Ben Vollmar, 22, uses Kickstarter.com to launch coffee shop in Bowling Green; plans to incorporate design into foam

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Ben Vollmar is enlisting the help of the Internet to start a coffee business downtown.

Vollmar, 22, created a profile on Kickstarter.com to reach a goal of $60,000 for his prospective business, Flatlands Coffee. Funds are raised by donors who can give varying amounts of money from $5 to $10,000.

“It’s been a crazy ride and we still have quite a ways to go,” said Vollmar, a former University student. “It’s just the difficulty of explaining to people how much a small amount makes.”

Vollmar and his wife, Cassy, have until today to raise the money. As of Sunday, he had raised $12,993. If the deadline is not met, none of the money is collected.

Vollmar was inspired to open a coffee shop when he visited Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago. Besides the friendly customer service, what impressed Vollmar was the latte art in the foam and the taste.

“When I took that first sip I knew this is what I wanted— to bring out the best flavor as possible,” he said.

Though Vollmar is trying to start a business through nontraditional means, it is not an uncommon method to use.

“The advent of the Internet and the ability to more easily communicate with a large group of people became an alternate way to raise funds,” said Dwayne Gremler, professor of marketing at the University.

To be successful in this type of fundraising, Gremler said the entrepreneur needs to incentivize people to donate. An emotional connection to the person, business or industry helps, too.

“You want to get people participating and be more of an advocate for the coffee shop once established,” he said.

To do this, Vollmar has set up packages for each donor depending on the amount they give, ranging from a free T-shirt to having the store rented out for a night with free coffee. Vollmar has also sent out press releases and hosted pledge parties.

“Once people see what we are doing, they are very supportive,” he said.

University alumnus Scott Andrew, one of Vollmar’s friends and supporters, donated because he thinks Flatlands Coffee could add to the downtown atmosphere.

“I’ve never been satisfied with the coffee scene in BG,” Andrew said. “I’ve had one of his Brazilian roasts and its one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in months.”

Andrew donated $100 to his friend’s business and feels the shop would stand out compared to existing coffee shops in town.

“People would notice his passion and knowledge [for coffee] … and the different ways coffee can be prepared,” he said. “This is just another part of exciting development happening in northwest Ohio.”

Though Vollmar has a ways to go to reach his goal, he remains optimistic.

“It’s crazy how possible it is,” he said. “We just have to get more people to jump on board.”

Vollmar’s profile can be viewed at kickstarter.com/projects/960621923/flatlands-coffee-an-authentic-coffee-experience.