This post is a little different to usual, an insight into why and how we've used Kickstarter to help take JillyJilly to the next level. It's a bit more businessy than our usual blog topics but we thought it might be helpful to share our experience.
This year we have had so many ideas for what we wanted next for our wee business, so recently we made ourselves do some serious decision making. We realised that while we love making all of our products in the studio, it has been holding us back as we can only manage so many orders. It gives me less time to design and I've been ending up with lots of half finished collections which have to be pushed back to allow us to keep on top of making orders. We started looking at ways of changing what we make in the studio and found a few suppliers who offer the products at a quality we'd be proud to sell.
Outsourcing some of our products will be totally new for us. This is our chance to create new ranges of designs and refresh some of the existing collections... meaning we had even more decisions to make! It's also a little daunting that we'll be passing some control onto other small businesses which will mean a new improved stock system which we'll need to get used to pretty quick. Studio clear out happening soon!
Once we made the decision to out source production of 3 of our product types (notebooks, cards and earrings) we became determined to get it done as soon as possible. We realised it will allow us to reach more customers and give us the opportunity to work with new stockists. As it's less than 5 weeks until our first trade fair, this became the most obvious deadline for us! It also means we should be in a much more organised studio in time for Christmas.
This is where Kickstarter came in: we need to order a minimum number of each design from our new suppliers to go ahead, and the minimum is quite high. Given the deadline we'd set ourselves we didn't quite have enough funds to go ahead and place the initial orders. Initially we were looking at business grants, but after a little research we found we didn't qualify for many or the funding wasn't until next year - too late! A few friends had used Kickstarter or other crowd funding platforms before, it wasn't really something which had crossed my mind until this point. It felt strange that we would be 'asking people for money' but in reality it's more of a preorder system and such a great way to connect to customers who have supported us over the years. Kickstarter allows you to offer rewards to those who want to pledge towards your goal. It meant we could offer goody bags, new products and discounted bundles as incentives. I spent some time filling in the project details and figuring out the rewards, then doing some final calculations. Kickstarter takes a small commission as does the credit card processor, plus we can't forget about all the postage costs for sending out the rewards! Finally, after some security verification, we had to wait for the project to be approved (up to 3 working days) and then we were good to go.
It was a little nerve wracking at first, what if nobody pledged? What if we only made it halfway to the target? (You have to reach the full goal or the project won't be funded). After sending out a newsletter to our mailing list and sharing across our social media pages, as well as telling friends and family and asking everyone to help spread the word, the pledges started to come in and we realised that this might actually work. We were getting closer to our dream for the next stage of JillyJilly!
Reaching our Goal
We only ran the Kickstarter project for a week because of our own short deadline. When it reached the end on Friday we found we had actually exceeded our target. We are absolutely over the moon that our first Kickstarter project has been funded! So... what's next? This is only the beginning so lots more work! Right now I'm finalising the illustrations for the new products, all of which will be ordered by the end of this week. It has been a wonderful motivator to see how much support we have out there and I really feel it's brought us closer to our customers. It's allowed us to share our journey and give an insight into the work that goes into running our business.
If you're a small business owner and thinking of starting a Kickstarter project I would say go for it! You might be surprised by how many people want to see you succeed. It definitely helped having already been established for a while as well as having a social media following but I do believe it's an opportunity to really think about what you want from your business. (If you do decide to go for it, be prepared for lots of spam emails relating to crowd funding.)
The next chapter of our story should be us sharing some lovely new products! I can't wait :)
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