In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Dean Alms, founder of Swish, creators of the twist on the cocktail jigger. All while keeping your bar clean, Swish will accurately measure and easily dispense a single shot, pony shot or double shot. Dean Alms and the rest of the team just completed Swish’s first-ever Kickstarter campaign, a fully-funded success. Listen in and learn about the brand’s product development journey and their road to crowdfunding.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How the inspiration for Swish came from Dean Alms’ love of cocktails and tools
  • Some challenges his team encountered along the way while designing this product
  • Why they decided to release Swish through a crowdfunding campaign
  • How the team prepared the marketing for the campaign’s launch and what help Enventys Partners provided
  • The biggest surprise Dean encountered during the crowdfunding campaign

Links

Sponsors

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Transcript

View this episode's transcript
Roy Morejon:
Welcome to Art of the Kickstart, your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host Roy Morejon, president of Enventys Partners, the top full service turnkey product development and crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped startups raise over a hundred million dollars for our clients since 2010. Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur or a business expert in order to help you take your startup to the next level with crowdfunding.
Roy Morejon:
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. Welcome to another edition of Art of The Kickstart. Today we are talking with the founder of swish, Mr. Dean Alms. Mr. Dean, Thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
Dean Alms:
Thank you. It’s great to be here. Thank you.
Roy Morejon:
So you’ve got a really cool product, not just because I enjoy a cocktail or two, but this is truly a full twist on the original cocktail jigger, if you will. Swish is this amazing product. It’s an active Kickstarter campaign right now. So definitely go out and check it out. It’s got over 400 backers, raised over 20 grand so far, but really a very cool tool for the homemade bar. I think a lot of people with the current pandemic are certainly mixing more drinks at home. So really excited Dean to have you on the show. And if you would, give our audience a little bit of background here, where did it all start? What inspired you to create swish rocks?
Dean Alms:
Yeah, you bet. I have always been a lover of craft cocktails. I love Manhattans, I love old fashions and the list goes on. I’ve also always been a tools guy. If you were to look inside my garage, you would see a huge assortment of tools. And it’s really bringing those two worlds together that created swish. The idea was, as I was making cocktails with the existing jigger, there was always this notion of pouring it in and you take it all the way to the top, because if you look at the traditional swish, I mean, sorry the traditional jigger, it’s a one and a half ounce on one side and usually one ounce on the other side, and to make your drink, you have to take it all the way to the top, pour it in your glass, et cetera.
Dean Alms:
And it just didn’t seem to be as far along with a coffee. So a lot of it had to do with that. It had this combination of, I wanted to create a better tool and the existing tool I thought could be improved upon. That’s a little bit about where the inspiration came from. If you think about what has happened over the past few years with some other products, such as your basic water bottle has been now transformed into a hydro flask or your basic cooler is now been transformed into a Yeti. So people are looking for super high quality products and I thought, Hey, here’s an area where we can go for it.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah. I definitely had a chance to put my hands on this at the office, looking at the finished product. And there’s definitely a ton of engineering that has gone into this to create such a high quality product. So talk to me a little bit about, when you were creating swish rocks, what was that process like? How did you go about deciding what features to include, how to design it, what materials? Talk about that process.
Dean Alms:
Sure. It’s kind of ironic because, when I first decided to do this, I was just going to take a slow roll and actually simply use 3D printing to create swishes and hand them out to some friends and families and the like and just try to get a sense of whether or not this would be something that other people would enjoy and want to have at their home bar as well. As I was doing that and putting the designs together, friend of mine came along who’s really into 3D design and just industrial design to begin with, and that’s Michael Bonadio. He thought, wow.
Dean Alms:
This one really struck a chord with him. And he was the one that suggested, maybe we ought to take this to Kickstarter, maybe go beyond just building a few of these and really ramping up manufacturing and making this available. It was a little nerve wracking at first to go big, but based on the reaction of him as well as the first 20 people that we kind of talked to this about, the positive response was so good. We decided that, forget the 3d route, let’s go ahead and build this in a high quality fashion and we’ll go for it, if you will.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. What were some of those challenges that you’ve encountered along the way while designing this product?
Dean Alms:
Yeah, there’s a couple of things. So number one, I’m not a hardware guy by trade but, tools guy. I’m a software engineer and I’ve been in the software business for 25 plus years, now an executive and helping SAS companies build out software products. So to venture into building a hardware product like this was new territory. And so one of the first challenges was, getting the right people on board to making sure that we we’re going about this correctly. And this is a combination of people that have the experience in logistics and manufacturing, as well as design and things of that nature to make sure that this would go as well as it could.
