Starting a business is no easy feat. It requires determination, courage and the least fun thing to talk about, money! It’s incredibly easy to fantasize about being your own boss and making all the big decisions as a business owner, but with those decisions come the very real aspects of paying to running a business. Everything requires funding including hiring employees, marketing your business, and carrying supplies or inventory. We started Make The Rest up through a combination of our own savings, investors and crowdfunding. The biggest question I’ve gotten about funding is how we were able to successfully funded our kickstarter to build our VANity for Make The Rest Up.
Back in January we launched a 30 day kickstarter campaign and were able to successfully raise over $10,000 to purchase and renovate our Vanity. Here’s our top 5 tips to successfully running a crowdfunding campaign.
1. Do your research
This seems obvious but too many people aren’t really looking into which kickstarters are successful and why. Look up your “competitors” and products or services that are like yours but in other cities or categories. For example, before starting my own campaign, I looked at beauty businesses but since a lot of those were developing new cosmetics products (which we were not) I actually found that the most comparable campaigns were salons or service companies. I was able to find similarities between those that were successfully funded (good rewards, frequent updates, lots of details on the development plan) and those that were not (vague plans, confusing descriptions, lack of a unique value proposition to stand apart from existing companies). Understanding the landscape will help you stand out from the other crowdfunding business so that you can compete for a dollar against them.
2. Don’t overthink the rewards and tie your rewards into your brand
The hardest piece for us to figure out was what makes a good reward and what doesn’t. In the beginning we were so obsessed with making a “great” reward that we stopped focusing on our brand and started thinking of everything from parties to trips. I started to notice that I was getting farther away from the core of our brand and actually hurting my campaign. We had found a niche in our “badassbosslady” tag because people could relate. It was unique but relatable, and it was simple. We realized we should focus rewards around that phrase because it was easy to share on social media and explain without too much thought. Even those who couldn’t use our product could appreciate the reward when we added it to something tangible (in our case, a tshirt). And of course, higher packages included packages and pre-sale of our services which is why people were backing us to begin with!
3. Social Media will be your best friend (and you’ll get sick of it)
Post ALL THE TIME, but the key here is that you also have to be interesting.While I included a link to our kickstarter in every post, I made sure I was sharing information about how the business was doing and providing updates into what it was like to start a business. I knew that was one of the key points my network was interested in. For me, that meant bringing humor, reality and excitement into every post by sharing the ups and down and reminding people that I needed their help. It also meant posting way more than felt natural to me (scheduling posts for 2-3 times a day!). These days with improved social media algorithms, varying time zones and schedules of the people around you, posting often makes sure that people will start to see your asks. In fact, I often got people telling me they were glad I was posting so often because they could follow my journey AND were reminded to donate when they were home (versus when they saw it on the subway and intended to donate when they got home, and then forgot).
4. Just Ask
I had to get really comfortable asking for money. Outright. But there is a right way and a wrong way to do that. Don’t hound individuals in your friend or family network over and over but rather ask your entire network as a whole. You never know what each person’s situation is and while most people around you have great intentions, they may not be in the right financial place to help you monetarily. If you make the asks 1:1 constantly, they may feel pressured or just straight up start avoiding you! I honestly believe no business is worth alienating the people around you. In fact, the people around you will get you through your business (but more on that some other time). Additionally, by asking the group, those who step up feel like heroes and those who can’t can still help you champion to their friends.
5. Get Creative
This leads to my last tip: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Crowdfunding isn’t just about raising money. It’s about gaining traction and support for your business as a whole. I alternated my asks for donations with asks for people to share our kickstarter. Whenever someone would say “I love your idea! I wish I could give more but good luck!” I would reply with a sincere thanks and a request that they share on their social networks if they feel comfortable. Most people have no problem sharing a cool product or cause they believe in if they feel appreciated. Likewise, get creative by championing those who help! We would post individual thank you’s to EVERYONE who donated (whether $1 or $1000k) on our facebook pages, often with a personal story. Every one of those posts drove another series of donations, partially because of the desire to be a champion but also because they realized they would be genuinely appreciated!
I could go on for days and months about what to do when crowdfunding. The truth is, there is no silver bullet but you just have to give it a go! Make sure you realize it’s a full time commitment when you are running the campaign and most of all, don’t be afraid to just try!
We wish you luck and of course, couldn’t be more grateful for all the support we’ve received over the past year as we’ve been on this journey.