Our Kickstarter campaign, Packing cubes designed for your outdoor adventures, was successfully funded in February of 2019. We reached 109% of our funding goal with 219 backers. We were stoked! This was our first time running a crowdfunding campaign, and while we were happy to exceed our goal, there are a few things we wish we had known before our launch that would’ve made the process smoother.
1. Don’t wait until the last minute to finish your campaign if you have a launch deadline
Setting up a Kickstarter campaign is hard work! Luckily, we had supportive friends and family who helped us out big time with our video and other content. When we were finally ready to go live, we shared our launch date on all of our social channels… only to realize Kickstarter needed to review and approve our project before we could launch. We ended up being a day late on our launch. It wasn’t a huge deal, but definitely came off as unprofessional and wasn’t the solid start we were hoping for. If you’re launching a campaign, give yourself a week or more to get it reviewed and approved, especially if you anticipate Kickstarter requesting you make changes.
2. Go conservative on your funding goal… but not too conservative
We decided early on in our research to run a 30-day campaign, as 30-day campaigns are statistically more successful than 60-day campaigns. But, we still had to come up with the final dollar amount we were going to try to raise. Kickstarter only offers all-or-nothing campaigns, meaning if you don’t reach your funding goal, you don’t get any of the money pledged by backers. We didn’t really have a backup plan to gain capital if our Kickstarter campaign wasn’t funded, so when our CFO Nicole gave us multiple goal options, we chose the most conservative. We ended up asking for $15,125, and ultimately ended up raising $16,516 (before fees). This amount ended up being just enough for production… but it didn’t cover shipping. Which brings us to our next point...
3. Charge for shipping
Our original plan was to charge out-of-state orders (we live in Colorado) $3 for shipping. In-state would be free, and we weren’t shipping outside of the US. But, Kickstarter doesn’t actually allow you to charge different rates for different states within the US. Again, we wanted to be as conservative as possible with our budget and were worried that charging for shipping would deter backers from pledging. We decided we wouldn’t charge shipping and charge out of state backers after the campaign. Had we done our research, we would’ve realized that this isn’t possible. We ended up having to pay for all of our shipping, which we quickly learned is more expensive than any of us expected. Ultimately, we had to pay out of pocket for most of the shipping.
Since running our own Kickstarter, we’ve actually backed other campaigns, and paying for shipping never even came close to stopping us from backing. We would’ve greatly benefitted from charging for shipping and recommend this for anyone thinking about launching a campaign.
4. Research and prepare a shipping system ahead of time
If it’s not clear yet, shipping was our biggest downfall. We went around to UPS, USPS and FedEx trying to figure out the cheapest way to ship our orders (weighing between a few ounces and a few pounds). What we learned was: it depends. We shipped through USPS for everything, but some orders were cheaper to go First Class, and others went cheaper through Flat Rate. In some instances, 1 ounce determined which option was significantly cheaper. It took us days to figure this out and complete our shipping. We also probably annoyed a lot of Post Office customers.
There are bulk shipping options we should’ve looked into, and will use in the future. USPS will drop off free boxes and envelopes, and do pick ups for ready-to-go packages as well. There are also services like stamps.com that will give you a discount. We still haven’t decided exactly what we’re going to do next, but we’re not going to show up at the Post Office with 200 orders again.
5. Be ready to hit the ground running when you hit your goal
The money we made from our Kickstarter was being used to fund our first ever production run at our manufacturer. We’d had samples made and knew what we needed to order and from where, but we could’ve been a lot more proactive during the campaign to set ourselves up for success. We ended up spending a couple of months organizing, ordering, and getting everything to our manufacturer. Had we prepared better, we realistically could’ve done this much faster, and gotten our backers their rewards sooner. If we could do it over, we’d have everything ready to be ordered on the day we received our money from Kickstarter.
6. Expect delays and roadblocks
No matter how proactive and prepared you are, you’re inevitably going to run into roadblocks on your first production run. For us, we found out a key piece of hardware in our product was patented, and sold for more than $1/unit. We needed about 1,500 units. We had no choice but to find an alternative, which set us back a couple of weeks. We saw another delay when we ordered heat-press logos from a company we hadn’t used before, and they ended up being poor quality and unusable. Luckily they refunded us, but we had to put production on hold while we ordered new logos from another company.
We originally told our backers they would have their orders in July, and ended up delivering 2 months late in September. Part of this was a lack of preparedness on our part, but some of it was out of our control. Looking back, we should’ve been more conservative on the delivery date. Luckily, our Kickstarter backers knew that they were ordering product from a brand new company, and were very patient, supportive and friendly as we worked out the kinks.