Let’s face it, buying new bedding isn’t sexy – even sustainable bedding can put you to sleep. That’s why Colin McIntosh and his team at Sheets & Giggles have developed a bedding brand with a personality. On this episode, you’ll hear from Colin as he opens up about how Sheets & Giggles got started, why they chose to take their products to the crowdfunding community, the intricacies of developing sustainable bedding, and so much more! You don’t want to miss this great opportunity to learn from Colin and the amazing brand development work from Sheets & Giggles!

Can you really make sustainable bedding out of eucalyptus?

Did you know that most of the materials you sleep on are not made out of sustainable materials? It’s true! Is there a way to create sustainable bedding? Find out on this episode with guest, Colin McIntosh! In his conversation with Roy, Colin explains how he and his team utilize eucalyptus in place of common materials like cotton to create sustainable bedding. Eucalyptus bedding uses 95% less water than cotton, 30% less energy, and ZERO pesticides. They’re also naturally softer, more breathable, and more moisture-wicking. To hear more about the use of eucalyptus bedding and how it provides a sustainable solution, make sure to check out this fascinating episode!

What is a brand identity map?

Do you ever get the feeling that most brands are dull and boring? When was the last time you encountered a brand that actually took a risk and showed a little personality? On this episode, you’ll hear from Colin McIntosh as he shares why his brand, Sheets & Giggles stands out from the average, boring brand. When he incorporated the brand in 2017, Colin sat down with his team and laid out a “brand identity map.” This exercise allowed Colin and his team to create a fully thought out expression of their brand with a “voice” that stood out from the typical noise that most brands put out. Learn more about Sheets & Giggles’ unique voice and brand identity map by listening to this episode!

Why take sustainable bedding to the crowdfunding community?

What goes through an entrepreneur’s mind when they consider using a crowdfunding platform like IndieGoGo to bring their product to market? According to Colin McIntosh, the decision to bring eucalyptus bedding to the crowdfunding community came simply because he was familiar with the process having launched a product on the platform with a previous startup. Colin also cites the lessons he learned in his first crowdfunding campaign as the reason why he felt better prepared to make a successful second run with a new product. Learn more from Colin’s valuable insights and lessons learned from taking Sheets & Giggles to Indiegogo by listening to this informative episode!

How press coverage can make or break a campaign.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you should know that great press coverage can launch a crowdfunded campaign from relative obscurity to viral sensation. The question is, how do startups garner positive press coverage and utilize it to their advantage? Sheets & Giggles founder, Colin McIntosh says that it comes down to a leader knowing their strengths and weaknesses. Colin knew that he needed help getting his product noticed and exposed to the press in a way that would catch on with their storylines. That’s why he set out to connect with a solid outside agency who could help him make the right moves with the press. Learn more about Colin’s approach and how he’s led his brand by listening to this engaging episode!

Key Takeaways

  • [1:05] Colin McIntosh joins the podcast to talk about Sheets & Giggles.
  • [1:45] What led Colin to start Sheets & Giggles?
  • [3:00] Why make bedding out of eucalyptus?
  • [4:45] What was the process like to create eucalyptus bedding?
  • [6:20] Challenges faced along the way – why take the crowdfunding route?
  • [8:00] Colin talks about pre-campaign preparations.
  • [10:00] Why it’s helpful to create a brand identity map.
  • [12:10] Tips for garnering good press coverage and the most surprising aspect of crowdfunding.
  • [16:20] Colin enters the Fulfillment Round.
  • [19:10] Why you should check out Sheets & Giggles.

Links

Connect With Sheets & Giggles

Sponsors

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backerkitArt of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, raise additional funds with add-ons and manage orders for fulfillment, saving creators hundreds of hours. To learn more and get started, click here.

Connect With the Art Of The Kickstart team

View this episode’s transcript

Roy Morejon:                    Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host, Roy Morejon, President of Enventys Partners, the top full-service turnkey product development and crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped startups raise over $100 million 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 you take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding. Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit and The Gadget Flow. 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. The Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save, and buy awesome products. It is the ultimate buyer’s guide for luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Now, let’s get on with the show.

Roy Morejon:                    Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined with Colin McIntosh, founder and CEO of Sheets & Giggles. Colin, thanks so much for joining us today.

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah, happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

Roy Morejon:                    So I love the name of your company. I think, being from the north, it’s something that a lot of people say up there, but I love the idea of it and the product that you created, making these insanely soft bedsheets. So let’s talk about your current Indiegogo campaign. You guys have over 1,300 backers, tens and tens of thousands of dollars in support for this campaign. Where does this idea come from? What inspired you to create Sheets & Giggles?

