In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Denny Chiang, founder of Projext & Co., creators of Scooter One Shoes. As sustainably designed sneakers, Scooter One also serves practical purposes as they’re fully-cushioned, lightweight, durable, temperature-regulating and weather-resistant. Listen in and learn about the brand’s product development journey and their Kickstarter experience.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

    • The inspiration behind Scooter One Shoes
    • The extensive trial and error process that comes with designing footwear
    • How Projext & Co. sourced socially-conscious manufacturers
    • The biggest surprise they’ve encountered in their crowdfunding campaign

    Links

    Sponsors

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    Transcript

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    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 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 speaking with Denny Chiang, co-founder of Projext & Co., And the current active campaign Scooter One Shoes. Denny, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
    Denny Chiang:
    Thanks for having me here.
    Roy Morejon:
    Yes. I’m really excited. We love fashion brands, we love footwear, and most folks on Kickstarter love it as well. Your company, Projext & Co., a group of footwear industry experts, international designers, engineers, and creators. I’m really excited to talk about the active campaign, Scooter One Shoes, as truly being the most advanced minimalistic sneaker. So if you would, for our audience, give us some background of where this all started, and what inspired you to create the Scooter One Shoe.
    Denny Chiang:
    All right. For sure. It all started last summer, in July, when one day I was on a phone call with one of my co-founders of Projext. The phone call was regarding two of the unique materials that we recently encountered, and thought that would be amazing fits to footwear products. This material is our patented Prime Fiber leather, which is later used as the upper material of Scooter One. And what we call Souffle Fit technology, the gentle to skin fabric, used as sock and lining of our shoes. This materials are sustainable, they are also functional, so that’s why we want to use them. Both materials are hybrid. Each of the materials make up two different kinds of material and we mix them together and take only the best functional properties from each side to form a new kind of material. For example, so our Prime Fiber leather is the combination of real calf leather and vegan leather coating. It has the same breathability, the flexibility, and durability of real leather yet at the same time, it has weather and dirt proof functionality of vegan leathers.
    Denny Chiang:
    The best part of this new upper material is, it is super environmental friendly. The leather part used is actually upcycled from [inaudible 00:03:15] waste and vegan leather coating is made free of D-M-F-A, the harmful substance normally used on the making of the synthetic coating. On the other hand, our Souffle Fabric, it’s a product of two super or natural materials. They are Marino wools in terms of fiber. One’s from the sheep and other ones from the tree, both the materials are known to be temperature and odor regulative, keeping you as cool in summer and warm in winter and anything in between. The ratio of the two materials are carefully optimized to give the best wearing experience. So this is why my co founder and I have been wanting to do this. So we have been in fashion business, particularly in footwear manufacturing sector for over 20 years.
    Denny Chiang:
    So we understand people’s expectation on footwear. People nowadays they want their shoes to be lighter, more cushioning, more flexible, weatherproof, hassle-free maintenance like temperature odor regulating, be nimble yet fashionable look, and most importantly, environmental friendly. With the two unique materials that we have on hand that could meet people’s ultimate needs. The obvious question, then, “why don’t we introduce having it all shoes to the world ourselves?” This is how we started this project and how we came up with our name Projext, which stands for project next is our future. So every project that we start will begin with the fundamental mindset of improving the present and sustaining the future. So that’s our back story.
    Roy Morejon:
    Yeah, that’s crazy because you truly are blending together some next level fabrics, materials, as well as product development into this technology itself. So how have you been managing not only the logistics behind this, but also the technology and the fabrics and the weaving and the collaboration together to make such an innovative shoe?
    Denny Chiang:
    So all, like we said, we have been in shoe business for so long. So we have numerous encounters with different kind of technology and new different kind of materials. So basically what we have in mind is that when certain materials, technology pop up in the market, we will experiment in shoe wear products and we will do some trials and testings to see if that feeds shoes. So unlike apparels like clothing, like t-shirts, there’s a certain degrees of safety that we have to have on shoes. Okay. So we have to test it right now. So fortunately we have the experience and the team of experts in this, and we are able to weave everything together and to join everything together and to make it possible for us.
