How to Kickstart Your Business with Kickstarter

Date: May 10, 2013

KickstarterThe crowdfunding startup has helped fund nearly 40,000 projects since its launch in 2009. Could your business be next?

Since it was founded in 2009, Kickstarter has become the go-to source for the crowdfunding set—with more than 3.7 million people supporting nearly 40,000 creative projects to the tune of $548 million in that time.

Although the site seems to be most popular with entrepreneurs working on film, music, and videogame projects, it’s attracted the attention of people in other categories and markets as well.

Liz Snyder, owner of Little Bee Pops in Mountain View, California, first turned to Kickstarter in late 2011 in an attempt to raise funds for a fleet of bicycle-powered ice cream carts, among other things.

That experience was a successful one for Snyder and her burgeoning business, with 365 backers pledging just over $16,500--$1,500 above goal—in support of her project.

Decatur, Georgia’s Maria Moore Riggs is another small business owner who has found success with Kickstarter, as is Jonah Coe of Tempe, Arizona. Coe’s employer, Evil Controllers, launched its first Kickstarter campaign—for an ergonomic, rechargeable-battery-powered videogame controller—late last year, in the end raising nearly $10,000 more than its goal of $24,000, while Moore Riggs called on the crowdfunding site to help open her first brick-and-mortar doughnut shop, Revolution Doughnuts. (That project, which launched in April 2012 and ended the following month, garnered $12,271--$2,271 more than its goal of $10,000.)

RELATED: 5 Tips for Raising Money through Crowdfunding

Kickstarter Success Tips

Coe, Moore Riggs, and Snyder attribute their Kickstarter triumphs to a number of factors, with these five being especially relevant for first-timers:

  • Follow the leaders, or, as Moore Riggs puts it, take a look at other successful, crowdfunded projects that are similar to your own, try to figure out why they succeeded, and then put some of those lessons to use while crafting your own campaign.
  • Be reasonable. That’s especially important while setting your effort’s pledge target, according to Coe, who points to his company’s "reachable goal" as being largely responsible for its success. After all, he explains, "large amounts can be intimidating to the consumer."
  • Create a video that’s genuine. "The video is everything,” Coe shares, especially since "it gives the consumer the only window into your product." Coe suggests that small business owners "be themselves" and "keep things simple and straightforward," while creating the videos that introduce and explain their Kickstarter efforts to the masses.
  • Use your connections. All three of the small business owners interviewed here say that getting the word out about your campaign is vitally important if you want it to be fully funded. Snyder advises that you start by making sure family, friends, even regular customers know about your project as early in the process as possible. "Ask them to think about pledging in the first 48 hours," she says. "They won't make up the bulk of your pledges, but their early support will give the campaign the visibility and traction it needs to get the attention of the larger community of Kickstarter backers."
  • Just say no to bogus rewards. Promising "real rewards" for various amounts of support, says Moore Riggs, "motivates people to contribute." Her method: provide backers with Groupon-style deals and discounts (such as six doughnuts and a single beverage--a $15 value—for pledging $10 or more).

RELATED: Can Crowdfunding Work for Your Business?


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