CREATIVE PEAKS: Funded by the People

By on March 29, 2016

Jackson creatives find capital interest in crowdfunding.

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A Kickstarter campaign for Give’r four-season gloves, i.e.: ‘the best damn gloves ever,’ has already raised more than $145,000. (Photo: Give’r)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – In March 2012, three Jackson friends—Bubba Albrecht, Carly Platt and Jed Mickle—launched a lifestyle brand they called Give’r. The brand consisted of two shirts and two hats and a simple logo featuring an outline of the Tetons. Shortly after that, they started selling a pair of leather gloves that included the logo as well as personalized “branded” initials. It quickly became a best seller.

But the glove wasn’t quite right. They wanted something a little warmer and a little more durable. They spent two years, going through four prototypes before coming up with a design for a new four-season glove, meant to be the only glove a person needs to own. They knew the gloves would be harder to produce on a small scale, and more expensive to make.

Their business advisors and friends suggested using Kickstarter, a path artists and small businesses in Jackson are taking more frequently to bring their visions to life.

Give’r’s core belief is doing what you love and following your heart, and finding a way to make it work. And that goes for [Give’r] as a business in Jackson, Albrecht said.

“With that passion, we have to figure out how the heck can we do this from Wyoming, and that’s where Kickstarter came in,” Albrecht said. “That opportunity isn’t traditional per se, but it’s available. To survive in Jackson, well, it’s boot strappin’ at it’s finest.”

Give’r is certainly not the first business, and the gloves are not the first project, funded by Kickstarter in Jackson. The Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival raised almost $6,000 in 2013 to complete the film “One Day in Jackson Hole.”

Recently photographer Brad Boner raised more than $20,000 to help cover the costs of printing his book “Yellowstone Through the Lens of Time,” which features original images taken in 1871 by William Henry Jackson of Yellowstone, and those same scenes re-photographed by Boner in the last few years.

Indeed, Jackson attracts creative people. There is no shortage of people starting small businesses that center on creative endeavors, but it isn’t easy to make it. The struggles of these career paths are magnified in an inspiring, yet small, expensive and isolated town. Kickstarter and similar crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo offer a unique way for creative people to bring their visions to life.

“Something like Kickstarter basically subsidizes an artists’ ability to be in a place like Jackson,” said singer and songwriter Madelaine German. She used Kickstarter to raise more than $3,700 to record an EP in July 2014 for her band Maddy and the Groove Spots.

It was the only way they could afford to record the demo, but it also got other people involved in the project. Kickstarter was a platform to ask people to support the band as artists, German said. It invested people in the band in a way just being a fan doesn’t. It made these folks a part of the band’s journey.

“We talk about a community and what art really is, which is an artist being supported by a community, and an artist making art that reflects back on that community,” she said.

The demo jump-started German’s music career. It gave her a professional product she could show to people who then took her more seriously. That led to paying jobs.

“In that way, Kickstarter is kind of subsidizing the community at large,” German said. “If you look at art not as a commodity, but as the heartbeat of a community, especially music in how it brings people together—Kickstarter provides a way to bring a unifying and positive force into the community.”

German plans on using Kickstarter again, likely in May, for a music video project. The video, which brought together a variety of community artists and creative-types, is in post-production. German hopes to raise enough money to finish it.

For Give’r, Kickstarter allowed the company to reach beyond Jackson. Unlike companies in more metropolitan areas, they can’t easily reach new communities and markets. Kickstarter allows them to take their product out of the valley without leaving it.

“Since our beginning we’ve always relied on friends and the community, whether sending out catalogues or testing shirts,” Albrecht said. “In our effort with these four- season gloves we need to reach beyond just our next-door neighbors.”

The company launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $25,000 for a down payment to produce 1,500 gloves. To date, they have raised more than $145,000 from almost 1,400 backers. “Investors” who support the project through Kickstarter earn a pair of gloves at a discounted rate. That offer ends Friday. PJH

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