This week on Art of the Kickstart, we spoke with Jeff Sheldon of Ugmonk, creator of Gather, a minimal, modular desk organizer. Tune in to learn more about how he funded in just 47 minutes and what he did leading up to his Kickstarter campaign for it to become such a success.

Gather: The minimal, modular organizer that cuts clutter

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Why it’s important to have a loyal, captive audience well in advance of launching a Kickstarter project
  • How to let your product evolve to create something your audience will love
  • How to decide if Kickstarter is the right approach for your product
  • How to manage backer feedback on Kickstarter
  • How to get the #1 spot on Product Hunt
  • What to know about industrial design when designing a product for Kickstarter
  • Why your Kickstarter video needs to be good

Links

Connect with Ugmonk

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!

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.

Transcript

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 start ups 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 start up to the next level with crowdfunding.

Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by Backer Kit and the Gadget Flow. Backer Kit 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 buyers’ guide for luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Now, let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I am joined with Jeff Sheldon of Ugmonk. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us on the show today.

Jeff Sheldon:

Sure. Thanks for having me on.

Roy Morejon:

So Jeff, you have created a product called Gather, the minimal modular organizer that cuts clutter. Please tell our audience all about your awesome product and the backstory on creating this killer product.

Jeff Sheldon:

Yeah. Well, it’s been a long process to get to this point, but the response to the Kickstarter so far has been blowing all my expectations away. Gather is basically a desk organizer that’s completely customizable and made from premium materials, something that actually looks nice when its sitting on your desk as opposed to being an eyesore or being some cheap kind of office organizer. And I designed it for myself through … over the course of the last three years, kind of on and off working on prototypes and refining it and getting to the point where it’s finally ready for production. Then, when I launched it, there was obviously my audience and then a lot of people outside of even the Ugmonk audience that are backing it and enjoying it.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, dude. You got it fully funded in like 47 minutes I think. Now you’re over $200,000 in capital raised. I mean you did $100,000 in less than 24 hours. What led to such success?

Jeff Sheldon:

I mean the big thing that I think a lot of people miss if they don’t, haven’t followed the Ugmonk brand or what I’ve been doing is I’m calling it the eight year overnight success because I’ve been doing this for eight, almost nine years, designing and launching products. Not on Kickstarter but just through my own e-commerce store and I’ve built up a really loyal following and email list to the point where I was like teasing this and showing them Gather ahead of time and then as soon as I said Kickstarter is live, people just went nuts. I was hoping we would fund it quickly but I had no idea it would be 47 minutes.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, it’s crazy right? When you build up that crowd over months, years in your instance in terms of whetting the anticipation of a product launch and people believe in your brand and the products that you guys have obviously been producing and developing over the years. It’s great to you know obviously see the fruits of those labors happen so quickly.

Jeff Sheldon:

Exactly, yeah. I mean it’s really rewarding to see it validated by … People say oh, it looks awesome. I would back that or I would buy that. But then like people don’t always put their money where their mouth is. So to see people actually backing it and actually really wanting it and seeing that it solves a need for so many other people was the really … That’s the best part.

Roy Morejon:

So let’s talk about when you were creating Gather. What did that process look like? You mentioned doing all the different prototypes, you know. How did you go about deciding what pieces to include in the design and things that would resonate with the target audience outside of selfishly making it for yourself to begin with?

Jeff Sheldon:

Yeah. I mean the basic concept of the organizer stayed similar from the beginning all the way to the end but I did refine a lot of which pieces were going to go along the top and for people listening it’s basically a long base made out of solid wood and the top pieces are going to be injection molded plastic that snap into the top and can be rotated and moved and positioned.

So those modular pieces we went through a few different iterations to get the phone stand right and to get different pieces dialed in. Then the second phase of it was thinking how can this be even more modular where I added the magnets on the side, the coaster attachment and the headphone stand attachment. That really got me thinking more along the modular expandability concept and it evolved to the point where now it’s like I can continue designing things, extensions and add ons and additions that all go along with this same system, which is pretty cool.

Roy Morejon:

So what made you decide to launch the project on Kickstarter?

