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Quickstarter revels in success … again

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Three new entrepreneurial projects launched in April by Mercyhurst University’s Quickstarter team have met with successful crowdfunding results: not only did each achieve its funding goal, but overshot the mark by between 110 and 452 percent.

“This is our fourth successfully funded project this year with an average overfunding percentage of 342 percent,” said Kristan Wheaton, J.D., an associate professor of intelligence studies who directs Mercyhurst’s Quickstarter initiative. Quickstarter is Wheaton’s strategic plan for conducting entrepreneurial business campaigns via online crowdfunding platforms, including the most popular, Kickstarter. “Our rate of success is significant because three out of four projects that succeed on Kickstarter fail to exceed their goal by more than 10 percent.”

The first of the three Mercyhurst projects to successfully fund, launched April 8, was called Tiny Hands On A Roll, created by Lisa Van Riper of Humble Elephant, which makes custom laser-engraved rolling pins for use by both bakeries and serious amateur chefs. The enterprise sought $250 and collected $1,237, exceeding its funding goal by 494 percent.

Also on April 8, two more projects launched: Moros: A hard-boiled hero, which is a gritty comic book written by Erie’s Josh Lucas; and Roast Assured, which enables people all over the world to create their own perfect cup of coffee. Moros came in at $1,655 or 110 percent over its goal and Roast Assured reached $4,519 or 452 percent over goal. 

Wheaton credited a $10,000 grant from Ben Franklin Technology Partners for enabling him to bring these and other projects to fruition. He also credited Mercyhurst students for their commitment to the overall effort.

Wheaton employs Mercyhurst students to work on the projects and they, in turn, gain hands-on experience in launching fundraising campaigns to support local entrepreneurs. Mercyhurst senior Hannah Corton served as project manager on the Roast Assured and Moros projects. She was supported by students Brent Clapper and Meghan Hardy. Joe Gargano was project manager for Tiny Hands on a Roll and he was assisted by Bryan Lossie.

Wheaton’s strategies are rooted in building awareness for the entrepreneur’s idea, product or business before launching their Kickstarter campaign. To do that, he uses Facebook and other social media such as Twitter and Pinterest.

Meanwhile, Wheaton has begun preliminary work on 10 new projects while establishing the foundation for Quickstarter’s role in the new collaborative “Ignite Erie.” The Ignite Erie Industry+University Business Acceleration Collaborative was created by the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) in response to the Council of University Presidents’ The Path Forward, in which leaders of Erie County’s universities identified themselves as playing an important role in the development of the region’s economy.

Mercyhurst and Penn State Behrend were chosen by ECGRA to lead the project.

“While Mercyhurst University and Penn State Behrend are equipped to manage many aspects of this process, our most notable success for the region will be to establish a vigorous cross-collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystem alongside our academic, industry, and economic development colleagues,” noted James Breckenridge, dean of Mercyhurst’s Tom Ridge School of Intelligence Studies & Information Science and Mercyhurst’s project coordinator for Ignite Erie.