Successful Kickstarter Leads to Launch of New UNH Start-up
In the fall of 2020, a team of entrepreneurs from UNH Cooperative Extension’s Nature Groupie ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $22K from over 270 backers in less than 30 days. The Kickstarter campaign was used to launch a nonprofit start-up called Project NG, which includes a new brand called Nature Groupie Gear and an online marketplace where nature enthusiasts across the country can purchase products such as t-shirts, mugs and sweatshirts to show their appreciation for the outdoors while also supporting the work of Nature Groupie. The Nature Groupie team created the Kickstarter campaign after participating in UNH’s I-Corps program.
Nature Groupie exists to support conservation organizations recruiting and working with volunteers to care for lands. Since 2013, more than 5,000 volunteers have used Nature Groupie (naturegroupie.org) to help clean rivers, restore wildlife habitats, maintain trails, plant trees and do environmental research in New England. More than 200 environmental organizations use Nature Groupie to connect with volunteers.
During the current pandemic, public lands in New Hampshire and elsewhere have seen more recreational use. With budgets already stretched thin, agencies and conservation groups are struggling to care for these community lands. The launch of this new start-up and brand provides a way for people to support Nature Groupie in a fun way and help ensure that more volunteers will be trained, and lands will be taken care of in the future. Not everyone has the time or ability to volunteer for Nature Groupie, so purchasing the branded products from the online store provides another way to help sustain the organization’s mission.
UNHInnovation has worked with Nature Groupie for many years. The program originally launched in 2013 as the Stewardship Network of New England with the goal to empower generations of outdoor enthusiasts to volunteer and help protect and maintain outdoor spaces in the region. The project team first approached UNHInnovation for help in addressing the challenges of finding and connecting volunteers to opportunities and inspiring young volunteers to join the cause. In the fall of 2017, they enrolled in the UNH I-Corps Site program, and as a result of intensive customer discovery, they rebranded their entire program to Nature Groupie and doubled down on using technological solutions to solve the problem of connecting volunteers to service needs. UNHInnovation officially registered the Nature Groupie wordmark and designmark in 2019.
“We are so proud of all of the hard work and dedication that led Project NG to the successful launch of their company,” said Jenna Matheny, UNHInnovation’s director of technology transfer. “From the team’s participation in the UNH I-Corps Site and the registration of the Nature Groupie trademarks, to this successful Kickstarter campaign and start-up launch, it has been rewarding to support their progress and guide them in this effort. We look forward to seeing what they accomplish next.”