Potato Salad Guy and the Prank That Raised $55,000

By
From the September 2014 edition

By now, you’ve likely heard about the guy in Columbus who’s living his 15 minutes of fame after launching a satirical crowdfunding campaign to raise $10 to make potato salad. What began as a joke between Zack Brown and his friends blew up into an international story, became the fourth most-viewed Kickstarter page ever and, ultimately, led to Brown ending the campaign $55,492 richer. “The potato salad Kickstarter being more popular than ‘Reading Rainbow’ and Oculus Rift, to me, makes no sense,” Brown says. “How did potato salad get more page views than ‘Reading Rainbow’? I have no idea.”

Where the Money Goes

Total raised: $55,492

$20,000

Estimated amount needed to fulfill incentives for Kickstarter backers, including potato salad hats and T-shirts, which Homage is producing at cost. This also includes the cost of the four types of potato salad Brown plans to make—most of the ingredients are being donated. (Hellmann’s is donating mayo and The Idaho Potato Commission is providing potatoes.)

$28,492

Funding for PotatoStock, a Sept. 27 music festival that will raise money for a fund to aid organizations working to end homelessness and hunger. He’s hoping to match the cost of the festival in sponsorships so the remaining Kickstarter money, along with any proceeds from the event, can go directly to the fund.

$5,000

Startup money for a for-profit limited liability company that will employ Brown and his six friends who started the potato-salad phenomenon. They plan to use the LLC to continue producing content, including funny videos.

$2,000

Tax preparation and LLC formation

Timeline

The one-month whirlwind that was Brown’s Kickstarter campaign

July 2
Brown and his friends joke about having a potato-salad party, and Brown creates a gag Kickstarter campaign to fund the fake party with the intent of sending his friends a preview link.

July 3
His bank account information is verified through Kickstarter, so he decides to post the campaign live so he can send his friends a link to a real campaign. The day before the Fourth of July also happens to be the day Google records the most searches for “potato salad” all year, and people looking for recipes stumble upon Brown’s Kickstarter page. By the end of the day, Brown has already done interviews with local media.

July 4
Brown does his first on-camera interview with ABC6. That night, he and his friends are watching the Dublin fireworks and keeping tabs on the Kickstarter page on their phones, and the total amount raised hits $1,000, memorably, while “Proud to Be an American” is playing.

July 6
Brown answers user-submitted questions during an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on website Reddit.

July 7
The Huffington Post, Yahoo! News and Slate pick up the potato-salad story, and Brown appears on “Good Morning America.” The total amount raised jumps to $40,000.

July 9
The campaign raises more than $70,000.

July 10
The total drops back down to $44,000 after Kickstarter cancels three large donations that couldn’t be verified.

Aug. 2
After the amount raised continues to climb through July, the campaign ends and the grand total comes to $55,492.