This wasn’t the first event I’d ever thrown. In fact, the first one was my wedding last September which was nearly 400 people, a fancy taco buffet, and no seating chart, intentionally - I certainly didn’t want that kind of headache. Then there was the Blank Slate Anniversary Party - 10 hours, four bands, 4 port-o-lets, over 20 beers, and a big volunteer staff and crew. That was pretty good too - especially for me, since Blank Slate is such a casual venue.
Then there was this one, my third event. A month ago when I launched the indiegogo page for TEXICAN and then also started brainstorming how else to raise funds for this film, a friend of mine suggested hosting an event as a fundraiser. I dismissed it, then paused and re-opened the idea to the possibility. Well, if I was going to throw an event, I’d need a month’s time to organize, advertise, and execute, and a little less than a month from that point was the 4th of July. Blank Slate is typically closed on Sundays (July 3rd,) so there might be a great opportunity there to offer the beer community a new opportunity, which would come with a built-in-crowd. Plus, if all beer drinkers wanted to get growler fills the day before the 4th of July, then we would be providing a great opportunity to service their needs at this time too.
On top of that, Blank Slate is A CASUAL VENUE - I could easily pull together an event in a few weeks’ time that was appropriate.
I started by asking Scott, and I have to tell you I was nervous as heck. To my surprise and relief, Scott, as is per the usual with Scott, was very supportive. Granted, I was offering a LOT of advertising and organization and free labor to make him a lot of money on a day the taps were typically closed, but he also had to get behind his business supporting my cause, and he did.
Then I started reaching out to my friends - Angela and Brittany. Angela plans events and is the director of social media for the special olympics, and Brittany is exceptionally versed in the ways of events at restaurants or bars - both would provide much-needed perspective. These two, and my sister, Kristen, met with me at home and over a bottle of wine (I actually think Angela wasn’t at this meeting,) I developed one of my Idea Templates covering the event. We worked out A LOT of details. Philip got home and agreed to take over the cook-out portion of the event, and I knew we were movin’!
Here’s how we made money:
The Dilly in Mariemont donated all of the food ($500) to the event, which allowed my husband to cook it up on a grill (and it was DELICIOUS, btw.) Since Philip does not have a personal catering or vending license, he gave the food away but accepted donations toward the project. We accepted cash, check, or credit card directly to our IndieGoGo page.
Scott tapped a plethora of new beers for the event, and this was likely one of the biggest pulls to getting the beer community into the door. Blank Slate’s 4th birthday was the end of June/beginning of July, so he used this event as a way to also celebrate our birthday. It worked. We had fans lining up to get some of our most exceptional and rare beers, which was a huge promotional aspect for me. Scott also agreed to contribute a portion of sales from that day to my film, which inspired me immediately to work my buns off promoting and advertising the event.
Speaking of promotions, I spent the second week of June sending out a press release and submitting our event to all media calendars and news stations I could stand. Much thanks to Amanda Lopez-Kurtz for helping me with the press release, and Jack Crumley of WLW for helping get the word out. The friday before the event (July 1,) we got air time on WLW during the 6:30 PM news as well as a mention during a beer segment that was AWESOME. We also were featured in a citybeat article highlighting events in the area, as well as making it onto all the social calendars I had submitted for. In addition to that, I had prepped the Blank Slate beer community during June by posting about our event, making a Facebook event, and sending out notices regarding my project. The day of I updated our Facebook hours (thanks to Liz Kramer,) to make it easier for people to understand what was actually happening that day at the brewery (again, since this was a day everything was different.)
My friends donated their time - A LOT OF IT. Rachel Wilson met me the morning of the event, and not only did she donate to our Silent Auction, but she painted Blank Slate logos on the back of two lawn game sets my parents had shipped up for use and auction. She ended up back-up bartending, because we were VERY busy. Blank Slate is a small brewery with a small bar, and the busier we get, the harder it can get to manage our service. She stepped in, in a big way, and took control of the crowds to get them what they needed. She also went and picked up more balloons for me the morning of; I was tying balloons up outside and sadly reported that we needed more - they looked so forlorn. Moments later, she offered and was out the door to get the most beautiful, big balloons I’ve ever seen. :)
Brittany and Angela ran the bar, and again, donated their time to Turn West (although Scott eventually prompted them to clock in, we were SO busy.) They also donated their tips for the day to my cause, which was a huge contribution. I had planned originally to have volunteer bartenders work the event - likely friends or family - and it is a huge testament to our friendship that they offered to do this, not only for me, but for our brewery and work place.
