Six years ago, homebrewers Mike Reinhardt and Nate Watson turned to Kickstarter to launch Wilderness Brewing Co. Their crowdfunding campaign exceeded its $40,000 goal, raising more than $41,000 from 372 people.
Reinhardt and Watson said the funds would be used only for the brewery, not their salaries. They hoped to start brewing in 2012 and were looking at sites in Columbus Park, the Crossroads, Lee’s Summit and the West Bottoms.
But their Kickstarter supporters are still waiting.
As of this week, there were 76 comments on the Wilderness Kickstarter page, many negative, including this one from earlier this month: “We’re not just going to roll over and forget about this, guys. The amount of money some of us gave you was NOT chump change!”
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Reinhardt and Watson couldn’t be reached for comment.
Their last Twitter post came in late April 2013. The brewery’s Twitter bio link goes to a website in a foreign language.
A long post on their Kickstarter page in August 2014 included: “We are sorry that the updates have not been coming. Sorry that during the slow climb of opening the brewery, we have not been more proactive in updating everyone .....The beginning was a downhill.....but the uphill battle began .....So, with a truly contrite attitude, I say, please except our apology for not being more conversational over the past year.”
That resulted in a few more comments, including: “How is it that you have been unable to find a location after dozens and dozens of properties and yet four new breweries have opened in the metro area since your funding was completed along with at least 2 others to open this year? How do (you) anticipate being able to generate enough goodwill in this market to be successful after taking in $41K three years ago with minimal communication to your backers and over a year since the last update?”
Kickstarter projects often succeed because they include rewards for contributions. As part of the Wilderness Brewing campaign, 71 people made $100 pledges, which included a personalized invitation to the brewery’s grand opening as well as prior level rewards, including a T-shirt. Five people pledged $1,000 or more and would have had a special brew named after them, a custom tap handle to be displayed at the brewery and two personalized pint glasses.
A Kickstarter spokesman said that after eight years and more than 300,000 projects, creators have a strong track record bringing new and untested ideas to life. But some creative projects run into delays or don’t end up working out.
In 2016, Ethan Mollick, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, surveyed 60,000 Kickstarter projects (from May 2009 to May 2015). He said about 9 percent of Kickstarter projects fail, with rates slightly higher for those seeking less than $1,000 or more than $50,000. Many failed due to poor planning, but Kickstarter projects are rarely fraudulent because they have turned to their friends, family and the community for funds, he said.
Around 15 percent refund contributions if they can’t complete the project, but some have already spent some of the money trying to make it work.
“Failure happens and people are quite forgiving,” he said. But struggling companies need to let backers know where the funds went and refund donations when it can, he said.
“When there is a lack of communication it is bad for the business, bad for the community and bad for crowdfunding,” Mollick said.
Despite the disappointment, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office said no complaints have been filed about Wilderness Brewing: “And it doesn’t look like they are registered with our office.”
To file a consumer complaint online: https://www.ago.mo.gov/app/consumercomplaint
You can also call the Missouri consumer protection hotline at 800-392-8222.