Crowdfunding food: Opening up shop without the banks

Matt Kershaw says he's not sure of what happened some three years ago in Hamilton's core. But there's no time to dwell on that now. Right now, he feels there is a window of opportunity for restauranteurs. And he's asking for your future cash, now.
(Jeff Green/CBC)

Matt Kershaw says he's not sure of what happened some three years ago in Hamilton's core. But there's no time to dwell on that now. Right now, he feels there is a window of opportunity for restaurateurs. He wants to add two new eateries, and has cash for just one. He "hates" the bank, and isn't about to give up control to an investor. 

So he's asking for your cash. Well, your future cash. 

"Do you mind giving it to us now?" Kershaw joked Saturday morning.

Couple wants to open two restaurants 'before it's too late'

He and his partner Erin Dunham have raised more than $18,000 online through a crowdfunding campaign called "Fund Us To Feed You." Starting on Sept. 18 and finishing up Nov. 17, their goal is to raise $100,000 — enough, with their current savings, to open up two new restaurants before other restaurants start to move in (which he wants them to do).

In addition to Burlington's The Alex, and Hamilton's Rapscallion Rogue Eatery and Two Black Sheep, Dunham and Kershaw want to add two more restaurants -- an Ottawa Street expansion of Two Black Sheep, and a James Street North taco, tequila and bourbon bar called The Mule. The latter was something conceived over margaritas in Chicago, but more on that later. 

First, they need the cash. It would help, for them, if that happened before Toronto restaurateurs arrived. 

"Before it's too late," Kershaw said.

Crowdfunding campaign on until Nov. 17

The Indiegogo campaign boils down to a massive gift card and catering services sale. $100 donation gets you $100 gift card to use at any of their restaurants. So does a $250, but the kick in a T-shirt. $1000 gets you the same amount in a gift card plus a pig's head - if you're not aware, these two have made their name on different dishes - delivered straight to your home. 

And if you always wanted your name on the door, you can do that too. It'll cost you $100,000, but it comes with two years of eating for free at their restaurants, $10,000 gift card and a round of applause upon entering any of their shops. 

It's a plan to skip the banks, the interest, and giving up their independence as owners. "The first three restaurants are completely self-funded," Kershaw said. "They were my saving, Erin's savings, credit cards -- we financially put ourselves out there each time."

The idea, like all good ideas, was penned on bar-napkin stained with margaritas. Or maybe the ensuing hangover, Kershaw isn't sure. What he remembers is going to Chicago, his "favourite foodie city," and jumping into the Big Star for a "quick lunch."

"We ended up staying there and eating all afternoon and getting drunk on margaritas," Kershaw said. "it's fun, interesting, weird tacos, not expensive."

"There's so many things missing in the city right now. They're absolutely coming," he added. "We don't have a taco restaurant in Hamilton. That's ridiculous."

That's what he and Dunham plan to open on James North, a tequila, taco and bourbon bar called "The Mule." He promises a weird menu — think chicken backs, veal tonged and southern fired basa for now — but first comes the cash. Before the window is gone. 

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