Jeff Sheldon:

Yeah, a couple different things and I’m glad I did. Even though I’ve been in business for a while and I’ve been launching products, it was less about the funding, although it was about actually the funding for the injection molded parts and the tooling was part of it and the product validation is important because I didn’t want to have a thousand of these sitting in our warehouse and never sell them.

But the main thing was really to just reach a new audience with this product, an audience that’s outside my own and to see if it resonates with a larger group of people, which it obviously has so far and I think it’s changing the trajectory of our whole business.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, I mean it certainly looks like that. I mean you’ve got backers pretty well spread out around the US, San Fran, LA and New York, Seattle, Chicago. But then you’ve got quite a few international from Singapore, London, Sydney, you know, so getting great coverage around the world. How have you gone about receiving and responding to the feedback from the thousands of backers that you have now?

Jeff Sheldon:

Yeah, I’ve basically just been heads down managing all that since we launched; emails, messages, Twitter. Every time I get posted on a blog I’m trying to be there to answer questions and even though it’s crazy right now I feel like as the creator and as the designer there is nothing better than to clarify people’s concerns or answer any questions that people have while it’s still fresh and still hot. So I’ve been just trying to hustle as much as I can to be there and respond and dedicate all my time to this because it’s a big moment for us.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. So how long did you spend? I know you said this was an overnight success over the course of the last 3000 days. But you know, in terms of preparing for the crowdfunding campaign itself, what were some of the action items that you really took and dug in on that helped you overly fund this campaign so greatly?

Jeff Sheldon:

I think we started really seriously getting those action items in line and crossed off about, maybe, six to nine months ago. We even started concepting the video. We were actually hoping to launch this way sooner, but as you know manufacturing and all the prototyping process can always take longer. But once we started kind of figuring out the concept and the story we wanted to tell, started writing the script for the video and thinking about how we wanted to present the product and different reward levels and all that. Then the last three months have been much more intense getting those action items crossed off and ready to launch and starting to tease it to our newsletter, our email newsletter list and social media and then when we launched everything was in place and went really as smooth as it could be. I was bracing for something to go wrong or Kickstarter to go down or something. But it was a really smooth launch.

Roy Morejon:

Killer. So what do you think was the number one factor that helped your project fund in 47 minutes?

Jeff Sheldon:

I mean it has to be the captive audience that I’ve already built. Launching something on Kickstarter with no audience is really, really hard because you’re just hoping you get discovered, you know. We weren’t advertising. We still haven’t actually done ads up to this point, which we may try and get into to take it to the next level. But this is the captive audience, letting them kind of open the gates and letting them back this thing was the number one thing. But also just the need for the product. I think there’s enough people that care about how something looks and how it functions, not just one or the other, that it’s really resonating with.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. So you guys got the number one spot on Product Hunt. Tell the listeners a little bit about that.

Jeff Sheldon:

That was … I actually thought we might have missed the boat on that because I posted it on Product Hunt, which is a site that posts about the new start ups and products of the day and we didn’t get a ton of traffic there, which was fine but I was hoping … That was the one thing I was hoping to try and get some attention from. And then the next day when I woke up we were in the top three or almost to the top one and the word had spread and people were up voting and commenting and you know, I jumped in there and started answering questions and we got to the number one spot and that brought a lot of attention and traffic to more of a tech savvy audience, you know, people that are sitting at desks that would want this thing.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. We love Product Hunt. We’re actually going to be hosting one of their events here in Charlotte at our headquarters. So looking forward to-

Jeff Sheldon:

Oh, nice.

Roy Morejon:

-our continued partnership with those guys.

Jeff Sheldon:

Yeah.

Roy Morejon:

So in terms of product and manufacturing, I know you mentioned a little bit of that. Talk to our audience a little bit about some of the pain points that you’ve had, you know, that potentially could help alleviate those for future entrepreneurs looking to launch their product on Kickstarter.

Jeff Sheldon:

So coming from an apparel background where I’m doing mostly soft goods on my main site Ugmonk, those are extremely simple compared to doing a full on industrial design product. And I had been working with a bunch of different shops here in the US, just small woodworking shops and CNC shops and I didn’t know what materials I wanted to make this thing out of and as it started developing I started to realize I was up against a price ceiling of what it would actually cost to produce, with a small little two man shop making these where to the point it wouldn’t even make sense to launch on Kickstarter because we wouldn’t be able to scale.

