In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Isabel Aagaard, cofounder of LastObject, a company on a mission to change the single-use culture. With products such as LastSwab and LastTissue, this brand creates reusable alternatives to throw-away items. Tune in to learn about the eco-minded inspiration behind LastObject, their prototyping method and their experience crowdfunding.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

    • Isabel Aagaard’s design background and how she co-founded LastObject
    • How they manage and prioritize feedback when testing products
    • The path from their first product, LastSwab, to creating a whole line of multi-use essentials
    • The marketing tactics they deployed to ensure strong crowdfunding campaign launches
    • Where they see LastObject in the future

Links

Sponsors

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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 Gadget Flow. 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 super excited to be talking with Isabel, co founder of LastObject. Isabel, thank you so much for joining us today.
Isabel Aagaard:
Thank you for having me.
Roy Morejon:
I’m really excited. The inspiration that you guys have created is now sweeping the world in terms of obviously the eco-friendly items that you guys have found a fit for in terms of the market with first being LastSwab with almost 20,000 backers just on the Kickstarter campaign alone. Then your most recent success LastTissue, which is now running in demand over on Indiegogo, which had over 13,000 backers on Kickstarter.
Roy Morejon:
I’m really excited to hear where did the inspiration start in terms of beginning LastObject as a company with your other co founders. How did that all begin?
Isabel Aagaard:
Yes, well we started actually just researching where could we really make a big impact for the environment? And we’re all three designers, so this is our angle in life and we wanted to do a product. We wanted to do multiple products, but that then in some way really could make a difference. And this is where single use just jumped out of the screen and we found out how enormous a burden it actually is to have all of these single use items produced on a daily basis.
Isabel Aagaard:
This was actually our inspiration and then we started just digging into what single use items are the worst and where can we really make a difference so that people actually would use our product instead even though the other thing could be more convenient. We have to be that better at for example, design or just feel in general.
Roy Morejon:
What was your background before coming into the company?
Isabel Aagaard:
Well, I have a digital background at an IT university and then I went to design school where we also have gone. I’m actually a collaborative designer, but I ended up in the medical industry for a couple of years where I did difficult different medical devices. And I also designed some, what do you call them, midwife like when you deliver a baby. There’s whole how the hospital is decorated, how many steps there are to different equipment that is necessary and how to make this atmosphere a really nice experience for the mother and father. I also did things like this.
Roy Morejon:
As a product designer I guess now, what were some of the challenges that came about first to launch out LastSwab, the reusable cotton swab and then now into LastTissue? What’s some of the evolution of the company in terms of how you guys go about designing and making products and what features to include into them?
Isabel Aagaard:
I think we did a big list when we dug into the single use problem and where we had said we want to solve these issues. And some of them we’ve solved, some of them are still in working process and some of them may take years for us to really figure out what is the best solution. But what we do is that we actually, we prototype a lot everything that we’re creating. For example, with the swab we did hundreds of different versions and thickness and feels and yeah, just how could you use this in a different way? Then we got different 3D print companies to print them so that we could use them in our every day, give them to friends and family and just really get a lot of feedback.
Isabel Aagaard:
Then we were just never afraid of coming back and having to drop something completely or changing something drastically. We changed stuff while we had the Kickstarter campaign running. Different materials that would be better or would be more just a better design in general or a better solution. In the sense we were like, “We’re not afraid of constantly shifting.” Which I think is a really, really, really good force because that makes us so agile to just come up with these ideas and really make sure that we’re solving them in the best possible way.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. I think that’s so important and you bring up such a great point to be able to pivot not only during your campaign but also be open to all of the feedback and changing. I forget what the quote is but it’s like, “If you’re not embarrassed about the first product you ship, then you waited too long.” Again, get it out there and then start getting the feedback, which is what it sounds like you guys have been doing throughout the entire build of the company.
Isabel Aagaard:
Exactly, exactly. I think it’s so important to get this feedback and not see it as criticism but just see it as okay that’s such a good point. I’ll have it, I’ll put it here on my table and I’ll think about it or I’ll really act on it. You can do different things with them, but just not being afraid of showing what you’re doing. Because I think in the design industry we tend to be in our little palaces and have our little ideas and we don’t show them to anybody because oh, we can get copied and we can get this and that and people can steal our ideas. I think it’s so important just to show what you’re doing constantly.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. That’s why the teachers wanted us to always show our work, right?
Isabel Aagaard:
Yeah.
Roy Morejon:
What were some of the challenges that you guys encountered when designing the product? Obviously, I’m sure you guys were taking into account how to recycle the materials and all the different iterations that you guys were doing. But also just to create a beautiful product that can be used one time or is going to get used one time. Like the Q-tip, you just don’t even think about that, that you’re throwing them away every day and you created a beautiful product that you only have to buy once.
