For quite some time, Laurie has had a vision (or really re-vision) of incorporating precious metals like silver into her high quality yarns. For centuries, cultures have known that silver has anti-microbial and healing properties (giving a deeper meaning to "born with a silver spoon in his mouth"), and the ancients regularly wove silver threads into socks and other clothing for this purpose. Laurie also found that the conductive quality of silver made it perfect for working with gloves that need to activate touch screens – thereby adding a modern twist to age-old wisdom.
After some tough false starts in trying to purchase silver yarn overseas (missed deadlines, insufficient inventories and poor quality to name a few), Laurie decided to produce the yarn herself. She first needed to find a silver thread that was spun around lycra to give it durability and flexibility, which she tracked down after some serious investigative work. With silver in hand, she worked with some skilled spinners at North Carolina State University's College of Textiles to combine the silver thread with 100% North Carolina combed cotton. Voila! SilverSpun was born - a healthy, conductive yarn produced entirely in the United States.
But how was she going to scale her great idea? Especially when one pound of silver thread cost $600!
Laurie decided to embark on a Kickstarter campaign to get the funding she needed to continue. Fans flocked in to support her project and within 8 days, Laurie had met her original goal of $5,000. Since Kickstarter allots 30 days per campaign, Laurie upped her amount to a stretch goal of $10,000. As of this writing, she was close to achieving that number.
Given her real world success, I interviewed Laurie to share her advice with other creatives and entrepreneurs who would like to kickstart their ideas.
Design attractive pledge awards. The most important aspect of Kickstarter are the awards. (Backers pledge $x and receive something in return, from a hand-written thank you note to a sample of the new product.) Yarn enthusiasts were dying to get a sample of SilverSpun and thereby be part of something unique before it went to the market. Think long and hard about pledge levels and awards.
Don’t worry about the video. Kickstarter is big on the videos but I found the majority of visitors did not view my video or did not watch the whole thing. I did not have the funds for a professional video company so I just shot my pitch with my daughter. I think people just want to see you and your enthusiasm. My advice is to keep it short and don’t bury the lead – put the most important stuff up front.
Account for all your costs. I was lucky to have the help and advice of a friend who had experience with Kickstarter. She helped me calculate all the costs needed with the campaign – many of which I had not thought of: • Amount needed for my project: to purchase the initial run raw materials and produce the final product. • The cost of producing the awards – which can be substantial as I was giving samples of my silver yarn. • The cost of shipping the awards. • Kickstarter fees - 5% from the project's funding total if a project is successfully funded. • Payment processing fees – generally 3-5% of the project total.
Set your true minimum goal. It is important to set a goal that is the minimum amount that you need to succeed. If you miss your target, you don’t get any money, so you want to set a goal based on the costs above. Don’t just pick a number out of a hat! You can always go higher, as I did, after you reach your initial goal.
Plan on dedicating significant time. To be successful you need to dedicate a lot of time and energy. You cannot just slap your idea up there and hope people will give you money. I was on the computer almost constantly pushing out the Kickstarter campaign via email, Twitter and Facebook to past customers, friends, family and neighbors. I also contacted every blogger in the knitting industry and asked them to review the yarn and tweet about it. For every pledge, I sent a personal thank you that often started a conversation for backers to spread the word.
Use analytics to keep up your momentum. Another nice thing that Kickstarter does is give you a whole set of analytics. I could see where backers were coming from and then keep the momentum going by posting mini “contests.” For example in Facebook I wrote, “Thanks to my XYZ college buddies who have almost reached $2,000 in pledges.” This caused other high school friends to kick in and pledge.
Exploit the power of collaboration. One of my backers gave me a link to two brothers with a current Kickstarter campaign who were developing an app for Ravelry, an online knitting community 3 million members strong. So I emailed them and asked if we could collaborate somehow. They had not yet reached their goal of $8000 and were close to the deadline so I proposed that I would give them 10 skeins of yarn and they could give me some downloadable apps. We worked out our timing so I would not offer their apps until AFTER their campaign had ended (since we didn't want to take from each others contributors). We promoted our collaboration through our various social media outlets with links to Kickstarter. They made their goal and then I was able to give away 20 of their apps to reinvigorate my campaign.
Broaden your concept of “success.” The biggest value I have received from the Kickstarter experience has been the great feedback from amazing people. The process affirmed my business idea and tested in real time if people were willing to give me money to help this happen. If I had not achieved my goal I would have saved myself a lot of time and money pursuing a non-viable business idea. Kickstarter allows you to send out a survey at the end so you can get valuable information. I also found the traffic to my website and social media pages increased significantly. I hope to see this translate into higher awareness and future customers for LanaMundi Yarns.
Do you have any tips or questions regarding Kickstarter or crowdfunding? Share in the Comments section below.