For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we spoke with Kathrin Hamm of SOMNOS. Check out how this weighted blanket came to be, how Hamm’s team built up a community around their product before launching, how they’ve made their product better with the help of their Kickstarter backers and so much more.

SOMNOS Weighted Comforter for Natural Deep Sleep

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • What to expect when you decide to design a new product
  • Why building a community before you launch on Kickstarter is critical
  • Why it’s important to have a working prototype before launching a product with crowdfunding
  • How to get a big return from Facebook ads for your crowdfunding project
  • How to use Kickstarter backer feedback to make your project better
  • How to make sure you’re prepared for a crowdfunding campaign
  • How to find the Kickstarter agency that’s best for you

Links

Connect With SOMNOS

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.

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 startups raise over 100 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 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 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’m am joined with Kathrin Hamm with the Somnos Weighted Comforter. Kathrin, thank you so much for joining us today.

Kathrin Hamm:

Thanks for having me, Roy.

Roy Morejon:

All right. So I love this technology personally. Having these therapeutic weighted comforters, I think the one that you guys have created is obviously beautiful in design but obviously helps refresh and recharge you, so I know this is your first campaign. You had mentioned to me, Kathrin, that you’ve been listening to Art of the Kickstart for months which is wonderful to hear, in preparation for your campaign, so let’s talk to our listeners about where did this product idea start. What inspired you to create Somnos?

Kathrin Hamm:

So, yeah. I think the original idea was really that I wanted to have exactly that product for myself. So over the last four years, I’ve been traveling to 26 different countries and I moved to four different countries while I was working for the World Bank. So, I was constantly sleep deprived, always jet lagged and I was looking for some solutions that can help me like sleep better, especially on the weekends. And then I was reading two years ago about this concept of weighted blankets and that it decreases your cortisol levels overnight and that basically it makes you fall asleep faster but also helps you to sleep during the night, and at that time I was in Germany and I tried to order one of these and once I finally found one and I had paid a lot of money on it, I was actually disappointed with the type of the product and the design, but what I have to say is once I tried it and I really just wanted to take a quick nap in the afternoon, and I woke up literally four hours later, I really believed in the concept that putting weight on the body can help you relax and also to sleep better.

But what I didn’t like is that actually I couldn’t use the product for eight hours at night. I couldn’t sleep under it and use it as a normal comforter and that actually was my starting point to basically reinvent a product and to make a design out of it that combines the medical benefits of a traditional weighted blanket with the comfort of a duvet and have the breathability and also the body contouring so I can use it for eight hours and sleep under it as a regular comforter.

Roy Morejon:

Impressive. So I know our listeners always love hearing what the process looked like in terms of you had mentioned it, you know, starting this process about four years ago. Walk our audience kind of through that process of getting it from the idea stage to the prototype to what you guys currently have now.

Kathrin Hamm:

So, I mean, from discovering the product or the initial stage was really we tried to get our hands on every weighted blanket that’s in the market and we really did like careful research on what is in the market and basically what we can do to improve the existing product, looking into it existing patents and then as the next step, once we had done the groundwork and also had a vision on how the product should look like, we brought in an experienced manufacturing partner from Germany who helped us with the whole textile technology and design, and we created multiple prototypes along the way, and also tested, so we did a lot of breathability studies with another institute in Germany and really refined along the way, and also shared the product. So we already tried to build a community and get feedback from people on how to sleep under it and basically did a lot of sleep and nap testing.

And then in the summer this year, we registered a patent, so the patent got approved and I think this also gave us the confidence to say well, let’s take this idea to the next level and create a business out of it.

Roy Morejon:

Excellent. So we always talk about how important the month or two leading up to a campaign launch is. What did you guys do prior to launching yourself and putting yourself in a great position to fully fund on the first day?

