In this hour-long episode of Art of the Kickstart, we sat down with Sam Olawale, creator of trip essential brand, LiteTravel. With Qubix, Qubix 2 and SMOL under his belt, Sam reveals his tried and true methods of product research, audience development and fast funding for three successful crowdfunding campaigns. Tune in to learn about the backstory of LiteTravel and it’s products’ journey from inspiration to shipment.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

    • Why Sam Olawale uses Kickstarter and how it’s changed over the years
    • How LiteTravel garnered such a loyal brand following
    • The importance of multi-variance testing and backer surveying
    • Why Sam doesn’t recommend using incentive marketing
    • What surprised him the most about crowdfunding

Links

Sponsors

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!

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 cool 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 to Sam Olawale all the way from London, UK. Sam is a Kickstarter vet. He has created multiple campaigns, been a collaborator on multiple campaigns, and his most recent campaign, SMOL, was another major six-figure success. So I’m really excited to be speaking with you today. Sam, thank you so much for joining us on the show.
Sam Olawale:
Thanks very much for having me, Roy. I really appreciate the opportunity.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. So really interested to know, where does your journey begin? Where did it all start to inspire and create LiteTravel, your company
Sam Olawale:
When it all started about three years ago, I was basically a graduate at university with economics and econometrics. And I was working in the city of London, I was a sales trader. So for those who don’t know, people tend to hear the word stock broker or trader, a sales trader is someone in between, working and communicating with high level clients and firms and things like this. So I was doing that for a while and then I left the city of London and I went into property. I was sales and marketing director for a property investment company for a few years as well. Then I moved to Dubai, and when you’re young and dumb in my, let’s say mid to late 20s, I did all of that.
Sam Olawale:
And I thought I knew what I wanted to be in life, what I was going to do in life. Then I went to Dubai to live the dream. Back then, the property market was all the rage. And within three and a half years, I had lost every penny. For those who don’t know, living in a box room in Dubai still costs you around $10,000 a month, it’s crazy money. So in essence, after doing that, I decided, look, I wanted to finally become an entrepreneur for myself. I’ve always had that spirit and I wanted to into the online space, so I started my first ever online website. It was selling information, not how to get rich quick or any nonsense like that, but we were selling tactile information on how people can get a certain type of job.
Sam Olawale:
And it went really well. In like the first 18 months or so, it did a few hundred thousand dollars in sales, multiple six figures that way. And that’s when I really knew that I could cut it online. So after doing that, I then moved into physical products and now the rest is history really.
Roy Morejon:
Well, it’s incredible. Your first campaign that you did at Qubix, these compression packing cubes you launched in the summer of 2018, I guess give me an idea of what was that process like of creating that first product and then deciding why using crowdfunding was the best means to launch the product with?
Sam Olawale:
Well, I think if you look at this day and age and how e-commerce has evolved, me personally, I’m not really a fan of the word crowdfunding, I kind of see it as e-commerce in the public eye, which is really what it is, people tend to put crowdfunding itself on a pedestal. And if you in essence understand what crowdfunding is, it’s nothing more than traditional e-commerce done well, but now all eyeballs are on you, and that can work in a good way, in a bad way. If you get it wrong, it can be very embarrassing, it can be very humbling putting your soul out there through your product, which is what you do when you launch a product, every time you put something out there, you’re bearing your soul to the world.
Sam Olawale:
And if you don’t have a successful raise or it’s underwhelming, it’s like a rejection of the world against your, let’s say deepest manifestations of who you think you are, so it can really, really hurt. But then on the flip side, it can also be really amazing. When you have that success, the notoriety that comes with it can really give you a momentum that you couldn’t really get traditionally just launching the product on your site. So I really love the concept itself, but I think the term has been perversed a little bit by putting the word crowdfunding or Kickstarter on a pedestal, it’s just e-commerce in the public eye.
Sam Olawale:
And when it comes to creating products and what motivated us to create the Qubix for our first product. I always tell people and we study this a lot, first and foremost, I’m a student of life, I study everything that I do. Everything we do as a team is data driven. And I always tell people, you can have a complex product, but if the idea itself isn’t simplistic, it won’t sell. You have to be able to say what your product does in literally one or two lines, and if people don’t raise an eyebrow, or let’s say it transfers to what I would call these days is if it’s not thumb-stopping, because we all know marketing is a big part of success when it comes to selling online.
Sam Olawale:
If it doesn’t make people stop their thumb in their Facebook or if it doesn’t stop them watching when the advert shows in YouTube, if it doesn’t grab their attention, if it’s not thumb-stopping, it doesn’t raise an eyebrow, then you don’t really have a winning product. And before it can raise an eyebrow, it needs to be simple. If people can’t understand it, then it’s never going to sell. So Qubix was really born just out of simplicity. I was traveling a lot at the time. Well, I had bought quite a few sets of packing cubes actually, and all of them were pretty, for lack of better word, pretty crappy.
Sam Olawale:
And I was sitting there with my head of product design and my head of operations and we were traveling a lot and we were just sitting there, we were actually in Bali at the time, and we were just like, “What could we launch next?” We’d just finished launching a product, it’d done really, really well, and we were like, “Okay, what are we going to do next?” And I had a few friends of mine, it’s a bit of a slightly longer story and now I remember it fully, but I’d like to tell it because I think it’s quite valuable for your audience. Friends of mine, and we were all into e-commerce. So we’re in Bali, it’s got a really nice entrepreneurial, let’s say scene out there.
