For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interview Randy Hollister of Growler Chill! Tune in to learn more about how he was inspired to create a household countertap, how he built up an email list and what advice he has for future crowdfunders.

GROWLER CHILL: Keeps 3 Growlers Cold, Fresh & On Tap at Home

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How to use events, festivals and expos to build up your email list
  • What to do before you launch in order to hit your goal on the first day
  • How to use focus groups to build a great product
  • How to partner with other businesses to promote your Kickstarter project
  • How to reach large numbers of potential backers
  • How to use Kickstarter backer feedback

Links

Connect with Growler Chill

Sponsors

FIN 2000X2000Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 25% off!

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Transcript

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Roy Morejon:

This episode of Art of the Kickstart is sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you print and ship faster. Plus, if you want to create and send surveys, offer add-ons, and pledge upgrades, or begin accepting pre-orders, BackerKit makes it simple. Over 2,000 projects and 4 million backers have used BackerKit, including many of the projects featured on Art of the Kickstart. Ready to try BackerKit? Visit backerkit.com and sign up today.

Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host Roy Morejon, President of Command Partners, the top full service crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped raise over 70 million dollars for our clients since 2010. Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur, or a business expert in order to help take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding. Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by the Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. To learn more visit thegadgetflow.com. Now let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined with Randy Hollister, with the Growler Chill. Randy, thank you so much for joining us today.

Randy Hollister:

Hey, it’s a pleasure to be here, thank you.

Roy Morejon:

All right. This Growler Chill is kind of the current trending topic on Kickstarter. You guys have created this household counter trap for growlers. Now, I know our community is a lot of beer drinkers out there, so please tell our audience where did this start and what’s the back story on this product?

Randy Hollister:

Well the whole idea is it’s a product that’ll keep three craft beer growlers cold, fresh and on tap right on your countertop. It started, I have a millennial age son who was looking for something like a kegerator, but for growlers. Couldn’t find it. Called me up one day … Well, a year ago, Father’s Day, and said, “Hey dad, I think there’s something you need to invent.” I started looking and it wasn’t out there and it needed to be. Started fiddling around with some things in the garage and sketching out some designs and a year and a half later, we have a product.

Roy Morejon:

Truly impressive. You guys launched on Kickstarter with a lofty goal. You guys hit that pretty much in the first day. What led to the success of your overall launch?

Randy Hollister:

Well we did a couple of things differently. First, we had been working at beer festivals since last spring, about 11 months ago, started touring the country, going where craft beer drinkers were, talking about the product. For a lot of those times all we had was a rendering on a board to show them what we were thinking of building and trying to get feedback from people, figure out what it is. At the same time, we were collecting email addresses and started building up our social media following. When we launched, we had a pretty good stack of contacts that we could reach out to and say, “The time has come.” That, and then we also made a change. We wanted to do time based rewards, rather than quantity based, which seemed to work out well for us. We wanted to have a really big first day. In the first 11 hours we broke into the top 3% of all funded Kickstarters and by 19 hours into our first day we had blown out our goal. That strategy seems to have been effective.

Roy Morejon:

Indeed, it has. One of the things, we’re always trying to promote our campaigns on the show itself, is the preparedness necessary to not only embark into a crowdfunding campaign, but to ensure its success on the first day. Talk a little bit about, obviously you went where … Fish where the fishers are, drink where the beer drinkers were. Outside of that, what were some of the other preparatory aspects to the campaign?

Randy Hollister:

When we first had the idea, we knew what … I’d build a feature list. I knew what the product had to do, but then we had to figure out what it needed to look like and we started … I mean, we were going to Williams Sonoma, Bed Bath & Beyond, and anywhere that sold kitchen type appliances to see what does the look and feel have to be, what are people buying? Put together then a design that would compliment the feature set. Then we took that design, renderings of that, and we did focus groups, we went to our local brewery here in Myrtle Beach, New South, and they brought in, invited a bunch of their customers in. We sat at a picnic table in the brewhouse and started showing them designs, “Gee, do you want two taps, you want three? Do you like this retro look or this euro modern style?” That kind of thing, to really try to get a handle on what the market was going to be willing to accept.

Roy Morejon:

What would you say the biggest challenge thus far that you guys have encountered while designing the product?

