Quickstarter, a grant-funded project through Mercyhurst that started last year to help crowd fund new business ideas, has grown from its beginning last year and continues to expand.
“The goal is to take students who have skills and connect them with a campaign who needs skills to increase the success of the campaign,” said Professor Kristan Wheaton, who runs the Quickstarter program.
There are currently four live campaigns. One of these, All Aboard Erie, is a rail route study that looks to identify how Erie will benefit from a rail speed railway. The project hopes to build a railway once the study is complete.
Another campaign, The Gunboat Schooner Porcupine seeks funds to finish building a replica of the 1812 boat. When completed, the boat will act as a floating STEM school ship.
The new product campaign SleepPhones Effortless is a wireless headphone system that is also comfortable so that you can listen to music as you fall asleep.
The last campaign, Unearthed, is a feature length horror film that shows the repercussions of oil drilling with the tagline “Be wary what you reap when your land is sown with secrets.”
“These are not our campaigns. We are support. We are not running all parts of the campaign. We give the creators what they need,” Wheaton said.
Some campaigns have a more active role than others.
“My job is to get people excited for the launch date,” junior Tyler Ennis, Intelligence Studies major and Project Manager for the All Aboard Erie Quickstarter said.
Ennis started promoting the project a month before the launch through a campaign Facebook page that now has 2,500 followers.
“I posted constant updates on the project and filmed public figure endorsements that were backing the project,” Ennis said.
The crowd funding site Kickstarter used by these campaigns sets up a tier reward system for donations. For different levels of donations the backer will receive a specialized reward.
“The reward tiers are all designed to get people excited about it. We were able to get two signed CDs from the band Train. The lead vocalist is from Erie,” Ennis said.
Ennis helped maintain 83 percent of the funds raised originated from the Facebook page.
“Within the first three hours [of the launch] we reached our goal,” Ennis said.
The campaigns function as an all-or-nothing fundraising technique. “If we had not made our goal, the backers would never be charged. It’s all or nothing.”
However, the program does allow fundraising to exceed the goal.
“For our project, every dollar donated over the $3,000 goal will go towards the actual building of this high speed rail road,” Ennis said.
To date, the Quickstarter projects have been externally created. “I would love to have MU students who want to start a campaign. I keep waiting for students that have a body of work that they want to share with the world,” Wheaton said.
The service is free for project creators and students are compensated by a grant from the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority’s Ignite Erie: Industry-University Business Acceleration Collaborative.
“I am very proud. There are a lot of students involved. We have even worked with a few students from Penn State Behrend. All those student get to put real work on a resume,” Wheaton said.