Dean Alms:
But in the early stages, when we were 3D printing this, one of the decisions we had to make is, how do we make sure that there is going to be a strong metal to metal connection between the swish as you pour in the cocktail, it literally sits in the funnel and then when you push down, it releases out of the bottom. We really didn’t want to have rubber O-rings or anything like that. We really wanted to make this a stainless steel, a product that would stand the test of time, that could be put in a dishwasher, that could withstand any kind of alcohol or syrups that would be poured through it without clogging it up. So those types of ideas is what really shaped what you now see as the Switch today.
Roy Morejon:
Beautiful. It certainly is a beautiful product. Let’s talk a little bit about the crowdfunding campaign. It’s active right now, hundreds of backers in there, how did you guys decide that crowdfunding was the right platform to launch this campaign with?
Dean Alms:
Well, a couple of ideas behind that. When I first started showing people, there was one of two answers that came back to me, you ought to go on shark tank and put this in front of those guys and get the visibility there. And the other one was, you ought to go on Kickstarter and do crowdfunding for it. And we opted for the Kickstarter route. And primarily because as you’ve experienced and you said, you put your hands on it in the office and whatnot, and once you feel the product it is much better than actually seeing it on video or even photographs of it, because of the quality and the weight of the product just makes it feel good in your hand type of thing.
Dean Alms:
So we really wanted to get it into retail stores down the line. But before we did that, we wanted to make sure that those potential retailers would see that there’s an uptake to this, so that people really had a desire to buy a better jigger to measure their cocktails, whether it’s now during COVID or even further on down the line. But the idea of making home cocktails is becoming more and more an industry, if you will. If you look at the growth of craft cocktails and the high premium liquors out there, you can see that this is a strong trend.
Dean Alms:
So we wanted to get on board with that. And we felt crowdfunding would be a great way to get the message out to all of those early adopters out there. I mean, if you think about what Kickstarter and crowdfunding is all about, it is people like myself that go out there and look for the latest and greatest ideas, and they’re willing to try them without touching it. And so that’s the path that we chose to get this into hands to the early adopters.
Roy Morejon:
I love the fact that you asked the crowd what to do, and they gave you two different options, crowdfunding, or going into the Sharks. We just had another one of our clients rumble on Shark Tank this past week, so you’re definitely going down the right path here with proving that there’s a significant market out there that’s looking for such a well-designed high crafted product like this that you guys have made. And you’re absolutely right, putting this in your hands, there’s a weight to it, and you can feel the quality that was built into that product. So well done on the engineering side.
Dean Alms:
Thank you very much.
Roy Morejon:
Let’s talk a little bit about the marketing side, in terms of prep work leading up to the Kickstarter campaign. We all know how important leading up to that launch is, what were some of the things that you guys did in terms of putting yourself in such a good position to fund the campaign and now overfunded?
Dean Alms:
Yeah. One of our first decisions was to go to an organization, Enventys, that would help us and coach us through the various steps that make campaigns like this successful. I couldn’t reinforce that enough, to use a trusted partner that has been through this process many times, and avoid a lot of the pitfalls and mistakes that could have happened if you didn’t use someone that’s been down this path before. They know basically how to prepare for this from a marketing and prelaunch perspective, once it gets launched, how do you continue to build up the momentum, and even defining what reward packages to put out there, what’s going to be interesting or not? One of the challenges that we had with swish, it is a lower price point item. And so we need a lot of sales in order to hit those funding amounts.
Dean Alms:
And so getting coaching around, building a two pack, a four pack, and even a 10 pack was part of the coaching that we got, to make sure that we could overcome the low cost of the item and do it the right way there. So that was a big decision on our part, is to use a partner like Enventys to make this happen. And then getting a high quality video out there with the right timeframe. You don’t want it to be too long, you don’t want it to be too short, you want to hit the major points. Luckily because of that, we’ve had a very high rate of people starting the video and watching it all the way through, which was a big goal of ours as well. So those types of things, the use of Facebook for advertising, the use of email in a robust way to keep potential interested parties involved in the overall process is certainly a big part of the storyline.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. You’ve mentioned the backers so far, and communicating with them. Talk a little bit about your experience with them. I mean, I’m just looking at your stats right now, and about 25% of the backers on the campaign have never backed the campaign before. So obviously there’s a lot of marketing and messaging that truly resonates with a first time backer. How have you gone about managing the feedback from the community that you’ve built out?
