In October 2014, Gareth Everard raised almost $150,000 on Kickstarter with a razor. Within a few months, he’d shipped a bad product to 2,500 people who backed his campaign. In this week’s podcast we learn how he overcame manufacturing problems to make his backers happy again, how he’s crowdfunding an even better razor now, and what lessons he’s learned in the process.

Rockwell Model T Razor and Razor Blades – Shaving, Perfected

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How crowdfunding can launch you into a full-time business overnight
  • Effectively using Reddit to market your campaign
  • Getting a following and growing your email list
  • Determining how much time to dedicate to the pre-launch portion of your campaign
  • Getting your project ready for manufacturing and production
  • How to deal with issues in production, manufacturing and logistics
  • Making a product even better after a successful crowdfunding campaign

Links

Connect with Rockwell Razors

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 Command Partners, the top crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. Each week I 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. Now let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I’m honored to be joined by Gareth Everard with the Rockwell Razors. Gareth, thank you for joining us.

Gareth Everard:

Thanks, Roy. Excited to be here.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. We’re excited to have you. Listen, you ran a campaign in the Fall of 2014 for the Rockwell Razor. You kicked butt on it. You ran into some issues. What I’d like to do is kind of learn about your previous campaign, what you’re up to now, and let the conversation flow from there.

Gareth Everard:

Awesome. I’d be happy to share some of the ups and downs. I know a lot of the listeners are hopeful Kickstarter-prenuers or people who have run campaigns so I’ll try to draw an end to this that I can in terms of tips.

You’re right, the Rockwell 6S campaign went live, that’s 6S, not success. The razor went live on Kickstarter in September 2014. It was my senior year of college, so I kind of just jumped right into it. A friend of mine and I launched the campaign and had a goal of $12,000. We put it live on a Tuesday night and overnight it raised $18,000, and we woke up the next morning with a full-time business on our hands. There have been some crazy ups and downs since then. I guess we’ll probably dive a little bit more into the specific lessons from the downs in later bit on in this interview. Yeah, it’s been definitely a lot of learning. We’re excited to be going back to Kickstarter with our next product that’s actually launching, I think it will have launched once this episode goes live. That’s pretty exciting. That’ll be for the Rockwell Model T.

Roy Morejon:

A new edition of the Rockwell. That’s awesome. I’m assuming you took a lot of feedback from your customers, and obviously maybe some of the pain points as well from the campaign. Kind of discuss what happened initially while you kind of fell into a full-time business.

Gareth Everard:

The Rockwell 6S is a adjustable safety razor. What that means is that instead of using cartridges, which I’m sure you’ve- Roy you know, they’re overpriced, they give a lot of people irritation on their skin, they result in a lot of ingrown hairs, there’s a lot of that stuff associated with cartridges. Now there are a bunch of shaving startups coming out, that are just trying to ration cartridge razors to you, one month at a time and essentially it’s paying a postal service to ship you razors once a month instead of buying them in bulk. The Rockwell 6S uses razor blades that cost ten cents each. They’re just a single razor blade so they actually give you a much more irritation free shave.

Now the issue when people look at a razor that uses a single edge blade is marketing has conditioned us to think that those kind of razors are harder to use. We approached the Rockwell 6S in that, could we make this adjustable? Could we make a razor where you could actually switch settings so that on lower size settings it was impossible to cut yourself? There is such a small gap between the razor blade and the rest of the razor that it was just a really great place to start to transition away from cartridge razor shaving. Then if you wanted later to up to a more traditional single blade shaving feel, or if you were shaving off say multiple days of hair growth, you could do that by switching out between Rockwell size one and size six, hence, Rockwell 6S. Six sizes.

We put that live and kind of- like I said $12,000 goal. We thought we’d find maybe a little niche community or resonate with a niche community online. It turns out it resonated with a lot more than that and with absolutely zero marketing, no idea really what we were doing on the PR side, we surely were not trying hard at it whatsoever. It ended up getting $18,000 overnight and almost $150,000 in under a month.

Roy Morejon:

That’s incredible growth. Obviously there’s certain things that you hopefully did in terms of prepping the campaign out there before you pitched it and promoted it to Kickstarter. Any lessons learned on the pre-campaign preparation that you want to lend our listeners?

Gareth Everard:

Absolutely. I think that a lot is said about [inaudible 00:04:44] PR, getting a big Facebook presence, doing kind of the traditional things people associate with Kickstarter campaigns. We did a very different approach that turned out to be actually immensely successful, and I think coupled with the traditional approaches, it would have made our campaign even bigger than it was. We used Reddit as our primary marketing platform, but we didn’t do it as marketing. As you might know, Reddit isn’t really marketing friendly.

