At the end of Nicole Speasl's final semester of college, she was spent.

"I was really stressed for finals," the 2013 Montana State University Billings graduate said. "I wanted to do a juice cleanse to clear my mind."

She searched local Billings businesses for multiple gallons of unprocessed and raw fruit juices but it was a no-go.

"I wanted a large quantity of certain juices, and they said, 'we don’t do that,' " she said.

When Speasl started to create the juice concoctions that she desired on her own, she wanted to share what she had created with others.

Get Juiced was born.

With some investment capital from her grandmother Janet Jones, and her brother Brian, a Johnson and Wales University graduate, they created a menu of drinks and sold juices at farmers' markets out of their newly purchased concessions trailer last summer.

"We did a couple different events," Speasl said. "We became really popular and got a lot of feedback."

After building a base of customers, they began thinking seriously about settling down. They found a spot in Westgate Village next to the new Anytime Fitness gym and expanded their menu to include salads, wraps, sandwiches and smoothies.

All they needed was $19,000 to buy chairs, tables, supplies, other furnishings and the first month's rent.

To raise the cash, the trio turned to Kickstarter.

The crowd-funding website Kickstarter works by giving users a platform to propose ideas and share them with friends, family and potential investors. Entrepreneurs set minimum goals for how much they'd like to raise and how long they want the fundraising period to last. Contributors commit money to projects in exchange for rewards or incentives set up by the user listing their project.

If the financial goal is met, the investor gets the money. If it fails, contributors aren't charged.

Depending on how much contributors give to the Get Juiced campaign, they can expect handwritten letters, Facebook shout-outs, free merchandise, food, gift certificates and T-shirts.

"It doesn't only just go to what you would buy upfront," Speasl said. "It also goes to building a company that you like, and that you want to support."

Kickstarter was launched in 2009, and more than $3.2 million has been pledged to 432 projects in Montana to date, according to Justin Kazmark, a spokesperson for Kickstarter.

In Billings, more than $135,000 has been pledged to 24 projects.

Only nine projects have gone unfunded in Billings, he said. In Montana, 184 have failed to meet their goal.

Crowd funding helps people decide if their idea is viable before selling anything, said Scott Rickard, director of the Center of Applied Economic Research at Montana State University Billings.

Inventors create products or have ideas that they can't afford to pay for upfront, and have been launched or will soon make it to market because of crowd funding, Rickard said. "It allows you to seek and find a market for the product without having to front all the cost."

Allowing users to sort through ideas before they ever sell anything minimizes risk, he said.

"It’s giving you more flexibility. You can reach farther out on the first go-through."

A platform that gives users the chance to share their ideas with many people who are all willing to contribute a few dollars is why Kickstarter has become such a successful model, he said. "With the Internet and communications, you can seek out and find people who really want it badly and are willing to take the risk."

Reaching out to people interested in seeing a story told is what attracted almost 481 backers to contribute $60,248 to Jeffrey "JD" King's documentary film project, "Blue."

King, a self-taught filmmaker who lives near Molt, produced a movie that challenges thinking on carbon emissions, conservation and development put forth by environmental advocates.

He believes his project was so successful because people who were negatively impacted by the policies felt they weren't being heard.

"Many people believe in the project," he said. "They wanted it to be made, and their side of the story to be told."

The crowd-funding model allowed about half of his contributors to contribute less than $42 and still get something in return.

"The most popular pledge was the $25 pledge," he said. "That came with a copy of the film." His film is now available for sale online at online retailers like Amazon.com and through his website, bluebeatsgreen.com.

As an outsider to the mainstream world of documentary filmmaking, King said he did not have big-name investors to rely on. Kickstarter helped him find some of his backers, people living in rural parts of the West, who believe that environmental regulations put into place by the federal government have negatively impacted their livelihood.

"It’s a topic that they’re passionate about," he said. "I don’t think they get enough media attention from their perspective."

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