Zack Brown’s Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund a batch of potato salad has captured the attention — and the wallets — of the Internet. As of this writing, he’s already raised $US70,000 from more than 5,000 backers.
The Kickstarter has drawn ire and glee alike. His campaign has even led to a series of knockoff Kickstarter projects to crowdsource donations for other picnic essentials like coleslaw.
And even though it sounds like a joke, the Columbus, Ohio native didn’t totally intend for the project to be seen that way.
“Last week [around the Fourth of July], everyone was talking about potato salad and I thought, why not just throw together a little Kickstarter to send to my friends as a little bit of a joke, but almost like a party invitation — you give me $US10 for potato salad and we’ll throw a party,” Brown told Business Insider in an interview.
Brown assumed he’d earn maybe $US50 or $US60 from his friends and have a party. Instead, his friends thought the Kickstarter was hilarious and sent it out to people, who sent it out to their friends, and soon, an internet phenomenon was born. It completely blew up overnight.
He’s been interviewed on several national TV networks. He’s been contacted by brands like Hellman’s and French’s asking him to use their products during the potato salad production.
The Columbus Clippers, the city’s AAA baseball team, reached out and asked tentatively if Brown would be interested in using their stadium for the “potato salad party for the internet” he plans to throw around Labour Day.
Brown has three goals for the Kickstarter project, which still has three weeks left.
“The Kickstarter can spread joy around the world, which think we’ve already accomplished. We can put Columbus on the map, which I think is also already happening, and ultimately we can do something for the greater good,” he said.
That last part is the trickiest.
Brown can’t donate any of the money he raises directly to charity. Kickstarter’s terms of service explicitly prohibit it. The crowdfunding platform doesn’t want backers’ money to inadvertently support causes that they didn’t intend to back when donating.
Brown has yet to speak with Kickstarter about it, but he’s hoping to navigate a middle ground — to “donate to the greater good in the best way” while still playing by Kickstarter’s rules. “Kickstarter totally supports this, so what sort of thing can we do to make this a big splash and make a better world together?”
He isn’t worried about the logistical challenges that the influx of Kickstarter backers could cause. “I understand it’s a huge responsibility, and that I have made promises that I need to deliver on,” he said, acknowledging that he’ll likely need to ship a bite of potato salad to thousands of individuals when the project is over.
But the web developer seems to genuinely look forward to reading what will probably end up being 10,000 or 15,000 names out loud while making potato salad.
“I have this dream idea of setting up a camera and setting up some water to boil, and boiling one potato at a time, and reading what will literally be one full day of names like I’m running an Ironman or something, for an entire 24 hours,” he said.
He hasn’t updated the Kickstarter’s stretch goals since hitting the $US3,000 mark a couple days ago, mostly because he didn’t expect to get to this level of funding. Brown has received many suggestions for future stretch goals — lots of people have asked him if he could make a record-breaking batch of potato salad — but he’s not interested in “excess,” as he says.
“The point of this Kickstarter campaign is becoming service, charity, giving back, and doing things as a community,” he said. “And not just the community of Columbus or my friends, but the global internet community. What can we do with a lot of extra money and a huge visible opportunity?”
When it’s all said and done, he doesn’t see a second crowdfunding project in his future. “I think that would really elicit a sort of ‘oh brother’ response, people being like, ‘oh gosh, this guy again,'” Brown said.
Brown says his donors are helping him live his dream — he’s getting a chance to connect with a lot of people.
“I’m hearing that I’m making people laugh, and in a few cases making people cry, and I think that being the epicentre of this for a few days has been immensely rewarding,” Brown said. “If I can do something after this campaign in the future where I’m able to spread humour and joy and also make the world a better place, I could do that forever.”
We’re waiting to hear back from Kickstarter if it would, in theory, allow Brown to donate the money to charity.