Sam Olawale:
And when it comes to e-commerce, you tend to have two types of people, you have the guys who make money and the guys who want to get into it or who are in it, who are not making money. And the guys who are making money, we can sniff each other out. You can tell if someone’s doing well through e-commerce or not. So we sniffed each other out, and every couple of days we’d go out to dinner to eat somewhere or chill somewhere, have a few beers. And whenever we were talking, we always ended up talking about crowdfunding. Most of these guys of mine, e-commerce friends, they were into drop shipping or Amazon.
Sam Olawale:
And the funny thing is, I was doing that as well. I was selling through Amazon very successfully. I’d also done drop shipping for a while, but I wasn’t very keen on it because one thing that people would get to know about me is I’m a brand guy. I believe in branding. Put it this way, the problem with drop shipping is products are variables within your business model. People who are into drop shipping, they’re willing to sell anything in order to succeed, but how I see it is if products are a variable in your business instead of being a fundamental core aspect of what you do, I don’t think you could ever be successful and grow an intrinsically valuable brand.
Sam Olawale:
So as I’m sitting there with all my pals talking about e-commerce in general and most of them are drop-shippers are Amazon sellers. And I kept on talking about the success I was having with crowdfunding. And by this time I’d already made seven figures through crowdfunding campaigns and they were all just so amazed that you can just make something randomly, put it on this platform and somehow make seven figures from it. And so whenever we went out to dinner, it always ended up me talking about the crowdfunding antics. And in the end, they always told me, it’s all savage, “It’s because you’re so smart and you know what you’re doing, you know how to find the best products,” so this, that and the other.
Sam Olawale:
And I actually challenged them. I said, “You know what? I guarantee you that’s not the case.” So they challenged me and I challenge them and they’re like, “Go and then not something generic and let’s see you make money with it.” So that’s actually how Qubix was born. Yeah, it’s a completely true story. I’ve even got my friends who I met out in Bali, they’ll tell you the story as well. And so I’ll sit around a table and they said this to me. I was like, “You know what, let me think about it and I’ll come back to you in a couple of days.” And you know what it’s like with guys after a few beers, it’s like, “Watch this motherfuckers, I’m coming to steal this crown.”
Sam Olawale:
A few days later we got together and I was like, “I’ve got an idea. And after doing the research… ” One step back, we’ve got a couple of ladies on our team who are amazing at research, they’re these general all-around admin specialists. And in any successful online team, you need these generalists who are just amazing. So I got Alex who is now one of our head research girls and I said, “Alex, you do research all the time, but I’m interested in two or three of these niches you are researching. Go ahead and build me the spreadsheet.” And we do a lot of research, so she would literally collate a spreadsheet with literally every single Amazon comment, every single AliExpress comment, every single comment we can find from major brands around specific products.
Sam Olawale:
And we were like, “Okay, we’re going into the travel niche, let’s use this as a test.” So after she did a lot of research, one of the products was packing cubes. And I was just skimming through the research with my COO, and they basically said, “Look, we found something that could be interesting., Sam. These packing cubes, they’re pretty cheap to manufacture, they’re pretty cost effective to prototype. And then there’s nothing techy about it, maybe we can go into this.” And if you look at the problems with these packages, especially these ones that people say are compression, people buy them and they just don’t compress. They don’t do what they say on the tin.
Sam Olawale:
So I then brought this to my head of product design and we were having a three-way call about it and he came back a day later, said, “Hey look, why don’t we just put two zippers on it? Because then instead of just saying you can compress from 15 centimeters down to three centimeters, which we know is BS. What if you actually gave people an option to zip around twice. So even if they couldn’t double compressed, they could still compress the majority of the cube and it’s not light, you can actually show people that it’s working.” So I was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” We prototyped the product, the product prototype cost us literally less than maybe 300 bucks, the prototype. And then I launched it as basically a gimmick with my pals to show them that this works.
Sam Olawale:
I want to show them the whole process from start to finish, and ended up raising like 250K on Kickstarter, something like this to 220, 250. Then by the time we finished on Indiegogo, it did like 420K. The marketing on the front end of it was very inexpensive, very low cost, just as a bit of a gimmick to my friends. And yeah, that’s how the Qubix was actually born.
Roy Morejon:
Incredible. So I’m really interested to know how you’ve not only like shifted your business or… Talk about the research process of evaluating and finding products that are easy to explain and fit the Kickstarter community, because I think you’ve done that extremely well with these products.
Sam Olawale:
Yeah, thank you. If anyone chooses to actually look, the researchers there, man. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you really don’t. And with my head of product design, he is family. So I’m very lucky that I can be very candid with him. We really smash at it when it comes to these things, and we’ve got a formula now that really works well. So for your listeners, the best thing I can say is this, the price of the product really needs to be between 50 and $300. It needs to be in that price range. Ideally, you want to keep it between 100 and 150, that tends to be the sweet spot. Or if you can combine lower price items where maybe the product costs 30 or 40 bucks and it’s more advantageous for them to buy two or three units, that also can work really well.
