How to succeed on kickstarter - post #2 - nuts and bolts of creating a campaign

This is the second post in this series, if you havn't read the first, check it out here

Across the next few posts, I’ll be sharing a step-by-step guide to launching a Kickstarter campaign, based on my own experience. I didn’t come up with all of these ideas by myself; I received a ton of help from Whately. He had recently completed his campaign, and he gave me some great tips on how to run a successful one.

Read, read, read

Read everything you can get your hands on about how to launch an amazing campaign. Check out people's blogs, which can offer helpful tips and warn you about common pitfalls. Read Kickstarter's How To page. This provides invaluable insight into how to craft a successful campaign and how to create an application that's more likely to be accepted. It contains some really great info about the success rates of different lengths of campaigns, the optimum length for a promotional video, and tons of other useful stuff. Since Kickstarter operates on a commission basis, it's in the company's best interests to help you to run a successful campaign, and that's why they’ve taken the time to create a great overview.  Read it!

Conduct thorough research

Before starting my campaign, I spent weeks on the site just looking at other folks' campaigns. I paid attention to which strategies and techniques seemed to be working and which ones didn’t seem to be working quite as well. It's worth spending time on this phase of the project. Also, try to be a sport. Pledge on a few projects you think are neat or worthwhile, as it helps to create good karma. It makes you look a little hypocritical if you're trying to raise money, yet your profile says you’ve never helped out anyone else.

Compose a strong application

It's essential that you submit a strong application, otherwise your campaign will not be approved. You may be tempted to put this off until just before you are ready to launch. I would strongly advise you against leaving it until the last minute, because there may be something in your pitch that doesn't mesh with the Kickstarter rules and regulations. If, for example, you say you're aiming to start up a business or to raise a portion of the funds you'll need in order to complete the process, your application may be rejected.

If your application is rejected, don't lose hope. First, make sure you understand why you've been rejected. Then, redraft your proposal and resubmit it. If you've submitted your application early, then you'll have plenty of time to rework it; however, having to do this under time pressure can be an incredibly stressful experience. Try to have your application approved before you make your video. If you make the video first and there is something in it that doesn't pass muster with Kickstarter, it will be a hassle to fix.

In my next post I'll talk about creating the perfect campaign video!

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How to succeed on Kickstarter (or at least some tips to point you in the right direction)

 

Over five years ago, I launched my first Kickstarter campaign, and raised $156,000 to launch Forage Kitchen, and I've been meaning to write about it ever since. Now that the business is open and running seems like a good time to relay my real experience creating and running a campaign in the hopes it will help someone out there to jump over mistakes I made and see what worked for me. If you’re creating a campaign for a product pre-sale, a lot of this won’t apply, but more so for community based projects

I’m sure you’ve all witnessed the meteoric ascent of million dollar projects succeeding. Perhaps, with rose-colored glasses, and stars in your eyes, you imagined yourself achieving the same success for your project. The truth is, while Kickstarter is an amazing platform for product pre-sales, it's only a fairly good platform for everything else.

After my campaign, a lot of people got in touch with me and asked for my advice. Wanting to be optimistic and supportive, I told everyone that I was certain they could do it, and to go for it! Unfortunately, a number of those people haven't had that much success with it, so I have started to be a bit more conservative in my responses.

Before you even think about launching a Kickstarter campaign, here are some things to think about:

First, it's important to understand that Kickstarter is a platform where people whose support you already have will be able to voice that support with their dollars. Rather than expecting to win people over with your campaign, you must build your audience elsewhere and then lead them to your Kickstarter campaign. The good folks at Kickstarter have made this clear in their supporting materials, and I feel it's extremely important.

Unless people are already aware of the product or service you offer, it will be difficult to find support for your campaign. It's highly unlikely that people will find out about your project from the site itself. My campaign was featured for several weeks on the Popular Projects section on the front page, and it was mentioned twice in the Kickstarter newsletter. Neither of these initiatives helped me to gain very much in the way of pledges.

What I found to be the most effective strategy was to reach out to the people in my e-mail database and in my networks on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. At the time I started my campaign, I had an e-mail list comprising over 40,000 locals, and a social media reach of a further 15,000.  I'm not saying it's impossible to  succeed without this scale of reach, but it is a factor worth considering when you’re setting your goals. It isn't easy raising money via Kickstarter. I’ve come to think of it as a tool that's more suited to promotion rather than to fundraising.

Think very carefully and objectively about the people whose support you're counting on. Why will they want to support you? Is there a clear and specific need for what you do in your community? Will you be addressing a social issue that affects a great number of people? Are you offering a reward that people truly require or desire? Have you spoken to a lot of people about your idea, and have they expressed their interest in supporting it? Do you have a long list of media contacts who will help to promote your campaign? Is there a huge niche community eagerly anticipating this kind of product, film, space or event? If the answer to one or more of these questions is no, I would advise you to think twice about setting a high Kickstarter goal. The month I spent promoting my Kickstarter campaign was, by far, the most stressful month of my entire life. There are easier ways to raise money. I’m glad I did it, but I never will do it again.