Dean Alms:
Yeah. They are certainly communicating sometimes directly to me at deanat swish.rocks. And sometimes they’re just putting it on the Kickstarter board in terms of what they’re looking for and things of that nature. I know one of the advantages we had as a team, is not only myself in the software industry, but three or four others of the partners that I have are also heavily connected in the software industry. And so we reached out to our base and of course that base is of craft cocktail crowd. So that helped us in terms of building up momentum. But I think the uniqueness of the product overall, and ability to reach out to a group of people that maybe have never done a Kickstarter before allowed us to win over some newbies there.
Dean Alms:
I think overall, the feedback that we’re getting around it is good, and we’ve already started to incorporate that. For the first, what are we now, 10 days here, we’ve had as many people buy two or four or 10 swishes as they bought a single one. So they obviously have in mind the idea to gift us during the holidays or after, but the idea is that they want to gift this product as much as they want to have one of their own. And so we’ve now gone down the path of creating a very nice gift pack for the swish. So when you are handing it over to someone at the holidays or whatever, it’s really nicely designed package that you handover as is, if you will, and take advantage of that. So that’s one of the key learnings we’ve had. Then there’s a few others that we’re working on from an engineering side to see if we can incorporate in this first batch.
Roy Morejon:
I love the fact that you’re able to listen to the crowd, and now you’re actually changing packaging, bundling of units specifically for the way that the crowd is relating to this product and pre-purchasing it. That’s great. [crosstalk 00:00:13:58].
Dean Alms:
More specific examples of that happening just recently is, we had a person that wanted to buy this for corporate gifts. So when you buy on Kickstarter, you’re allowed to buy one reward package, and so she was asking for 50. And so I turned around and worked with the Enventys team and we created a 50 pack, a corporate gift back. They have already purchased that now, so not only have we done a four pack and a 10 pack, but now we have a 50 pack so that this company can give them out as a holiday gifts this December.
Roy Morejon:
That’s beautiful. So Dean you’re guaranteeing Christmas delivery, if not earlier?
Dean Alms:
We’re guaranteeing as much as you can’t guarantee when you’re dealing with all of the manufacturing logistics, but yes, that’s our anticipation. We have started on the path and many swishes have already been built and they will be shipped at end of October. So just end of next week, and it’ll take about 25 to 30 days to arrive here from overseas, and then we’ll be getting them off to people as quickly as possible. So in the US having a December delivered, these should be no problem. We do have about 20 to 25 people that have purchased this outside of the US and Canada. So we’ll just have to see how fast shipping can get it to them in those locations.
Roy Morejon:
Beautiful. So what’s been the biggest surprise of the campaign so far? I know you’ve got a little over three weeks to go on it, but any early surprises so far?
Dean Alms:
I think one of the big surprises is how fast we hit the funding target. So we had a $10,000 funding target, it’s a little bit nerve wracking, and that was last Monday, to go to bed on Sunday night, not knowing how many people are going to be interested in this product, whether we’d have 10 or 20 or whatever the number would be. But lo behold, 25 hours after we launched it, we hit that funding target. That was a huge surprise because I’m sure many of those people who woke up on Monday morning didn’t realize what they needed in their life was a better jigger, but lo and behold, they took a look at this, they like what they saw, and they made the purchase. So I think that was a big surprise.
Roy Morejon:
Beautiful. After you deliver the swish rocks to everyone, where are you guys headed next?
Dean Alms:
What we would like to do is, start introducing it into smaller boutique stores so that people can actually touch and feel the product and get some feedback on people that have purchased it within a store setting versus online and see what their reaction is there and work with store owners of smaller scale, to get more feedback and incorporate that into the product. And then ultimately we certainly would love to see it inside of a Crate and Barrel or a Williams-Sonoma, where a lot of these bar accessories are sold today and really get it into their hands there. I do believe that having the physical aspect of touching it is going to be much stronger than simply let’s say, going directly to Amazon or things of that nature. I do believe for that next wave of buyers beyond the early adopters, touching it and feeling it and experiencing is going to have a big impact.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, Dean, this is going to get us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a handful of questions. You good to go? I’m ready to go. Let’s do this. So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
Dean Alms:
And entrepreneurs since my early days. Started three different software companies. So it’s in my blood. This is the first time I’ve actually built a physical product, so very exciting from that perspective.
Roy Morejon:
Awesome. So if you could have a drink with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?
Dean Alms:
Probably Lincoln would be one of my first and foremost. I would say Winston Churchill who enjoyed a beverage or two would also be a great person to have a beverage with.
Roy Morejon:
Let’s go with Churchill. What would have been your first question for sir Winston Churchill?
