For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we caught up with Cathryn Lavery, the CEO and co-founder of BestSelf Co. At its core, BestSelf Co. is a company that helps you find work-life harmony, think bigger, achieve more, and spark deeper connections. Not only is Cathryn an entrepreneur and creator, but she is a crowdfunding aficionado, having run four crowdfunding campaigns to date. Listen in to hear her talk about what she’s learned as a crowdfunding project creator, how she navigates the world of entrepreneurship, and what’s to come for BestSelf Co. in the future!
Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways
- Why they decided to take the Kickstarter route in 2015 to validate their initial product before beginning production
- The value of a strong pre-launch strategy and how they implemented their strategy in order to set their campaign up for success
- Why adding a personal touch to your messaging is important when it comes to connecting with your backers
- The benefit of an overarching, shareable content publishing strategy to help support the launch of a crowdfunding campaign (hint: it involves Arianna Huffington)
- The value of Facebook Groups and how a fan-based Facebook Group developed into a positive, supportive environment that also doubles as a space to source customer feedback
- SELF Journal on Kickstarter
- BestSelf Co.
- Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life
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. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 20% off!
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 a hundred 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 buyer’s guide for cool 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 super excited because I am joined by the super talented Cathryn Lavery, CEO and co-founder of BestSelf Co. Cathryn, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
Cathryn Lavery: Thanks Roy. It’s great to be here.
Roy Morejon: So I’m really excited because you are one of the OG Kickstarter creators that have done more than one campaign, more than two. You are, have done now four campaigns on Kickstarter as I’ve just found out, with most recent successful campaign Tempo with over a thousand backers and then your uber successful campaign for the SELF Journal back in 2015 that had over 6,500 backers. So let’s give our audience a little bit of background here on Cathryn and of BestSelf Co. Where did it all start and how did you guys begin the company?
Cathryn Lavery: So we started with the SELF Journal, which is a three month based goal planner, which is the original three month based planner essentially. And we’d started that just because it was a pain point that we had. We were scratching our own itch and whenever it came time to actually create the thing we’re like, okay, this is going to be really expensive if we do one-offs because we just wanted it for ourselves. And so I’d done a couple of Kickstarters before and thought well, why don’t we validate the idea on Kickstarter and make sure people actually want it before, in case we end up with a garage full of product that nobody wants. So that’s kind of why we decided to go there, again, because I’d done it before. It’s a great way to build a tribe around a product, get product feedback before it even launches. So the product that we started with on the campaign and the product that we ended with was actually improved through feedback from customers. So it’s just a great platform to reach your audience in a way that when you’re just starting is super important.
Roy Morejon: So back in 2015 Kickstarter was just really starting to get a little bit more of the mainstream traffic and publicity that we all know and recognize the brand for what it is now. Were there any alternative ways that you guys looked at instead of using crowdfunding that may have been able to bring this product to market outside of using Kickstarter as a means to validate the product and over fund so that you could build a company around it?
Cathryn Lavery: I mean, at the time we looked at, there’s the product launch formula that Jeff Walker has. Then my co-founder was like, “Oh, we should do this” because Kickstarter is a lot of work. You know at the beginning, doing the video and all of the things that go along with launching a Kickstarter. I was pretty much gung ho on Kickstarter from the beginning just because I’d seen success with it before and knew what the undertaking was, and the work to put it up at the start. The benefits outweigh the cost in my opinion. So in reality, no, not really. I’d tried other things before and this is the one that I thought was going to be most successful.
Roy Morejon: So let’s talk about the product development process there. Had you guys done anything in terms of creating a journal before? Anything along this, and then how did you go about deciding what to put in the journal, how to make it, manufacture it, source it, all of those things.
Cathryn Lavery: So I used to be an architect, so I’m used to creating real things between furniture and buildings and the rest of it. And then I’d also been on the editing team for a book in the past, actually when I was in university. So I kind of knew what putting a book together meant. Before we’d created the product that became the SELF Journal we were writing the structure into a Moleskine format, which just gets old when you do it day in, day out. So as having a design background, I was pretty confident in my ability to create a physical product that would be manufacturable just because I had some past experience with it.
Roy Morejon: What were some of the challenges that you encountered when designing the product for the first time?
Cathryn Lavery: I think you always get feedback like nobody, not everyone is going to love your product at the same rate and if you try to please everyone then you’ll come up with something that really pleases no one because it’s just too basic. So I think at the beginning it was, as a designer and creator I was struggling with which feedback do you take into account versus what you just kind of be like, “Oh, this is a very niche idea that someone has, not something that’s going to be applicable to the masses.” So during our Kickstarter we actually did a lead gen where we gave the product PDF for free. So you give us your email and we give you the PDF, and that way people could print it and try it out before they bought it. And so that worked really well because we got feedback from it.
