Tools of the True Change Agent

Liveblog

Panelists:

Stephanie Goodwin
Edie Goodwin
Mike Antares
Laura Watt
Moderator, Laura Williams

Laura Williams: Thank you all for coming to the panel. This is about crowd funding- how many have you done a project like that on Kickstarter or Indigo go? Just the panel’s ok. Some of you may be relatively new to this.

What we'll do is we will introduce ourselves, and since it’s a small group well open it up to Q&A

Laura Watt: I'm from Urban Spoon; we have 10K food bloggers in our network who share their reviews with us. Whenever someone sees a restaurant they can look at food bloggers reviews, rather than food critics. That’s why I’m here. Before that I was a freelance consultant and advocate. I moved to Seattle, there’s a great start up community there- and lots of engaging ideas through social enterprise. Whatever subject, there was innovative ways to solve problems. My business moved to social media and crowd funding to causes I care about.

EG - Hi I’m Edie, this is Stephanie. We are Princess and Moses Bakery here in Austin and used Kickstarter to fund our bakery. We got fully funded in 2011, and it got us going to get our name out there and get to market, started working with Edible Austin and Slow Food- and we do use local products and were old school baking with a twist. We tell our story, and put your heart out there- but it worked really well for us.

Our business was established through the Kickstarter.

Laura Watt: We are Cubits and sells organic seeds- we broke ground at 2 acres. We used Indigo go to use the remaining part of the down payment to buy a farm. We sell mainly on Betsy- we did have an established business- we didn’t have any strangers fund our campaign- I knew them through social media, family, friends or existing customers- people were already engaged in our brand.

Mike - I'm a founder of Honk Texas- which is a festival, bands come to Austin for 3 days and play for free in exchange for free housing, food and some transportation. We had 3 Kickstarter campaigns, and one unsuccessful Indigo go campaign.

2011 was our first year and established- there were other existing festivals. We had a defined window and had to raise 10K in 30 days and had a party to start things off. We had a steady incline and one big jump in the middle of the campaign; we got $1900 in 24 hour period- that was one person donating $1500. Very successful and by the book- this is what you want to see- a gradual rise with a jump in the beginning and a surge in the end. The following year we had a much more gradual rise- we had 45 days and didn’t have the party but we had huge surges in money and without them we probably wouldn’t have made it. Over half the funds were raised in the last 12 days. These were all or nothing campaigns- we went with Kickstarter because of the brand recognition. Then we forgot what we learned- in 2013 we didn’t have a strong lead up and had ill-defined time. You can see we had a long gradual slow thing, and then we all got out and pushed. The big surges are the backers- the committee broadcasting on all mediums. We ended up making it in the end. I overplayed all of these to see how it looks. And how did we reach people- vast majority was Facebook. 1/3 was Facebook donors. What’s interesting is that another 1/3 of funding was physically typing in our link and intentional desire to support us. 1/3 was from people searching. As I mentioned, as part of an unsuccessful Indigo go campaign- we used their flexible funding campaign we had a 10k goal- but a bunch of things happened. Indigo go didn’t have the same brand recognition as Kickstarter. One of things I think is we went too long- 45 days is too long and not the same sense of urgency. There was no lead up, just a surprise and I should point out that this was the 5th time they put this out and never used crowd funding to support them. Flexible funding also didn’t work- coming in and saying this is our goal but well take whatever we get and can work against you psychologically. Our video quality wasn’t great either- it wasn’t as dynamic or interactive- some stills and camera phone videos stitched together. It was also too long- concise videos are better.

The moderately successful GoFundMe Campaign was moderately successful- it was personal and extreme. We had financial issues we had a flexible goal of $1500- and I got 60% of the way there. There were stages along the way too. For this I got 396 visits- I don’t know who was looking at my project. A lot of friends and family helped me out and extended network folks. The donations were less than 10% of the visits.

Audience: You said you didn’t learn some of the lessons- I’m wondering can you talk of the effect of people knowing Kickstarter.

Mike - Great question. One of the things we ran into was donor fatigue which is something you should work for but we also fought for channel saturation. Allot of musicians in the bands all have personal music process- all the bands know about it and do novel things with it but without our really strong lead up we ran up against donor fatigue and channel saturation. I heard something that nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd. If everyone is talking about it and if you’re at 65% then people are more likely to help you out to get there all the way.

Laura Williams - Good point. Everyone has a crowd funding platform. The big ones are Kickstarter and Indigo go- which will be the funding model. Kickstarter if you don’t reach your goal you don’t get your money. Indigo go is flexible.

