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In the next 5 days, I will have to make a very hard decision that will affect the lives of hundreds of people and alter a year of dedication and hard work for dozens of people.

I'm speaking of OctopodiCon.

A year ago, we were just finishing up (depending on your perspective) one of the best steampunk conventions in the midwest, or one of the worst (Oklahoma Steampunk Exposition). The organizers decided it was too much hard work and didn't want to repeat it.  Rather than passing the convention on to the next group of organizers culled from within their convention committee staff, they decided to sell it.

None of us were financially able to buy it, but we all wanted another steampunk convention.

That's how OctopodiCon was born. The name was originally just a placeholder name and became the official name because no one suggested a better one.

We have a TON of support for the convention, but not a single bit of the support is monetary.

People are volunteering goods and services like nobody's business.  The local library system is giving us meeting space for monthly Teas (kind of like science cafes with a strong steampunk emphasis) and is doing a one day festival to recruit and advertise for OctopodiCon.  The local art museum is offering gallery space for our artists. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is offering us research materials and will set up an info booth there. We have college professors preparing programming and makeshops (classes where they learn to make something and keep the final product) and a lineup of some of the finer entertainers in steampunk appearing (most just for admission and access to the Professor's Lounge). The local bookstores are handing out our bookmarks in every bag.  The Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) is putting up prize money for two contests - an automaton contest for junior and senior high students and a remote control airship contest for college aged and up adults. The local hobby engineering group is donating parts for a Mad Engineers contest.

I have all the people I can use and then some to put on a kick-ass 3 day indoor science festival with a steampunk theme - from Tesla engine designers to entomologists, from working prop makers to spy decoder devices, from geophysicists to women historians, from multicultural costumers to historical dancers, from gamers to artists, from comedians to vaudevillians.

Attendees can sip tea in the Tea Parlour, shop in the Art Gallery and Mercantile, meet authors and hear readings in the Scriptorium, be entertained in the Spectacularium, make things in the Laboratorium, play games in the Mysterium, watch movies in the Theater, or socialize in the Promenade.

And yet. And yet. We have no operating capital to accomplish this. I am not a fundraiser. No one else on my ConCom is, either. I can write grants, and I have done so - over 40 of them.  We've been declined by all but one - and they have all said they love the idea, they encourage our goal of advancing science through immersive historical experience, and they'll be happy to consider funding us next year or the year after, but not this year, since this is our inaugural year.

I've tried selling ads for the handouts we give at every Tea, and to put online, and to place inside the programming books we'll be providing, and even as banners to put up around the halls like a NASCAR event. I've contacted every business, group, agency, and society that would fund an event like this and many more. Some want to print their own flyers and place them - for free! - in our registration bags. A few have bought tables to sell their product on (Tandy Leather, Helen Enox Fabrics...). All of em have been interested in the concept and most have said, "not this year, maybe next year, after you've done this".

Not one single ad or Tea sponsorship has been sold.

I tried getting people locally to do a Kickstarter, and had tepid interest at best. A lovely person here on DKos designed a sample Kickstarter video and that was more than I could get anyone else to do here.

I tried to borrow the money from the bank and - well - let's say that working a job that pays less that $10 an hour gets you some rather incredulous looks when you try to put up your house and your ancient car as collateral - I don't earn enough to pay them back, they say.

They say.  But - refinancing my house at its current value would lower my monthly mortgage payment by nearly $200 (my house is nearly paid off and I owe 1/6 of its current value), so making the repayments would be ludicrously easy compared to the payments I'm making now - and you'd think they'd be jonesing to get more interest monies off of me because I'm down to paying almost entirely on the principal of the house and they aren't making much off me now with the interest.

We have a huge number of pre-registrations for a first time event, and a lot of hotel reservations. As we get closer to the event (it's in 6 months), both pre-registrations and hotel reservations are picking up.  

We haven't touched any of the money we've collected from vendors and pre-registrations so far.

