Kansas City startup SouveNEAR wrapping up crowd investment campaign

Leah Wankum - August 21, 2019 8:52 am
Suzanne Southard (left) and Tiffany King at their first SouveNEAR machine in Kansas City. Photo credit Sally Morrow Photography

One Kansas City-based startup’s mission is to make sure travelers can purchase souvenirs from the cities that they’re visiting.

Now, SouveNEAR, a startup that repurposes vending machines to sell locally made souvenirs, is wrapping up a crowd investment campaign to access more capital and continue scaling up the company.

SouveNEAR was co-founded in 2014 by Tiffany King of Leawood and Suzanne Southard of Kansas City, Missouri. By working with local designers and makers from each city that has a SouveNEAR machine, King and Southard can ensure that each souvenir in each machine actually comes from the city where it was purchased.

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“A souvenir really can come from the city that you’re visiting,” King said, “and we feel like it’s great to support employment within the cities that we’re in.”

Their first SouveNEAR machine was installed in the Kansas City International Airport. Makers who live and work in Johnson County represent a chunk of the products in this machine, including:

  • SewKC (“KC Connected” shirt)
  • Zim’s Sauces (Kansas City hot sauce, 2-pack)
  • It’s Vann (felt poppies headbands)
  • Ampersand Design Studio (Retro Kansas City rainbow tee and patch)
  • Snake Oil KC (Gin Lab – make your own gin kit. Photo is of owner/maker Ardis Englezos)

King and Southard are wrapping up an investment campaign through WeFunder, which allows investors to access future equity in the company.

“We’ve always grown fairly organically, but we were looking for more capital so that we can grow more quickly,” Southard said. “We saw crowd investment as an opportunity.”

Through WeFunder, SouveNEAR can include a wider range of investors to share in the company.

“We feel like we have an opportunity to bring in a lot of our cheerleaders,” Southard said. “We have a good, visible presence and we have a lot of artists and customers and supporters. This just felt like it might be a good way to go about doing fundraising for us.”

As of Wednesday morning, SouveNEAR has gained more than $51,000 from investors. The campaign closes this week.

“We’ve been excited to see how many people have been interested in coming in and being a part of our company with us,” King said. “We often hear from people that they’d like to find a way to help us with growing our company. This felt like a great path to us.”

Southard said part of their goal is continuing to support local artists and makers in each city where they have a SouveNEAR machine.

“Also, I think for both of us, it was just filling a gap for when you are traveling and you want to bring home something that has a (local) connection, something that you think is beautiful and won’t end up in the back of a drawer, something that you enjoy and want to spend your money on,” Southard said. “And that was hard to find sometimes in airports. From the perspective of the customer, we were looking to offer something with a real connection and an artistic bent, something that was artistic and meaningful in an airport.”

SouveNEAR has souvenir machines at the following airports:

  • Oakland International
  • Kansas City International
  • Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International
  • Newark Liberty International

The company also has a machine in a non-airport location. SouveNEAR is about to add machines at the Sacramento International and McCarran International (Las Vegas) airports as well.

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