Lessons Learned from my Kickstarter Campaign — Part 1:
When I quit my job two years ago in Fashion Design to start my own venture, FashionTech brand ĀPA-Intemporal, I knew right away I wanted to use a crowdfunding platform to showcase my concept.
That’s because I wanted to take part in a community that would give me direct feedback and create real connections with real people. Something like an unspoiled territory where honesty and enthusiasm are the core values, an antipode to today’s illusory and struggling retail market.
Little did I know that there is a whole niche business made of hyper competitive digital agencies and pseudo-influencers, eager to bring you with them into a world of non-realistic promises and flattery.
Preparing for Crowdfunding Campaign is a LOT of work:
First of all, let me begin by sharing the start of my journey so that the beautiful insanity of the last 48 hours makes sense.
I began developing my coats in October 2015. I conducted extensive research and testing of technologies available in the textile industry. I did my best to actually open my company at the very last moment, so I could save money by having it ready when I would actually need to start paying factories with a proper VAT number. ĀPA-Intemporal was born in Brussels in July 2016, and all of my savings went to its capital.
Doing ready-to-wear, there are certain practices that vary depending on the brand positioning. Here is its simplified version: after searching for the themes and inspirations of the season you:
* draw a sketch,
* create a technical sheet,
* bring it to pattern-makers,
* they work with tailors,
* then they bring it back to the design department,
* and if changes need to be made: the cycle reverts back to the pattern-makers etc.
For fast-fashion companies such as Zara or H&M, one to two prototypes will be done and whatever the final result is, it will be sold during the following weeks in stores. Have you ever gone to those brands and tried what seemed like beautiful garments on a hanger, only to discover that the fit was inconsistent and bad once on your body? Now you have a better idea why that happens.
In luxury companies, I’ve experienced cycles of seven to nine fittings, always checking for each centimeter here and there that we could crop or add, changes of stiching and intensive attention to details. The results are clothes that will make you feel sharp and comfortable (of course other elements participate to what makes a garment qualitative, but that’s for another time).
Now that you have those references in mind, step into my shoes:
I have a luxury background. I have high quality standards. I’m using new technologies that have never been used yet for the elegant urban lifestyle. Plus the pressure of delivering a good Kickstarter campaign as soon as I possibly can — and — limited money in my company.
Let’s skip the journey and its frustrations and go right into the tasks of the past couple of weeks; I had my Kickstarter video’s ‘rough-cut’ done, a Dropbox folder as Press Kit and a filmmaker fiancé who has declined job offers in order to become my partner in business.
We are a duo that has been working intensively for the past months, constantly delaying our release date for all kinds of reasons: the video is not perfect to our taste, online sales on Kickstarter are at their lowest because it is Christmas, our factories won’t be ready on time… finally about three weeks ago, we felt ready to approach digital companies specialized in Crowdfunding campaigns.
Our expectations from those companies were that we would pick one (they are Kickstarter specialists, seemed natural!) and rely on them while we focus on other preparations. We had Skype meeting after Skype meeting, speaking with commercials in various countries that had huge portfolios. After a couple of days speaking with them, having received so many offers with revenue shares ranging from 12.5 to 32%, we were left with the feeling that they seemed to have no clue how to sell a Fashion product!! They asked to have eight weeks to do A/B testing while also notifying us that our margin seemed to small to work with. There was simply no way we could hire them if it meant delaying the campaign for a possible loss.
We then approached Fashion specialized digital agencies. Guess what: they weren’t used to working on crowdfunding campaigns and couldn’t promise a financial result, only social media engagement.
Then, we thought of finding an individual who would create a strategy and implement it, because we could better afford a freelancer rather than an expensive proper agency. We spoke with about six freelancers, and got so many offers — ranging from a few thousands euros to €60,000 for a four week campaign! We’re on Kickstarter to get started, not turning over billions per year already (but we hope to be Belgium’s first FashionTech unicorn soon!).
Final 48 Hours Before Launch:
With just 36 hours to go, we gathered some team members together for a last minute brainstorm. Our meeting took place in the ‘Lakestar’ conference room at Factory, a business club for founders in Berlin where we are members. The room’s name is in reference to one of Factory’s founding investors, the German venture capitalist Klaus Hommels, who is also the founder of a venture capital fund named ‘Lakestar’. As this article by Forbes titled “How Midas Investor List Klaus Hommels Became Europe’s Secret Weapon” explains, Klaus is one of Europe’s most successful investors having backed Skype, Facebook, Spotify and many others. So basically, we were happy to channel all those good ‘Lakestar’ vibes and fuel it into ĀPA’s big launch as we worked hard on final preparations until Factory closed for the night.