Colin McIntosh:               Well, it’s interesting because obviously the sustainability aspect of it is important to me personally. My last company, before I decided to become my own founder, was an IoT company. Basically, I learned a lot there, did a ton of work with retailers. I mean, we were in pretty much every major U.S. retailer you can name. There were a couple of things that I absorbed out of that. One was just that I wanted a product of my own, and specifically a physical product that actually had a mission behind it, and then I was kind of looking over my different options for something that was traditionally sold in physical retail that I could help bring online, and I kind of stumbled across bedsheets almost accidentally.

Colin McIntosh:               I started doing more and more research, and realized that it was something that had a pretty big impact on me personally just in my life, and learned a lot about cotton and what a dirty crop it is. So I wanted to go down a more sustainable eucalyptus route for our fabrics, and also offer our sheets at a price that you won’t find in a big blue bedding retailer.

Roy Morejon:                    Dirty crops. I love that name. Like let’s talk about that a little bit. I mean, what was the impetus of deciding to create product sheets out of eucalyptus instead of the cotton or … I really enjoyed your video talking about the Egyptian cotton and the myths behind that.

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah. So I mean, there’s definitely been a few scandals in the past where Egyptian cotton is not actually grown in Egypt, and those are fairly well documented. I think that a lot of people are familiar with that nowadays. The biggest thing for me though is that our sheets that are made from Eucalyptus, they’re definitely a better product in the sense of they’re softer, they’re naturally more breathable. For me, I’m a hot sleeper, so the breathability is the main selling point for me. But then, as kind of this secondary, almost really positive benefit, we also use 96% less water than cotton to make one of our sheets, as well as 30% less energy, and we also use no insecticides or pesticides, whereas cotton as a crop is responsible for about 16 to 24 percent of the world’s insecticide use. And it’s not a one to one ratio. They use about 2.5% of the world’s arable land for cotton, so it’s about 10 to 1 ratio in terms of the amount of insecticides they’re using for the amount of land that they’re using.

Colin McIntosh:               So I was a little unconvinced when I first started doing my research and I said, “Okay, well, I need to actually feel the fabric and understand if eucalyptus is actually a better product,” because I think in this category, sorry to all the green people out there, of which I’m one, but I think that people will choose comfort over any other benefit on top of that. It’s just a selfish thing that humans do with their bedding, and so I really wanted to make sure it was an incredible product first and foremost, and the sustainability aspects of it are just incredible for me to think about on top of the softness.

Roy Morejon:                    You go from an IoT product to creating Sheets & Giggles. Let’s talk about what that process looked like and how you went about deciding what features to include and designs and all of those things.

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah. So I was actually, I was on founding team of a wearable technology startup prior to this, and I ran all of our business and business development and sales. Really the main takeaways for me from that experience over the last few years were that hardware startups are incredibly difficult. You know, that’s not anything shocking or new, and I think a lot of your founders on the podcast will have that same understanding, but building something that has maybe 20 or 30 different parts that come from 10 or 15 different vendors creates this really high complexity supply chain. You have to make your product decisions months and months ahead of time before you ever ship a single unit. There’s tons of upfront costs in terms of whether it’s tooling or some specific type of plastic that you need.

Colin McIntosh:               And so really, after my last company, I was looking for a lower complexity supply chain for sure, and something that I could bring to market faster, and that I didn’t have to rely on physical retail to kind of get to a larger audience, and that’s what led me down the path of … I almost … The way I like to kind of phrase it is that I built a business model, and then created a product to fit into that business model. So it’s a little different than I think the traditional founder’s story. Feel very passionate about sustainability, sleeping, puns. It’s definitely a business first, and I think a lot of people, when they go on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, they maybe don’t have an … And this is not to disparage anybody, but I think that a lot of campaigns maybe are shocked by the difficulty at which bringing something to life, how difficult it can be. I was just really excited to find something that I knew I could bring to market quickly and that had a way lower complexity supply chain than something like an electronic.

Roy Morejon:                    So what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered while designing this product?

Colin McIntosh:               I mean, when I say lower complexity, that doesn’t mean easy, right? It’s still a physical product. There are still decisions that need to be made months and months in advance. There’s still a whole new industry for me to learn how to navigate. So while I definitely have physical product experience and I definitely have some good experience with moving physical products, even though it’s “just fabrics”, it’s still extremely difficult. So it’s all a relative scale, and I’ve had to learn how to navigate the fabric’s industry and textiles on the fly, and that’s been definitely the most challenging piece.