Everything we've spent on this - licenses, permits, printing, advertising, the Teas, postage, fees - have come out of my pocket and only my pocket.

And I've long since scraped the bottom of my purse, turned it inside out, and have picked all the lint off it checking for hidden pennies.  I've been collecting and cashing in aluminum and cashed in all the old coins I once had.

I have nothing of value I can sell or use as collateral beyond my house and my 15 year old car.

I don't have anything left I can put int this, and on Tuesday next week, I need to pay $12,500.00 in a deposit for the site - we'll get the money back in October but I need to pay it now.

I have a friend who will front me that much money from her inheritance of her mother's death (my mother's death paid off my children's college loans), but I fear, at the rate we've been so very not raising funds, that I will need much more money to front for this event before it happens.  I have the 2nd half of the deposit for the site to pay in August ($6,500.00), the purchasing of the makeshop materials and such in August, transportation costs of 6 of our 40 guests to pay in September, the printing of the T-shirts and registration bags and badges and signage in September, the purchasing of the food and beverages for the Professors Lounge and Tea Parlour in also in September, and the printing of the programming books and such in September, so that will be at least another $15,000, and probably closer to $20,000

If I can't get my ConCom to earnestly sell ads and memberships and run a successful Kickstarter, it all ends on Monday, May 14th.

I am not going to ask my friend to front $12,500 if we won't be able to also get at least $15,000 for the other up-front costs by August.

What slays me is that based on last year's steampunk convention and current pre-registrations and hotel reservations, we will not only make back the costs in October, we will make enough to apply towards a repeat convention in 2013 - and we already have a waiting list of professors and performers who want to be there in 2013 because we didn't have space for them this year. That first steampunk convention attracted nearly 3,000 attendees.  If we get 1,200 attendees, we will earn back over 100% of the money we need to spend now.  If we get the same number of attendees as last year's convention, we will pay for next year's convention in advance and pay back all of this year's convention, too.

I wish I had the confidence that we could raise the front money somehow to put this event on - I hate the thought of calling the library, the museums, SAME, and everyone and telling them "sorry, just couldn't pull it together after all". Disappointing all of them will hurt so much more than refunding all the pre-paid memberships (remember, we haven't touched that money, so it's all there to return) or paying all the cancellation fees (that's less than $5,000).

I'm meeting with my friend tonight to discuss the transfer of funds and the payment of that first deposit.  Since she's the treasurer for OctopodiCon, she knows exactly what shape we are in financially. What we're deciding tonight is if we can manage to get the remaining $15,000 in 3 months when we haven't been able to raise any significant amount of money in 12 months. I seeded it with $3,000 from my Worker's Compensation settlement, and I've spent another $2,400 for the Teas and fees and permits and licenses we've needed (Oklahoma is NOT small business or educational charity friendly at all). I need to renew our business license this month, and buy the event permit - and I haven't been able to save up the money to pay for the 501(c) filing but I should have the money for that next month - if we don't end up cancelling OctopodiCon.

If we decide the chances of raising that money is slim to none, that's when we start the process of ending a grand venture that has excited so many people. I hate disappointing people, from those who worked so hard to get it as far as we have to those anticipating the convention.

It won't be the end of steampunk locally, we'll still be able to do the monthly Teas. It will, however, be the end of OctopodiCon.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Please Please PLEASE don't put up your home (17+ / 0-)

    equity for this, never ever ever ever.

    I know you love this kind of stuff and want to see the event happen, but omigosh is that a bad idea!

    It's awfully late to start, but have you thought about contacting the organizers of similar conventions to see if they have left over funds they'd be willing to lend, or if they know of friendly businesses and organizations that have helped them in the past?

  •  You should call bethesda and see if they will (13+ / 0-)

    sponsor it. They are coming out with a steam punk game. It's worth a shot. Contact info: http://www.zenimax.com/...