Randy Hollister:

Well, I wouldn’t say exactly a challenge, but we learned a lot by talking to customers at beer festivals, and talking to brewers. Several new features, we were probably six or seven months into the … Six months into the project when basically a brewer told us, the real problem we had to solve was getting the oxygen out. We were focused more on just keeping the beer under pressure and keeping it cold and dark. He said, “You’re not going to get the length of freshness if you can’t purge the oxygen.” Then we started working on that, modified the design, and that turned out to probably be the key feature of the device, because for those who are craft beer fans and those who aren’t, growlers have a problem. That is, when you take the lid off that bottle when you get it home, you’ve got a day or so to consume that before oxygen starts to take its toll and loss of carbonation. What we set out to do is tackle the perishability problem so that your beer would last for weeks, and now you can have two or three varieties on hand. You may not want to drink a whole half gallon of a chocolate stout tonight, so this gives you the opportunity to have that variety. That was probably key to the success of the project.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Can you talk to our listeners a little bit more about how you’ve actually partnered with some of the breweries to help promote your campaign?

Randy Hollister:

Yeah, we … Breweries have a real interest in the success of our product, because of that perishability problem. It limits how much people can bring home in a growler. For those that aren’t real intimately familiar with the craft beer business, it’s an exploding market. It’s where all the growth in the beer business is, the industry as a whole’s down slightly, but craft is up about 17 to 20% the last several years. We now have 5,000 craft breweries in the United States, growing about 20% a year. Its really taken off, but there are more than 100,000 different brews that are not available in a bottle or a can. If you don’t want to sit at a bar or at a brewery drinking it, if you want to bring it home, the only way to do it is to have a take home container and the 64 ounce glass growler is the one container legal in all 50 states that make it cheap and reliable to bring beer home, but you had soft perishability. The brewers love it because now people are willing to buy more than one at a time, and not have to worry about it going bad.

Roy Morejon:

Interesting. I know you mentioned that you guys have been on the circuit, if you will, trying to get out in front of breweries or in front of your consumers. Obviously, that takes a bit of capital. With all the marketing efforts let’s say that you guys have put forth for this project, where have you guys seen the biggest return?

Randy Hollister:

Well we’re kind of doing everything, throwing everything at it. We had amassed over 15,000 emails from folks who said, “Tell me when I can buy it.” We’re over 15,000 followers on Facebook, about 3,500 I think on Twitter and a couple 1,000 on Instagram. We’re using all of those channels and particularly during the Kickstarter campaign, doing a lot of retargeting, and really using all the tools we can. Its been, I think its been pretty effective for us. We had been doing craft beer festivals. I think we’ve done about 15 or 16 of them in the last 11 months and if you look at Kickstarter’s statistics for the most popular cities for our backers, only two of the ten are cities we’ve gone to with our little road show. The other eight of the top ten, including I think the top seven, are all places we haven’t been. That’s strictly our marketing reach that’s getting to those people.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, it’s definitely an extended reach with the social media that’s out there. Tell me a little bit about your experience with your backers so far. I know that you’ve been engaging the crowds pre-campaign, but have you gotten much feedback? If so, how are you guys managing that feedback and promoting it with the campaign itself?

Randy Hollister:

I seem to be living on Kickstarter since our launch. We’re getting just an incredible amount of both messaging and comments. Awful lot of private messages where we try to get back to them within minutes and a lot of folks have been very appreciative of the responsiveness. We’ve gotten some great ideas from people. We got a product enhancement really suggested in our comments after we kind of blew through the goal, one of our commenters said, “For a stretch goal, why don’t you include antimicrobial beer lines that last longer and don’t get funky as soon?” That’s something we actually hadn’t considered doing and we quickly ordered some of the lines, so we could start testing it. It just came in Monday and we’re out right now testing to make sure, because different beer lines have different friction levels and stuff, so we have to make sure it’ll work. That was a great suggestion, it’ll give us a good marketing edge if we’re able to incorporate it. Those comments have proved very valuable to us.

Roy Morejon:

No, that’s great that obviously you’re engaging the community, taking that feedback, potentially introducing new stretch goals, or new ideas from them. That’s great to see. What’s been the biggest surprise thus far that you guys have encountered with the active campaign?

Randy Hollister:

I suppose the one that surprises me the most is the number of new to Kickstarter backers that we’ve had. We’re running right about 45% of the folks who are backing the product who have never done a Kickstarter before. At price points, our opening price point was at 339. The tiers have run from 339 to 399 and at that price point I was … I’m surprised to see that many new folks coming in. I thought it would be more seasoned Kickstarter backers, so I was pleasantly surprised with that.

Roy Morejon:

Interesting. What advice would you give to someone else that’s looking to Kickstart their beer product like this?