Sam Olawale:
So our strategy is really simple. Our research girls they’ve got a mandate, and because we’ve done this so successfully, they know what to look for. And what we tend to look for is inexpensive items to prototype because so many people, all they focus on is making the end product, but if you can’t prototype cost effectively, you’ll never have the space or the budget or the bandwidth to iterate your way to a successful product. Most people don’t realize that if you’re going to create a successful product, you’re probably going to need to make two, three, four, five different prototypes before you get to the one that customers will want to buy. And if every time you have to make a prototype, you’ve got to spend 15, 20K, you’re going to end up being bankrupt very, very quick.
Sam Olawale:
So understanding that simplicity is the key, understanding that the cost of prototyping is equally as important as the product itself, and understanding that if you want to… So I split products into two categories. The categories that you guys know me for right nontechnical products, i.e, that don’t require electronics inside. I have a new category, which we are going into also now very heavily, which is products that do require electronics. And they both come in very distinctly different issues. But products with tech inside also have the capacity to be hugely, let’s say much bigger products, much bigger launches, much bigger brands in general.
Sam Olawale:
So I would always tell people, if you’re going to start this journey, start it with non-techie products, and then once you’ve really got the wind in your sails and what you’re doing and you’ve raised enough money and it’s not your first time at the rodeo, then go into techie products because you need certifications. You need electrical engineers that you need to outsource. So there’s a lot more to it. So I’ll definitely tell people there’s a distinction between the two. But either way, once you understand that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so many people misunderstand why human beings buy products. People always think that I need to come up with something completely new before someone buys it.
Sam Olawale:
Or on the flip side, you have the other people who are like, they don’t come up with anything new, they just run as copycats to other people. And both are very polar ends of the spectrum that don’t work. The most important thing I can tell people is, the number one aspect of success with any brands, not just Kickstarter, because Kickstarter should be the beginning of your journey, not the end. That’s a separate discussion to have. But in general, if you want to launch a great product and by design, build a great brand, the most important word I can tell people is novelty.
Sam Olawale:
You need to come with something new. It’s all well and good when people tell you to make products that solve problems. I agree. Granted, if fundamentally your product solves a problem by design, great, but more important than solving the problem in this day and age is being novel, being new, being first. Look, very rarely in this life will you find a product that hasn’t already been made or in some form or another been manufactured in some way. The real reason why you’ll be successful is because it’s going to be new. And that will work because new is thumb-stopping, and if it thumb-stopping then it works. So keep it simple. Don’t start with anything techie if your know starting afresh.
Sam Olawale:
If you’ve done a couple launches and you got the wind in your sails, upgrade to making things with electronics and the more technical things because they can really, really take your brand to the next level. But really it’s about researching products that you can also prototype very cost effectively and going… Now, that’s the simplest thing I can say to why we research products that sell really, really well.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah. In terms of researching, again now that Kickstarter has been out there for over 10 years, there’s a ton of data out there. Talk about the prep work that you did in terms of the marketing, the messaging, finding the right audience in terms of leading up to that Kickstarter campaign and then what’s changed over the last two years of launching a few more campaigns now?
Sam Olawale:
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the thing that always works well with us is that we are data driven. So before we launch a campaign, we test everything. We test the price, we test the messaging, we test the audience, we test the products. So we do what’s called multivariate split testing. And it’s a bit more, I mean, we could have a whole two, three hour discussion about the ways in which we multivariate split test and why they’re important. But to give you a more succinct answer, it goes this way. The difference between now and five, six years ago is five, six years ago there was still so many categories in Kickstarter that weren’t saturated.
Sam Olawale:
Five, six years ago you can launch a backpack on Kickstarter and if your backpack was good, you could probably raise a good three, four, five, 600K. And if you hit the messaging really well and you hit it at the right time of year based on Google trends, you could probably get close to making seven figures. Nowadays, your backpack could spit gold out of its pockets and it won’t raise a lot of money on Kickstarter because the market is so saturated. Kickstarter backers have seen so many backpacks that unless literally rainbows or jet packs are connected to it and you can fly around with a backpack, it’s never going to raise a lot of money. Even these big brands struggle to raise a lot of money with backpack campaigns these days.
Sam Olawale:
So the thing that’s changed a lot from then until now is saturation. So many pockets within Kickstarter are massively saturated. But on the flip side, there are so many pockets of Kickstarter that are not saturated. That’s why I told you novelty is the key. So I would always tell people to try and move into an area that hasn’t had a bunch of launches, and you have to test everything. So first we start with researching the niche. Before we launch any product, the thing we research first is the niche. If you don’t have an interest in the niche or you can’t see where your product is positioned within that niche, there’s a problem.
Sam Olawale:
The next thing we also do is we assess where in the niche our product fits. Are we aiming for the affordable market? Are we aiming for the premium market, or are we aiming for the luxury market? They are three very distinct markets that people tend to mess up. And if you don’t know where you fit, you won’t know how to create your messaging the right way to appeal to the audience. So for example, what we try and do is we tend to find our sweet spot, and it’s not the same for every brand. And if you look at someone like Peak Design, Peak Design would be a luxury brand that’s priced with premium… From a Kickstarter point of view, it’s a luxury brand at luxury prices.