Roy Morejon:                    Let’s talk about the crowdfunding campaign. What made you decide that crowdfunding was the right approach to launch Sheets & Giggles?

Colin McIntosh:               Well, I had actually done a prior crowdfunding campaign about a year ago this time with one of our newer products that we were releasing at my old company, and so I had a really healthy appreciation for the amount of people that the platforms can reach. You can do a self-starter on your own website, but you’re not going to have any baked in audience where one sale or one backer gets more because of the visibility and discoverability of that platform.

Colin McIntosh:               So really I knew I was going to do an Indiegogo I think because that was the platform I used last time, so I had some familiarity with it, and I knew all the things that I wish I could have done last time. It’s definitely true what they say, which is your second campaign is a lot easier than the first in the sense of you know a little bit more about dos and don’ts, but there are still a ton of things this time that I wish I had done differently.

Roy Morejon:                    So we always talk about preparation for crowdfunding campaigns. How long did you spend preparing for each one of your crowdfunding campaigns and what are some of the things that you changed from the first one to this one?

Colin McIntosh:               Well, that was actually the biggest, most important thing that we did, was we did about 10 weeks of preparation. I think that a lot of people really underestimate how much time they should spend preparing for a campaign like this. I mean, you’re literally bringing your company to life, so it’s the most important 30 days that you’ll ever spend on your company. It’s do or die. I can’t tell you the amount of people … I actually just did an AMA on Reddit the other day. I can’t tell you the amount of people that said, “Hey, I’ve launched a Kickstarter a year ago and it got no traction. I only spent a week or two weeks preparing for it. Is that not enough time?”

Colin McIntosh:               And so we basically ran a ton of digital advertising and social advertising to landing pages for email capture, and so we didn’t pay for email lists or anything. We just wanted people to opt in that were interested in puns, sleeping, and sustainability, probably in that order, and we actually gathered … I think it was close to 10,000 emails before we launched, and that was a crucial watershed moment I think for the company, was when we hit that email goal ahead of capture. We just did some pretty simple math and we said, okay, let’s say 3% of our email list converts and we want to make $100 thousand campaign. We’ll probably need about $30 thousand in the first day. We’ll have an average price of $100 per backer, so that means that we need 300 backers on our first day, 3% conversion rate. You’re looking at about 10,000 emails that we needed to gather in order to be successful.

Colin McIntosh:               So it was really simple math. I think that every founder should do that and find their email number that they need, before they launch, of qualified leads. And sure enough, we had a $44 thousand first day, and now we’re sitting at … After 21 days, we’re sitting about $157 thousand. So really, really happy with the preparation that we did.

Roy Morejon:                    What was the conversion rate on that email list when you guys launched and did 44K [inaudible 00:09:45]?

Colin McIntosh:               It ended up being exactly what we thought.

Roy Morejon:                    Nice.

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah.

Roy Morejon:                    So you guys have a very distinct and unique voice, should we say, on your Indiegogo campaign surrounding your brand. How did you go about conceptualizing it, developing it, and utilizing it in your marketing?

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah, so that’s a great question. I think one of the most important things we ever did was I sat down when I incorporated the company back in October of 2017, seven, eight months now, which is crazy to think, and I did a brand identity map first and foremost. That was something that I don’t think a lot of people have done for their companies, which everybody should do. It really guides the entire marketing voice for the lifetime of the company. And we decided, all right, here are our brand archetypes. Here’s what we’re going to do. And on a higher level, if you look at the entire bedding industry, it is so insanely boring. I mean, everybody … Bores me to tears, honestly.

Colin McIntosh:               It’s always you’re going to love your home, you’re going to love your bedroom, your wife’s going to love you again, and it’s just like terrible, terrible marketing in a very … what I think is a very fun, important room for your life. It just tends to be the same, all Right, here’s the folded sheets on the bed. Here is now the sheets on the bed. Here is some coffee with some bread and breakfast on the bed. It just drives me crazy, and so I wanted to do something a little fun, zig where other people are zagging. I figured there were other people like me that didn’t take their bedrooms so damn seriously.

