Made With Kickstarter...

I first discovered Kickstarter while me and Nick we're living together about 3 years ago. We'd sit on there for hours watching every video we could. It didn't take much browsing to realize if you had a halfway decent idea that people could connect with, and a professionally produced video, there was a pretty good chance you could make it big on the site. I remember showing Kickstarter and a few of my favorite campaign videos to my parents, thinking that this is how we would get our start.

Unfortunately our project was NOT an underwater/flying drone  or the best fitting odor resistant socks, we weren't necessarily coming up with anything new and/or groundbreaking. We just felt that there was a whole lot of room for improvement in the custom printed apparel world and there were a lot of ways we could differentiate from everyone else.

It's no secret that the Kickstarter community loves USA made products and companies that give back. Since no other screen printing companies push that message, Pressd was a great fit for launching with Kickstarter versus any of the other crowdfunding platforms. I had a friend from college who really knew his way around a camera and is always creating incredible short videos, and so, we were all set.

We spent a good 6 weeks researching and developing our strategy and we were pretty confident. If we were able to get a little bit of organic press or support from Kickstarter making our campaign a staff pick, it had the potential to be huge! Nick had a buddy from college who recently had a campaign raise $60k+ just by selling 10 packs of his alternative to the thumbtack. We figured we'd follow in those footsteps and offer packs of 10, 50, and 100 custom printed shirts to every business we could walk into within the 40 days of the campaign. If the price was right (which it was) and we could get a decision maker to watch the video while we were with them, pre-selling 10k of shirts with hardly any markup sounded easily attainable. 

And then, the entrepreneurial world gave us our first test, adapt or die. We submitted our campaign to Kickstarter with zero reason to expect any issues. I actually thought we would get a personalized response saying how excited they were and how great our video was. Instead they told us our campaign wasn't approved because we were selling reward items in bulk. We double checked our research and Kickstarter's list of prohibited items, a few google searches for Kickstarter bulk rewards, and the only mention of anything relating to the topic directly from Kickstarter was a blog post back in 2012, which included a link to the updated terms... still failing to mention anything in regards to bulk rewards.  Here.We.Go. Que the rage email defending our case. We provided some choice words and proof of their own failures to list the policy, also linking them to other campaigns that somehow squeaked past this unwritten rule. 

Naturally, they still told us to get bent and come up with other rewards, I remember reading that email response thinking that it came with a red flag on our campaign.  But we had to adapt and push forward with half the strategy in the trash and our fingers crossed. We started out hot raising more than $1200 in our first 2 days, under the Kickstarter fashion category I think we peaked at about 15th if you sorted the campaigns by popularity. The rest of the road was not easy, we hustled every single dollar that was pledged, reaching out to everyone we could. Creating any buzz we could consumed us for the next 38 days. The night before the campaign was successfully funded, I sorted the fashion  projects by popularity again. We weren't even in the top 120 campaigns, and there were 90+ campaigns ahead of us with less backers and less funding... Out of the 120 people that backed our project we personally knew 111 of them... 97 of which were backing a Kickstarter campaign for their very first time.

Running a campaign is one hell of a mind fuck. Putting yourself out there and asking for support isn't easy, it's incredibly frightening, but you learn a lot. Maybe our project was buried by Kickstarter maybe it wasn't, it doesn't really matter,  either way we figured out a way to make it happen. The biggest take away were the things we learned that will help us as entrepreneurs. 

For anyone looking to launch a campaign or start their own business, here's some of our takeaways that might help you. Had we read this list prior to launching it would have been an entirely different experience.  

-Keep your messages to people short and direct, tell them exactly what to do in less than 5 sentences. The truth is even your closest friends and family won't read more then that.

-Expect the unexpected when asking for support - again even your closest friends and family wont have the time, and may not support. Take it with a grain of salt.

-Look out for scammers. As soon as we got a little bit of success every company and their mother who claims to be a crowdfunding wizard wants a piece of the action. Ask a lot of questions about how they work and how they will bring you backers, how they can prove that they drove that person to the page... chances are they won't even bother responding. 

-If it sounds too good to be true, it is. We paid $5 for 100 RT's... all 100 people were fake profiles with less than 2 followers... that kid will get whats coming to him, but you will make mistakes like this when its a race against time, make sure they are cheap mistakes. 

-Get involved with the crowdfunding community, it didn't work for us,  not even a little bit, but for the right project and product it certainly will

-Pay to have a press release distributed. Again, it didn't work for us, not even a little bit, but for the right project and product it certainly will..

-Have a plan B,C,D,and E. You only have a certain amount of time to make it happen, You can't stick to one plan and hope that you will pull it off by your deadline. Cast as large of  a web of marketing strategies and ideas as you can, something will stick. 

-Crowdfunding, a lot like business, is a contact sport, the more people you contact the better your chances of winning. 

-Avoid launching the campaign if you feel like you have to hide it from anyone. I had to keep mine secret from my employer and co-workers at the time, it shrinks your network significantly.  

-Act fast, if someone says they want to support or let me know how I can support, "when you get a chance, check out the campaign and pledge if youd'd like" doesn't always get through to people. "Click here, here, here enter your credit card information and click here" is a little more effective in a less intrusive manner. We've still got about 40 people who "want to support" and our campaign ended 4 months ago. "Call me when you are a by a computer and I'll walk you through how to pledge."

-Under set your actual business startup goal. KS encourages you to set your goal at exactly what you need to start your business.  We would have fallen short by 50k if we went that route. We chose to use it as a way to announce our company and idea, provide a proof of concept, and open doors for raising more capital on our own terms. The campaign is just part of your fundraising, part of your business, not your entire business.

-There's no right or wrong way to run your campaign, focus on the experience and use it as a way to discover how you want to run your business, the money you raise is just an added bonus.