Sam Olawale:
And then you have other brands who are affordable and also have priced themselves affordable. Whereas what we try to do is we try to be on the upper end of the premium market, so our products are just below luxury, but we price them in the high end of affordable. So that tends to be our sweet spot. So once you understand or research the niche and you find the product that you think can solve a problem and can be novel, then we find out where we fit within our price bracket and where we’re trying to fit ourselves in the eyes of the consumer regarding quality, then what we do is we start testing the message and the price and the audience. So for example, with the jacket we’ve just launched, the SMOL jacket, we could’ve sold it as an outright travel jacket or we could have sold it as a jacket that people would use everyday commuting to work.
Sam Olawale:
Which niche is going to resonate best with our messaging? And it’s important because if it doesn’t resonate with the right niche, you can’t run ads and scale the campaign. So we would do some testing and run some ads towards the, let’s say the office commuter niche with a different message, a different headline, a different tagline a different ad type. I’m just giving this really simply because we actually do this over 10 different ideas or 10 different demographics we’re aiming for, with 10 different taglines and messages. So it really is multivariate, but I’m just giving you two examples. So we’ll test the commuter niche, let’s say, and then we’ll test the travel niche.
Sam Olawale:
Because the jacket packs so small, we were seeing, okay maybe the message of the jacket packing really small would resonate a lot with people who travel or maybe the fact that it’s a versatile jacket that lets you wear it any time of year, that’s also a great product for the commuter. Maybe the commuter would resonate more with that rather than wearing a jacket in the summer that’s different to a jacket they would wear in the winter, which means I have to spend more money on having multiple jackets. So we were really testing the different messaging and then testing the audience that resonates with that message, and all at the same time testing the price of the product so we know exactly what we should price our product for so that we’re hitting the right aim of the market.
Sam Olawale:
Remember, we could have solved the jacket for really cheap and made it really cheap and hit the affordable end of the market, but we didn’t want that. And on the flip side as well, we could have sold the jacket for 300 bucks and hit the luxury end of the market. But again, we didn’t want that. We tested all these price points and we found that the premium style range was what’s best for us. So yeah, we test all these things.
Roy Morejon:
So when you guys were building out and doing the testing, and it’s great advice for anybody out there in terms of doing the multivariate testing and sending traffic in, what were you doing in terms of building or cultivating that community before the product went live on Kickstarter? Were you bringing them into like Facebook groups or Messenger or just collecting email addresses and doing a drip campaign. Talk a little bit about that in terms of how you continue to nurture that audience once you’ve found them.
Sam Olawale:
Yeah, great question. Certainly people these days, especially with the amount of bots that we had or this, that and the other. I don’t know if you can remember, Roy, but remember back in the day, like two, three years ago when Facebook released the bots and everyone was like, “Oh, email is dead. Bots are the future of email.” Do you remember when that craze was going around?
Roy Morejon:
Oh yeah.
Sam Olawale:
Now look, how often do you hear about bots these days? So I always tell people, and maybe it’s just me, but I would really love to sell t-shirts that just said, “The list is life. The list is your life.” If you don’t realize that the email list that you build is the most valuable asset that you have, then you’re clueless. So we rank it in order of this. Your email list is everything. Second is in your Facebook group. And then third are your social media subscribers. They’re really irrelevant and don’t really have much value, but what we tend to say is your email list is everything. So before we launch, we do the multivariate split testing.
Sam Olawale:
And every from day one, even when we’re doing the testing with Facebook, with YouTube, with test landing pages and all the stuff that we do, we are list building from the beginning. So what we tend to do is, during the testing phase when we’re still figuring out the product specifications and the exact criteria of what product we’re going to make to really hit home and what price and what message and what audience, we’re always list building. And in that phase we’re also doing surveys and questionnaires because in that period, data is so valuable. You don’t want to waste any data point or interaction or engagement you have with customers when you’re trying to find out if your product is going to really hit home. Running surveys has been a massively valuable thing for us.
Sam Olawale:
And the surveys also, they work two ways. Surveys work in a way that allows you to extract really valuable data from the people who end up being your biggest customers, your most vocal customers. Because if someone’s willing to spend three or four minutes to fill out a survey, that person has a real high chance of buying from you in the future because again, you know what they say about mini commitments. If you can get someone to mini-commit to signing up to your email list, that’s great, but then there’s going to be roughly 20 to 25% of those people who then fill out a survey. And then those people also join the Facebook group as well. We have a funnel that we use during testing and then when the testing is done, we drop the survey and just make the funnel from landing page to subscribers to the email list.
Sam Olawale:
Then from the email list to the Facebook group, and then we drip feed them a campaign. So it’s really important to use surveys during your testing phase, it’s so important. And then once we go into full on list building mode, we will get them to subscribe, then redirect them to the Facebook group where they join. And we tend to see around 25 to 40% of people subscribe to the Facebook group once they’ve joined the email list. So yeah, that’s what we do. And then about a week before we launch, we run obviously an email campaign and also we do some Facebook remarketing to our list. So we really want to imprint the date and time, that’s the most important thing. In that week building up to the Kickstarter launch, people are inundated with so much information, so many ads, so many emails.
Sam Olawale:
So our aim is to really imprint the dates of our launch in the brains and in the minds of our subscribers because they’re also sign up to a million other people’s launches. So we want to stand out. So we’ve got a few real Ninja techniques. We study a lot neurolinguistic programming, we study a lot archetypical marketing, so archetype storytelling, and we use these really high level tactics like a week to 10 days before the launch. And our sole aim is to imprint the date and time of when we are launching in the minds of our subscribers subconsciously. So that’s our aim and that’s why we always end up making six figures on day one for the majority of our launches. And I look forward to the day where we make seven things on the first 24 hours, so that’s our aim.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah. It’s clearly working and obviously you guys have built this product launch system that’s working obviously with SMOL, you guys did I think 100K on day one. So it’s certainly working. I’m really impressed with the imprintation that you’re putting into that community in terms of the launch date, time. Are you doing anything in terms of giveaways or contests for them to share and get their communities involved?
