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State-focused crowdfunding site yields first successful campaign

Courtesy photo
Photo cutline: This solar-powered trellis park design by Thom Worlledge is part of a Create W.Va. Conference demonstration project for downtown Richwood, W.Va., that recently earned support through the crowdfunding site. Courtesy illustration
It's not so well known yet, but West Virginia has its own dedicated crowdfunding site.And -- created and designed by 35-year-old Shane Richardson -- recently had its first successful campaign."I really wanted to create something for West Virginians that just West Virginians could post projects to. If you went on the site you would only be seeing projects for West Virginians by West Virginians. You wouldn't have to sort through all the national campaigns," said Richardson, whose Mountaineer Creative Labs, a website design and development studio, is located in Scott Depot.The site, whose name plays on the state's initials, is currently modeled after Kickstarter, in which if your target funding goal is not met, the project does not succeed. But Richardson soon plans to offer the Indiegogo model, too, in which whatever money is pledged can be used even if the project goal isn't met."Very soon you will have the option to choose an all-or-nothing campaign or a flexible funding campaign. Meaning that you keep all of what you earn even if you don't reach a goal. It may open up the avenue for more of a donation-type campaign," said Richardson.The site's first campaign out of the box -- custom built, motor-powered bicycles handcrafted in Buckhannon by Red Rock Cycles -- did not make its target goal of $800.But a second campaign related to this year's Create West Virginia conference in Richwood, Oct. 24 to 26, recently achieved its $3,500 goal. That campaign was to raise money to create solar-powered trellises as a showcase conference project. West Virginia architect Thom Worlledge of McKinley & Associates designed the 12-foot-tall trellises to be fashioned from rough-hewn wood. They'll be crafted from locally sourced white oak by Charlie Mooney of Fusion Builders and two volunteer carpenters from Richwood, Mark Boone and Kevin Lawrenson, supporting photovoltaic panels supplied by Dovetail Solar and Wind of Athens, Ohio.The trellises are designed to embody the structure of a tree but using milled lumber, said Worlledge. "The solar panels are designed [with a] transparent background so it would provide mottled lighting like you would get like from leaves of a tree."Initial hopes were for up to eight of the trellises in a sculpture garden on Main Street. But the location has been shifted to a lot at the corner of Edgewood and Oakford avenues, which still needs a lot of work, and the number of trellises has been reduced.
It may be that just a demonstration trellis will be ready by the time of the Richwood event, said conference director Rebecca Kimmons. The conference also mounted a separate Indiegogo campaign for the project, raising an additional $1,900 of a $15,000 campaign goal. All of this has meant some shifting of the original vision."I think were going to build at least one of the trellises and have it available for the conference and then finish the whole thing up in the spring. We were hoping to be able to put some sort of solar array together that would power up the conference."Whichever way the final solar trellis park shakes out, the project exemplifies the mission of the annual Create West Virginia conference, said Worlledge."The while idea behind the Create WV conference is to show what the future of the town could be-- to give one example. The principle is the electricity will flow into the city's electrical system and will offset the cost of the electricity used by the city.
"The nice thing about this is you could replicate it around the town. The town is kind of interesting because it's oriented east-west -- it has really good application for solar on rooftops."In the past, the conference has taken place in the state's bigger cities. Putting it in a small town this year with a struggling downtown and leaving something behind is part of the point, Worlledge said."We hope we've left some ideas behind in other places. But this is probably the first time we leave something physical in place, an embodiment of what we've done for this period of time. We hope to get it built quickly as possible and hopefully be a long-lasting reminder of what can be done by using creative people to revitalize small communities."Meanwhile, starting Oct. 11 the site will showcase nine new crowdfunding projects as part of a Create W.Va. conference entrepreneurs' competition in association with the Charleston Area Alliance.The contestants are competing for prize money as well as whatever they can raise through their separate campaigns.For more on the Create West Virginia conference, visit Reach Douglas Imbrogno at or 304-348-3017.
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