And also there was a sense of reciprocity because people were like, “Oh wow, they’re giving the product away for free. They must be confident in it.” And so it was through that that we got product development feedback and again, I think my experience with just creating in the real world, I had a good idea of what was going to be, what was going to go into it. I mean I can’t say that for our recent project. We had, we’ve had some hiccups with the delivery and I think that is because it’s just a completely new process for us and it’s just been a huge learning experience where I can see how having past experience is a big benefit for Kickstarter.
Roy Morejon: Absolutely. So in terms of the 2015 successful campaign for the SELF Planner, let’s talk about a little bit of the prep work that went into that and I know you had done a couple campaigns before that, but this one obviously kind of laid a very successful blueprint for others that you again gave away on some articles and resources that we’ll definitely share with the audience. But talk a little bit about the prep work that you did to lead to a super successful campaign back in 2015.
Cathryn Lavery: So something that I think sometimes people confuse is that they think they’ll put something up on Kickstarter and as soon as they press the publish button that people will come flocking as the build it and they will come. And what we did prior to our Kickstarter was that we built an email list of very targeted people interested in productivity and goal setting and achievement because we’re basically starting from scratch with this whole product and company. So over the three months prior to the launch we were systematic and okay, what can we do to build this email list so when we launch, we can have people buying the product. So that was creating content around subjects that the people that would want this product would be interested in. And then doing content upgrades with that.
So say we’re like, okay, why is creating a morning routine important? And then there’s a content upgrade of here is the morning routines of 30 highly successful people that you can copy and try and make your own. And so people are reading this good content article and then they’re like, “Oh great.” And they put their email in and then we could later target them when we launch the campaign. We did a giveaway of again products around our favorite books and software and gadgets around performance. And if we do that, the only people that are going to be interested in that stuff is the target market that we do. Like if we had done a iPad or a MacBook Pro, we would have got a ton of more entries but it would have been very diluted and we wouldn’t know who actually is interested in the product that we want to sell.
So the giveaway helped us build an email list specifically targeted to people that would be interested in the product that we were going to launch. We did, it was between content giveaways and asking friends that we knew in the space to share it once it was live. That was kind of where we started.
Roy Morejon: Excellent. So in terms of building out the database, getting all of the people in there, customizing the approach, creating really great killer content that obviously got shared, there’s some great resources out there that you guys use to really get the content shareable to the right audience, which I think is something that’s really important that you alluded to. That yeah, if it was a cool new Apple tech product, everybody would have signed up because everybody’s a fan boy or girl of those products. But since this is very specific to let’s say the entrepreneur or someone that’s really wanting to set goals and plan out the 13 week plan, this really spoke directly to them, which is why I think you guys were so successful very early on in the campaign because the products resonated with the specific audience that you were going after. So let’s talk about, in terms of deciding on that target market and audience, how did you do successful outreach to them? Was it more through the advertising side and drawing them into the content or was it deeper than that with personalized messaging to them?
Cathryn Lavery: So we, at the beginning of the campaign, we sent personal messages to each person, and I had done that on previous campaigns before. So I knew that if you just add a little personal touch, it doesn’t even have to be much more than her name or something like that. People are just much more responsive. So it was that, it was building, I had already, is, the target market was essentially like us. So it was me targeting people like me and a lot of those people I already had connections with within Facebook groups or, and they were loose connections, but I knew how to talk to the customer just because I was the customer. So I was really talking to myself and my friends, which made it easier to target.
If you’re going for a market that you have no experience or it’s not you then it’s, you have to rely more on talking to people in that market or, or ads or things like that. We didn’t actually run that many, much ad at the beginning. We did do some things for the content upgrades, but once we launched, I think it was about two weeks in that we actually started cranking on the ads.
Roy Morejon: Got it. So the campaign itself obviously got some great press coverage, outlets like Business Insider, even had Arianna Huffington tweet about it, Inc. Magazine and The New York Times, et cetera. What were some of the factors there for the success from getting great coverage for the launch?
