Wallis updated his message twice.
One of Wallis’s backers, who’d also backed the public market, expressed her disappointment in his campaign via a comment on the project page.
“I am surprised at the lack of excitement, communication and encouragement to support this project from its creators. Why no cheerleading from the sidelines? Please get out there and encourage people to support this worthy project!!! Send us updates, ask us to share with our community! Be proactive!”
Despite a plea for celebrity supporters (“We’re hoping to attract a celebrity — a singer or performer that would appear at a benefit show for us,” writes Wallis. “Jessica Sanchez or Jason Mraz, for example, could easily provide enough ticket sales to push us to the finish line. We just need help reaching out to them”), and an article about his proposed vegan co-op in CityBeat, Wallis ended his campaign on October 13 with $12,519 pledged, roughly 8 percent of his goal.
“We’re the creative types.”
In a quiet, glass-enclosed room at the public library in Rancho San Diego, 25-year-old Devon Duby has set up his invention on a conference table. He calls it the Pendulum Art Machine, and his Kickstarter page describes it as “a graphic art drawing machine which uses a pendulum to create crazy random drawings.” Made from four red anodized aluminum tubes, two polished aluminum connectors, an aluminum plate, and some wires, the design is sleek and simple.
“It’s still in the prototyping stages,” Duby says while he slides a green ultra-fine-point Sharpie through a brass ring suspended above the plate. Two magnets secure sheets of paper onto the plate, which is also suspended from an aluminum tube.
Once it’s all set up and adjusted, Duby swings the plate. We watch as the Sharpie creates designs on the paper.
All across the table, Duby has laid out other sheets of white paper containing drawings he created with the machine. Red, blue, green, or black, some contain testing data lightly penciled in at the top right-hand corner. The whole set-up looks like something one might find at a children’s museum.
Long and lanky at six-feet-four, Duby wears a black T-shirt with “FASTRAX” in red lettering down the length of one of the long sleeves: FASTRAX Sports (not to be confused with the Team Fastrax sky-diving team or the Fastrax RC company that sells radio-controlled race-car accessories) is the name of the company he and his family run out of their El Cajon living room. Previous inventions include the PowerStrap Glove for batting, golf, or tennis, and a Ball-Speed Indicator Batting Tee.
Duby’s father, an engineer and inventor, helped start FASTRAX Sports but eventually went back to being a contract engineer. He now serves as a consultant for his son’s projects.
“Pretty much my whole life, I’ve been helping my father with designs and prototypes,” Duby says. “As of right now, [on my own] I’ve done [the Pendulum Art Machine], but if we fund, we’ll all work on it.”
By all, he means not only his father and mother, who handles the finances, but also his two sisters, Desiree and Denene. Both — young, blonde, and pretty — show up in Duby’s Kickstarter video.
The demonstration over, Duby sits back in what could be mistaken for casual comfort, if not for the bouncing knee and hands folded tightly on his lap. With nervous, fleeting eye contact, he explains that Kickstarter was, in fact, the impetus for this new machine.
“Our other products aren’t suited for the avenue. So we thought, What’s a good product?” He explains that the family often throws ideas around. “This was one idea. We knew the successful ones are creative.”
Duby launched his project on September 26 with a $10,000 goal. It currently costs him approximately $85 to make one machine. He sells them for $179, which includes $60 in labor. Funding would allow him to purchase his materials in volume, which he estimates would bring the cost down by as much as 30 percent. It would also decrease labor costs by allowing him to do the same step on multiple machines at once, which decreases set-up time.
“We’re not trying to make a killing,” he says. At the same time, he hopes to make some profit. While his sisters and his parents have other jobs, he doesn’t. “This is my job.”
On October 18, with ten days to go, his campaign has generated only $1269 in pledges. He has nine backers, zero comments, and zero updates.
“We’re not marketing people. We’re creative types, getting it ready to go. It’s the getting it out there that we don’t know how to do.”
He does know enough about social media to have posted his campaign on Facebook, sent out emails, and put a video on YouTube. These steps may have been what generated early interest, but he didn’t keep it up.
“If one of us would just get a marketing degree, we would do a lot better,” he says.
Divine intervention might have become the driving force of his project’s success. In the middle of his campaign, Duby received an email from the producers of Steve Harvey’s new television talk show, inviting him to the show. That’s the kind of exposure that Mitch Wallis was praying for. But Duby failed to send the sample they’d asked for prior to taping.
“I spend a lot of my time trying to perfect the design instead of doing other things,” he says. “That’s my problem.”
“I’ve been collecting people. They’ve been collecting art.”
Andrea Steorts greets me at the door of her Eastlake home with a hug. The vivacious 65-year-old artist has both the energy and the long, wavy blond hair of a woman 40 years her junior. Her silver wrist bangles clang as she reaches out to embrace me. To the left and right of us, five 4-by-5-foot paintings crowd the living-room walls. Ahead hangs a larger painting, 6-by-7 feet. All are Steorts’s work. All feature images of women and expansive landscapes in bright colors. I recognize two from her Kickstarter campaign page.