Maybe talk about your experience- think about what you would do with 5K or 50K for your business. How did you decide to go through crowd funding versus venture capital or something else.

Laura Watt - It was marketing too- crowd funding helps you find customer and more brand recognition which was a nice extra business. People were interested in our project- people wanted to help out and by donating they felt a part of it which was lovely.

Stephanie - For us, Kickstarter was our choice because friends and family in California known us and then could fund us online. They had that personal knowledge of our capabilities and felt like they could profit back because they knew us. It turns out to be really supportive and we like that it was personal and our friends support meant so much to us. That’s what’s great about Kickstarter if you can’t be here physically then they can be a part of it another way.

Edie - With Kickstarter you also reach so many people, we put it out there everywhere and we had people that we didn’t know at all and giving money to help us. Every donation makes you feel really good and cements what you believe and just go for it.

Mike - I agree with all what was said. Our first year, a lot of donations came out from Somerville and Seattle where the festival existed in our own right. I don’t think we could have reached that strictly through social media. Grants weren’t right for us because we’re an umbrella organization. In Austin we ended up getting 1K as a grant because they found us on Kickstarter.

Laura Williams - Talk about how you did some personalization- from the video which is so important but also the story and how you reached out and build meaning behind the money.

Edie - When we started, we found out about it from a friend whose son did it. We started our blog and Facebook and put up pictures- didn’t have a site yet. Ours was really minimal and super humble- we had a poster board with our pictures on it. We did 100 takes or something (laughs) - but that had a lot to do with it. The video was very helpful and did our family aspect and said this is for our family so they could go to college and also talked about our mother and grandmother- when you eat something of ours we want you to feel like you’re at a family members table and have a good feeling. The video wasn’t professional, very basic- but that’s something that people look for too. You don’t need bells and whistles.

Stephanie - Especially for a bakery- we didn’t want to take away from what we were trying to accomplish. We said this is what we want to do and say can you help us.

Laura Watt - We was photo heavy and they were pinnacle and shareable and played up our strengths.

Mike - We is lucky because we knew a video editor and sourced material from other festivals that existed in WA and MA. We appealed to fans of one band in the festival and appealed to those fans and that audience. From there we got to encourage friends and family and told them to check it out.

Laura Williams - There is lots of different levels and I’ve had clients who got lots of different rewards- but it’s really about the product and story. When you’re doing 30 days it’s easier to keep momentum but there are lots of ebbs and flows. When people see how much heart you have, but it can be very hard to try and separate yourself. How do you maintain momentum and what did you do for funders as a reward and thank you and how did you keep the community moving forward you?

Mike - Maintaining momentum we had to learn, but it was a unified message and constant social media presence. Constantly telling people about the incremental changes. Connecting to people and calling them up- it feels good for other people to be a part of something like that.

Laura Watt - We had a few people write about us which were so helpful. Everyone that mentioned us got equal things and made people feel good.

Edie - Same for us, anytime we got money we would blast it everywhere and say thank you so much- no matter what amount for $1 and saying woo hood thank you! You guys are our family and telling people say thank you. I had people who hadn’t seen me in 20 years who funded. And when they got their brownies they were really excited and posted it. It encourages others too when you say thank you. It’s important to go out there and just blast it. We also had some money to put aside- but we didn’t use it, we wanted people to be a part of it completely.

Laura Williams: What were your pledge levels?

Egg- Cookie box, brownie box, cookie or brownie box four times a year and t-shirts. You have to give them something- they are buying something from you. That was our thing- what we do best and what can ship well. Pies in a jar won’t ship well, but we’ve tried different things that work well and send something that they will appreciate.

Laura Watt - We had it vary from $5-$500. For $5 you could get one pack of seeds and if more you would get high quality photos. For $100 they got a subscription to our monthly seeds.

People liked that it was a tangible thing.

Audience: People get motivated by Kickstarter. How did you manage it?

Laura Watt - We did almost as much work as with our real shop- we took business from our normal retail stream and I could see how it could be hard.

Mike - My partner took on merchandise last year, but we had a lot of shipping costs with one reward level that cut back into it enough with t-shirt printing and we couldn’t do it again because we net $5 from $25 donation.

One way to combat it is a digital reward and also an encouraged group pick up that at the festival come through and get your items.

Laura Watt - that could work for bloggers if you have an eBook or something.

Mike - coupons also work

Laura Watt - We gave out highest valued coupon, not many people use it but they love it.

Edie - We have the same issue where the shipping costs weren’t factored in and it was our first time. It ate a bunch of money but it got us to the point where we could start out, which is what we wanted. But if we do another kickstarter we have to take that into consideration. We were thinking more with our heart- it was just about getting your name and project out there.

