Most think you need a brilliant start-up idea and venture capital to start a successful company. Wrong! The internet has changed all that.
This is a step-by-step guide to kickstarting your own company from scratch. All you need is time and the confidence to carry out these instructions to the end. I used a similar process to raise $70,000 to launch RaveNectar on Kickstarter in April 2013.
1) Find a product on Yanko Design
Yanko Design blog is chalk-full of brilliant product ideas & prototypes that never make it beyond the designer’s notepad and into fruition. Go through a hundred pages or so and pick out 15-25 products that interest you most + meet a need for consumers. Save a list of the product links somewhere for safe keeping.
Three examples, some of my favorites:
- Rafl Wireless Speaker (Feel your music?!)
- Smart Swimming Goggles (very niche, which is fine)
- Mosquito Catcher (I hate mosquitos!)
2) Read The 4-Hour Work Week (4HWW) by Tim Ferris
This book will give you a thorough run-through of how to take a business from the idea. Pay careful attention to the chapters talking about:
- How to test the waters for product demand before going into production
- How to get in contact with manufacturers to create a physical prototype
3) Contact the designer of each product from Yanko
Find the email or contact form for each designer and send them a message saying you’re an entrepreneur who would like to help take their product concept to the market. Mention that you have contacts who will be able to create a physical prototype, and the know-how to crowdfund the company using Kickstarter or IndieGogo. Also mention an ownership split that you think is fair; 50/50 usually does the trick.
Reduce your list of products to those with designers who were enthusiastic about the proposal.
4) Choose the final product
Using the knowledge you gained in 4HWW, decide on one product with which to move forward. Make sure to consider these factors:
- Consumer demand (size of target demographic + sheer demand)
- Competition (make sure there isn’t a similar product on the market already!)
- Complexity of design
- Competency of the designer in terms of making the product work (It has to work…)
- Final price
5) Make a working prototype
Use the websites and resources mentioned in 4HWW to contact manufacturers and compare quotes for creating the first version of your product. Base your final decision primarily based on reviews, secondarily on price. If you don’t have the extra cash to pay for the prototype, ask your friends and family to help you. You could even run a quick, small IndieGogo campaign to get funding from everyone in an organized, professional way.
6) Brand It
- Pick a name — It doesn’t necessarily have to be relevant to your product, just make sure it sounds cool and isn’t already taken. One work names are best. Test out your different name ideas on friends to see which one is most popular.
- Create a Logo — You have 3 options, in order of awesomeness:
- If you have extra cash, run a 99Designs contestIf you have a friend who does graphic design, ask them for a favorPick a sexy & unique font from dafont.com and put your brand name over a solid color. White on black or vice-versa always looks good. Better safe than ugly.
7) Design your crowdfunding campaign
- Research crowdfunding — Start by reading EVERYTHING you can about running a campaign on Kickstarter (aim for Kickstarter over IndieGogo because it has a much more traffic). There are a lot of little intricacies about running a crowdfunding campaign that can bite you in the ass if you don’t think them out before launching.
- Create a video — The video is the most crucial part of your campaign. You don’t need to get fancy with this unless you have the cash to pay someone. Otherwise, find a friend with a high-quality video camera and take the time to get the lighting and sound right. If we can see you and hear you clearly, you’re golden. Ideally get the designer on camera, since he/she is the one who was originally inspired to create the product. Don’t be intimidated by video editing! Torrent a copy of Final Cut Pro and watch a few YouTube tutorials. It’s dead simple to cut a few scenes together with some music in the background.
- Design your rewards — Research other successful campaigns in your category and adapt their reward levels to your campaign. Be careful not to dig yourself in a hole by promising to send hand-written letters to each backer, or something of the like. Be wary of sending any physical reward besides your product, unless absolutely necessary. Digital rewards are the best!
- Calculate your funding goal — Be scientific about this. Calculate every known cost, and then add 10-20% padding just to be sure. Nothing would be worse than not having enough cash to fulfill your Kickstarter. On the other hand, don’t get too lofty. It’s better to shoot for the bare minimum and have stretch goals than to fail and get no money at all (unless you’re using IndieGogo with a flexible funding campaign, but that’s risky in itself).
8) Market that baby
- Identify 50 websites/blogs that might post about your product/campaign. Save their submission contact form links and emails into a list so you can go through all at once when you’re campaign is live.
- Identify relevant subreddits to post on (Reddit brought me a solid 10% of my funds for RaveNectar)
- Buy a domain and create a basic website using Wordpress. Google ‘wordpress product landing page themes’ and pick a premium theme with support forums in case you need help. Be sure to include email subscribe form so people can request email notifications for when your campaign launches.
- Create social media profiles/pages for your business (minimum: Facebook, Twitter, G+). Include follow/like buttons on your website (they should be included by default in the theme of your choosing).
- Begin driving traffic to your website to create a fan base prior to launching your campaign. Share it on social media platforms, relevant forums, friends & family, etc. Whore yourself out good and get used to it ;)
9) Start your engines
Launch your campaign and utilize every marketing force at your disposal to drive traffic. Spam out requests to your website list once the campaign has some traction (25% or more funding). Be absolutely relentless about getting the word out.
10) Run your business
If all went well, you now have a fully-funded company with a large customer base. Congrats! Now go back and read 4HWW again for ideas on how to automate every aspect of your business.