At a recent Shark Tank-style event, Kate and Bryce Hansen wowed a panel of bankers and investors with their idea for ergonomic Mason jar inserts. The Ergo Spout is a handle that transforms any ordinary Mason jar into a pouring pitcher. Its companion product, the Ergo Trap, is a funnel insert that turns a jar into a fruit fly trap. The Hansens have spent years formulating their unique idea, and their enthusiasm for it is both palpable and contagious.
Like any startup business, the Hansens need business financing to make their dream become a reality.
“While it’s great to go after your dreams and push hard, you need to validate your ideas first,” says Bryce. “Entrepreneurs are often so in love with their ideas that they don’t take the time to see if the market will support them.”
These days, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter present a cost-effective opportunity to validate a product idea and raise funds simultaneously. For the Hansens, Kickstarter is a very attractive option.
The best Kickstarter offerings are carefully planned weeks or months before they launch. Kate and Bryce started conceptualizing their Ergo campaign months ago, and while they’ve run into a few roadblocks along the way, they’ve been strategic about putting all the pieces in place before they launch. Before you jump into the crowdfunding scene, consider these helpful hints from Kate and Bryce for creating a winning campaign.
Create and Engage a Community
The first step in Kickstarter prep is to gather an initial group of believers. As humans, we usually feel uncomfortable about being the first to try something. We are happy to join a cool, new community but we don’t want to feel like we are way out on a limb, says Kate. However, you can’t just go after everyone and anyone. There is a specific group that is going to be interested in what you have to offer. Who are they? Why would they be interested? What do they talk about and where do they talk about it?
“One of our big focuses is building an email list so that when we launch our Kickstarter campaign we have people who are already interested in backing us,” says Kate. “When we first started, even 1,000 emails seemed like a mountain that was too big to climb. We have now surpassed that number and have a goal of 7,000 emails before we launch.”
How did they do it? By crafting and perfecting a message that gives potential customers something to believe in. Instead of showing the features of their product, the Hansens show people how their product solves a real problem. When done effectively, this can spawn an entirely new community centered on your idea.
Don’t Slack on Quality
“There are always challenges and roadblocks when you start a business,” says Kate. “Product development can be particularly difficult. One of the most frustrating parts is having to redo something when it doesn’t work right.”
Conceptualizing a new product might seem overwhelming at first, and you may be tempted to cut corners. Prototyping and testing use up crucial time and resources at a moment when they are in shortest supply. But a quality product is do or die. If you aren’t willing to put the time and effort into making your product great, why should people invest in it? “I just ty and remember that there is always a solution and that the end product will be worth the effort,” shares Kate.
Perhaps even more crucial is the quality of your pitch, page, and content. If you mention Kickstarter, most people immediately think of one initial campaign video. But the amount of content needed to successfully launch a product is surprising. You need to consider new website pages, blog posts, newsletters, video testimonials, and more. Quality is crucial with every piece of the process. Your content is the face you present to your potential backers. Put your best foot forward to help them believe in you.
Remember the Driving Force: You
Never forget that you are the driving force behind your campaign. Many early customers will jump on board because they are inspired by your story or drawn to your personality. When presenting your product or idea, always remember that you are really presenting yourself. Finding ways to infuse your personality and passion into your product and pitch will go a long way toward cultivating a community of believers.
Beyond the product and pitch, the process of starting a business requires resiliency. According to Kate, “the opposite of success in business is not failure, it’s giving up. There are lots of times when setbacks make me feel like I want to quit. But the truth is, I have 100 percent control over my attitude. I just remind myself that I don’t have to know all the answers, I just have to know how to find them. Being a problem solver is the best skill you can have as a business owner.”