Sam Olawale:
You’re my segue, you asked some good questions. Look, this is such a controversial topic, but I hear people talk about a lot, and let’s put it this way, when it comes to building lists, you have a choice between quantity and quality, because separate from doing Kickstarter launches, we are into e-commerce. So we run campaigns, we do SEO, we do Facebook, we do YouTube outside of Kickstarter, so we are marketing and sales experts. So for us, we know what the click through rates are for good campaigns, we know what the video view times on good campaigns. We know how to do conversion rate optimizations on our landing pages. So we have all this beta beforehand, and this is one thing that we really want people to get.
Sam Olawale:
If you’re building an email list for your pre-launch and you’re like, “Oh, I’m getting leads for Kickstarter,” it’s not your sense of lead, alarm bells should be ringing for you, because if you’re not putting the filters on your ads to filter people who follow it, if you don’t have a basic Kickstarter and Indiegogo filter on any audience that you’re trying to target through Facebook, there’s a big problem because many people think, “Oh no, that doesn’t matter, just get the leads for as cheap as possible. Incorrect, they won’t convert, they won’t convert, they just won’t. I can get leads from 50 to 50 cents if I wanted to, but they’re not going to convert into sales. So I tell people about when it comes to marketing and filters on Facebook ads and YouTube, so now I’m saying it about competition.
Sam Olawale:
You can use competitions if you want, you can, and I have had friends who have done this, but the conversion rates are extremely low. If you are getting people to subscribe on the premise that if you subscribe, you can win something for free, you are really starting off in the mindset of your customer as being a brand that actually doesn’t believe the merits of its product can stand on its own two feet. That’s what you’re doing. And if you do that from the beginning, it’s pretty hard to recover from it. And it’s not to dis anyone who uses competitions, no, no, far from it, I’m all for championing creating. If you’re brave enough to make something, put money behind it, back it, and then put it out there for people to know and buy into it, that gains respect from me regardless.
Sam Olawale:
But there comes a point where you have to choose what you want to do. And me personally, I choose quality over quantity, and I know roughly what the price per lead should be to have highly converting customers when it’s launch time. As you just said, we’re doing six figures on day one, 99% of the time. So I would err on the side of caution when it comes to using competitions for lead generation. I would always say, keep competitions off, let your landing pages display the merits of the product, let people sign up for the merits. And then if you want to have a competition in some of your Facebook group or when you send them an email, you can send them a link to share it. And if you share it, you get this entry into this competition.
Sam Olawale:
And from my point of view, I would say, no, not really, I wouldn’t be a fan of using competitions for generating leads. I’ve used competitions in the past to really create amazing engagement with my already subscriber, the people who’ve already subscribed or the followers and the group, I’ve used competitions exceptionally well to increase massive engagement, but I probably myself would never advocate someone using it to generate leads.
Roy Morejon:
Well, you’ve built up an amazing community of over 30,000 customers’ backers so far, so really interested to see how you’re handling all of their feedback and how they get brought into the potential product design for the next and newest product that you launch.
Sam Olawale:
Yeah. We use surveys a lot when we’re testing the product itself, and then when we finish the campaign, we use surveys to ask customers, “What would you like to see next?” So I’m sure many of you guys know the book, if not, I’m giving this guy a free shout out, but a book called ASK by Ryan Levesque. Now, we don’t use his model exactly how he has it in the book, again, there’s some parts of it that aren’t necessarily the best, but there are certain parts which really give you a general framework of what I’m about to tell you. What we do is we have our research team, and once… Okay, let’s talk of LiteTravel as a brand, we’re in a travel niche, we know where we are with it, we know what sort of products we want to bring to the niche, it’s in the name LiteTravel.
Sam Olawale:
So we want to make travel products that help people travel lighter, travel easier, travel smarter, so it’s in the name. So we know where that brand sits. And like I said earlier, we want to make cream… We don’t want to make affordable products and we don’t want to make luxury products, we want to make premium products at good prices. So what we have is the team who are always researching new products, new ideas. Now, once these guys are making the research, let’s say we have, these guys will at any one time, they’ll have maybe 50 different products on the short list that we could potentially look to make. And then the real short list when it comes to work with the product designers, maybe there’s at any one time, we’re working on eight different products.
Sam Olawale:
So what we would then say is from that eight real list that the designers are working on, maybe we’ll be like, “Okay, maybe there’s three or four here that are really, really good.” We will then use the tactics from ASK to structure surveys and questionnaires that basically give people the deception of choice. So maybe there’s three products we know that economically or commercially are viable that we can prototype well in the right price range, solve a problem, we can bring something novel to that product and that niche, we will then structure a survey or a questionnaire, a really simple one that allows people to basically pick between the two or three predetermined ideas that we’ve researched and then we’ll see which one gets the most love from the survey.