Then just figuring out, I didn’t know much about processes like injection molding and the things that you have to do from the design side to make that possible and the draft angles and all that. So I think it was, you know, it was a learn by doing and just asking a lot of questions, talking to as many different people in different industries that I could. I talked to people that do ceramic and people that do milling and wood and then plastics and I think I just really picked everyone’s brain that I possibly could and looked online for as much information about the different processes.  And now, the partner that I’m working with, they have a lot of knowledge and they come from a consumer product background. So they’re able to give a lot of insight and advice there.

Roy Morejon:

So in speaking of advice and insight, what is the biggest thing that you’ve learned throughout the whole process of launching this campaign on Kickstarter?

Jeff Sheldon:

Oh, man. To sum that up, I guess I would just say that you know, crowdfunding is definitely alive and well. I was a little skeptical of Kickstarter just because … I mean I like Kickstarter. I back projects all the time but I was skeptical that people were jaded because of project creators that kind of screw their backers out of rewards or they disappear and people get really upset. So I was wondering if it was actually, again, a prohibit Gather from taking off.

But seeing how big of a momentum swing and how many people get on board through Kickstarter was like the most exciting thing. Now it’s like what else can I launch here? What else can I do with this type of launch. It was a really fun way to do it.

Roy Morejon:

So talking about what’s next, I mean what’s going to happen when the project ends? Are you looking to launch future projects and products on Kickstarter now?

Jeff Sheldon:

Possibly. My brain is spinning with all sorts of other ideas. I mean I have a list of other products that compliment Gather in different ways. Whether or not I take them to Kickstarter or not I’m not sure because we’re still only ten or so days into our campaign and it’ll be interesting to see where this ends up. I want to … Yeah. I mean I have a lot of other stuff I want to execute product wise and then possibly take it to a bigger level and sell it retail and those types of things.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. So what one piece of advice would you give to someone else looking to Kickstart their product on crowdfunding?

Jeff Sheldon:

It’s hard to sum it in one, but I’ll say make sure your video is really, really dialed in and don’t skimp on the quality.

Roy Morejon:

Solid advice, Jeff. This is going to get us into our launch round where I rapid fire a few questions at you. You good to go?

Jeff Sheldon:

All right. Here we go.

Roy Morejon:

So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Jeff Sheldon:

Designing products that other people would like as much as I do.

Roy Morejon:

If you could have a beer with any entrepreneur throughout history who would it be?

Jeff Sheldon:

Seth Godin

Roy Morejon:

What would be your first question for Mr. Godin?

Jeff Sheldon:

Oh, man. This is tough. What would his advice be for me as a company in the next five years?

Roy Morejon:

What business book would you recommend to our listeners?

Jeff Sheldon:

It’s not technically a business book but it’s Essentialism.

Roy Morejon:

I thought you were going to go with The Purple Cow.

Jeff Sheldon:

Purple Cow is good. I mean okay. All of Seth Godin’s books I like and understood there.

Roy Morejon:

Fair enough. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Jeff Sheldon:

Hopefully still designing and selling products the same way that I’m doing it now.

Roy Morejon:

Last question. What does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Jeff Sheldon:

I think it looks bright. Knowing what happened in the last ten days I think there’s … we’re just now scratching the surface.

Roy Morejon:

Indeed. Jeff, you’ve 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 Gather.

Jeff Sheldon:

Yes. So you can find Gather at Ugmonk.com/gather. That’s U-G-M-O-N-K, dot com slash Gather and that will send you to the Kickstarter page if you’re listening to this while the Kickstarter is still running.

And you can find me online at Ugmonk pretty much everywhere, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

Roy Morejon:

Jeff, you’ve been great. Audience, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit ArtoftheKickstart.com for all the show notes, the full transcript, links to the campaign and everything else we’ve talked about today and of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and Backer Kit.

Jeff, thank you so much for being on the show.

Jeff Sheldon:

Yeah, thanks again for having me.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning in to 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 ArtoftheKickstart.com and tell us about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes and our Kickstarter Guide to Crushing It.

If you’ve loved this episode, leave us a review at ArtoftheKickstart.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.