Welcome to On Small Business’s series spotlighting interesting crowdfunding campaigns. Every week, we’ll feature a new company or individual attempting to raise money through these new online portals.
What: A smoothie vending machine. Elmery came up with the idea as part of a class project last year. He has since filed paperwork for a patent, which is pending approval.
Where: Woodbridge, Va.
Raised: $84 (as of Nov. 12) of a $100,000 goal. The campaign began Nov. 1 and goes through Jan. 1.
What’s the pitch?
Why not smoothies?
Ramy Elmery is hoping to create one — but first he’s got to persuade the masses to pony up.
He needs $100,000 to get started. So far, in 11 days, he’s raised $84. And that was all from family members.
Even so, he remains confident.
“When people hear about this, they will invest,” he said. “That’s why I put it on Kickstarter: To let the world know something like this exists.”
This is how it would work: Customers would use a touch-screen on the front of the vending machine to place their orders. They choose from a variety of ingredients, including frozen fruits, kale and protein powders, that are stored in refillable cartridges inside the machine. Once the order has been placed, the ingredients would be dispensed into a plastic cup, where they would be blended into a smoothie. The entire process would take less than a minute, says Elmery, and the mixer would be flushed clean after every use.
“I didn’t invent the vending machine,” he said. “I just put it together to do something that it’s never done before.”
How did the project get started?
Elmery dreamed up the idea about a year ago for a class project. By the time he’d finished presenting, his classmates were enamored.
“Everybody was like, ‘Wow, that would really work. We could use one here at school,’ ” Elmery recalled. He got an A.
A week later, he was working his side-job as an Uber driver when he happened to pick up a patent attorney.
“So of course I was telling him about my idea and he said, ‘You need to get a patent tomorrow,’ ” Elmery recalled.
The next day, Elmery applied for a provisional patent, which cost $65. He then hired a firm to do a worldwide search to see if something similar had already been patented. The process took three weeks.
“I was very nervous,” Elmery said. “I was like, what if somebody in China or Japan already came up with the idea — because they’re very advanced,” he said. (China, after all, is home to vending machines that sell live crabs, while Japan is known for using the devices to sell all sorts of items, including lettuce, rice and beer.)
“But nothing came up.”
That was his green light to get started. He sketched out his idea, made a video and started a campaign on Kickstarter.
If he does meet his goal, Elmery has a number of follow-ups in mind, including a vending machine that would dispense margaritas and bloody marys.
“Think about it, you could even get a Long Island iced tea from a vending machine,” he said. “There are so many possibilities.”
If he doesn’t raise the $100,000 in the next six weeks, he says he will look to other sources of funding, such as venture capital. He has high hopes that his creation will be a big hit once people learn about it.
“As soon as she hears about this, I think Michelle Obama’s going to be calling me saying, ‘Wow, this is good. I’ve been trying to get kids to be healthier,'” Elmery said.
“But,” he sighed, “what to do? How to reach the masses in the universe?”
Editors note: Our coverage in this series does not constitute an endorsement. For more information about crowdfunding, please check out this SEC Fact Sheet.