What we did is instead, we had an idea for this product, a classic razor, and we identified that there were niches on Reddit. There are some Reddits that have over 80,000 followers of the subreddit that is dedicated to something called classic shaving, or wet shaving, which uses- which is essentially the use of these traditional razors instead of cartridges. We began just, we made profiles and tried to contribute to the discussion and add value on the subreddits and got our name out there. Eventually, when we put up the campaign we were familiar enough to the community that word spread pretty quickly about the campaign being up there. There was no hard pitching, no marketing from us, but it ultimately spread on that subreddit and on select, kind of niche forums in that particular space.

I think there is something to be said for anyone making a product, like a nice luxury watch, or a new fountain pen, or a new coffeemaker, anything you can look up and find a subreddit on your, on the product category that you’re making a new product of, especially if you have no email list, you have no following like we did. Definitely taking a lot of time to add value and grow a following within a community on Reddit is the number one thing that I can suggest if anyone’s looking into launching a Kickstarter campaign for the first time.

Roy Morejon:

That’s great advice, Gareth. Honestly, basically you were able to tap into a community, obviously drive value there by giving your insights or feedback or just really being a member of the community before you even pitched or presented anything. Give us an idea of how long you spent on Reddit pre-campaign in terms of engaging those communities, how much karma you built up before you were able to actually engage them with your product.

Gareth Everard:

We spent two months just kind of existing on the forum and putting out comments. Generally, I think “existing” is the best word for it. You just have to really focus on added value with comments. We put, our handle, was a reference to our sort of flair is kind of what it’s called on Reddit, referenced our company, but there was never any, “Hey, check out Rockwell! You guys should check out Rockwell! You guys should buy from Rockwell!” It was just, value add comments and today I think the name Rockwell [inaudible 00:07:32] people, ultimately spurred other members of the community on to share our product or project on our behalf once it did launch on Kickstarter.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Yeah, and that’s key. Reddit is that type of community where it’s the anti-marketing community where basically you really just have to join in, be part of that conversation, and not market at all. If people are ready and want to engage you, then so be it and they’ll ask. That’s a great piece of advice for our listeners.

Gareth Everard:

Yeah, certainly being said before that at the early stages of any startup or a small company, whatever you want to call your Kickstarter, to do things that don’t scale, and I think that Reddit it the perfect example of doing something impactful, but not necessarily something that scales immediately.

Roy Morejon:

Exactly. You had this successful campaign. It runs. When the campaign ended, what risks and challenges did you face immediately thereafter?

Gareth Everard:

This is where things actually got kind of interesting. VentureBeat actually recently had me host, kindly hosted a article that I wrote called, “How My Kickstarter Campaign Blew Up My Life.” I’ll try to summarize it here. Essentially, we were two senior year college students who had an idea of a project that ended up resonating with people more than we expected. We had a manufacturer lined up. When you’re going to go manufacture something, other than the whole- I think this is true for electronics as well, you give them the design and they give you back something called the first article. The first article is ten to thirty copies of the product. Essentially, what they’ve created based off your design, saying this is what the whole production will look like.

We partnered with an investment casting manufacturer in the United States, in the Midwest. We were provided some early, not prototypes, but first articles of our razor and said if you guys pick us, if you do your full production of thousands of razors with us, this is what your production will look like. We had thirty razors that looked amazing. They were like, yes, these were made through investment casting.

We went to a third party logistics center to get all the shipping set up. We showed them how to assemble the razor. This is all done in the states. We’re Canadian so we didn’t want the razor to have to cross the border a ton and get hit by duties as we were assembling and what not. We just found a third party logistics center very very close to our manufacturer, got everything set up so that everything could go straight from the manufacturer to the 3PL, and they would ship out to our 2,500 backers and pre-order customers.

Ultimately, what happened was the manufacturer had seen that we’d raised all this money and knew that we hadn’t manufactured anything before. What they did is through the investment cast first article that they made, they heavily machined it using a CNC which is a precision tool. It’s very expensive and does not scale at all, but it will make very very good looking pieces off the bat. They essentially super-polished all the pieces that they sent to us and said, yeah, no worries, this is what the full production will look like. Because we outsourced all the quality control to them and all of the fulfillment to our 3PL, we, naively, assumed everything would be fine. We didn’t actually see every single piece as it went out to our backers.

