$100k donated to Hamilton's 1st crowd-funded restaurant

At the last minute, Matt Kershaw and Erin Dunham's crowd-funding campaign surpassed their $100,000 goal. It's a new concept for restaurateurs looking to bypass banks and more traditional loan sources.

'We couldn’t believe it. Hamilton’s awesome'

Matt Kershaw and Erin Dunham are about to open Hamilton's first crowd-funded restaurant. (Jeff Green/CBC)

Until late Monday afternoon, it didn’t look like they were going to do it.

Matt Kershaw and Erin Dunham took the unusual move of launching a crowd-funding campaign to open two restaurants in Hamilton.

It started in September and ended Monday. But with hours left in the campaign, they still only had 65 per cent of the $100,000 goal.

Then it all changed.

Someone dropped an anonymous $10,000 donation. Then came three anonymous $5,000 donations, and an anonymous $3,600. By midnight, they’d reached $103,850.

Kershaw and Dunham will soon launch Hamilton’s first crowd-funded restaurants.

The duo already own Burlington’s The Alex, and Hamilton’s Rapscallion Rogue Eatery and Two Black Sheep.  The money will help fund the Ottawa Street expansion of Two Black sheep and a James North taco and tequila bar called The Mule.

“We were giddy and giggling,” he said of meeting the goal. “We couldn’t believe it. Hamilton’s awesome.”

The crowd-funded restaurant route is a new concept in Hamilton. They wanted to bypass the banks, Kershaw said, and also bypass major investors so they could stick with their own vision.

The Indiegogo campaign essentially acted as a gift card and catering service. A $100 donation earned you a $100 gift card to use at any of the restaurants. For $1,000, you got a $1,000 gift card, a T-shirt, your name on the wall of the new restaurant, invitation to an opening party, a roast suckling pig and case of beer delivered to your door, and “unlimited high fives and fist pumps.” Other rewards include catered dinners for groups of six or more.

There were 174 donors, meaning several catered dinner parties and dozens of home deliveries. It’s a lot of work and expense for the group, but it's possible, Kershaw said. The campaign was “not free money.”

The campaign is also a testament to Hamilton’s support of its burgeoning food scene, he said. Toronto restaurateurs are noticing and opening up shop here too.

“A lot of people are doing good things and having great success, so I think that’s going to continue,” he said. “There’s a lot of room still for new ideas and concepts in Hamilton.”


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