Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfunding initiatives

BACK TO THE WALL: Purna Yoga 828 owner Letitia Walker, right, says she wants to create a large yoga wall in her forthcoming studio. It will be used "for a variety of purposes, including releasing tension in the spine and deepening standing poses, twists, backbends and restorative poses," she says. "It’s an invaluable tool for therapeutics as well."

Crowdfunding platforms make it possible for individuals and organizations of any size to harness social networks and raise start-up capital for projects that might otherwise fail due to lack of funding. Each week, Xpress highlights notable Western North Carolina crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd.

Purna Yoga 828

“Purna Yoga is a relatively new style of yoga — but with ancient roots,” says practitioner Letitia Walker, calling the modality a safe, effective option that incorporates nutrition and lifestyle choices as well as meditation. By late fall, Walker aims to open her own Purna studio at 697D Haywood Road in West Asheville. “My job as a yoga instructor is to help my students,” she says, “and part of helping is creating a beautiful space, where everyone feels welcome and safe and encouraged to practice.” To that end, Walker is upfitting her 2,000 square foot space into a “state of the ancient art” studio with maple hardwood floors, lots of natural light, yoga wall panels and a new HVAC system. She aims to raise $15,000 by Friday, Nov. 10, toward Purna Yoga 828.

Jackson Emmer’s new album

“Without public relations and marketing, this album is doomed to only be heard by my mom, my wife, my dog and maybe you,” Jackson Emmer says of the two-year project he’s currently wrapping up. Emmer recorded the full-length album six times before settling on a version he wanted to release. The winning formula features contributions from Thor Davidsson (harmonica), Ryan Lassiter (percussion), Chris Rose (trumpet), Grayson Wickel (fiddle) and Parker Johnson (guitar and clarinet), and Emmer says it’s his best work yet. He aims to raise $18,000 to fund the project, including mixing and mastering expenses, pressing and distributing copies, compensating musicians, manufacturing merch and more.

Crowdfunding success with Tina & Her Pony

On Friday, Nov. 3, Tina & Her Pony released the duo’s latest full-length album Champion, which was recorded at Echo Mountain Recording with guest talents from bands like Rising Appalachia, Cicada Rhythm, Holy Ghost Tent Revival and more. The project financially backed by some 256 Kickstarter users, who pledged $15,973 to cover recording costs, CD pressing and compensation for the many collaborators involved.

“It was an incredible opportunity to connect with so many friends, family, & fans,” Tina Collins says. “It was great hearing what people were up to in their lives. It felt amazing to be so supported not just with dollars, but also in encouraging words, reposts [and more]. Quetzal [Jordan] and I are pretty confident people in general, but it’s hard to maintain a sense of [assuredness] 100 percent of the time — especially when we are making ourselves so vulnerable and essential asking the world: ‘Is our new album something worthwhile?’ It is a relief to be held up by our community in this way.”

Collins (tenor ukelele, guitar and vocals) and Jordan (cello, guitar and vocals) say they read Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking to mentally prepare, but a key driver of their success ended up being the many relationships they had already kindled while touring extensively for their first album.

“Over time, we have nurtured those connections — not because we want something from those people, but because we genuinely care about the people we’ve connected with,” Collins says. “Crowdfunding is not magic, free money. Crowdfunding is nurturing relationships, and relationships are a give and take over time.”

Logistically, the campaign also involved scheduling a Kickstarter kick-off show, paying for a professional campaign video, running Facebook ads and more. “Quetzal and I literally sat at our desk for hours every day during our 30-day campaign,” Collins says. “We personally emailed, called, texted, Facebook messaged every single person we knew to ask for their support. We talked about it in-person with people and printed business cards that outlined our campaign to hand to people as well.”

Despite their success on the Kickstarter platform, the two say they’d consider something less “advertise-y and gimmicky” for any future crowdfunding — something like PledgeMusic, which “seems to focus more on pre-ordering albums and merch.”

To anyone considering their own campaign, Collins advises adopting an “attitude of gratitude — not scarcity.” She adds: “Invest time and money into making a really good-looking video. Be ready to work really, really hard. Try to find time for little bits of self care during your campaign. Support and money are not going to come out of nowhere. How many people know you and your music? Base your goals from there.”

INTERPRETATIONS IN INK: Local artist Jacqueline Maloney created the album art for Tina & Her Pony's new release Champion in addition to making a line drawing inspired by each song.
INTERPRETATIONS IN INK: Local artist Jacqueline Maloney created the album art for Tina & Her Pony’s new release Champion in addition to making a line drawing inspired by each song.

Send your crowdsourcing campaign news to kmcreynolds@mountainx.com. A limited number of campaigns will be highlighted each week, at Xpress’ discretion. Campaigns must be locally based and should represent a current project with an achievable goal. Conditions are subject to change. Read about more Western North Carolina projects here.


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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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