Cathie Anderson

A lesson in risk: Colfax teacher launches Kickstarter campaign for his invention

Colfax High School teacher and inventor Jonathan Schwartz launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign last month in an attempt to raise $5,400 to produce a card game that teaches fractions.
Colfax High School teacher and inventor Jonathan Schwartz launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign last month in an attempt to raise $5,400 to produce a card game that teaches fractions. Kickstarter

Colfax High School teacher and inventor Jonathan Schwartz took a risk, and he’s 10 days away from learning whether it will pan out.

Schwartz launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign last month in an attempt to raise $5,400 to produce a card game that teaches fractions. Although Schwartz has invented products before, he got them into the marketplace prior to the Kickstarter era, and this is his first time experimenting with the online crowdfunding site. Like others seeking money on Kickstarter, he’ll get nothing if he doesn’t make his goal.

He just might fail.

That would be a great lesson for his students, Schwartz said. Don’t get Schwartz wrong. He’d like to succeed, he said, but he also wants to spend more time encouraging his math students to take calculated risks, to learn from failure and to pick themselves up and try again,

“You have to take the risk,” he said. “You have to jump in and go for it, and if it doesn’t work, you have to change directions.”

Schwartz got the idea to try Kickstarter from a former student who had launched a crowdfunding campaign but had failed to get funded.

“I was following his Kickstarter,” Schwartz said. “He’s very much like me. He’s really not into social media. He’s really much more into the engineering usability and function and probably not as much so into the marketing side of things …When his first launch did not go well, he revamped it and made some changes, and his second attempt did get funded.”

Since experimenting with Kickstarter, Schwartz has learned just how important it is to cultivate a social media network and to use it wisely to promote your product. While he had a Facebook account, he hadn’t really used it much over the past six years, he said, and it was much the same for his Twitter account.

“The biggest learning curve is the social media part of it,” he said. “I got on Twitter the other day, and I noticed I had three tweets, and all of them were from five years ago or whenever I got the Twitter account.”

Sacramento-area native Stephanie Su can attest to the power of social media when it comes to a Kickstarter campaign. She asked backers to help her raise $30,000 to produce the fashionable and functional duffel bags she designed to carry workout gear.

“I ended with $90,938, triple my goal,” she told me. “A huge chunk of my backers found me through social media. I had friends who posted my campaign on their accounts, and it went viral off that.”

Social media marketer Faith Marie Lopez, who works with the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau and Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates, said no one should underestimate the power of social media at this point.

“Over 75 percent of people are on their phones every day, smartphones, and the majority of them are using social media,” she said. You have the power to take a device that they’re already on and create content that they’re going to see. It just makes sense.”

Schwartz’s Sudden Dozen card game has raised nearly half of the money it needs to get funded, but he has just 10 days left. Designed by independent game printer Ad Magic, each card features a fraction of a dozen doughnuts starting with 0 for 0/12 and going all the way up to 12/12.

Players can try to match up cards that add to a dozen. They also can play a modified version of the game SlapJack, where the goal is to win all the cards by slapping down your hand on the card pile after you see a series of back-to-back cards that add up to a dozen. They also can just play regular card games because the deck contains 52 cards.

Whether the campaign succeeds or fails, Schwartz will have a lot to teach. Even if he gets the money, he won’t make a profit on the concept because it costs a lot to print only 1,000 decks of cards. He just likes the idea of putting another tool out there to help teach math fundamentals.

Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

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