Isabel Aagaard:
Exactly, yeah. Well, I think design is so important for us, exactly. We need to create something that people would want to keep having and it should become something that it’s really a habit for you, that you enjoy. I think this really needs a really good design but also needs really good quality. I think we had to really balance, this was a difficult thing for us, but really balance how the product looked so that you could see, oh that’s a Q-tip. Oh, that’s how you use it. Oh, that’s a tissue. Oh, that’s a tissue box.
Isabel Aagaard:
We really need to be so close to what we are replacing so that it tells us what function and how to use it. We don’t need anything, no arrows, no you have to open here and slit here. It just tells its story on its own, in its design. But then we also need to use materials that really last long. And this is something we’ve been fighting a lot with, with some of our customers, because they would really want oh, why can’t you make it in bamboo? I completely understand that makes sense. But from our perspective, we want it to hold, we want it to last, then it doesn’t make sense. It was for us also really a huge experience and a journey to understand different materials and how long we wanted them to last compared to each other and how it should look and feel, but also just be really durable.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah, you brought up another great point in terms of one: it’s great that you’re obviously engaging in getting consumer feedback of hey, maybe you should do it like this, but also sticking to your guns to know that this is how the product is actually going to be used in the future and longterm we need it like this. Where the Henry Ford quote was, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses,” they never would have made the car. It’s great that obviously you guys stuck to your vision, but also were actively engaging your crowd in terms of getting feedback for the idea itself.
Isabel Aagaard:
Exactly, exactly.
Roy Morejon:
Let’s jump into the crowdfunding side of the business and given that you guys have now run four separate crowdfunding campaigns, one of those was unsuccessful, but your last two have been major, major successful campaigns. Talk a little bit about, I guess first off, how did crowdfunding get into the conversation of how to launch your first project and how has that evolved over the years of launching multiple new products now?
Isabel Aagaard:
Well, I think that crowdfunding is much more than actually selling your product. I think it’s a really awesome, amazing community to launch your products on because it gives you feedback. We can work a couple of months, launch a product and then we can look at people and be like, “Would you actually pay this, is this a success? Would this make sense?” All of this before we’ve actually put a lot of huge money into manufacturing and marketing and just creating a company in general. I think this test phase that I feel that crowdfunding is, is just amazing and I think we’re going to stick to it also with the next 10 products because it’s just a really good feel.
Isabel Aagaard:
Sometimes again, as a designer you can sit in your ivory tower and you can just be so impressed with yourself. So like, “This is just an awesome product, who wouldn’t want this?” Then you put it on the market and then people are like, “Eh.” I think that’s just so important information then like, “Okay, let’s not do this product then,” and then move to something that people actually want.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Talk a little bit about the prep work in leading up to your campaigns. Obviously, your last two campaigns have been super successful. What have you guys done there in terms of the pre-campaign launch to make them ultimately very successful campaigns?
Isabel Aagaard:
Yes, we have done, especially with the first one, we did a prelaunch website, which I would recommend everybody. Because it’s first of all a really good test to should I do a Kickstarter? Is this actually something that makes sense? Here we collected 40,000 emails in the first campaign and first of all we put some money in marketing. Marketing on Facebook mainly, also some others places, but mainly Facebook. I think this just gave us a really good understanding of our standing, but it showed us that this could actually become a really big success. We were converting really well.
Isabel Aagaard:
What we did with the website also was that we constantly A/B tested. We would use different pictures and then we would see throughout the day did it convert better or worse. And then every day we had a new change. If it was a button, or if it was a text, or if it was should we talk about single use first or should we talk about quality first? We actually got really sharp on how to explain our product with our prelaunch website. That made it so much easier and very precise to make the actually Kickstarter page because we knew we’re going to tell about this, this, and this and in this order and we’re going to use these photos because we know they work.
Roy Morejon:
To gather 40,000 potential customer email addresses before the campaign ever launched is potentially a quite expensive endeavor based on current cost per clicks and conversion rates based on what they could be with your landing page. Do you feel that that’s changed now that you have obviously a consumer base to be able to tap into? Or did you truly need the 40,000? Could you have launched the campaign with say 5,000 or 10,000 emails and potentially been just as successful?
Isabel Aagaard:
That’s a good question. I think what happened with us, we didn’t put this amount of money aside and said, “We want to use this on marketing.” We actually just saw how much can we get out of this portion of money and when our return on investment was really just really good, then we put more and more money in. It was more fluent. I wouldn’t just put a lot of money into marketing and then see where it went or how many, it was very measured on how much are we actually paying per email.