We started getting feedback very quickly on fulfillment that the razor didn’t look like what we expected and what our backers expected. From there, we had to back pedal, look at what happened and it became-the issue that I just explained became very clear to us as we took thousands of pieces back from the third party logistics center to my parent’s basement in Toronto, Canada. We ultimately kind of had this decision to make. Okay, we shipped a not ideal product to thousands of backers. What are we going to do?

Ultimately, what happened is we went to an engineer in Toronto, a great engineering firm that said okay you can’t make an investment casting, you must make a metal injection molding. We’re going to tweak the design and we’re going to fix this. I essentially took the rest of the Kickstarter funds and all my personal savings, invested it in a new mold, up front mold for metal injection molding. We’re still manufacturing in America at this point, but we actually still manufacture the Rockwell 6S in America. We went forward with metal injection molding manufacturing and we shipped a free replacement of the razor to every single one of our 2,500 backers around the world with free shipping offered around the world.

We went from being ostracized by our backers and felt a number of them were pretty upset with the first version of the razor, to ultimately we have a lot of raving fans and I think it really added a lot of value and people seemed really really thrilled with the outcome of the campaign, ultimately.

Roy Morejon:

That’s great advice, Gareth. Honestly, it’s great to see that you took the extra steps to truly deliver the product that you promised your backers. Many times we see campaigns take that shortcut, potentially never deliver, go bankrupt, but it’s great to see that you truly engaged your community on all levels, got their feedback and made it right. My hats off to you for that.

What other feedback have you gotten from your community since delivering a quality product to them from the first campaign?

Gareth Everard:

I think that we’ve gotten that the Rockwell 6S- there are two different kind of customers that I think of, to say we have. We have people that are familiar with classic shaving in this kind of razor, and we have people who are not necessarily, who were introduced to classic shaving through our Kickstarter campaign. The people who are new to classic shaving in particular, find that the Rockwell 6S actually has five different pieces. We send it in a box and you can kind of keep all of the pieces but you’ll only use three pieces of the razor at once. The rest of the plates are unused. That’s what kind of gives you the adjustability. What we heard is that people were looking for a much more intuitive way to get that adjustability.

For eighteen months actually, we’ve been working on the Rockwell Model T which is our new product that’s just launching on Kickstarter on March 28th. That is a one-piece razor. Instead of having these plates that you need to flip and take the razor apart, we actually have a little adjustable dial so that you can very intuitively and easily change the shave setting, the size setting, from a very easy safe [inaudible 00:14:12] from cartridge shaving to something that’s better for you shaving off a few days of growth. Its just a much more intuitive adjustable razor.

We were really happy to take that feedback and then incorporate that into our latest product and we have, obviously a lot of backers and somewhat, fans that are very happy with the results of the first Kickstarter. We’re really excited to reveal this new product to them on the 28th.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. I’m sure our community’s going to be excited to see that new campaign. Give us one piece of advice that you’ve learned so far going through the experience once with Kickstarter already.

Gareth Everard:

I think that transparency and making it right trumps all on Kickstarter. I think a lot of people try to hide a lot in their updates and not make the updates visible to the [inaudible 00:15:02] and kind of really try to hide behind updates that their backers, or not even give frequent updates whatsoever. I would strongly caution against this. Everything that you can- [certainly 00:15:12] your backers are there giving your competition or perceived competition an unfair advantage over you. You should, you really need to share with them. It’s not, not for any reason other than it just grows your community on so much more. The comments will be more positive. The emails you get will be more positive. People will be more likely to share by word of mouth about your product. I think it just really really strengthens your brand to be as transparent as you can legally be.

Roy Morejon:

Great advice for everyone, not only Kickstarter companies but obviously in business general. Gareth, this jumps us into our launch round where I rapid fire questions at you. Are you ready?

Gareth Everard:

I’m ready.

Roy Morejon:

What inspired you to be a razor entrepreneur or a shave-preneur?

Gareth Everard:

A shave-preneur, I like that. I haven’t heard that before. I was inspired to be an entrepreneur when I realized just midway through university that working for someone else wasn’t going to work for me. That’s probably a feeling that is familiar with many of your listeners. My friend and I, Morgan, my co-founder and I, were working on a business. He was buying old straight razors, like Sweeney Todd straight razors, from estate sales. He would refurbish them, and then sell them on Esty for a massive profit. We were thinking, how can we scale this business? We saw safety razors and other classic shaving products as an opportunity to get into entrepreneurship in a space that we were pretty familiar with. For me it’s just an entrepreneurial launching pad and I’ve really enjoyed myself so far.

Roy Morejon:

If you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would you want to have coffee with or share a shave with?