    Lo que separa la civilizacion de la anarquia son solo siete comidas.

    by psilocynic on Tue May 08, 2012 at 11:35:38 AM PDT

  •  I assume.. (9+ / 0-)

    you're familiar with BoingBoing.net? They're about the most steampunky (steamypunk?) website I seen, with links to magazines, makers, etc. Maybe you can find sponsors there.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson

    by Karl Rover on Tue May 08, 2012 at 11:36:28 AM PDT

  •  plot an effective fallback strategy (4+ / 0-)

    The situation you are in really stinks, but if you have to retreat, connive some approach to do it well and be able to come back.

    In some ways, a convention should be a product of the support that allows it to thrive. But you seem to have such a strong and motivated community there. If the convention has to pass you by, find a way to build on the enthusiastic community you already have.

    Would there be a way to do something virtual, combining smaller sites, and then plan for a larger venue in another 12 montrhs?

    •  That's what we're going to consider at our (5+ / 0-)

      ConCom meeting on Saturday, depending on what the treasurer and I discuss tonight.

      We have an extremely strong steampunk community locally, and it wants to be and do more. The convention is both a way to tie the community together and to bring all the disparate parts together to learn about one another.

      We've got costumers, historians, engineers, chemists, physicists, mechanics, woodworkers, artists, tinkerers, inventors, performers, crafters, horse lovers, holiday lovers, and steam engine lovers (one friend is building a steam-driven motorcycle)., ball jointed doll lovers, child educators, kids who love this sort of stuff, authors (my friend is even writing a science story series inspired by OctopodiCon - he's looking for feedback for his stories here), and gardeners, but they all play in their separate little spaces and the convention would bring them all together.

      All knowledge is worth having.

      by Noddy on Tue May 08, 2012 at 12:01:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Could you ask enthusiastic individuals, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JamieG from Md, philipmerrill

        including the ones that are volunteering, to cough up something in advance, either as a flat-out donation or as an advance payment on booth rental, knowing the thing will happen only if it gets a timely boost?

        If even a few of them are willing to be real angels, and others can contribute even $50, you might get a good part of the way there?  

      •  also, work on your messaging (0+ / 0-)

        Your messaging might be perfect IN and TO the community, but it's a little looong on sincerity and looong on getting to the point. I know it is an incredible challenge to boil things down and create a look along with fewer words. That's why some who do that include a tagline - if you like this, then see the other... or there's more at... BUT my point is that your OKsteampunk look and feel could go more pro and inspire more confidence while getting your message out there to OUTSIDERS more effectively. You have a lot to work with. It's steampunk fergawshake!

        •  Actually, our message (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          philipmerrill

          to potential sponsors is in 2 phases, the short introduction, and the slightly longer information with demographics and market targeting information.

          We've done marketing research to present to them if they need or request it.

          We are getting a lot of in-kind and spreading the word support from the local community (the library system, the museums, the universities, high schools, professional science and engineering organizations, City Hall, the department of tourism, the Victorian Ladies Equestrian Club, the Sherlockians, the Dickensians, the historical re-enactors for the Territorial Christmas, the ball jointed doll club, the scrapbooking clubs, the quilting and knitting clubs, and the makers and DIY groups). Most of these are not steampunk and/or hadn't heard of steampunk, but came on board after speaking to us.

          What we're not getting is monetary support. The businesses we've contacted like the demographics and the marketing numbers we can give them, and they really want to advertise with us, as long as they don't have to pay us. They want us to print their ad in our materials or on our give-away bags  for free, or they want us to put their pre-printed flyers or coupons in our give-away bags for free - in other words they want us to advertise their businesses at no cost to themselves using our volunteers and time and our printing costs without paying us a single penny.

          Some of these businesses have acted as if they were doing us a favor to let us put their advertising in our program guide.

          What I really need to know is how to get them to pay us for placing their advertising in our registration bags or printed in our program guides and other print materials.

          All knowledge is worth having.

          by Noddy on Wed May 09, 2012 at 08:05:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not sure who your guests/artists are (0+ / 0-)

    but if they have a decent following, they may be able to post about it on their own website to help you raise the funds.  You could try another kickstarter, with the guests/artists/professors linking to it, and that may generate more interest.  Beyond that, I'm afraid I don't have any help, but I can wish you good luck!

