Meet Live Unchained, an EnTERPreneur Academy company in the Hatch stage that is in the midst of a major crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo. We caught up with Kathryn Buford, the founder of Live Unchained, to chat about her organization and her latest efforts.
Tell us about yourself and your company.
A: I am Kathryn Buford, a PhD student in sociology at UMD, an artist, journalist and digital media consultant.
My organization is Live Unchained, an international arts media and events organization featuring works by female artists across the African diaspora. Our media offerings include a growing online magazine at www.liveunchained.com where we’ve interviewed over 100 female artists from over 16 countries. We also offer a variety of events such as art exhibits, festivals, film screenings, concerts and now, with the help of our Indiegogo supporters, we’d like to add an awards ceremony to our offerings as well.
How did you come up with the idea?
A: I started Live Unchained with my college roommate, Miriam Moore. She majored in Graphic Design and I studied Sociology and African American studies. A lot of our classes overlapped and led us to discuss topics like art, social justice and black identity. In our eyeswe had pretty radical ideologies. Negative and limited representations of black women in popular culture really upset us and learning more about the history behind those images added fuel to the fire. When it comes to arts media and venues, women of African descent are still under-represented, with not enough done to reflect the diversity of our perspectives and experiences.
At the start, we wanted to create a cultural project that would critique the misrepresentation and under-representation of black women, by satirizing the absurdity of it all. But, as we grew – putting others first and developing a global conscience – the project changed. We didn’t want it to only be about what was wrong, but also celebrating what black female artists were creating. We grew to see it as a platform and community to unite black women across the diaspora.
How has the Dingman Center and the EnTERPreneur Academy helped you and your startup?
A: I am so grateful for all the wonderful entrepreneurs the EnTERPreneur Academy has allowed us to meet. It’s amazing to not only learn about business marketing and strategy from some of the leaders in the industry, but to also see their human side. These accomplished business executives have been so humble and down-to-earth; I really respect their approachability because they model for me the type of entrepreneurial leader I want to be. I also love seeing my colleagues in the program and learning about their businesses.
Tell us about your Indiegogo campaign.
A: The campaign is called “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful.” The name comes from a line from the poem, For Women Who Are Difficult to Love by London-based Somali poet, Warsan Shire: “You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, something, not everyone, knows how to love.”
After I heard these words I shared the poem with everyone I could. Later, I had a vision for an awards ceremony titled, “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful,” The goal of this ceremony would be to recognize the many amazing artists that we’ve interviewed during the last 4 years on Live Unchained for their layers, fire, and vulnerability, both as individual women, and as part of an international community. The ultimate message being that, like in Warsan’s poem, these are qualities meant to be celebrated.
With Warsan’s blessing, we’re raising funds for an awards the ceremony to honor artists across the African diaspora. The funds will also cover the costs of Warsan’s travel and accommodations so she can attend the ceremony. In conjunction with the awards ceremony, Warsan will host a workshop on healing through narrative and participate on a panel on cultural activism.
Why did you decide to utilize crowdfunding and what have you learned about running a crowdfunding campaign so far?
A: Being very resourceful, we’ve been able to put on some really great Live Unchained events and share some great magazine features. However, to make “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful” a reality, we need money.. For this campaign, I decided we’d raise our own funds instead of waiting on someone else’s grant or competition time-table.
I did a lot of research on crowdfunding platforms and learned some are better suited for different type of initiatives. We’re raising funds for an arts initiative and want to avoid the risk losing all the funds if we don’t reach our goal soIndiegogo is the best choice for us. I’ve also learned the importance of having a strong start, affiliate networking plan and fundraising milestones. We kicked off “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful” at our anniversary party and it brought a lot of awareness and positive energy to the campaign.
With an online campaign, social media has been important for spreading the word. We created a lot of visuals that people can share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For example, with the help of the Chair of the Graphic Design Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign we created a digital postcard campaign (http://www.liveunchained.com/inspired-by-the-poetry-of-warsan-shire-design-students-launch-terrifying-strange-beautiful-postcard-campaign/) .
What are your next steps with your business?
A: I’m really excited about adding people to our advisory board. We’re also adding a non-profit component to the business so we’ll by established as a hybrid for-profit/non-profit entity.
Additionally, we’ll share more regular video features and new content at www.liveunchained.com.
Do you have any advice for fellow aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: When it came to spreading the word about the “Terrifying, Strange & Beautiful” campaign, I had some reservations about asking people for money. One of my mentors told me, simply, if you want people to give you something, you have to ask for it directly. So, I’d say, once you are clear about what you want and why, there’s no need to be self-conscious about asking for the help you need in making it happen.. Make your requests professional, but also personal; whenever appropriate, include a visual component that humanizes your work.
And, most importantly, Live Unchained.
Watch the video below to find out more about Live Unchained’s Indiegogo campaign. Help support Live Unchained by contributing to their Indiegogo campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/270627!