    Roy Morejon:
    Truly impressive. So any challenges that you guys have encountered when designing this product?
    Denny Chiang:
    For sure. Yeah. So we have four major challenges. The first one would be finalizing the design of our first product of Scooter One. So we are actually a big fan of classic designs. So we needed a simpler design that was timeless and versatile, where we want people to focus on the wearing experience. We want our design to be perfect. So we want people to explore and feel the difference of our shoes as comparing to other white sneakers in the market. So there’s zero rate of the shoes had to be perfect. We have had adjust every single line and every curve font on the shoes. We wanted the shoe style to be the least people would worry about. So the initial design period took almost three months to complete with endless design blueprints and actual prototypes being thrown into the trashcan. We have to fight.
    Denny Chiang:
    So, please be reassured that no designers was harmed in the process. All right. Yeah. So the second one I would say was to create an almost perfect fitting for Scooter One. So footwear fitting is a tricky business. Frankly speaking, there is not such a thing as perfect fitting in reality, so we can only make sure the fit is good for majority of the people, but not for everyone. So this is because not only does we have different feet measurements, you and I, we have different measurements. And most importantly, we have our own definition of comfort fitting. So you may want your shoes to be tighter. I might want it to be loose. So it is very hard. We cannot really please everyone. So in the process of this, it’s really a headache for us. So furthermore Scooter One offers 13 sizes.
    Denny Chiang:
    It will mean that we have to try and test fitting for all sizes. And any change to one size has to be applied and reflect on to the rest of the sizes. Unfortunately, many feet were hurt in the process, my feet included. So I would like to take this chance to thank you for all those who have sacrificed their feet in the search for the ultimate feet.
    Denny Chiang:
    And finding a credible factory is also one of the challenges we face in the product creations. We do not want to have Scooter One produce in a factory that meets the highest standard of craftsmanship, but also in a factory that is social compliant. We believe in treating everyone fairly and not making more burden to our mother Earth. That is our bottom line. The selection process of such factory was long and dragging. It involved with multiple factory visits, thanks to my partners in Asia, and reading numerous reports. So making it even more difficult was that the selection was done during the current situation with COVID-19. So where traveling abroad was limited. Fortunately, we are able to partner up with this extremely credible manufacturer. This manufacturer is the one that put these for the uprising switch ethic brand call On. I don’t know if you have heard that, but it’s uprising now.
    Denny Chiang:
    The fourth challenge that we face now as mentioned earlier, is we have to do this under the situation of COVID-19. So team project is international. So we have our team members all over the world, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, the United States, Brazil, China, and Vietnam. So with the traveling restriction in effect, so everything has to be communicate through phone calls and video conference. It did make the whole product creation difficult. However, our team show a great deal of resilience and are able to launch Scooter One as planned. We wanted to launch our products as planned to give something different, something fun and something that can solve some of the people’s problem with shoes. To the people, even during the pandemic, knowing the fact that it might affect our campaign, we want people to know there’s someone somewhere in the world, working the hardest and not giving up.
    Roy Morejon:
    Indeed. No, that’s great to hear Denny, obviously, all of the work that you’ve been putting into this with your team around the globe and during this pandemic certainly shows the amount of detail that you guys have spent in terms of bringing this innovation to market. So I’d be interested to hear some of the marketing preparation work that you’ve done now that we know that you guys have been so diligent on the product development side, what prep work did you do in terms of leading up to the active Kickstarter campaign, where you have hundreds of backers and over $55,000 in funding.
    Denny Chiang:
