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Quickstarter helps chefs start new Thai restaurant

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Mike & Liz Augustine

(EDITOR'S NOTE 11-17-2014 9:45 a.m.: The Kickstarter campaign reached its goal of $4,000 in its first day and has since raised more than $11,000 with 56 hours yet to go before the campaign ends at 5:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19. Additional funds will go to support the new restaurant, so please continue to back the Mercyhurst-guided project to its conclusion.)

Chefs Michael and Elisabeth Augustine are taking their passion for South Asian cuisine and their entrepreneurial spirit into the realm of social media as they attempt to raise $4,000 in 15 days to help fund a new local restaurant – Like My Thai?

At the helm of their Facebook/Kickstarter campaign is Mercyhurst University intelligence studies professor Kristan Wheaton, who has netted a $10,000 grant from Ben Franklin Technology Partners to support regional entrepreneurial efforts through his own crowd-funding knowhow and an initiative he calls “Quickstarter.”

Wheaton began Quickstarter, which essentially is his strategic plan for conducting Kickstarter campaigns, after meeting with success on several of his own campaigns, among them funding games he designed and sending a liturgical dance team from Mercyhurst to Jerusalem to perform last year.

“Quickstarter is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in the Erie region who need funds to launch their ideas and potentially turn those ideas into businesses,” Wheaton said. “The more successes we can generate through Quickstarter, the better opportunity we have to produce a culture change for Erie as an idea hub.”

The Augustines currently operate a pop-up restaurant out of LaBella Restaurant, W. 18th and Liberty, where they rent the space on Tuesday nights when LaBella’s is not open for business.

“With more than 14 years of professional cooking experience and almost a lifetime of exposure to authentic ethnic meals, we want to open our own fully-functional restaurant,” the Augustines wrote on their Kickstarter page, which went live Tuesday, Nov. 4.

The campaign is only 15 days. “We’re launching hard and fast before the holidays are upon us,” Wheaton said. “Generally the first few days of the campaign are critical, so we’re really hoping that Erie people will support us.”

At Wheaton’s recommendation, the Augustines created a Facebook page to build awareness, a move that has proven to help jumpstart many successful Kickstarter campaigns. As of Wednesday morning, their Facebook site, Like My Thai?, had generated 1,075 likes. 

The Augustines have saved money of their own and are looking for public support to raise an additional $4,000 to proceed with plans already in the works. They are offering donors an assortment of attractive incentives – another aspect of the process guided by Wheaton – like digital recipes of their popular dishes, logo aprons, cooking lessons and dinners at either their existing pop-up facility or their new restaurant.

To back the project, please visit the Like My Thai? Kickstarter site; you can also learn more by liking their Like My Thai? Facebook page.