Sam Olawale:
And then we also have an open-ended part of the survey as well because some of our really good ideas come from people just messaging us with random things for us to maybe make. So it really is just taking a concept of Ryan Levesque from ASK, taking it to a whole new level and structuring it in a way where we already have like two or three really great ideas that we know work and then letting the audience using that structure to determine which one we’re going to launch first or which one gets the most love, and once we know that, we start our process all the way from scratch, where we prototype, test the price, test the message, so on and so forth.
Roy Morejon:
On these surveys, are you using some incentivization engine to increase the amount of feedback and engagement you’re getting on them?
Sam Olawale:
No, we really warn against that. Look, if you’ve built a group… Put it this way, there are certain people who will reply to a survey for the sake of winning something, and just like I was saying about list building, I would always caution about using competitions for list building, I would always caution about giving something away for surveys. You will have hardcore fans, and it’s those hardcore fans that should dictate the tempo. They’re the ones you want to hear from. You don’t want to hear from the casuals, the casuals won’t really give you the valuable data you need to make something new. The casuals are who you bring in a mass when you launch your product and when you sell your product, but when you’re making a product or deciding where to go with the next product, it’s the hardcore people you want.
Sam Olawale:
And most hardcore people, they love you and they love your brand without you having to give them anything. It’s like family, does anyone need to give you anything before you love your kids or you love your mother, or you love your sister, your brother? No. So they’re the fans that you want to be getting the survey from. That’s one. We’ve got email lists now like 40,000 people, but we’re not trying to get everybody to answer that survey, that’s not our aim, we don’t want to know from the casual. What we want to know about is from that five to 10% of real hardcore fans who have followed every single thing we do, who know our customer service agents by name, who know that they can ask of us anything and we will always do our utmost to deliver even at the cost, even if it brings additional cost to us because their value long term is so high that we’re willing to sacrifice in the short term to gain in the long term.
Sam Olawale:
It’s those fans that we want answering the surveys as to where we go next with our products. We don’t want everyone to be answering. I hope that makes sense. It might seem weird or counter-intuitive, but it’s the hardcore fans you want answering them.
Roy Morejon:
No, I think it’s a great explanation for our community in terms of… I love how you put the message, the casuals and the hardcore, I think there is a clean delineation between those two and certainly on the giveaways and the share this and get extra points, that community, and again, you’re right in terms of discounting the brand immediately right off the bat and potentially your product was made of cheaper materials and that’s why you’re giving it away. And it is tough to shift the mindset of the consumer if that’s the first touch point that they have, right?
Sam Olawale:
Of course. Correct.
Roy Morejon:
Let’s talk a little bit about your experience with shipping. Given that you guys have crowdfunded multiple campaigns and you’ve always shipped on time, how have you been able to do this and make this happen and do you think it truly increases the trust level of the backer to know that they’re going to get their product on time as advertised?
Sam Olawale:
It’s everything. Like I said at the start, crowdfunding is the beginning of your journey, not the end, and it really breaks my heart to see some real great products with some real great campaigns, and it’s obvious that the creators of these campaigns, they didn’t realize how successful their products were going to be and then when they get the success, instead of doubling down and going hard to really elevate themselves to a whole new level, they think, “Oh wow, I’ve made some money now, I can sit back and relax.” No, it should be the opposite and shipping is best epitome of this. People always think as well, under deliver and over promise. Sorry, my bad, under promise and over deliver. Disagree, just be honest. Honesty goes a long, long way.
Sam Olawale:
If you’re honest and you work really, really hard, nine times out of 10, everything will work out. And if it doesn’t, on that one time where it doesn’t work out, which eventually that will happen. It’s business, F-ups happen, it’s business. So when that happens, people will understand because real recognizes real. And it’s the same for customers. So the reason we’ve always been able to deliver on time-
Roy Morejon:
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.
Sam Olawale:
Yeah. Real recognizes real. So for us, we have a team in Asia, we’re also manufacturing outside of Asia, but let’s be honest, that’s the most cost effective place to manufacture products. I just want to say one thing as well about China itself, separate from what’s going on with the pandemic and all this stuff, but one thing that’s true, people think that companies manufacture in China because it’s cheap, China in this day and age is not cheap, it’s cost effective, but it’s not cheap. The reason people manufacture in China so much is because they have the best and the smartest human capita in the world. And people don’t realize this. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, they were asking him one time about, “Why don’t we bring manufacturing to America? Why don’t you bring Apple manufacturing to the USA?”
Sam Olawale:
And people were like, “Oh, it’s because of the cost and you want to be cheap.” And Tim Cook was like, “You guys, if you think it’s because of money, your fault, we are the richest company in the world. If we wanted to manufacture here, we couldn’t if we tried.” He’s talking about USA. And he says, “Let me tell you why. If I wanted to bring the intellectual capacity of what it takes to make our products to the USA, maybe I could find engineers to fill a hall, maybe. And it’d be really hard, I’ll be paying through the nose for them. But in China,” he said something along these, I can’t remember exactly what he said, “But in China, I could fill a football stadium full of engineers and designers who have the capacity and the knowledge to develop our products. So if you guys think it’s because of money, it’s not, it’s because of intellectual prowess that’s in China.”
Sam Olawale:
So for us, it’s the same for shipping. And so many people have the misconception to think that the Chinese are terrible at shipping. They are really, really not. So we manufacture and we ship a lot from Asia, and we use… There are so many different types of… Well, people tend to know ePacket. Well, that tends to be the typical thing that people are heard of in the e-commerce world, ePacket from China. Did you know, Roy? I’m sure you know Roy, but most of your listeners probably don’t know. You know there’s like 12 different types of ePacket? There’s so many different types and they come with different times, different rates, different qualities.