Laura Williams: That makes a lot of sense- I’ve had several small businesses that have over exceeded their expectations. A friend’s client went into significant debt with shipping.

Now with clients we block it through of how long it will take and how much cost for 25 items.

I’m curious because you came to this session- what made you interested in sharing.

Audience- I didn’t realize it was all about crowd sourcing- I thought it was under the values track but it’s very interesting especially with the marketing aspect.

Audience- I’m from Australia so not all relevant. My husband is in a startup but I just wanted to see what this was about and it’s very interesting to see that it’s very personal.

Audience- I thought it was is broader than just crowdsourcing and I’m interested in advocacy. I’m a food blogger and write a health blog and did a lot of stuff in DC. The word change agent was interesting to me. But I did wonder if there were other tools to being a change agent.

Laura Williams - I can talk about that. A lot of my clients are nonprofits. You don’t have to suck up to rich donors anymore through this. With the nonprofit clients- the do good part has outweighed the marketing- but this is good for them to open up to a new audience and give them tangible items and help them stay motivated. Creating small goals you can meet are important and it’s just one tool. Volunteer boards find it harder to do that auction again this year and to get each person to donate- and offsetting that energy by using Kickstarter and reaching a new audience who aren’t donors. 85% of online donations form Obama campaigns were from people who never donated before. Opening it up to new audiences is exciting for my nonprofit clients and also for people who want to business with their heart and build community with it is really exciting.

Stephanie - We wanted to give back to the community with our business. We work with Edible Austin and it’s a small group of people but we give away a lot of stuff at farmers market. We did half of sales for brownies and gave to one of the farmers who lost their entire crop. It’s about spreading the love- we do a lot of donation stuff and bake cookies for kids on Valentine’s Day and people endear yourself to you when they know you’re helping others and not completely greedy. People like that community feel when they know you’re willing to help others more than yourself.

Laura Watt - We also wanted to make a CSA model, we don’t have enough to produce but we got enough funding.

Kickstarter is only for Americans. So we didn’t use it (from Canada) - it’s not worth it. We used Indigo go its smaller and less recognized but with your own social reach-people you know is not a big deal, it’s a lot of work. Our biggest mistake was not setting the goal higher- we want to do another one with a shorter time period and higher goal.

Mike - Honk Texas is nonprofit and grassroots. Crowd funding was online one aspect of building it off the ground- the other big digital tool is social media. We recruited a large volunteer base when there was SXSW going on and pulling volunteers at the same time. Social media and blogging was a big part- we were able to point press organizations to those blogs. Allot of the other tools are traditional- finding sponsors, letter writing campaign (in Seattle), and it is one of many tools for folks doing advocacy and it’s about creating connections in community which is what it comes down to. One of our sponsors did it 3 years in a row- and that was because of existing connections and asked them to be a part of this and had an in depth conversation and gain their trust.

Laura Williams - I think it’s interesting the crowd funding is an additional thing to all the other aspects. Let’s talk about lessons learned.

Mike - 60 for 30 meaning 60 days lead up for 30 days of campaign- get people excited and then give them narrow time to donate. Also, a musician said nothing is as powerful as empowering something that you love- when you decide to do this it’s a huge step of vulnerability, but it’s a collective heart to say this is who we are and I hope you believe in us. Do not take the audience for granted- they won’t pay attention unless your heart is in it.

Laura Watt - In the lead up me would go with more traditional media roots and focus on it completely. We competed with our retail season- but we need to focus on that and use every opportunity to our full advantage.

Edie - Same. We did ours at the holiday season and we did the longer version- we would do it more in April-May and also only for 30 days. Also we do higher cost packages because of shipping costs. Do it 30 days only and then it’s done. The longer it is the more stressful it is. I would say do a short time and increase dollar amount.

Stephanie - Also is if you’re doing it, have your dollar amount be realistic. We kept it an attainable goal- we didn’t want people to give something that would unaffordable. Keep your number realistic- if you go over it then great. $3500 is a lot easier than $15K- and if that helps you start then do that. Make a goal you can reach.

Edie - Kickstarter is great- we saw other projects that were funded. And looked at the difference between ones that were funded and ones didn’t. Mom Pop stuff and tech stuff are huge on Kickstarter. Look at your area but also from all over and see what people have a passion for and make sure you’re in the right program. You don’t want to fail you’ll feel crappy- you want to keep going and be excited.

Laura Williams - Any other questions. Thank you for staying- I believe there is a reason for everything so I'm grateful you stayed and thank you to our panelists for creating a new paradigm in business. Thank you all for this intimate conversation.

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