easy.

A growing number of East End artists and food and beverage artisans are now turning toward technology for financial backing for new projects. The website Kickstarter.com provides an innovative way for people to find investors for small business ventures and artistic projects—and more and more locals are finding success with the website’s method of procuring backers.

Kickstarter has already worked for a few local projects, and a few more are hoping to meet their projected backing in time. Moustache Brewing Company successfully raised its funding goal on May 23, 2012, with 534 backers and $31,413 of a $25,000 goal. Just this weekend, Monahan, a Montauk photographer and Ditch Witch food truck operator surpassed his $8,000 Kickstarter goal and raised $12,095 for his book View From the Window.

Chef Keith Luce

Chef Keith Luce, Kickstarter.com

And on Wednesday, with 5 days left in his campaign, former Jedediah Hawkins Inn chef Keith Luce had $18,118 raised of a $50,000 goal for a farm to table in-house charcuterie operation called North Fork Market Artisan Curing.

Kickstarter was launched in April of 2009. Since that time the site has raised over $450 million from more than 3 million people, funding more than 35,000 creative projects. If a project does not meet the creator’s budget deadline in the timeframe chosen they get nothing. If the project is successfully funded Kickstarter takes a 5 percent fee of the total money raised.

The guidelines are simple: it must be a project (i.e. book, film, fashion, food, etc.), funding is all or nothing, project designers keep 100 percent ownership of their work and backers are more like donors in that they do not receive a profit from a successfully backed project. Instead, the creator designs a rewards program for investors.

“It was better than I could have imagined,” Monahan, a 22-year-old Montauk native said. “The support was outrageous.” Monahan’s Kickstarter success will allow him to publish a photography book featuring portraits of people taken through the window of his family’s food truck, the Ditch Witch, at Montauk‘s Ditch Plains last summer. According to Monahan, a fair amount of strangers supported the project, but most of his backing came from Ditch Witch customers.

Monahan was able to raise more money than his intended goal by creating an innovative rewards system for his backers.  $10 gets free lunch at the Ditch Witch truck, $25 gets your name printed in the book, $100 gets a signed 13 x 19 print and $175 or more gets a signed copy of View From the Window, a signed print and the backer’s name in the “Thank You” section of the book.

Julian Schnabel in View From the Window

Because of his overwhelming local support, Monahan has extra money to budget for improvements, like paper upgrades, which will result in a higher quality product. “I’m so thankful for the support,” the photographer said. “I can’t wait to give back to the people who gave to me.”

Moustache Brewing Company also crushed their goal by almost $6,500. Lauri and Matthew Spitz are high school sweethearts from Central Islip. Their Kickstarter campaign was launched in hopes of raising start-up costs for a microbrewery.

The Spitz’s made a quirky and creative video starting off as a silent film and highlighting Matt’s prominent mustache. Their rewards program offered a range of gifts, from a “donor’s wall” at the brewery to Moustache Brewing clothing and accessories.

On January 26, 2013, Moustache Brewing Company officially announced they found a home in Riverhead. The details are not yet clear, but according to the Moustache Brewing Co. Facebook page, they have leased a space in Riverhead, which needs to be renovated into a brewery.

Renovating Moustache Brewing Co

Renovating Moustache Brewing Co., Facebook

These are real grass-roots projects that Kickstarter helps fund, which is clearly evident in the renovation photos Moustache Brewing Co. posted on Facebook. Kickstarter helped the couple raise startup funds, but now it is up to them to get their brewery open.

Chef Luce’s monetary goal is a bit more ambitious and would benefit from a local boost in donations as his Kickstarter comes to an end this week. Luce was born and raised on the North Fork. His family has a farm there dating back to the 1600s, where he is still raising pigs and would ultimately like to raise more livestock and vegetables.

On his Kickstarter video he claims to be part of a proud agricultural heritage. Luce’s video doesn’t have the bells and whistles of the other two. Rather, it’s a straightforward pitch of his vision and its importance to the East End.

“It occurred to me that what we really need here on the North Fork of Long Island are some great cured meats,” Luce says in his video. The chef comes from an esteemed culinary pedigree. His career began in Manhattan‘s famed Rainbow Room, Le Cirque and La Cote Basque. Luce spent two years in Europe working at top Michelin starred restaurants in France and Italy, and was sous chef for the President of the United States during the first Clinton Administration.

To top it off, Luce was named one of America’s Top 10 Chefs by Food and Wine in 1997, and in ’98 was James Beard Foundation’s Rising Chef of the Year. After working around the country and the world, Luce returned home to his family’s farm. The farm had been unused for 20 years, but he got it up and running, and began raising livestock and growing vegetables.

With a successful Kickstarter campaign Luce would make a truly farm-to-table experience and also cure and smoke his own meats, much of which would be raised by him. Luce fears that the North Fork is losing its farming heritage, while at the same time becoming a truly respected culinary center. His goal is to preserve the tradition, while providing an unmatched farm-to-table experience on the East End.

As of Wednesday February 27, Luce was $31,882 shy of his target-funding goal, which must be met by Monday March 4.  Luce’s backer rewards system offers different levels of luncheons, dinners and private cooking lessons. With all of the East End foodies who would love a private dinner and/or lesson from a chef who is the real deal, it would be surprising if Luce doesn’t reach his goal.

Monahan’s successful Kickstarter campaign will enable him to publish 200 copies of his photo book. With some money coming out of pocket, he will premiere the book at Outeast Gallery in Montauk over Memorial Day Weekend.

Watch Kickstarter videos for Monahan‘s View From the Window, Moustache Brewing Co. and Luce‘s North Fork Market Artisan Curing below.

View From the Window

North Fork Market Artisan Curing

Moustache Brewing Co.

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