Gareth Everard:

Probably not share a shave with, I don’t think he’d have the time. If I could ever grab Elon Musk for a five minute coffee, that would probably complete my life.

Roy Morejon:

What would be your first question to Elon?

Gareth Everard:

How on earth do you do everything that you do? I’d probably end up like a little girl, starstruck and meeting a celebrity, and I would finally figure out the questions that I wanted to ask him. Mostly I’m really interested in his ability to manage multiple massive companies at once. Frankly, he’s just, I think he’s inspiring. I don’t mean to make it too- a lot of … entrepreneurs my age, and maybe not even my age. His ability to innovate in such a meaningful way and also just get so much done in so many different, significant, impactful spaces.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Are there any business books or life books that you’d love to recommend to our listeners?

Gareth Everard:

One of my absolute favorite books is The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. It’s a book based on, around the ancient philosophy of stoicism, which essentially if I can just put it into one sentence, it’s seeing things as they are and not overreacting and not under-reacting to any things that come your way. Frankly, I think they saved me during my Kickstarter campaign. Being able to take the bad things that happened and not perceive them necessarily as bad, but simply as things that happen. Things that need solutions found and specifically a person that finds solutions instead of wallowing in self-pity for some outrageous amount of time. I think that all of those lessons can be applied to just about anything in business and seeing things as they are and solving problems as they are instead of making them out to be more or less than they truly are. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. That’s the [inaudible 00:18:36] that I keep on audio book on my phone at all times.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Every problem there’s an opportunity, right? Gareth, what would you say is your biggest weakness?

Gareth Everard:

My biggest weakness is … I think sometimes I can get distracted too easily. I will deep dive into a project for an entire day and then realize that nothing else on my to-do list got done because all I did was focus on one thing. That’s probably my biggest weakness. If I could change anything, I would get better at managing my to-do list. Not in terms of wasting too much time, but I guess wasting too much time on something that I perceive to be productive until the end of the day and you’re like, that wasn’t productive at all. That should have taken me one hour and it took twelve.

Roy Morejon:

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

Gareth Everard:

I would really really like to be growing Rockwell in five years. I think it has a big chance to be a player in the razor industry and maybe take a page out of Elon Musk’s book. My degree is actually, the degree I graduated with last May is in Environmental Science and the reason behind that is I am very very interested in renewable energy. Any foray into renewable energy is definitely something that I am looking at and hoping to build off of Rockwell into something that’s kind of more into my real [inaudible 00:20:00] in terms of what I saw myself producing as an entrepreneur later in my life.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Final question, Gareth. What do you think the future of crowdfunding looks like?

Gareth Everard:

I think that crowdfunding is a platform for people, consumers, to vote with their money on what companies and what products they would like to support. I think that applies also for equity. Crowdfunding is equity. As crowdfunding gets larger, essentially crowdfunding just will democratize product and company launches so that people are able to connect with other people and share visions and share transparency around early stages of company and product development. I think that crowdfunding will only grow and I’m excited to see where it goes. I anticipate crowdfunding being a very significant part of both small and big business product and business launches many decades into the future.

Roy Morejon:

Gareth, this has been awesome. I appreciate you coming onto our show. Give our listeners your pitch, tell them what you’re all about and where people should go and why they should check out the new Rockwell campaign.

Gareth Everard:

Absolutely! The Rockwell Model T, which is live on Kickstarter as of the posting of this podcast, is a super intuitive take on the classic razor. It means that you can use ten cent razor blades instead of being beholden to shaving clubs and big, evil razor companies that want to sell you extra lube strips and pivoting balls on your face and ration you cartridges to you one month at time. You actually don’t need any of that stuff. You can get a very close, comfortable shave with a single blade and an adjustable razor. If that sounds interesting to you at all, you should go on Kickstarter and look up the Rockwell Model T. That’s just the letter T. Let me know what you think. We’re at info@rockwellrazors.com and I will do my absolute best to get back to you within, you know, as soon as possible. If you have any questions, or want to give a shout out, or anything at all, or you need or want any feedback or help with your upcoming crowdfunding campaign, I am also happy to do that.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Gareth, thank you again for coming on our show. Listeners, thank you for tuning in. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all of the show notes, links to everything we talked about, and a full transcript of this week’s episode.

Gareth Everard:

Thank Roy!

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning into 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 artkick.wpengine.com and share it with your friends. If you need a more hands-on crowdfunding marketing strategy, please visit our website at commandpartners.com and request a quote. Thanks for tuning in. Catch you next time.