Dean Alms:
It would have been around, how did he have the courage to do what he did in World War two, to stand out there alone and fight back the forces of evil, if you will, and put England out there and waited patiently for the United States and other to get involved before that happened. That was an incredible moment of courage, and it still stumped me that today. I just finished another book about that time, and it never seizes to amaze me.
Roy Morejon:
Nice. You mentioned you’re a Manhattan, Old Fashioned fan. So what’s your favorite whiskey or bourbon?
Dean Alms:
Favorite whiskey for making a Manhattan these days, is probably High West, which is double rye. I first experienced it last year when we went to Park City, Utah, visited the actual High West Distillery and really enjoyed the one they made there with black Walnut bitters and things of that nature. So that’s become a recent favorite. It’s always hard for me to say the favorite, because I really do enjoy quite a few different bourbons, rye and scotches. I started out as a big scotch drinker, more than anything else, but more recently it expanded to bourbons and rye.
Dean Alms:
I used to have a scotch fest at my house every year for about, six, seven years as a charity event. And we would have 15, 16 different single malt scotches, and we’d have 80 people show up and taste these various Scott. So I’ve always been a huge cocktail fan. One of the nice things about the swish, it has that one ounce pour. And when you have a lot of expensive liquors in your cabinet, having a one ounce pour of a drink is more than enough to enjoy it, and it really prevents that over pouring, if you will, especially on your more expensive liquors.
Roy Morejon:
Of course. Any book you would recommend to a new entrepreneur looking to launch their idea out there?
Dean Alms:
All right. One of my all time favorite is Clay Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma. There’s a lot of content around there for the software industry, but he uses also examples of other industries where you have to think outside the box in order to really create that disruptive innovation. And sites like Kickstarter are perfect for that because your target audience are early adopters willing to try new things without having the endorsement of other people. They go based on their own instinct. I think this is one of those, on a very small scale, disruptive innovations. If you look at the history of the jigger, it really hasn’t changed in a hundred years, very much at all. It’s either taller, shorter, fatter, but it’s basically a jigger is a jigger until now where we’ve introduced this, release from the bottom approach that makes it more enjoyable, keeps your bar cleaner and fewer pours, if you will.
Dean Alms:
If you’ve ever had to make a cocktail for three or four people, and then you have to pour, let’s say six or eight different pours of your one and a half ounce drink, it’s not uncommon to lose count. It’s like, “Was that six pores, or was that seven pours?” And then of course you may have thrown off the recipe by doing that. With the swish, it has a double shot pours, you’re significantly reducing the number of pours that you make. And it just makes it that much better from a party atmosphere after COVID’s over, when you’re having people over and you’re making multiple drinks at the same time, swish can help you out there.
Roy Morejon:
Nice. Last question, Dean. And I know you’re a week or so into your first campaign, but interested to hear your take in terms of, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?
Dean Alms:
I think it will continue to be a major way for companies to raise money. I think that, whether it’s an individual or a group of small people, or even well-established companies ,to get that early feedback from a crowd that are naturally early adopters is something that all of us covet. Certainly the future of crowdfunding is going to be alive and well for many years to come for that very reason. We count on getting early feedback from customers. This provides the perfect platform to do just that.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Dean, this has been amazing. This is your opportunity to give our audience, your pitch, tell people what you’re all about, where people should go and why they should check out swish Rocks.
Dean Alms:
Sure. Thank you once again. So swish is that new twist on a jigger, as we like to say, and it is 100% stainless steel product that will stand the test of time. You can throw it in the dishwasher after you’ve had your cocktail hour, if you will, and clean it up for the next, go around. It has a catch tray because, no matter how good of a mixologist you are, you’re always going to have a few more drips in that jigger, and so the one actually you set it down on a catch tray, it catch those final drips and keeps your bar clean.
Dean Alms:
I know from my own experience that if I’ve made drinks over the course of three or four hours for a social gathering, my bar can be a mess. With swish that’s which really reduces that and makes life a lot better. So it’s an elegant design, we like to laugh at it and say, it’s a trophy for surviving 2020. For all of us that have been through one crazy year, this sits on your bar and it truly looks like a trophy on your home bar to honor the fact that you made it through 2020 with flying colors.
Roy Morejon:
Indeed. I will drink to that Dean. Audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com, for the notes, the transcript, links to the Kickstarter campaign and everything else we talked about today. And of course thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow and Product Hype. Mr. Dean, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
Dean Alms:
Thanks you and thanks to all of our backers as well.
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.