Randy Hollister:

Well we actually knew early on that we’d do a Kickstarter to prove the market, because there had already been well over 3 million dollars raised successfully on craft beer related products. We knew that our audience was there, there was a lot of our target demographic was in the Kickstarter community and that helped a lot. About, I think we’re currently at 43% of our backers have come from within Kickstarter. That is, the Kickstarter, the various media or people searching and finding it in there, versus, external. I think the key is, find those projects that relate to your industry or to your niche, and then study them very carefully, see what they did, how they did it, what changes you’d want to make. It’s very curious, if you go and look at the pattern for when the backing comes in with different projects, they’re all over the box. If you can kind of recreate what others have done, it lets you know either what to avoid, or what to mimic.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely, some solid advice there. Randy, this gets us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire a few questions at you. You good to go?

Randy Hollister:

I’m ready.

Roy Morejon:

All right. What inspired you to be a beer … I was trying to be clever, with a beerpreneur. Entrepreneur, how about that?

Randy Hollister:

Well again, it all came from the idea. I’ve done two successful startups before, but they were both in the software world. I never built a widget before, and so I’m predisposed to taking an idea and turning it into something, but this one really did come out of the blue with a phone call from my son. Its been just great fun. It’s a wonderful world. The community is just terrific to work with, both of brewers and the consumers.

Roy Morejon:

What’s your favorite beer?

Randy Hollister:

Boy, I drink just about everything. My son came back from the National Championship Football game down in Tampa and brought me a six-pack of Cigar City High Life, so that’s my beer this week.

Roy Morejon:

All right. Say you could share that six-pack with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Randy Hollister:

I’d probably … This goes back, but I’d probably say Edison. That guy had no quit in him and just was a fountain of innovation and ideas.

Roy Morejon:

What would be your first question for Mr. Edison?

Randy Hollister:

I’m not sure I’d ask him one. I would just want to absorb what I could learn from the guy, just that incredible, incredible range of things that he conceived, and then went one step further and actually built them.

Roy Morejon:

Impressive. What book is on your nightstand?

Randy Hollister:

Right now I have not got any time for reading. My last startup related one, the one that kind of meant a lot for me was, The Lean Startup, that fail fast, find the problem, get on with it. That has been a pretty good mantra for me, particularly as we’ve run into little engineering challenges. Find the way around it, just keep digging. For recreational reading, I think the last one I read was McCullough’s The Wright Brothers.

Roy Morejon:

Impressive. Yeah, obviously a good read for the Carolinas, right?

Randy Hollister:

Exactly.

Roy Morejon:

Last question in the rapid fire round Randy. What is the future of crowdfunding look like?

Randy Hollister:

Well I have to hope … It’s a regulatory problem, but I hope crowdfunding becomes equity crowdfunding too. I love seeing the move of big companies into crowdfunding, like Whirlpool put a beer product out there last year. I think they’ll be more of it, because it is such a great way to engage your target base. For small companies like this that just have an idea to start with, it gives you a way of proving the market before you had to make a few thousand of them, and that makes all the difference in the world if you can extend it like done in the UK and other places, where you can actually do equity crowdfunding at realistic levels without a whole lot of paperwork. Then I think that that would really be a big boost to entrepreneurism.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely, and that’s our hope as well. For clients and companies like yourself that do a reward-based crowdfunding, prove their product fits the market, and then potentially once those companies deliver that product, allow those people to invest into the company.

Randy Hollister:

Absolutely.

Roy Morejon:

I think it’s going to be unique what we see here, especially this year now with it coming a little bit more into fruition. Randy, this has been awesome. Please give our audience your pitch, tell them what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should go buy a Growler Chill.

Randy Hollister:

Well Growler Chill is the countertop appliance that lets you keep three craft beer growlers cold, fresh and on tap right on your countertop, out of your frig. The beer will last about three weeks, so that you have time to enjoy it on your time and not the beer’s time. You can back us on Kickstarter. You can find us at growlerchill.com and there’s a link to the Kickstarter campaign from there. Cheers.

Roy Morejon:

Cheers, indeed. Audience, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all the show notes, a full transcript, links to the campaign, and everything we talked about today. Of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Randy, thank you again for being a guest.

Randy Hollister:

Thank you, Roy.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning into another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a better business, world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com and tell us about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes and our Kickstarter guide to crushing it. If you loved this episode, leave us a review at artkick.wpengine.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors and entrepreneurs find the show and helps us get better guests on here to help build your business. If you need a more hands on crowdfunding strategy, please feel free to request a quote on commandpartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in, we’ll see you soon.