Zack Brown was only joking around when he asked for $10 on Kickstarter to make a potato salad. He didn’t expect his fundraiser to go viral and get backed by people around the world.
Starting off as a joke between his colleagues at Base Two — a web development company he co-founded — Brown turned something silly into something serious.
“The idea of a Kickstarter for a potato salad, I mean, I was crying out laughing so hard when we were first talking about it,” he said. “Kickstarter provided a platform for this joke.”
In 15 minutes, Brown created the Kickstarter that went viral and received national news coverage.
“By the end of day two, we had already raised $1,000,” he said, which is when he realized he needed to actually come up with a plan for the money.
At the end of the fundraising period, Brown had raised more than $55,000 for his Kickstarter, and began work on what would become PotatoStock 2014. Brown said people from more than 70 countries donated, and the top 10 countries that donated to the project included the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Brown said he believed the blend of humor and seriousness behind his Kickstarter was what attracted people.
“It was a well-executed, silly thing,” Brown said.
It attracted sponsors as well, with the Idaho Potato Commission donating the potatoes that will be used to make the event’s potato salad.
“We contacted Zack and had a great conversation with him,” said Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission.
Muir’s team invited Brown to Idaho, where they introduced him to a chef and took him on a tour of Boise State University.
“We drove him out to potato farms west of the city, where he hand-selected the potatoes right from the field that he is going to be taking back with him to make this potato salad in Columbus, Ohio,” Muir said, although the PotatoStock will entail more than just Brown’s hand-selects..
Brown called the Idaho trip “really fantastic.”
“It was such a fun time, they took great care of me,” he said.
PotatoStock was created as a way to fulfill his obligation to his backers, but also as a charitable event to benefit Central Ohio. A fund, controlled by Brown, has been set up with the Columbus Foundation where proceeds from the selling of food and alcohol concessions at the event will be invested. Every year, the interest earned will be paid to nonprofits targeting hunger and homelessness.
“I like that we were able to do something here that was very light, very silly, but ultimately all the proceeds go to benefit something that is useful,” Brown said.
Alternative radio station CD102.5 — another one of the event’s sponsors — helped direct Brown to the resources that he needed.
“He talked about wanting to make a charitable donation and realizing he couldn’t use the money from Kickstarter, I pointed him in the direction of the Columbus Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm that a lot of people use to help get monies to nonprofits,” said Randy Malloy, president and owner of the radio station, regarding Kickstarter’s strict rules on how pledged funds are used.
Malloy, who has experience raising money for children’s charities through Andyman-a-Thon, the station’s annual fundraiser, said he believes that Brown used his fame and recognition to help the less fortunate.
“We realized that his idea for this took on a life of its own, and he wants to do something good out of it,” he said.
As a free music benefit concert, PotatoStock will be serving up more than just potato salad.
Set to be held at the Columbus Commons, live music will be performed throughout the evening, with performances from local musicians The Shazzbots, Maza Blaska, Jordan O’ Jordan and Counterfeit Madison. Brown said five food trucks will also provide additional food choices.
“The potato salad is free for backers (of the event), and there will be a suggested donation for anyone who didn’t back the project,” he said, although conceding the event will likely rely on the “honor system.”
Ashley Lester, program manager at Columbus Commons, said she encourages people to come out and enjoy the festivities.
“The event at the Commons showcases the quirky side of his potato salad campaign,” she said, “But it also demonstrates that the community can come together to really back a bigger cause like fighting homelessness, so it’s a win-win.”
Lester said the event has something for everyone, and students will enjoy the food trucks and live music as well as sampling the potato salad.
Brown said PotatoStock will be a one-time event, though he isn’t against the idea of Columbus getting another music festival.
“It’s a growing city, a fun city, and it has the space to pull off an awesome music event,” he said. “I think Columbus could really use an annual fun music festival that has a benefit component to it.”
PotatoStock is set to be held Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. Live music will begin at 1 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.