Cathryn Lavery: So the Arianna Huffington thing was completely out of the blue. I had written a post, which one of the things was Medium was, it wasn’t just starting, but it was like an emerging platform. And so my whole thing was if I can create really great content and get in front of people that I wouldn’t otherwise get in front of, because again, we were starting from scratch so we didn’t have an email list. So I’m like, where do I go? Or I think listeners should figure out where are the people that are going to buy their product. Like where do they hang out? Is it Reddit or Medium or whatever it works for them. So for me, I was thinking, okay, Medium is a ton of people. They read about how to perform better and things like that. How do I get in front of those people with content and just create really great content?
And so that was the overall strategy, and Arianna Huffington happened to tweet out one of my articles because she just liked it on the day that we launched, which was awesome. And then what I did was on the Medium article, once the campaign was launched, at the bottom of each article I mentioned that we were live on Kickstarter so that all these people that have read this whole thing might be like, “Oh, let me click through and support this product.” Or maybe I’ve itched some sort of thing that they are interested in and they want to reciprocate by supporting the campaign. And I know I wrote a pretty detailed post for SEEMO and a lot of people find interest in that and support it just because they thought it was super interesting.
Roy Morejon: Absolutely. So with all of the marketing efforts that you put forth for all of the projects, or maybe this, the SELF Planner individually, what led to the greatest ROI, if you will, for the campaign itself?
Cathryn Lavery: I think the Medium and the giveaway. So our whole thing was how do we get funded as quickly as possible. So our public facing goal was 15,000 and we created rewards like early bird rewards and limited rewards so that we wanted to get people pledging as soon as they started so that we could get funded quickly. Because on Kickstarter the momentum, as you know, is getting as many backers as possible within the first 24 to 48 hours, and so that was our only goal. So it was all this buildup with content and giveaways, and was it agitate solve model where you talk about the problem in an email series and then we’re like, okay, here’s the solution. So that’s kind of how we launched it.
Roy Morejon: Nice.
Cathryn Lavery: Did that answer your question?
Roy Morejon: Totally. Yeah, so I knew earlier you had mentioned getting a lot of backer feedback and then putting that potentially into the product, and I always go back to the old Henry Ford quote of, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.” But in this instance you guys definitely took that feedback and put it into the product itself and have now reiterated over the last four years of creating an even better product than likely the one that you guys launched back in 2015. So how have you gone about creating a system of a feedback loop with your customers now that you guys are much larger than you were back then?
Cathryn Lavery: So when we launched the Kickstarter, we launched a Facebook group called The BestSelf Alliance and we did this so that people could share their goals, get some accountability because I don’t what you, but for me, I like talking about my goals, but that’s not really a normal thing people do. And so people started to use the group as a way to engage. And so it started with us engaging the group a lot and getting growing feedback as it went. And it’s grown into this thing that we go in there every now and again, but it’s a self-feeding sort of group that is positive, and they share their goals and help each other, right? And it’s become this supportive environment so when we have a new product or we want to just get feedback, we have, like there’s 40,000 people in that group that we can go to to just get some feedback on products that we have coming out or products that they’ve already bought and used so that we can make it better for the next time that we relaunch something.
Roy Morejon: That’s amazing. So what advice would you have for someone else looking to launch their first product on Kickstarter? You know, in terms of using crowdfunding as a means to launch their company or their first product.
Cathryn Lavery: So the great thing about Kickstarter is, a lot of times it’s, I always suggest that with physical products, usually the more volume that you buy, the lower the cost per unit is. And with Kickstarter or other crowdfunding platforms, you’re essentially pre-ordering. So everyone’s pre-ordering a product and the more pre-orders that you get, usually the lower the cost, so you price it for the minimum order. So if say your order’s 2000 you price based on that. But the more volume that you get, usually the lower the price is. So for us, we raised enough money that we pre-sold 10,000 units, but we had enough money that we produced 30,000 units so the cost for us was much lower. And it gave us something to launch the business with because you don’t want to have to pre-order 10,000 units. You only produce 10,000 units and you don’t have enough money to do the new cycle.
And so it’s very, I always tell people with Kickstarter is make sure that you have a, you can recycle your inventory so that you’re not always having to kickstart a new product run. Does that make sense?
Roy Morejon: Absolutely.
Cathryn Lavery: So the great thing about Kickstarter is that you can get the amount of money that will fund the business after Kickstarter, which is really what my goal was and what I think most people should be like. It’s not just about Kickstarter. This should be the launch pad for the business, but it allows you to keep all your equity and just pre-sell your product before it exists.