Kristen Helmberger, Production Assistant on Texican, and all-around BA sister hustled her BUNS off for the event, washing and re-stocking glassware for up to three hours at a time. She also let me know that I was being too bossy, but didn’t complain once. Kristen ran the Silent Auction and was instrumental in setting up some bidding wars that brought in mucho dinero during the event.
Liz Kramer, another friend of mine from Blank Slate, talked out marketing and social media strategies with me - she helped remind me to change the brewery hours, post about the silent auction, and really worked through my photobooth ideas with me the two weeks leading up to the event. Thank you, Liz!
We had a photobooth - nothing to make money with, but something to add interest and whimsy to the event. We had lawn games outside, washers; which is a Texas version of cornhole, essentially. My dad makes washer board sets in Texas and shipped up two sets that were used during the event and then part of the silent auction.
The Silent Auction brought in nearly $1700 for the film, and it was mostly all profit, save a few bucks that I spent to spruce up a few auction items for packaging. We received MANY, AWESOME contributions from friends and family - gift cards and packages to restaurants, exclusive beers and wine, the most gorgeous ceramic platters by local artist Pam Korte, a personal yoga lesson, teaching dinner, and brew seminar at Blank Slate. These truly exciting items really generated a lot of interest, and - like I said before - the bidding wars were exceptional.
We also had DJ tunes from Tom Hogan, a friend of ours at the brewery, and Stono Rebellion played live for the first two hours, which was really instrumental in setting the atmosphere. Thank you both for your time and donation.
Finally, I had created an extensive display for the film and positioned it right in front of the door, with me beside it, when people walked in and I am telling you what - I accepted cash, credit, or check in any amount at that post (another $650.) Getting to really talk about my project, what I was accomplishing, why it was important and generate excitement based on my display material was a big game-changer. I had printed out 11x17 copies of the script and used these to let people READ THE SCRIPT RIGHT THERE (and the content IS a little racy, fyi, so thank you Scott,) and then posted pictures of myself and Edixon as well as our funding goals and progress. Every time someone walked in, they got either a hug or a hello and I dove into the day, the event, the movie from there. I also had a laptop with my indiegogo page pulled up, so there were many ways that people could experience my vision at this event.
I also worked to have professional bid sheets, menus printed for the grill out, good signage throughout the brewery.
So what did I learn?
I also learned that there is a LOT of interest and enthusiasm in the community for this film, which is TRULY exciting! It makes me very excited to set up the touring schedule in Cincinnati for this coming fall.
And I learned a lot of in-the-moment things that I can keep in my back-pocket and take with me the next time I plan an event, things like letting people know when the Silent Auction or Split the Pot ends
What did I accomplish?
I accomplished A LOT of awareness for this film, as well as insanely excellent fundraising. I almost didn’t plan the Silent Auction because I knew I only had so much brain power, but Philip talked me into it by explaining how much work was needed and then I knew we could do it. It did truly raise over half of the amount we made that day, and was a BIG push to getting us over 3k raised.
I also accomplished really refining my 20-30 second pitch of the film. I had been practicing this unconsciously, previously, when advertising to all my regulars about the film, but really standing up in front of all the crowds coming in and hooking them with a short overview of the film ended up being essential to continuing the conversation. I practiced this over and over and over and over and over again that day, and now am MUCH better at delivering this.
What would I do for next time?
Well, I would definitely staff better/provide more bartenders with shorter shifts. I had no way of gauging how many people would attend this event and it ended up being A LOT. It would have been more helpful to have rotating bartender shifts during the event than what we had, which, without was a little messy, a little chaotic, and exhausting for the BSBC staff.
I’d also plan to be done setting up before any of the staff arrives for the event. I wanted to sleep in a little bit more that morning and arrived at the brewery by 11. If I had arrived by 10, I would have been done by 1, which would have left me open to answer everyone’s last minute questions and help them feel safe and comfortable and excited and ready to work for the event. As it turned out, I was allllllmost done but not quite and stressed everyone out a little bit right before the event which was a sour note to start on.
So how was it, overall?
Awesome. It was really, really awesome. It takes a village to raise this short film, and I’m so excited to continue learning how to do this. This next month is a lot of film execution and managing my cast and crew through the process, and I’m excited for it! I’m excited to learn how to be open creatively and still pull off my final vision, but - once again - I have the best minds in the biz on it. :)