Sam Olawale:
So the reason we’re able to deliver on time every time, is because we do our research ahead of time. Okay, fair enough, now we know how it goes, we have the team there, we have our fulfillment centers there. They know what we’re like, we’ve sent like 300,000 packages or whatever in however many years, but the point is as follows, even if we didn’t know or we didn’t have the experience, they all comes from doing the research and knowing the numbers ahead of time. So before we launch a campaign, we know exactly how much it’s going to cost to fulfill, we know exactly how long it’s going to take to fulfill. We already get quotes from our fulfillment centers and our shippers way ahead of time.
Sam Olawale:
We already know before we launch a product, which one of the two ePackets we’re going to use to the US, which carriers we’re going to use to Europe, which ones we’re going to use to Asia. So it’s all about data and information. Nine times out of 10 working with people who want to launch campaigns, I realize that they put shipping as a very, very last priority for them, they think shipping is not more important. They don’t realize how critical it is to know your shipping numbers just as effectively as you know your product manufacturing numbers. People are so foolish and so many people I know I’ve got stung with campaigns with their shipping.
Sam Olawale:
They get stung real, real bad because they take it as a given, they don’t understand that, you can have a product, okay, if it’s under two kilograms, it cost one thing, if it’s 2.001 kilograms, your product shipping process just double and that kills certain people and they don’t know these things. So it’s just through ignorance and lack of research that really stinks people. But the reason why we deliver on time every time is because we do our research. And obviously now, after so many campaigns, it’s just a walk in the park for us but for newbies out there, or people who have got it wrong in the past, just do the research, be extra thorough. You should be an expert with Microsoft Excel. If you’re not an expert, find someone who is and make models, “Okay, if we sell 10,000 units and we have 50% of those units be one unit and then 30% of those units being multiple units and then 20% be four or more units, what’s our shipping costs going to be?”
Sam Olawale:
And then you cost average, you’re shipping between the levels, you shouldn’t be lowering your shipping based on exactly how much people buy, you need to cost average out because how much it costs to ship to Vanuatu is very different how much it cost to mainland US versus the outline islands. But you can’t sit there for lack of better word and price everything individually, you need to aggregate, and if you’re going to aggregate effectively, you need to have data, and if you’re going to have the data, you need to do your research, there’s no way around it, no way around it.
Roy Morejon:
I agree. Well, given your vast amount of experience with these campaigns and crowdfunding and marketing in general, two questions, what’s been the biggest surprise that you’ve learned so far with running a crowdfunding campaign and what’s the biggest nugget that you can leave our audience with?
Sam Olawale:
The biggest surprise I would say is, you’ll be surprised how well customers will respond to you if you’re honest with them. I really can’t say enough. If you have excellent customer service and you don’t BS your answers and if you don’t know the answer to something, you tell them you don’t know, just be honest, but people don’t realize more than anything. Backers are people, you’re always going to get the odd a-hole who is unreasonable when he shine on your campaign and slandering you and posting links to this thing, that’s going to happen anyway. And Kickstarters, they’re not the best, let’s say, at supporting creators in that way. It’s normal, you’re always going to get one overly angry customer or backer who is having a bad day at work or his wife has divorced him or whatever it may be.
Sam Olawale:
There’s nothing you can do about that, but if you’re honest with your customers, 99.9% of the time, it’s going to serve you way more in the future if you want to build a real brand a real long lasting business, which everyone should be doing. Stop launching products and start building brands, that’s the number one nugget I can leave with everybody. Stop launching products and start building brands. And the beginning of any relationship, it doesn’t matter whether it’s personal, physical, mental, it doesn’t matter, honesty, trumps all. So that would be the number one thing I would say, be honest with yourself, be honest with your customers and build a brand, not just launch products. What was the second question?
Roy Morejon:
Well, you did it in terms of the biggest surprise and then the biggest thing that you’ve learned.
Sam Olawale:
That would be the number one nugget. The biggest thing I’ve learned is, customers will buy the strangest things if you’re able to give them a fantastic message. Making something novel and having a great message beats reinventing the wheel and having a crack message. Like if you can just make people laugh or give them a bit of joy in the day or make sure your product concept is so obvious and simple and useful to them, you’ll sell a lot of products. You don’t have to sit there and try and reinvent, you don’t have to be Tesla before people buy anything from you. And so many creators try… So many products over-engineered that, with a million this and a million of that and a million this and a million that.
Sam Olawale:
And then you see other people which have none of those features, they’ve the simplest of products with a great message and end up raising 10 times more than the product which solves slice breaking or solves the problem with slice bread or whatever you want to call it. So just keep it simple and have great messaging, focus much more on the novelty and testing your message rather than just trying to create a product that has a million features. And that’s not going to work.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, Sam, this has been truly amazing. I know our audience is going to love this. This is going to get us into our launch round where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions at you. You’re good to go?
Sam Olawale:
Yeah, let’s go.
Roy Morejon:
All right. What inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
Sam Olawale:
Being the very best person I could ever be, it’s got nothing to do with money, it’s about playing the game. The money is just the way to keep score. This is nothing more than a personal development journey.