Roy Morejon: Yeah, I love that. And again, kind of going with your motto and at the center of everything you guys do, you’re developing and launching products and you’ve shipped over 200,000 products to customers all over the world. Daymond John loves your product as well as many, many other people. So I’m really excited where your company has obviously positioned now where you guys are selling obviously through your website, through Amazon. You have some great new products as well that you guys have been recently launched with your deck. The Little Talk, which I’m really excited to use with my daughters in terms of helping spark bigger conversations with children. What else are you guys working on now that we’re going to be excited to see in 2020?
Cathryn Lavery: So we have a bunch of things in the works. When we started we were very focused on productivity and goal setting which is still a big focus of the company but the company is called BestSelf, and there’s a lot more to life than goal setting and getting the most done in a day. I personally experienced that when you hit your goals but then, your business goals for example, but then the rest of your life is kind of in a shambles cause you haven’t been focused on your personal growth or your relationships. So BestSelf has become a holistic view of how do we help people and give them the tools that they want to make themselves their best self. So one of our most popular products is called the Intimacy Deck and it’s ways to improve your communication with your partner.
We have the Icebreaker Deck and people are loving these decks because it’s a way to have conversations, like deep conversations in real life and get away from this always being on our phone and on the computers and building these real connections with people, which I think a lot of people are searching for. And so we’ve realized how important that is for our personal growth and for our happiness. And that’s actually scientifically, it’s like a science study in Harvard showing that loneliness is more dangerous than smoking and we want to get people starting to connect again in a real way. And so that’s where these conversation prompts have started.
Roy Morejon: Oh, this is great. Well Kathryn this is going to get us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. Are you good to go?
Cathryn Lavery: Yep.
Roy Morejon: All right. So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
Cathryn Lavery: The freedom to create on my own schedule, on my own terms.
Roy Morejon: Indeed. So if you could meet any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?
Cathryn Lavery: I want to meet Sara Blakely. She’s very inspiring.
Roy Morejon: Nice. What would be your first question for Sara?
Cathryn Lavery: I would want to know what she did to personally grow herself in order to keep up with the growth of the business.
Roy Morejon: Yeah, definitely. Who did you look up to growing up as a kid?
Cathryn Lavery: So I didn’t know that you could be an entrepreneur as a kid is really the answer. I didn’t know anyone who had their own business. My parents both had regular conventional jobs, so I was super entrepreneurial when I was younger, but I didn’t know anyone that did that, so I, that’s why I’m struggling.
Roy Morejon: Yeah, no, I’m with you on that one for sure. My parents were in regular jobs too and there wasn’t something that was a optional path when you’re going through as a kid through school, right? It wasn’t one of those boxes you could check like what do you want to be when you grow up? Entrepreneur really didn’t exist back then, right?
Cathryn Lavery: Yeah.
Roy Morejon: Any business books or life books that you’d recommend to our listeners?
Cathryn Lavery: Yeah, I would recommend the latest book that I’m loving is called “Indistractable” and it’s by Nir Eyal. I think the future of, basically the future is going to depend on us becoming focused on paying attention to the right things because we’re constantly hit with so many things all the time. So “Indistractable” is a great book. It’s from the same writer who wrote “Hooked,” about habit forming products and this is kind of the, okay, now that we know how to do that, let’s figure out how to defend ourselves against it so that our attention and time isn’t stolen.
Roy Morejon: Absolutely. Yeah. I finished that audio book earlier this year. Great, great listen. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Cathryn Lavery: Oh, I see myself, I want to start a nonprofit to help young people with entrepreneurship and get them started in another path outside of the traditional path, and I see myself growing BestSelf bigger and bigger and making personal development more of a household name.
Roy Morejon: Awesome. Last question, Cathryn. What does the future of crowdfunding look like?
Cathryn Lavery: I think it’s going to get bigger and bigger. I think it’s going to just become the norm to, like the idea of buying a ton of product before you’ve sold it. I think it’s even now becoming a thing where there’s so many pros to crowdfunding and getting feedback before you launch that why wouldn’t you do it?
Roy Morejon: That’s my thoughts too. Well Cathryn, this has been awesome. Please, this is your opportunity basically to give your pitch to our audience, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check you out.
Cathryn Lavery: Thanks for listening to this interview. If you’re interested in setting your goals, achieving more, you can find all of the tools that I mentioned and more at bestself.co, and if you want to read more about company hiring, product creation, that sort of thing, I have a personal blog called littlemight.com and you can find a lot of stuff on crowdfunding there.
Roy Morejon: Awesome. Audience, thanks for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to everything we talked about today. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and ProductType. Cathryn, thank you so much for joining us on the show today. It’s been great.
Cathryn Lavery: Great. Thank you so much.
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.