Colin McIntosh:               It’s funny, if you look at some of our competitors’ Instagram pages, and I won’t mention their names, but there’s some bedding startups out there that are doing direct-to-consumer bedding sales, all cotton, obviously, and they should be ashamed of themselves, but if you look at their Instagrams, it’s literally like you can’t even tell the companies apart. I actually have this great slide in my deck where I have like nine images from nine different companies and I say, “Here’s one company that’s a competitor of ours,” and then I’m like, “Oh, wait, actually that’s nine different companies.” It’s literally the exact same template of the of picture.

Roy Morejon:                    Yeah. It’s unfortunate, the copycat marketers, right?

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah. It’s all people see one thing that works and they say, “Okay, well, people apparently love super pretentious bedding companies.” So you know, our brand voice is definitely more of a fun, energetic brand voice, and we’re always looking for funny things to do. They can’t all be golden. Our ads, sometimes they make people laugh, sometimes they miss, but it’s a volume play.

Roy Morejon:                    So with that in mind, you guys have gotten some great press coverage, outlets like Buzzfeed and Forbes. How or what tips would you provide to other creators looking to get awesome coverage like that?

Colin McIntosh:               Well, I think you have to hire some type of PR agency or consultants, somebody that understands what you’re looking for and is willing to work with you to represent your company. Well, I mean, I think it goes back to just a founder maybe knowing their strengths, and I know that I’m not someone that can spend all day reaching out to PR outlets, and I don’t really have the connections necessary to do so, and so I’ve been working with a great consultancy that’s been basically directing me on what do and who to talk to and where to send the samples out to. And that’s just knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and providing leverage on the weakness, on the weakness side.

Colin McIntosh:               But I also think that you have to have a product that is something that people will want to read about. I mean, sustainability is obviously topical and everybody can relate to bedding and in the bedroom, so I think you also have to understand how your product will relate to somebody’s readers and make sure that your pitches are very strong for something that’s going to get them actual click through and eyeballs. That’s what everybody’s looking for.

Roy Morejon:                    Indeed. So what’s been the biggest surprise of the Indiegogo campaign so far?

Colin McIntosh:               I think that I was mostly shocked by how strongly people are resonating with the brand. Like I’m having a lot of fun with it. I’m replying to pretty much every email personally that we get. We respond to all of our comments on Facebook on our ads within maybe 5 or 10 minutes. I think I’ve just been shocked at how strongly people can identify with a brand that maybe they just heard of. It’s actually pretty interesting to look at it from a detached level from the company. But people like honesty, they like transparency, they like genuine brands that don’t give them templated emails or templated comments or see our FAQs for more information. Nobody likes that stuff. That’s BS.

Colin McIntosh:               So I think that when you respond to people in a very human, relatable, fun way, and you’re available at all hours of the day, all hours of the night, obviously you’re not scalable and will have to build out a team at some point. I think that people just respond well, and I think I’ve been shocked by just how fierce and loyal I already have with some people who are promoting me nonstop and just driving more traffic to the campaign, and it just pays off dividends if you treat people well.

Roy Morejon:                    So you guys have hundreds of backers in this campaign. What’s the weirdest comment you’ve received so far?

Colin McIntosh:               The special requests kind of drive me a little crazy, if I’m being honest. We’ve got some pretty good bundles. I mean, obviously you can’t overwhelm people with 87 different options on the page because it’ll just limit conversion. You want to streamline to maybe 5 or 10 options maximum. But we do get a lot of people saying, “Hey, I’d really love two sheet sets, four duvet covers, 18 pillowcases, and half a comforter,” something ridiculous. I do think it’s funny when I’ve gotten requests like that, and I try to accommodate as many of them as I can.

Colin McIntosh:               Then we also … I think people just want to have their voice heard, because some people will just comment on our ads and say a lot of really, really great things, but they also say … Like one person recently said: terrible name for a serious product, if it’s a serious product. All we did in response was we slapped that quote on a funny image that we had, and we respond to them with it, and we were like, “Thanks for our new advertisement,” and so now we’re promoting that quote as a terrible name for a serious product. I think it’s hilarious.

Roy Morejon:                    Oh, that’s fun, man. Sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with the backers, and I’m sure they are as well.

Colin McIntosh:               Oh, yeah. I mean, whether it’s the free gifts that we give people that find the Easter eggs on our page, or the emails back and forth and all the jokes. We also give away free pizza to two backers every single Friday, so that’s been really fun, and seeing all the GIFs and videos and pictures of people eating their free pizza. It’s just one of those things where I wanted to start a company and treat people the way that I always wanted companies to treat me, and people are having a lot of fun with it.