  •  $$$ in the community? (3+ / 0-)

    As with almost every convention of sorts, much of the money from outside visitors goes into the community for food, clothing, etc.  The business community knows how profitable conventions are, and you have proof of having already had a successful one, so perhaps the local businesses that stand to profit would consider chipping in funds?  Is there a college/university in your community that could participate in events?

    •  I've tried them (2+ / 0-)

      they want to use us to advertise their services, but hey don't want to buy ads, or sponsor Teas, or do anything that will cost them money. Or they offer "in kind" services, which still generates no cash for us.

      We are very happy to receive those services and tout them at every opportunity (the local library giving us space for the Teas, the museums providing research materials, SAME putting up the prizes for 2 of the contests...)

      Getting community participation isn't the issue.

      Getting cash is.

      All knowledge is worth having.

      by Noddy on Tue May 08, 2012 at 01:33:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is exactly the kind of thing... (3+ / 0-)

    That I would chip in my $10 to support, but I went to your wonderful web site and that isn't an option.  Is it a legal issue?  Can you sell "shares"?

  •  It's Been a While Since I Was in OKC (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DawnN

    But $15k as a deposit seems awfully high. Especially as the venue seems to be a modern convention center. For a retro vibe, the dam at Lake Overholser has the look. The First Baptist Church has the look as well. There are/were a couple of sandstone amphitheaters in Lincoln and Will Rogers Parks (respectively). And the latter has/had some massive sandstone pavilions with fire pits etc.

    The Country Club in Nichol's Hills has the look. The old First National Bank lobby does not have 'the look' but it is a deco delight. Can steampunk co-exist with 'spanish revival?' If so, and if the old Union Station is still around, it was definitely steam.

    What about a local sub-set of steampunk that would focus on Anton Classen and the inter-urban lines? What about Packing Town? Still haunted by the ghosts of the slaughterhouses?

    What could a steampunk event do for the broader community? Articulate that, lower your expenses, and support might be easier to get. Would taking the 'punk' out of the word 'steampunk' alienate your audience? Would a spread-out event still attract a crowd? Can you get free or nominal rental rates from enough places? The worst the owners of the various sites can do is say no. So why not ask.

    If the former owners were trying to sell the event, that means they had name recognition and a mailing list. I have friends that took over a 'dropped' music festival and some re-building was required. As for skipping a year, (which you didn't mention) you do have that option if all else fails.

    best,

    john

    Strange that a harp of (a) thousand strings should keep in tune so long

    by jabney on Tue May 08, 2012 at 06:12:58 PM PDT

    •  This is a 3 day (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jabney

      convention, and there are really very limited spaces to have a convention in Oklahoma City.  There's downtown (the Sheraton, but they want $20,000 for their space when the contract is signed, and the Cox Convention Center, which is $30,000 and we have to negotiate with the Renaissance Hotel who ants another $20,000), there's the convention center in Midwest City, but they want a starting rate of $35,000 and the price increases with WiFi fees, hotel expenses, sound equipment (not allowed to use our own) and so on. And there's the convention center we're using which is $12,500 for 3 days, and if the hotel fills, that rate drops to $0.00.  But they want the deposit of the fee up front because we are a 1st year event.

      The places you mentioned are OK for 1 day events (and we've used some of them - a lot of them cost. The Will Rogers Amphitheater used to be free, now it's $300 deposit and $100 rental for 2 hours.

      The Stockyards has been remodeled and modernized. Ditto the train station.  The Country Club is more expensive than the convention center we're using and that's for a single day's use and involves knowing someone who is a member of the club.

      It's too late to change venues when we're 5 months out from the event.  We can either move forward or reschedule and pay the cancellation fees. We've been working on this for a year already.

      All knowledge is worth having.

      by Noddy on Tue May 08, 2012 at 08:02:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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