Kathrin Hamm:

So, yeah. I mean, we got funding actually within the first 12 hours into the campaign and I think that’s partially due to building an exciting community around it, so we created our Facebook page probably three months before we launched a Kickstarter campaign and I mean, really just reached out to people who were interested in the product, picking up the phone and talking to people and try to understand what they need and I think by the time that we launched, we really had created a level of excitement about people. So we had, you know what happened to us given that we are a first timer into crowdfunding? We wanted to launch one minute past midnight, but then we didn’t know how to handle a Kickstarter exactly so we launched I think 12 minutes late and by that we had already 42 messages through Facebook. When are you guys launching? We’re waiting here. We actually have organized a party for you, a Somnos party. So I think like connecting and building also the community was a key feature that we did, and the second thing is also sharing the prototypes with people, so I think we could build a confidence also that people knew it’s not only an idea but these guys actually have a working prototype already.

So, I mean, we blindly shipped out prototypes before the summer already and to people actually we didn’t even know. So we had, I always like to share the story of Liz. So Liz was one of our first Facebook followers, and with a time difference, so me in Germany in the morning, she constantly commented on us during her nighttime hours, basically telling us that she’s laying awake. She can’t sleep and she really has problems with insomnia. So without actually knowing her, we said why don’t we just send her one of our comforters, so she can test it out, and it took two weeks to ship the product to the US and I mean, we were really excited on one hand when she received the product but also really nervous. So the day when she usually posted on Facebook like we were waiting. Is she still at night? Is she awake? Does she sleep? And actually we didn’t hear from her the whole night and in the morning we got a message from her that she, for the first time in ten years, slept throughout the night. And I mean, this is really like an amazing story, and I mean, now we’re in good contact with her, and she became one of our biggest advocates in like communicating and just telling her own experience that she had with the product.

Roy Morejon:

I love that story, Kathrin, that’s so great, and I also love the fact that all of your fans were having a sleep over party it sounds like waiting for you guys to hit the button so they could actually back the project and know that sleep was on the way.

Kathrin Hamm:

Yeah.

Roy Morejon:

So with all of the marketing efforts that you guys have put forth for this project, where have you seen the biggest returns so far?

Kathrin Hamm:

I mean, to be honest, I think and that’s also probably like the biggest message that I want to get across is if you’re a first timer on Kickstarter, get an experienced partner on board, so not only you can continue focusing on the product and the business which you should do as an entrepreneur, but let people like let the experts do their work and I think that’s also where your team comes in, Roy, so we’ve seen the biggest return actually now through the digital marketing through Facebook marketing and creating the audiences and reaching out to new audiences that even beyond that we had established in the first place. So, I think this really helped us tremendously also now midterm into the campaign to really keep the excitement and also bring new people on board.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. No, it’s been great working with you, Kathrin. I know our team is really excited about the product and everything that you guys have put forth so far. So I know we have hundreds of backers so far. What’s been some of the feedback that you’ve been receiving?

Kathrin Hamm:

You know, interestingly I think what we also learned from Kickstarter is that what you think is the ideal product is maybe it’s not, it’s another type, so we had three different categories. We had a children’s version and then two, a twin blanket and a queen size, and our team already thought that the children and also the twin version would be the biggest selling product, and actually it turned out that our customers actually liked bigger versions. So we actually, through the feedback of our backers created a longer campaign, a new version, a king version where we actually divided the site, so you have one half that you can customize to one sleeper and the other to the other sleeper, and this is something we haven’t even thought about before. And really through listening and getting feedback from our backers we were able to create a new product actually alongside the campaign which was really exciting for us.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, and that’s great and obviously I know the backers appreciate being heard, let alone that product now coming to fruition based off of their feedback, so that’s great to hear. Outside of that, what’s been the biggest surprise given that this is your first Kickstarter campaign?

