Success Stories

What you can learn from the world's first crowdfunded restaurant

Tiffany Loh
Smarter Writer

Tiffany Loh is the Smarter Business™ & News and Digital Editor, with varied writing experience always looking for a unique story

Tiffany Loh
Smarter Writer

Tiffany Loh is the Smarter Business™ & News and Digital Editor, with varied writing experience always looking for a unique story

IconPark - the crowdfunding platform for restaurants and bars - is the brainchild of Dean McEvoy and Paul Schell, and the first of its kind.

After meeting through mutual friends, food publicist Paul Schell and co-founder of group buying business Spreets Dean McEvoy got talking about their dream ventures.

Paul was interested in launching a crowdfunding project, and Dean was curious to see what he could build in the hospitality space. It then became clear to that they both had expertise in each other’s interests and that they should fuse the ideas together.

So in December 2013 IconPark launched and became the world’s first crowdfunding platform for restaurants and bars. 

Riding on the tails of ‘foodie’ culture, and with the support of the hospitality industry, the idea for the first season of IconPark was to give six restaurant concept teams the opportunity to compete to win a 12-week residency at the Darlinghurst space bought by McEvoy.

Man cooking in a kitchen, red cocktail with straws, mint and lemon

The main course

After targeting hospitality heavyweights, more than 100 entries were received and a panel of judges then narrowed down the shortlist to six teams. “We wanted to attract a high calibre of industry professionals, so we were very targeted with our messaging when we launched. This resulted in us attracting three-hatted chefs, award winning bartenders and restaurateurs,” says McEvoy. 

Throughout the 21-day campaign, financial backings from the public acted as votes for their favourite restaurant, and funders were given redeemable pre-purchase rewards and experiences in return. While IconPark could see the level of participation across their physical and internet presence, the co-founders say they didn’t realise how tight the competition would be. 

“When we launched the crowdfunding platform we knew it would be a good fight to the end as each of the concepts had really diverse and strong offerings. We could never have predicted just how neck and neck it would be in those last hours.” Overall, the crowd-funding competition raised $281,000 from a total of 2700 backers.

“In three weeks we achieved almost $300,000 worth of pre-purchases and in the last hour it was just $1,500 separating the restaurants between first place and third place. We realised then that not only the industry but the public were really engaged in what we were doing and now we just can’t wait to get the doors open so people can experience it,” tells McEvoy. 

A good kickstarter

Stanley St Merchants were crowned the champions of the first season of IconPark, with the winning team set to open restaurant doors on May 8. For the duration of the tenure, IconPark will share 50 per cent of the profits with the restaurant. After the 12 weeks, Stanley St. Merchants will move out from the venue. The benefit to the restaurant concept teams who’ve competed in this campaign and those of seasons to come is exposure, but also the advice and knowledge that the team gain from working with experts from both business and hospitality backgrounds.

“We work really closely with our top six teams, providing a panel of mentors to guide them. We work with them as you would a business partner so both sides are very much invested,” explained McEvoy.  

McEvoy says IconPark will continue to evolve with each season with each new location. Season Two will take place in Melbourne by the end of 2014 and in America by the first quarter of 2015. “This has always been a global venture so we really look forward to the adaptations each new season and location brings.”

Iconpark's ingredients for success

1. Make sure you’re seen: “We were also honoured to be invited to be part of the Taste of Sydney festival. We were among the top restaurants in Sydney, so for our teams to take out first place and fifth place of the hundreds of dishes from festival vendors was a real privilege, and great for putting us on the map.”

2. Choose the best team you can: To start any business and make it successful takes an enormous amount of effort. There is no room for mediocrity or people who clock in and clock out so without passion IconPark wouldn’t ever have been launched. 

3. Encourage those passions: Every person who works here, every team that enters is driven with the passion to make a difference and to create something awesome.

4. Leverage social media: “We have been very active with our social marketing. Developing rich content, engaging through our social channels between operators and the crowd really makes the most sense for us to promote campaigns.”

man using a tablet, laptop and smartphone
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