Roy Morejon:                    Hopefully they treat you well in the bedroom, right?

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah, that’s … They can come jump in the bed with us anytime.

Roy Morejon:                    Awesome. All right, Colin. This is going to get us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire some questions at you. You good to go?

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah, sounds Fun.

Roy Morejon:                    What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Colin McIntosh:               My folks. So my dad owns his own law firm and my mom owns her own acupuncture practice, and growing up with two entrepreneurs really pushed me in that direction.

Roy Morejon:                    So if you could share a bed with Sheets & Giggles sheets with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Colin McIntosh:               Kind of weird that the first name that popped in my head was Elon Musk. But yeah, I’d love to have breakfast in bed with that dude and pick his brain.

Roy Morejon:                    Awesome. What would be your first question for Elon?

Colin McIntosh:               Would he make fun of me for doing something so trivial compared to what he’s doing, or would he be happy with the sustainability aspect? I mean, he’d probably think that what we’re doing is so quaint.

Roy Morejon:                    Yeah, unfortunately.

Colin McIntosh:               I mean, no. I mean, he’s-

Roy Morejon:                    Way up the road, right?

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah, right? He’s going to Mars and we’re making bedsheets.

Roy Morejon:                    Sheets from Mars. Everybody needs sheet, right?

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah. Yeah. I’ll see if I can get some on the new Falcon rocket.

Roy Morejon:                    What’s your favorite book, Colin?

Colin McIntosh:               Favorite book? I’ve got a few. I mean, in terms of fiction, classic would probably be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I don’t know why that popped in my head, but that’s just an all-time favorite. And then, I mean I think everybody’s read The Lean Startup, which is a fairly common answer for entrepreneurs. And then also there’s one book that we use in all of our advertisements. I don’t know if I can say it on air, but it’s called Go the F to Sleep, and that’s definitely been my favorite little Easter egg in all of our photos and videos, is that book.

Roy Morejon:                    Great nighttime reading.

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah. It’s for parents who are pretty sick of reading bedtime stories.

Roy Morejon:                    Indeed. All Right, last question, Colin. What does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Colin McIntosh:               I think it’s probably less … If I had to predict it out, I think that there’s been a lot of people that have tried and failed on these platforms. I think there’s been a lot of people that have backed campaigns that have never received products, and so the platform has a lot of incredible people on it and it has a lot of incredible entrepreneurs bringing new products to market, and I think that it needs to whittle down to just the best projects and best people, both on the project side and on the backer side, and so I do think that there will be a greater emphasis in the future on whether it’s qualified projects or … You can see it on Indiegogo already, where they say, hey, this product is in prototype stage and production stage or shipping stage. I think that more of that needs to happen in order to inspire longer term confidence in the platform.

Colin McIntosh:               And then obviously you’re seeing a shift to equity crowdfunding, which I also think is pretty interesting, where people can buy micro-shares of a company for their donations. I think that that’s also a really interesting future where they’re not just getting products, but they’re also getting ownership in a company. So I think both those are better quality, fewer projects, and more equity crowdfunding.

Roy Morejon:                    Solid. Colin, this has been great. This is your chance to give our audience your pitch. Tell them what you’re all about, where they should go, and why they should check you out.

Colin McIntosh:               Yeah, so it’s a fairly straightforward pitch. Everybody needs bedsheets. You’re going to buy them at some point in your life, probably in the next year if you’re a typical American. If you want to buy something besides cotton, something that’s softer than cotton, more breathable, more lightweight, just google Sheets & Giggles. Our website will be the first result, and then the Indiegogo probably second or third, and you can buy some eucalyptus bedsheets that are sustainable, softer than cotton, and honestly the best bedsheets that I’ve ever owned.

Roy Morejon:                    Awesome. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the notes, transcript, links to the campaign, and everything we’ve talked about today. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. If you loved this episode as much as I do, make sure to leave us a review on iTunes. Colin, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.

Colin McIntosh:               Thanks for having me, Roy. I really appreciate it.

Roy Morejon:                    Thanks for tuning into another episode of Art of the Kickstart, the show about building a business world and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, awesome. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com and tell us all about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes, our Kickstarter Guide to crushing it, and of course, if you loved this episode a lot, leave us a review at artofthekickstart.com/itunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs, and startups find this show, and helps us get better guests to help you build a better business. If you need more hands-on crowdfunding strategy advice, please feel free to request a quote on enventyspartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you again next week.