Kathrin Hamm:

I think there were many surprises along the way, so I think the first three days I wouldn’t have imagined how much work it is, that really people are reaching out and you constantly communicate and you answer questions, so I think looking back it would have been, we could have been prepared better, and also have our, the questions that we imagined people to ask, have a list of those already ready because we were quite overwhelmed within the first three days within the campaign, so that was one of the surprises that I think we could do better, and I think, yeah, the other one is really like the conversations that we had with people also like people sharing their stories, and I mean, like basically us picking up the phone and talking to backers for several hours, and learning a lot of, not only the medical needs they have but also how we can improve and adapt the product further to make it work better for them, so it’s been really a research and development tool for us, the Kickstarter campaign in the first place.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah, and we certainly see that a lot in terms of not only getting feedback but people actually pledging and putting money towards the product and hopefully creating new product ideas like you guys have not gotten from the feedback from your campaign backers.

Kathrin Hamm:

Yeah.

Roy Morejon:

So, if you were able to give one piece of advice to someone else looking to crowdfund their product, whether it be in the bedding category or just in product design what one piece of advice would you give them?

Kathrin Hamm:

So, my first advice is start early, like take at least a couple of months of preparation time. Second one is bring in a strong partner and also like a creditable partner that is recommended by Kickstarter, so I think a lot of agencies out there that are making promises, so we got a lot of messages in the first couple of weeks, so I think it’s important to do the research and find a good creditable partner so you don’t have to worry about that along the way, and my third one is also building the community and really like taking the time and build a community early on. Actually don’t share your product with friends and family because they will probably give you positive feedback, but reach out to complete strangers, people that you haven’t even talked to before, and send them your product and take their honest feedback, and I think that’s really the best way to learn and improve along the way.

Roy Morejon:

Solid advice. So, Kathrin, what’s next after this project ends?

Kathrin Hamm:

So I think we got a lot of encouragement through the campaign and we really want to build a solid business out of it, developing more products, also developing additional features for the product like bed covers. So we got a lot of ideas from our backers, so I think it’s really the start of entrepreneurial journey from here on.

Roy Morejon:

That’s great to hear. So this gets us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire a few questions at you. You good to go?

Kathrin Hamm:

Yeah.

Roy Morejon:

So what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?

Kathrin Hamm:

You know, ironically I was working in the last four years with entrepreneurs when I was working for the World Bank on the other side. So I was working with banks to give financing to entrepreneurs, so I saw the other side, and there was one moment when I saw an entrepreneur actually in Palestine, a fisher woman that had built within two years her business as the only fisher woman from one boat to three boats and another business, a restaurant business that she spin out of it, and I think that was the first point when I really seriously considered entrepreneurship.

Roy Morejon:

So if you could have glass of wine with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Kathrin Hamm:

I think it would be Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder of Acumen Fund.

Roy Morejon:

Interesting. What would be your first question?

Kathrin Hamm:

Well, I would like to know how she manages to build such a strong corporate culture and how she keeps her team motivated also over in the long run over many years of being an entrepreneur.

Roy Morejon:

What book is on your nightstand?

Kathrin Hamm:

I am currently reading Shawn Stephenson. Sleep Smarter. And I can also recommend actually one of my favorite book from Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Peace is Every Step, the Path to Mindfulness.

Roy Morejon:

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

Kathrin Hamm:

Well, I’m new to crowdfunding, but I read a lot about a model now going into equity crowdfunding that basically backers take on more risk early on for entrepreneurs into a campaign and I think that’s a really interesting model to experiment where probably we’ll see more in the future.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Well, Kathrin, this has been great. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell them what you’re all about, where people should go and why they need to go buy a Somnos.

Kathrin Hamm:

Okay. So yeah. We are Somnos, and we have designed the first weighted comforter that makes you sleep better and hopefully also feel better, and our mission is to give back the gift of a good night’s sleep, and if you are looking for a better night’s sleep, relaxation or you’re just wondering how it feels like to sleep under a 25 pound blanket, then reach out to us and check out our Kickstarter campaign.

Roy Morejon:

Excellent. Kathrin, thank you so much for being on the show. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for all the show notes, the full transcript, links to the campaign and everything we talked about today, and of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors The Gadget Flow and BackerKit. Kathrin, thank you so much for being on the show today.

Kathrin Hamm:

Thanks so much for having me, Roy.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning in to 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.