Final 24 Hours Before Launching:
I think it is impossible to get by without sh*t hitting the fan. We had prepared for so many months and had back-up plans for our back-up plans, but serendipity and luck are always at play which can be wonderful, but they can also invite last minute chaos.
Our serendipity was meeting a wonderful fashion magazine editor around the Factory on the day of our Berlin launch party — and she was able to attend — along with many other cherished guests and members of the media. Our ‘not so good’ luck was losing a valued team member 10 hours before our release on Kickstarter.
As for our Berlin Launch Party, it was held on Wednesday May 17th about 12 hours before our release on Kickstarter. Guests were invited to try on our designs and attempt to get them wet (spoiler alert: they failed!). Team ĀPA has written an article with the night’s highlights in our ĀPA-Intemporal Magazine on Medium that you can read for more detail titled “Look Inside our Launch Party for FashionTech Brand ĀPA-Intemporal”.
Now for our bit of launch chaos, we were so overwhelmed with finalizing our marketing materials and Skyping day and night. About a week before the launch, we had chosen to hire the talented friend of a friend to handle our Performance Marketing for the duration of our Kickstarter campaign. We knew that they had a day job that only allowed them to be available before 8am and after 7pm but this person came so highly recommended, we were fine with working around that.
Then, just 10 hours before the launch, while we were hosting our official Launch Party, our Performance Marketer sent us an email ending our collaboration. Here is an extract:
“From my point of view it is quite late to bring in a online marketing plan when we only have 30 days starting tomorrow. You want to reach a financing of 30.000 EUR so with 199€ per person we would need 150 people willing to invest in your idea. That’s five people a day. I wouldn’t say it is impossible but quite ambitious.”
— Peformance Marketer
So that was a big buzz-kill.
We launched with basically nothing going as planned regarding our strategy and early implementation for Performance Marketing. We lost our Performance ace 10 hours before launch. Plus we had wonderful plans for pre-launch press coverage but unfortunately, the date of our launch conflicted with ‘special event’ global coverage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Royal Wedding happening at the same exact same time as our roll-out.
Media reports state that as many as 1.9 billion people worldwide watched the wedding, with 18 million viewers in the UK alone making it the biggest TV event of the year so far for British television — that number also amounts to nearly one third of the UK’s population. Meanwhile Forbes believes that around 30 million Americans RSVP’d by tuning in to see the ceremony, although internet streaming numbers haven’t been finalized or included in that total yet. It’s estimated many millions more watched from China and basically everywhere. Plus the weekend was also a long bank holiday weekend in many of the European countries that contributed a specialism to ĀPA’s production including France, Belgium and Germany (and others!).
As we are based in Belgium, major UK events weren’t initially on our radar. We did identify this issue when we hired our PR specialist, but it was too late to privot and pick another date because we had locked the launch with Kickstarter and had already begun marketing the news of our big day. So we put the pedal to the metal and just went for it.
We launched without an agency or freelancer overseeing Performance Marketing and knowing that we wouldn’t be able to get any mainstream media engagement (or fashion bloggers!) until after our first weekend of being live. We also knew a large part of our target market would be enjoying a long-holiday weekend because of the designated bank holiday in several countries on Monday May 21st.
Despite those setbacks, I’m proud to say that ĀPA-Intemporal made 50% of our financial goal within the first 12 hours of our Kickstarter campaign! We were also immediately selected as a ‘Project We Love” by Kickstarter AND additionally named as the top crowdfunding campaign to launch on May 17th by Crowdfunding Stream.
Crowdfunding campaigns are a crazy wonderful adventure. In my next diary entry, I’ll be sharing what you need to know about the whole ecosystem of businesses living off Kickstarter and how to best manage them for the benefit of your campaign.
Follow the ĀPA-Intemporal Magazine on Medium to watch this Kickstarter adventure unfold with special behind the scenes stories, updates and news from the ĀPA team. Thank you for reading our story and being a part of this incredible journey! And fashionists, fans and everyone who wants to look good while staying comfortable and dry in changing weather, are able to buy the ĀPA on Kickstarter for up to 70% off before June 17, 2018. The earlier people buy, the greater the discount.
100% made with love in Europe. Please click and hold the 👏 button below to help others discover our story. Danke, Merci, Thanks, Gracias!