How to take a project from concept to fully-funded on Kickstarter.

Julia Plevin and Lucy Knops created Critter Bitters for a class on sustainability and resilience in design school. Two years after making the initial prototype, 464 backers pledged a total of $25,477 to bring their project to life!

They’re sharing some lessons they learned along the way to help others make their dream projects come true, too.

1. Do the research.

When you’re starting a project, talk to everyone you know. Design research is a way to understand needs and it can also help you seed a community.

Reach out to experts at the beginning of a project and then circle back to them to share a prototype. If you’re a student, tell everyone that you’re a student. It’s amazing how helpful people are to students!

We emailed Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist, when we were first working on an idea with insects in alcohol. We were a little scared to start prototyping until she wrote this, “If you mean infusing, such as infused vodka, liqueurs, or (as you suggest) bitters, I see no reason why you couldn’t try it.”

For whatever reason, we needed someone to tell us to just try it. Maybe all of us need that someone when we’re embarking on a new project.
Experts like Amy Stewart encouraged us to prototype Critter Bitters.

Later, we shared a blogpost from our school about the project. Stewart tweeted it out to her network and that’s how we believe Epicurious and Food & Wine first found out about Critter Bitters back in 2013.

Over the next two years, we built relationships with other media outlets and writers. Like any friendship, this is something that takes time and needs to be sincere….

2. Build relationships with people in the media

Before you launch a Kickstarter, spend at least a month preparing a media strategy. This means reaching out to all writers you know and then reaching out to anyone who might know any writers. So your cousin’s former roommate writes for The Atlantic? Use that connection!

Gather a list of all the writers and publications that are relevant to your project and try to find a connection to them.

Most writers will ignore a mass-emailed press release. Take the time to write a short but personal email. It’s useful to have a few paragraphs about your project and high-resolution images that writers can use. Remember: They’re busy so try to make things easier for them.

Here’s a real life example of an email that we sent Margaret Badore at TreeHugger. She ended up writing this article about us.

It’s also helpful to know some media jargon. We worked hard to line up a few articles for the day our project launched. One outlet wanted to publish the article early so we told them there was a media embargo until launch day. Everyone who works in media will respect an embargo.

3. Media attention builds self-confidence, not community

Media attention is not a make or break for a successful Kickstarter campaign. Your friends and family are really the ones that will come through to back your Kickstarter. You’ll be surprised at all the old friends who come out of the woodwork to support you.

This is a pretty funny interview we did for during our campaign.

We were over the moon when journalists from places like CoolHunting and FastCompany wrote about Critter Bitters. Media attention is so important for helping build a brand and creating buzz, but when it comes to actually getting backers, it’s maybe not as powerful as you might think.

A great way to build community is through events, like launch parties. We teamed up with Chef PV (center) for our party launch party in NYC. He made the most delicious cricket canapes.

4. The squeaky wheel is real

People are busy and they see emails on their phone while they are on the go. If you’re going to use crowdfunding, you have to be okay with asking people for support again and again. It’s exhausting but no one finds it as annoying as you feel.

People will actually be thankful for reminders about your campaign. We tried to keep our updates fun with animated GIFS, but do whatever works for you.

We sent this GIF in an email a few days before the end of our campaign.

It’s scary to put yourself out there. And even scarier when it seems like your project might not get funded. A wise friend reassured us that:

98% of Kickstarter projects that get 60% funded get fully funded.

This means two things. First, getting to that 60% mark early on is important. The best way to do this is through a mix of social media, emails to everyone you’ve ever met, and launch parties. Second, Kickstarter earns revenue when your project gets funded so it’s really in their best interest to help you. Kickstarter has a really strong community and a feature in a Kickstarter newsletter or on the front page of their website will do wonders for your campaign.

5. Design is a way to manifest your dreams — If you can visualize it, you can make it happen.

Then take small first steps. The biggest barrier to any project is getting started.

Before Critter Bitters launched on Kickstarter, it almost didn’t exist at all. Julia decided to move back to San Francisco after finish graduate school and Lucy was busy with other projects. Lucy suggested that they should at least film a Kickstarter video while they were in the same place. So before Julia moved away from Brooklyn, they made the video. And then once the video was complete, there was momentum to move forward.

Now we know that having a funded Kickstarter is just the very beginning. Everything else comes after. We’ll report back on that once we have shipped all 466 backers their rewards.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us so far. Launching a project takes a whole community.