If this rant hasn’t dissuaded you, I can understand that. When I was in your position, nothing would have convinced me that I shouldn't try it. If that's the case, you may be interested in next week's post. I'll be sharing a blow-by-blow account of how I went about it, what I did wrong, and what I did right. Launching a successful Kickstarter campaign requires a fair amount of preparation and support, and I'll be happy to tell you about how it worked for me.

In my next post I’ll give a step by step on what I did for my campaign…

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Iso
Partner: Forage Kitchen

Our first six months

 

It’s been six months since we opened Forage Kitchen, so it’s a good time to reflect on where we’re at and where we’re going. It still seems surreal that the space is actually open. After years of pushing, starting with our Kickstarter campaign almost five years ago, to when Matt (my cousin and business partner, an indispensable part of this enterprise) and I started working together in 2013, to our search for investors (it’s amazing how hard it is to get someone to invest in an actual building in the tech capital of the world), to the seemingly endless search for a location (we were so close to acquiring one of over a dozen spaces that we were designing the interiors before the deals fell through), to the delays with our construction (the project was more than a year behind schedule). It’s been quite an experience.

What kept us going through all that was a concrete faith that someday it would exist. We weren't sure how long it would take, or how we would afford it, or where it would be, only that it would eventually happen. I really feel that’s the recipe for success—just convincing yourself that there’s no other option.

Six months after opening, the space still has that new car smell. At the end of the day I sometimes sit alone in the café, with a beer and a cookbook, and I just revel in the reality of the space. How unlikely it was that it would actually work—how often it felt like it would never happen.

We’ve been really happy about the crew of chefs that are using the space.  We thought it was going to fill up a lot faster than it did, which caused some financial hand wringing, but we’ve come to see that these things just take time. In fact, it usually takes several months from the moment people email us to when they actually start booking, a multi-part process that involves obtaining permits and negotiating the amount of hours needed, among other things. Some people just disappear, but the good ones sign up. I’ve always said that in shared spaces, it’s always one person that ruins it for everyone: that one chef who doesn’t clean up, or uses more space than he or she needs, or brings in too many people. To be honest, that chef was sometimes me. That’s why I know the type so well!

Thankfully, no one in our space fits that bill. Our crew consists of friendly, open, interesting, and ambitious folks, including our friends at Thistle, who cook 10K meals per week, to Eat Nibble, run by Sally, a first-time food entrepreneur.  We like to emphasize that our space is perfect for novices, that there is no stupid question about how to use equipment or scale up a recipe, and that Matt will sit down with anyone who has permit questions. Likewise, I’m happy to give feedback on recipes or to lend a hand with cooking.

When I first walked into a shared kitchen, I had no professional experience, and it struck me as a pretty scary place: huge equipment I’d never used before, serious busy folks running around with no time to lead me through the finer points of emptying a fryer (I’m still not 100% sure how to do it well…). I want our space to be different, a space where people support each other and aren’t scared to ask questions. Everyone was a newbie at some point. Open communication is a treasured virtue at Forage Kitchen. The more I push for candor and openness, the more I enjoy being in it.

BatchMade Market, our monthly event when our chefs sell and sample food in the kitchen on First Fridays, has been a high point. I loved running the underground market, with the exception of the huge production and constant wrangling with the Health Department over legality. What made it so worthwhile was the community of eager chefs, all so excited to share what they made, and seeing how happy it made them to have an adoring public sample and purchase their food.

BatchMade represents what’s best about running a market. We get between 400-600 people per month, and currently five to seven companies are set up (which may expand as the weather improves), preparing everything from fresh oysters to BBQ pork sandwiches to heritage bacon. I get to bartend, which is one of my favorite things to do because it puts me in touch with people who are excited to discover the space. Meanwhile, all-night crowds roll through for food and drink. It’s always a great night.

There’s something about that event that feels like the culmination of my vision: tons of happy people working hard to realize their dream, with Forage Kitchen as their foundation. I think of the Kitchen as a real platform for other people’s ideas. Sure, we have our own projects, like the meat curing room I’m building and the temp-controlled fan/cooling system. But we really want it to be a space that other people use to create what they want to see. Whether that’s a pop-up, a product, a cooking class, or something we haven’t even imagined, the Kitchen is an amazing resource that should be used as much as possible. If you have an idea, we want to hear it!

It’s been a wonderful, sometimes stressful, six months. An important lesson I’ve learned throughout this time is that things work out as they should when you trust yourself and your intentions. I can’t wait to see how this space will change six months from now!

Iso Rabins
Partner: Forage Kitchen