First of all, we did it! Let's take a moment to relish in the afterglow of the fact that F E R A L got funded. We reached our full campaign goal on Kickstarter (and have apparently become successful at shamelessly begging our friends, family, colleagues and customers) to help us fund some exciting creative growth in 2019!
View the campaign here. You can't donate, but you can check it out! We offered 4 styles from our launch collection for purchase at 25-30% off retail price in return for backing us. A pretty good deal if you ask me!
Being a previously 100% self-funded (and fairly private) one woman owned small business, I cannot stress enough how hard, humbling and stressful it was to spend the last few weeks emailing, messaging, calling, texting, mailing paper letters, and DM'ing everyone we knew & everyone that we ever liked and asking them to support our cause. Once the process was started, it got a little easier, but man, is it the ultimate social experiment to ask people for money! But being the tenacious human that I am, and believing fervently in the importance of ethically American made goods, I didn't give up - and thankfully all of you - didn't give up on me or F E R A L either.
So let's talk crowdfunding - I am now getting a tidal wave of questions from other small business colleagues asking me "how I did it". Allow me to share some of what I learned, in an effort to help you be successful, or assess whether this is for you - before you start your own campaign.
1) Assess your network - I am talking all your connections - website email list, Linkedin contacts, Facebook friends, phone contacts, groups you're a part of, old high school and college buddies - EVERYONE. Add up the numbers, then estimate about 1-2% of those people will back you.
2) Come up with the smallest realistic amount you actually need to fund your project - If I could go back, I would cut my target, and my planned project, in HALF. Even though I needed a lot more CA$H to actually fund the growth, large numbers are intimidating, and make it hard for people to feel confident in backing you. Start small, be realistic, make it attainable to blow your target out of the water. People want to bet on a winning horse, help yourself out by stacking the deck in your favor and starting small.
3) Be prepared to HUSTLE - I read all the blogs and tips on Kickstarter, which estimated 1-2 hours a day to keep your campaign momentum going. It is WAY more than that. I spent 1-2 hours a day directly contacting people on a variety of follow up lists, in addition to creating new and dynamic content for Facebook, Instagram, soliciting writers/bloggers/influencers (most of whom - either ignored me completely or wanted insane amounts of $ to promote me). It was a never ending stream of updates, and took almost all of my mind-space and free time over the entire campaign. When the campaign finally ended, I took 2 days to unplug & unwind.
3) Do the math- take the number of people in your network x an estimate of the average "reward" cost/donation amount and calculate if you can reach your financial goal in #2. If the answer to your equation is no, maybe take some time to build up your network before you launch. There's no shame in your game if you take time to prepare.
4) Consider this - If you fail, will it hurt your online reputation? I didn't even think this would be a factor when I started. And when my campaign stalled for almost 2 weeks at 52%, I started to seriously panic. How would this damage my brand? How would my reputation be affected if we couldn't prove an interest in our brand? (& AGH! What have I done?) You should come up with your game plan for both outcomes - funded and failure. If both result in a win, go for it. If the loss will hurt your bottom line, consider it carefully before you start.
In the end, my family (legit blood relatives) are the ones that really pushed me across the finish line. I think every female cousin I have will be wearing one of our bags very soon & don't even get me started with how many breakfasts & lunch dates I will now owe my mother and MIL for their massive donations. I am beyond grateful for each and every one of my 60 supporters - because a lot of the people I thought would back us...didn't. While I was worried about funding my dream, I forgot the reality that a lot of people have their own big hurdles to jump in life and can't always throw money your way.
In the first week or so, I was checking the campaign 10-20x a day, and began tying the brands worth to the dollars we were (and mostly weren't) getting. It is really difficult to separate yourself from the campaign, to remain non-emotional and focused about something so time sensitive and so important to you.
Bottom Line: You are worth more than what people are willing to donate & are not defined by the outcome. There are many nuanced reasons why you may not be successful at crowdfunding, and bottom line - it is not for every one or every brand. That is ok.
We naively thought that Kickstarter would pick us as "one we love", DesignMilk would jump at the chance to promote our brand submission immediately launching us and all the writers we approached would promote that we were crowdfunding thinking we were the most amazing thing they'd ever been pitched (None of these things happened, btw).
But between the unending and constant outreach, the help of family and friends, and incessant follow up on every social media platform we use (and a few old High School buddies) - we made it. Whew. Now onto the next...
Shannon from F E R A L