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Last updated: Tue. Sep. 02, 2014 - 09:46 am EDT

Local donations give downtown juicery a kick-start

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Kickstarter, if you haven't heard of it, is a way for ordinary people to put out a plea for money to help them accomplish a goal.

The goal can be anything from serious to crackpot, from starting a business to learning to make potato salad, a recent project that started out with a $10 goal and ultimately got more than $50,000 in pledges.

Of the people who launch Kickstarter projects – about 172,000 have done it so far – about 60 percent never collect a dime. Of those who succeed, most really aren't looking for that much money. About 70 percent are looking to raise less than $10,000.

Fort Wayne has gotten into the act. Dozens of people have tried to raise money through the website to do things like record an album or make a movie. Most have failed. But one caught my attention. Someone had been wandering around downtown leaving fliers on cars, urging people to support a Kickstarter project called the Beet Street Organic Juicery. I found a flier on my front seat after parking downtown with my windows open.

On the website, the dreamer behind Beet Street, Sherina Collier, had put together a pretty slick presentation.

Collier has a home business dealing in essential oils and also teaches yoga.

But in her Kickstarter pitch, Collier explained what she was trying to accomplish. Her father had died of cancer not that long ago. The disease and the treatment had drained his body of everything, leaving him malnourished and with a crippled immune system.

What if, Collier concluded, people ate healthier, more nutritional foods?

For a year she researched and hatched a plan. She would open an organic juicery with juices and smoothies made from cold-pressed produce obtained locally whenever possible.

She launched a Kickstarter campaign with a modest goal: $6,000. Instead of sitting back and waiting, Collier worked at it hard. She networked with groups of entrepreneurs. She handed out her fliers to draw people to her fundraising campaign, explaining why her juices would be better. She held tastings around the city.

And after a month, Collier became one of the minority of people who reached her goal. Sometime this month, the Beet Street Organic Juicery is scheduled to open in a little shop at Berry and Fulton streets, a former pizza shop.

Surprisingly, Collier said, most of the pledges didn't come from fellow entrepreneurs trying to help others on their way, though some local business owners did kick in some significant donations.

Most, she said, came from ordinary people excited about having a juicery in Fort Wayne.

Sure, she says, most people can write a business plan and go to a bank and get a loan. But she wanted to get the community involved, because this is something for the good of the community.

“There are so many other people with talents and ideas,” she said. “How cool. I've met five people whose ideas have been incorporated into this. That's the rewarding part,” people coming together to accomplish something.

A startup fund of $6,000 doesn't sound like much, and when I suggested this was a bit a crap shoot, Collier quickly got a little hot.

“The past three years this had grown into a $5 billion industry,” she said, and juiceries are popping up all over. Even Starbucks is getting into it.

She believes, but sometimes that's what you really need. To believe.

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