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A food truck for shoes finds success with Kickstarter

Nathan Fleischmann

  While the rest of the country moons over The Veronica Mars Kickstarter, Columbia has been slowly warming to the crowdfunding website. In 2012 there were only 21 successful Kickstarter projects in Columbia. Rarer still are Kickstarters that fund businesses. Missouri Business Alert notes:

Of the more than 200 successful Missouri-based Kickstarter campaigns in 2012, fewer than a dozen were business ideas; the vast majority were artistic or creative projects.

But, earlier this year Ragtag Cinema successfully completed a highly ambitious Kickstarter campaign to raise $80,000 for new digital projectors. That's easily the largest Columbia Kickstarter ever and it's opened a lot of peoples' eyes to this funding source. Stadium Shoes is the latest new business to take advantage of the website's crowdfunding platform.

Stadium Shoes is the project of Nathan Fleischmann, a Columbia native and Director of Annual Giving at Columbia College. The idea is a kind of food truck for shoes--a mobile shoe store. Fleischmann wants to park the truck outside of places where people might decide on a whim to pick up an affordable, comfortable shoe.

There's something about the idea that's mildly shocking: we're talking about buying your shoes on a whim from a truck on the street. It sounds completely strange, but Fleischmann, who has a degree in visual communication from the Illinois Institute of Art, makes it all seem plausible with his slick visuals and animations:

"I'm there for somebody that's looking for a pair of shoes pretty instantly, or has a pretty immediate need for a shoe," Fleischmann said in an interview. "These tend to be people who have been at a 5k event all morning and would like to throw on a pair of footflops...or they're at a concert and they've worn shoes that have gotten pretty muddy from immediate rain."

The $6,500 he asked for on Kickstarter isn't intended to fund the whole business, only the conversion of the truck. He estimates his total costs to be around $30,000 and that will have to come from small business loans, personal financing, and maybe even prize money from the upcoming #Boom Bounce startup competition.

Fleischmann chose to use crowdfunding for this particular part of the business because it does double duty as capital-builder and market-researcher: "If people are willing to financially back and support the idea," Fleischmann said, "then I think there's truly a population and market that's willing to support that for the long haul."

Fleischmann's still got a lot of work to do. He needs to purchase the truck and enough shoes to build his stock. He's not decided on the particular shoes yet, but he mentions affordable brands known for comfort like Aesics, Puma, Converse and Vans.

At time of writing, the Stadium Shoes project has exceeded its goal by more than $700 with two more days to go. It's an sign for Fleischmann's business and others who might follow his lead. "It's a very naked and humbling experience to put a project out there like this and meet your goal," he said. "But I also haven't been surprised. Because we live in Columbia Missouri--it's a very entrepreneurial community. A lot of community members support new and different endeavors all the time."

Fleischmann hopes to launch by August of this year.