Isabel Aagaard:
But yes, I think we could have definitely done it halfway. We also moved it a little bit when we came closer because we needed some things that weren’t aligned with the page. I think yes, we could of course have had probably an also successful Kickstarter without. I think it was just it’s really good to build this base and we’ve also done it with the tissue. So we’ve used of course the emails that we already have, but we’ve also tried to build that up and it’s just really valuable, very, very valuable thing.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah, I mean also, I mean obviously you’re creating data driven decisions and what you put on the campaign page is likely what resonated most and converted the most people to give them your email address. It’s obviously great that you had all that insight and you weren’t playing catch up during the campaign to potentially make those changes and see what effect that would have.
Isabel Aagaard:
Exactly.
Roy Morejon:
In terms of deciding on your target market audience. I mean, for LastSwab, it’s anybody with the ears, right? But likely you guys refined that down to potentially be moms in certain geographic areas or what have you. How did you guys go about making data driven decisions around your targeting and your market audience?
Isabel Aagaard:
Actually it happened the other way around. We created the product because we could see that this was something that we would all use and something that we saw could have a really, really huge potential environmentally. In the beginning, we of course targeted a lot of people that were very eco-friendly. But I think that we were surprised of how many women we had. I think we ended up being about 80%, 85% of our target audience is women. I think that that was something that just created and then we tried to figure out after the Kickstarter, well actually who are we actually reaching?
Isabel Aagaard:
Because we had done so many different things and we had kept changing up our target and it just showed us a very interesting, and also now being on a web shop, not on Kickstarter, which is mostly actually male dominated, it’s also been shifting. I feel like it’s very fluent and I feel like it’s also changing from areas that we go into. We haven’t really decided on who to target. We’re actually just looking at the numbers and see who’s really converting well.
Roy Morejon:
Excellent. Yeah again, I love the process that you guys have gone through there in terms of iterations, not only from the product standpoint in terms of making changes there, but also on the digital side of what people actually ended up seeing and then how they ended up actually converting on the campaign. I think that’s great.
Roy Morejon:
With all of the let’s say marketing efforts that you guys have put forth into LastTissue and LastSwab, where did you see the greatest return on your investment?
Isabel Aagaard:
Well, definitely with eco. Aligning or looking at who has also bought other eco brands, but also in general who are just eco-friendly minded. I think this is a huge group for us.
Roy Morejon:
Excellent. Given that you’re a Kickstarter vet or an OG as I call them, what are some of the biggest things or tips that you can give to our audience that’s looking to launch their first campaign?
Isabel Aagaard:
I would say I think that Facebook marketing is very, very interesting and it’s changing constantly. It takes a lot of time and energy to sit down and actually understand it but it’s so much worth it. I would really get into the numbers yourself, understand the A/B testing yourself and just really being sharp on how to reach because this is really important to any business that you’re building.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well Isabel, this is going to get us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions. You good to go?
Isabel Aagaard:
Yes.
Roy Morejon:
What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
Isabel Aagaard:
I come from a very entrepreneurial family, so I think it would be weird if I went the other way. It’s always just been very natural for me.
Roy Morejon:
Fair enough. If you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?
Isabel Aagaard:
Elon Musk.
Roy Morejon:
Musk. Yeah, he’s a common one on the show. What would be your first question for Sir Elon?
Isabel Aagaard:
What does your day look like?
Roy Morejon:
Yeah, it’s an interesting one I’m sure right now with everything that’s going on, how that’s affecting his industry. What book might you recommend to our listeners?
Isabel Aagaard:
It’s a bit personal, but Gabriela Bernstein done a beautiful book on The Universe Has Your Back, but it’s very powerful and whatever you do, it’s just really great to be aligned with yourself. I think you can move much quicker.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Obviously, a lot of people are having a lot more time with themselves these days with the current virus situation, so I’m sure that’s definitely going to be a good read. It’s on my list now. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Isabel Aagaard:
Oh, I see myself in LastObject. I see that we’ve created a huge company and made a real, real dent in the single use industry.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. I’m excited to get your insight on my last question. What does the future of crowdfunding look like?
Isabel Aagaard:
I think there’s only going to be crowdfunding.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah, I think you’re right in terms of anything that’s going out there, you got to get the crowd involved. You have to have people involved in it, right?
Isabel Aagaard:
Yeah. Everything is getting closer and I think that you can order anything online from any destination. So why don’t go directly to what people want?
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Isabel, this has been awesome. This is your opportunity to give our audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check you out.
Isabel Aagaard:
Okay. On spot. Well, if you in any sense are inspired in general of just being more eco-friendly, I would really go and look at your habits. I think it’s been such an amazing experience to go into my daily routines and looking at what we are doing in my household and how we can be just a little bit better. If everybody just does a little bit, then we can come really far.
Roy Morejon:
I agree. Well audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaigns and everything else we talked about today. Of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors; The Gadget Flow and Product Hype. Isabel, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
Isabel Aagaard:
Thank you.
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.
Roy Morejon:
Thanks again for tuning in and we’ll see you again next week.