Roy Morejon:
So if you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?
Sam Olawale:
It has to be Nikola Tesla before he went crazy and started loving pigeons.
Roy Morejon:
There you go. What would be your first question for him?
Sam Olawale:
Where do you get your ideas from? Like, “Just take me to that place where the ideas come to you.” Like you said, because this guy, for your audience who don’t know him, research has guided more than just the company you see who sells electric cars, research, Nikola Tesla, you realize he’s probably the most influential person on your everyday life than you probably know.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Outside of the Ryan Levesque book that you mentioned earlier, what other business book or life book would you recommend to our listeners?
Sam Olawale:
There’s one I would recommend to be probably the greatest book written by probably one of the greatest human beings ever made. Definitely one of the greatest decision makers the human species has ever made, which would be Principles by Ray Dalio. There’s not really much more to say about that book other than just read it about 20 times if you can, because the way that guy makes decisions, and successful business people are people who know how to make decisions, he’s obviously one of the greatest decision makers the human species has ever had the pleasure of creating.
Sam Olawale:
His philosophy, it’s a business and life, I think the idea of meritocracy is I think the future of our species, the future of politics, the future of business, the future of our communication between ourselves as human race. The idea of meritocracy in some shape or form will be the future of how we conduct ourselves around the world.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. That’s a great read as well. Where do you see yourself in five years
Sam Olawale:
Doing exactly what I’m doing now on an even grander scale and hopefully by then, being able to influence, because I love angel investing, I love mentoring stars. So yeah, just being part of that community and then helping younger, smarter people than me take the very little wisdom I have and help them avoid some of the mistakes I make so that hopefully they can impact the world 10 times more than I could ever impact it because the youth is always the energy of the future. So helping the youth also evolve and not make the mistakes I made and do it 10 times better than I ever done.
Roy Morejon:
Nice. Last question in the launch round and I’m really interested in your take in, what does the future of crowdfunding and/or e-commerce look like?
Sam Olawale:
Authenticity. Being authentic is the key to success in the future. There’s so much jargon thrown to us, how to make money online, how to make this, how to do that, how to make money drop shipping, how to sell on Amazon. And everyone is just selling the same BS. And I think ordinary people are seeing through that very thinly clouded veil now that it’s the people who are authentic who will win. I don’t know if your audience watches MMA, I don’t know if you watch MMA, Roy, but there’s a guy called Jorge Masvidal. And Jorge, he’s got the fastest knockout in MMA history, he knocked out a guy called Ben Askren in five seconds. Jorge is a really great story, he was arguably not the most technically gifted fighter.
Sam Olawale:
He wasn’t necessarily the most notorious fighter like Conor McGregor or anything like that, but Jorge is a fighter’s fighter, he is a legit bad-ass guy. And he didn’t get the recognition he deserved for like 10, 12 years in his career. And only recently has he gotten that success. And the success has come from Jorge because he’s so authentic, I love Conor McGregor as well, but there’s something about Jorge and his authenticity that just resonate with the world. And I think that e-commerce for business, for the things that we all do online, whether you’re building a brand or launching a product, being authentic in everything that you do, in your product design, in your messaging, in your customer service, that says more than any gimmick or any feature your product ever have. So the success, the future belongs to those who are authentic.
Roy Morejon:
Hear, hear. Well, this has been amazing. This is your opportunity to give your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check you out.
Sam Olawale:
Well, funny enough, I make all my money with social media, but I’m not a big advocate or use social media myself, but I am building a website now. I haven’t really done much with it, but I am building a website now called digitalsupersystems.com. And that website is really not about teaching people how to make money or anything like that, maybe people have asked me about how do we do what we do as a business? How do we build brands? How do we do my launch products? How do we scale them into e-commerce? Blah, blah, blah. So maybe in the future we’ll talk about that, but what I’m focusing on right now is teaching people how to build systems, how to hire people, how to create a team online, especially in the pandemic we’re going through, everyone’s readjusting the mindset to work from home.
Sam Olawale:
How do you build a team of 15, 20 people, which is what we have now that are highly motivated, love waking up every day and working. Some of these people I’ve never met in my life, I will never meet them, and yet I treat them and I see them like my family, and they feel the same about me and our senior management. So what we’re doing is we’re just bottling all the things that we do in my team every day and making a structure or a system to show people how you can build a team and systems and operations that scale. Because if you want to go to the next level, this is the key to success.
Sam Olawale:
It’s not learning a new strategy or selling on Amazon or even launch on Kickstarter, none of that means anything, if you can’t find highly motivated people and give them a system and a workflow that they wake up and execute every day with a smile in their face, you can’t ever be successful. So we’re teaching this, it’s called digitalsupersystems.com, and if anyone’s interested, then check it out and hopefully there’s something on there that you can find valuable.
Roy Morejon:
Awesome. Well, Sam, this has been amazing. Audience, thanks for tuning in, make sure to visit Art of the Kickstart for the notes, the transcript, links to everything we talked about today and all the campaigns. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and ProductHype. Sam, thank you so much for being with us today on Art of the Kickstart.
Sam Olawale:
Thank you very much, Roy. Thanks everybody for listening, and I appreciate it.
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 love this episode a lot, leave us a review at artofthekickstart.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors, entrepreneurs, and startups find this show and it helps us get better guests to help you build a better business.
Roy Morejon:
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.