How does it feel to crowdfund?
We get asked this a lot, and in all honesty, it was a wonderful rollercoaster and we would certainly do it again if the product and timing was right. It gave us an edge over other start-ups and threw us in at the deep end from our pre-start position. We learnt a huge amount and started our business with a database of champions, sales and lots of information about our target customer. We wouldn’t have got any of that from a loan application! But it was probably one of the hardest-working periods of our journey so far.
We crowdfunded for 28 days in February 2016, but were planning full-time at least 8 weeks beforehand, and worked to fulfil rewards at least 8 months after the campaign reached its target.
Our planning stage included;
- Finding and working with a film maker to design and shoot our campaign video.
- Designed and budgeted for our rewards.
- Budgeted the costs we needed to launch our business.
- Created digital mock-ups of the product.
- Created posters, business cards and campaign collateral.
- Planned our marketing campaign, including all the social media posts, timings, content etc.
- Reaching out to all the magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations we wanted our campaign to be featured in and tailoring our story accordingly, so it was most attractive. Some media loved the fact that we were sisters. Others that we were women. Others that we were mums. Some just loved the product!
- We worked to find collaborative partners for our rewards and negotiate good prices on things.
- We planned when to run the campaign based on the product and the customer’s we thought would be most interested.
- We primed friends and family to share the campaign throughout their networks and ask their networks to share it on.
- We wrote the copy for our campaign page and got it ready to launch.
- We got our families on board with what we were planning and had conversations about how important it was that we had the time we needed to invest in the campaign over those 28 days.
Once we had decided to crowdfund, we hit the ground running with research. We binged on other crowdfunding campaigns, booked mentoring sessions with people who had crowdfunded, took part in training sessions, watched webinars and YouTube videos about successful crowdfunding. We immersed ourselves in it. We had ruled out any traditional routes to raising finance, so this was an all-or-nothing exercise for us.
Then, on the 1st February 2016, we pushed the button and our campaign went live. It was on! Within the first hour we had raised 15% of our target and things were looking exceptionally good. Day one was fantastic. Day two was great. Day three was slow, and by day four, we hardly got any pledges and felt utterly deflated. We had done the TV, the radio, we were waiting on articles to be published and all our friends and family had done what we had asked them to do. We were excited by every ‘ping’ to say a new pledge had been made, but these were getting fewer each day. Suddenly our £10,000 target felt like a long way away.
We were later told that this early flourish in pledges followed by a dip is pretty standard across all campaigns and is a result of the priming work done before the campaign launch. Everyone rushes to do their bit, things look really good (and easy) for a few days, then then the hard work of reaching people you don’t know starts. Our advice to you at this stage is don’t give up! This is normal, and the fear of campaign failure is real. This fear causes many entrepreneurs to question their campaign or lose faith in their venture. Dig deep here guys. Now is the time to get creative.
To combat the slump, we guerrilla fly-postered local campuses, public loos and asked shops to pop posters in their windows. We asked for five minutes on stage at events to be able to ask people to get their phones out and pledge. We created a new reward for retailers to buy their first stock from us. We designed and filmed a second video that we would release part-way through the campaign. We also created an outtakes video to share. We posted on social media three times a day every day. We kept collaborating, and even managed to negotiate a free 5-star holiday with a local resort that we offered as a prize draw open to anyone who pledged on the campaign. We contacted celebrities via Twitter in the hope that they would share to their network and just plugged away incessantly.
It was exhausting, but on the 16th February (16 days into the campaign), we hit our target of £10,000 and our business became a reality.
The culmination of all the hard work leading to that moment, and the realisation that we had done it was emotional to say the least. At times we thought it wasn’t going to happen, but we had an exceptional support network around us to bolster us up when we needed it. We had some amazing moments and learnt so much, and our crowdfunding story will remain a great story to share. Not least because we were lucky enough to go on to win awards for our campaign, we were invited to join a prestigious national network of ambitious start-up businesses and we were asked to talk right across the UK about our crowdfunding journey.
As entrepreneurs crowdfunding gave us the opportunity to get familiar with planning, budgeting, marketing and social media, networking, collaboration, and our customers. It was a live demonstration in how effective target and deadline setting is, and it gave us the confidence to believe that we can achieve great things if we set our minds to it, take some risks and work our backsides off. We learnt that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. We learnt to beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission. We pushed our comfort zones and got cheeky with our requests. We bored everyone we knew senseless with shameless requests for more shares across their networks.
We firmly believe that crowdfunding made us better, more resilient, better connected and more attuned entrepreneurs and it opened doors for us and our businesses.
Our experience is why we wanted to create our package of support to help other entrepreneurs get the very best from their crowdfunding experience. If you are thinking of crowdfunding, we want to share our tools and templates as well as all our tips and tricks to help you avoid being one of the 70% of campaigns that fail.
Check out our crowdfunding package before you decide to go it alone. It may just save you a lot of wasted time and money.