Andrew Mostajo knows a thing or two about Kickstarter. After moving back to Milwaukee from Hawaii this spring, he’s right in the middle of another crowd-sourced invention, the super-slim Band-it wallet.
And, after his rookie foray into Kickstarter, all of his projects have been successfully funded.
The 42-year-old investor / product designer now lives in Riverwest, and his background is in video and film production – which means he can produce the videos that accompany his Kickstarter projects, including an iPad Mini holster wallet and a camera mount. He also helped launch a titanium pen body.
This project, however, has already raised almost $50,000. With five days to go as of press time, the nearly 3,000 backers have blown away Mostajo’s goal of $13,000 to fund his minimalist wallet.
"It was an evolution," says Mostajo of his decision to begin crowd-sourcing his inventions. "And my brother told me that this guy raised a million bucks on Kickstarter."
With that knowledge, he tried and failed to produce a crowd-sourced documentary, but on his second attempt, he broke even on a steady-cam dolly. That experience, however, introduced him to Mike Bond, a Hawaiian machinist with whom he made a titanium bottle opener, then a titanium pen.
Like the Ti2 pen, he just needed some inspiration – and that came from his family and from the show "How It’s Made."
"My brother Chris suggested I should make a mini wallet," says Mostajo, who actually sews his prototypes and first runs himself.
"In junior high, there was a home economics class in Hawaii. For some reason, I could jump on the sewing machine. I didn’t realize that on my father’s side, my grandfather was a tailor. I’ve always could sew, and I saw a wallet on ‘How It’s Made’ and remembered how it was done."
Mostajo purchased samples from bales of scrap leather from a "world-famous motorcycle company from Wisconsin" and will buy the rest when the project is funded on July 15. He’s met with the manufacturers who will ultimately produce the Band-its in the future.
"When I put it together, I was amazed at how well it holds together. Everyone I show it to is amazed at how much it holds."
Available in leather or non-leather versions, the Band-it is elegant in its simplicity. It stretches beyond what one would expect – one can easily cram 10 cards and cash into it. It’s just about the skinniest yet practical front-pocket wallet imaginable.
Best of all, during his Kickstarter campaign, Mostajo is selling the Band-it for $17. It will only cost $20 when full-scale production begins. Like the other projects, publicity has been key.
"Without it, your Kickstarter is just a tree falling in a forest," he says.
Mostajo’s advice to would-be inventors and product designers: Just jump in and do it.
"You can learn along the way," he says. "You have to fail in order to succeed."
In fact, along with another local filmmaker, Brad Pruitt, Mostajo is looking into starting a "Kickstarter 101" class here in town.
"We’ll show you the tools, so you can skip the failures and speed up the process that took me years."
He says that even though Milwaukee doesn’t seem like a logical hotbed for invention, it’s actually considerably more advantageous than, say, Hawaii. Supplies prices are relatively low, and being centrally located, shipping costs are kept down.
"Wisconsin is a cheap place to live, and when we ship anything less than a flat-rate box from Hawaii, you get murdered." says Mostajo. "Here, I put the Band-its in an envelope and put stamps on it – 66 cents – and it’s out."
"Milwaukee supplies the world with leather, so yes, it is a friendly place (for invention). Not a lot of people have jumped on Kickstarter yet it, but I think there are going to be a lot more."
"It’s a lot of work, but anyone can do it," he says.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.