Raised: $106 (as of May 26) of a $6,000 goal. The campaign ends June 1.
On Wednesday nights, Drew Davis takes the Metro to Union Kitchen, a shared commercial working space, arriving around 11 p.m. For the next 12 hours, he blasts music and makes 200 tamales in four flavors, as well as 100 taquitos, 18 jars of salsa and 24 containers of flan.
By 11 a.m. the next morning, he’s at the FreshFarms market in front of the White House, selling his tamales for $3 a pop, and salsa and flan for $5 each. On a good day, he makes $600 during the three-hour fair.
Davis, who got his start selling tamales out of his trunk eight years ago, is a bio-medical engineer by trade. He grew up in San Diego and went to school in Mexico, where he learned to cook. Mostly he cooked for himself — until a co-worker tried one of the tamales he’d brought for lunch, and asked if he could buy more. Soon, Davis was taking orders from a number of colleagues and their families.
“I’d get off my shift at the Army and go home and make tamales all night,” he said.
He started experimenting with new flavors, including a breakfast tamale filled with bacon, eggs and chorizo. Other varieties include chicken molé and portobello parmesan.
Eventually he started selling them from a Starbucks parking lot, then at Whole Foods stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, while continuing to work his day job. (Tamales Pachucas is no longer sold at Whole Foods; Davis says he quit that after his son was born three years ago.)
Now Davis is hoping to build up his business selling directly to customers, which is says can be twice as lucrative as selling tamales wholesale to retailers. He continues to operate as a one-man business but hopes to raise enough money to hire employees and expand his operations.
His organic, vegan, gluten-free tamales are like purple unicorns, Davis says: “People aren’t looking for them because they don’t think they exist.”
That’s where Kickstarter comes in, he says. He is hoping to raise $6,000 and is offering — what else? — tamales in exchange for donations. A $25 pledge will get you two tamales, while $1,000 will get you a dozen tamales every month for a year.
“This is about finding ways to tell the whole world, ‘Hey, I’ve got what you’re looking for. Come and get it,'” Davis said.
So far, 25 days into his 30-day campaign, Davis has just two backers who have contributed a total of $106.
What happens if you don’t meet you goal?
Even if he doesn’t raise the money he is seeking, Davis says he will continue making tamales to sell at area farmer’s markets. He also has a regular rotation of 600 clients who order food from him, particularly around the holidays.
Eventually, Davis hopes to make his way back to Whole Foods stores. (He is waiting, he says, for the company to come do an inspection of his work space at Union Kitchen.)
Until then, he continues to find new customers in creative ways: He barters tamales for beer at a bar near Union Kitchen. Some days, he carries around his tamales in a clear plastic bag so people will see them — and hopefully stop to ask about them. Davis says he’s gotten clients this way.
Once, he was cashing a check from a client when a bank employee stopped to ask him why the check was made out “for tamales.” Davis told him business, and the employee ordered two dozen tamales on the spot.
“I’m telling you,” Davis said, “once people hear about these, they want them.”
Editor’s note: Our coverage in this series does not constitute an endorsement. For more information about crowdfunding, please check out this SEC Fact Sheet.