Sea Salt Women Get Kickstart For City Move

By Sean Horgan
Gloucester Daily Times, Mass.

Happy birthday, indeed.

Heather Ahearn celebrated her 40th birthday on Tuesday, secure in the knowledge that Atlantic Saltworks will have the necessary capital to move forward — and to Gloucester — now that it has exceeded its Kickstarter fundraising goal of $25,000.

“We’re over the moon,” Ahearn said Tuesday morning. “We just couldn’t be more pleased and more excited.”

As of noontime Tuesday, the gourmet sea salt company founded by Ahearn and Alison Darnell had raised $25,367 from 215 separate backers, with 21 hours remaining in their 30-day campaign.

That means the Salt Ladies will receive every bit of the money pledged by their backers under the zero-sum guidelines employed by Kickstarter, where each campaign must hit or exceed its published goal to receive the cash. Fall a penny short? You get bupkis.

That makes it a fairly nerve-racking endeavor, not unlike a political campaign where every vote counts. So, was it stressful?

“That might be the biggest understatement of the decade,” Ahearn said. “We thought we were really well-prepared, but in the end, dollar by dollar, you just grind it out in a very stressful, very challenging way.”

Atlantic Saltworks officially hit their $25,000 goal on Sunday afternoon at 3:35. The pledge that put them over the top was from an as-yet unidentified woman who had discovered Atlantic Saltworks products at a spice shop in Salem.

“That was really nice, that it was a random fan, basically a stranger and not one of our relatives,” Ahearn said. “We thought it was great that it came from someone who appreciates our salt.”

There were some eye-opening aspects to the Salt Ladies’ campaign that reflect how the allure of their sea salt products, some of which Mayor Carolyn Kirk took to Japan as official Gloucester gifts, cuts across economic and cultural strata.

While they had one backer who pledged in the $5,000-plus category and another in the $1,000-plus category, they received the greatest number of pledges — 60 each — in the $25-to-$49 and $50-to-$74 ranges, followed by 37 backers who pledged between $100 and $149.

Most astonishing to Ahearn was that 1,033 visitors to their Kickstarter page viewed the video they posted as part of their campaign, explaining their products and their vision for their company.

“And of those 1,033, 63.2 percent watched the entire 1 minute, 38 seconds of the video,” she said.

The next step? Once the campaign runs its full course, the Salt Ladies will begin sending out the gift packages promised for each level of pledge, as well as thank-you notes to every backer.

“Now we have more than 200 people to thank,” Ahearn said. “You don’t really think about that when you’re so focused on raising the money.”

They are continuing to refine their production process and must finalize a lease for the yet-to-be-disclosed Gloucester location where they will have their commercial-sized kitchen, packing and shipping operation and offices.

And, then, they have to move their operations out of Darnell’s Wakefield house and Ahearn’s Salem apartment, where the whole thing started — way back, when she was a spry 39.

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