My Kickstarter Experience

Po Campo ran a Kickstarter for our Bike Share Bag in May of 2014. We met our goal in the first two weeks and ended up surpassing our goal by 56%, which was great. But it was a ton of work!

Background on why we did it
In October 2013, I started working on a bag to fit into the front basket of the bike share bikes in Chicago and New York, and other cities, to help you carry more stuff while riding, enabling you to use the bikes for more types of trips.

We were planning on launching the bag in May/June to take advantage of as many of the summer riding months as possible. In late February, I shot a video of the bag to share with the various bike share systems to see if they’d be willing to help me market it to their members. We decided to post the video to our Facebook page because we needed some content that day and a bunch of people saw it and shared it. Then the Huffington Post wrote about it, followed by several other publications.

So, here we were getting this great buzz in March but not being able to sell the bag until June. I wanted to do something to keep the momentum going, and doing a Kickstarter seemed like just the ticket.

In addition to piggy-backing on the media coverage, I thought Kickstarter could help us reach a new audience. Po Campo’s audience is mostly female, but bike share riders are mostly male, so effectively selling the bag would mean getting access to a more male audience. Kickstarter’s traffic is 72% male.

Plus, I had been feeling like Po Campo needed to do a Kickstarter for awhile, mostly because it seemed like every cool product company had done one and we hadn’t. I am aware that that isn’t a good reason but there you have it.

How we prepared for the campaign
May is National Bike Month, so we wanted to take advantage of that and run the campaign during May, thinking that the media would already be actively looking for bike stories that month. That gave us a little over a month to prepare.

According to Kickstarter stats, projects looking to raise between $1,000 and $10,000 are most likely to succeed. I chose a goal of $7,500, which was about 50% of the costs of the production run. I really wanted to make our goal and not stress too hard about it, and this seemed like a feasible amount. I knew I’d be able to cover the rest of the production cost with cash flow from the core Po Campo business.

Here’s what we did to get ready:

  1. Added a “wait list” to our website to capture people who came looking for the bag after the Huffington Post article. I wanted to sell 25 bags the first day to these people, and figured we’d need at least 100 people on the waiting list to do so.
  2. Scripted the video and recruited Sara Potts of Lady Lens Productions to produce the movie. The video took about 4 weeks to complete, from start to finish.
  3. Brainstormed backer reward ideas and reached out to simpatico brands to collaborate with (most of these partnerships were scrapped for fear that Kickstarter wouldn’t accept our project).
  4. Connected with all the bike share systems to tell them what we were doing and pitched ways they could help promote it.
  5. Made a list of “influentials” in the bike share community and reached out to them to see if they’d be willing to take a photo with the bag.
  6. Combed through our media list to identify journalists that seemed to be a good audience for our story and put a pitch together.
  7. Made a week-by-week plan about which aspect of our project we would focus on each week to try and keep it fresh.

How Kickstarter became a time-suck
In the 4-5 weeks leading up to the campaign, I devoted about a third of my time working on it, or at least thinking about it. That’s a lot, considering our Kickstarter goal was just 2% of our projected sales for 2014. There’s just something about Kickstarter that demands a lot of your attention.

I thought that once we hit the “go” button that we’d be able to just relax and execute our plan, but that’s not what happened. Our campaign had a familiar curve, with a big spike the first few days and then slow growth after that.

Our Kickstarter Funding Progress
Our Kickstarter Funding Progress

I hadn’t anticipated how exhilarating those first few days would be and how you spend the rest of the campaign trying to recapture that thrill. Every day I would try to think of more people to ask to become a backer of the project, or to at least share it with others. I would go to every event and networking opportunity I could think of with the bag in tow to tell people about what we were doing. I probably continued to spend a third to a half of my energy on the campaign, which is ill-advised. It was like I was in a Kickstarter vacuum and everything else came to a standstill.

What I would do differently next time
First, I would NOT make my email address the destination for all the notifications. Getting the emails of new backers would get me too excited, while a lull in new backers would bum me out. One can not effectively run a business when on an emotional roller coaster like that.

Second, I would start the planning and media pitching much earlier, maybe six months in advance, so as to not scramble during the campaign. Like all marketing, it always surprises me how many people you have to tell to get any traction at all.

Lastly, I would choose a project that was newer for us, or something that challenged us more, where we could invite our backers along with us on the journey. I felt like we were still just making a bag – I mean, a really cool bag – but nothing too different from what we had done before. Candid updates from the Kickstarter creator are some of the best aspects of backing a project, but because our process for making bags was already pretty established, it was hard for us to make this process very exciting.

If you’ve done a Kickstarter project, was your experience similar to mine? Share in the comments!