    So basically we want this product to speak as their selves. So we want to design the best possible products in so we can show people how we are, how our attitude is. And plus, of course you have to find a credible marketer or partner, like Enventys Partners. So this is how we prep ourselves into it. And a few months before we have already talk to you guys about how to set up a very good campaign or the community that ultimate would back our campaign. So this is how we do it. So without the help on the F-N-T and all my friends and families, we wouldn’t be able to launch a product on Kickstarter.
    Roy Morejon:
    What’s amazing with this campaign is the fact that almost half of the backers that have come into the campaign currently are first time backers. So not only have they never backed a campaign before, but likely this is the first innovation that they’ve potentially ever seen on Kickstarter and through the campaign page and through the level of detail that you’ve not only put into making this product, but showcasing it, was enough for them to commit money and pre-purchase this product before it’s ready to deliver. So I think the efforts that you guys have put together with our team have really showcased it well to convert all of these first time backers into hopefully continued early adopters. So with that being said, Denny, give me a little bit of insight into your experience in communicating and working with the backers so far on the campaign. Have you gotten some good feedback from them? Any insights?
    Denny Chiang:
    Communicating with backers has to be sincere. So basically you cannot lie, something that you don’t have it, it’s all about like solving their problems or their concern with your products. So being honest, trying to be helpful when they have a question regarding the products, we have to give our owner’s opinion on it. And that way people will sense that we are truly behind the product. It’s not just for making money or stuff like that. We do want to promote or stand behind our product. Our product is what we are.
    Roy Morejon:
    Absolutely. So what’s been the biggest surprise thus far of your active Kickstarter campaign.
    Denny Chiang:
    Good question. So the biggest surprise is that we are able to fund ourself within the first day. I believe a first few hours and the feeling is amazing. Our team is so happy with this. Yeah. Like I said, we didn’t expect that to happen.
    Roy Morejon:
    Excellent. Well, it’s always nice to see a fully funded campaign on day one and have the support from friends, family, and all of those new backers that have come in that have been inspired with not only your story, but also just the tireless work that you and your team have put into bringing this product to market. Well, Danny, this is going to get us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. You ready to go?
    Denny Chiang:
    Oh yes. Here we go.
    Roy Morejon:
    Right. So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
    Denny Chiang:
    Okay. This is about trying to make my dream come true. I always want to showcase my stuff and my things. Yeah. Like dream come true. I want people to accept this and agree with me.
    Speaker 3:
    So if you could meet any entrepreneur, who would you want to have a walk with?
    Denny Chiang:
    Whoa, this is…wow. Hmm. Okay. The founder of Opra shoes. I think what they have done is amazing. So they started with a Kickstarter campaign and now with the multi-billion business. Oh my God. That’s amazing. I would like to meet the owner of which
    Speaker 3:
    Nice. Any book or business book, life book, book in general that you would recommend to our entrepreneurial listeners?
    Denny Chiang:
    Well, okay. I have a huge list to name. So I would say that I cannot get a name out of my head now. Sorry about that. That’s okay. Yeah. Yeah.
    Speaker 3:
    We can list them in the comments afterwards. Last question. And I know Danny you’re in your first active Kickstarter campaign, but would be very interested to hear your lens on what the future of crowdfunding looks like.
    Denny Chiang:
    I think that would be the future life. I think people noticed that they prefer something that’s unique, customized to their needs. Instead of being like given by the huge corporations about what they should wear or what they should use. People now they want to make their own decision, their own judgment on what things they want and what things they need. So being able to, because Kickstarter is giving all the entrepreneur a platform to showcase their products. This platform will offer to all the shoppers like me a chance to look at something that is not mentioned in the market currently. So I will believe that people or the the Kickstarter will be the future of shopping.
    Roy Morejon:
    Absolutely. Well Danny, this has been amazing. This is your chance to give our audience your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should check it.
    Denny Chiang:
    Thank you so much.
    Roy Morejon:
    Yeah, my pleasure. So everyone, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript links to the active campaign for Scooter One shoes, and everything else we talked about today. And of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow and Product Type. Mr. Danny Chiang, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
    Denny Chiang:
    The pleasure is all mine. 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.