What does it take to successfully crowdfund pet products? How do you innovate and create a product that will connect with pet owners in a new way? On this episode, you’ll hear from Zel Crampton as he joins the podcast to talk about his product, the Revol Dog Crate. In his conversation with Roy, Zel touches on how the product was created, the work he went through to set his product up for success, tips for entrepreneurs who want to bring more pet products to the crowdfunding community, how to incorporate feedback from backers, and much more! You don’t want to miss a minute of this engaging episode with Zel!

Creating a pet product for the crowdfunding community.

Have you ever looked at a product and thought, I can do this so much better? That’s especially what happened when Zel Crampton ran into difficulties and frustrations with the dog crate he bought for his new dog. Come to find out, Zel wasn’t alone! Many pet owners find themselves frustrated with the lack of options available for pet products like dog crates. This revelation launched Zel on the path toward creating the Revol Dog Crate. To hear more about Zel’s story and how he came to create a new and innovative pet product for the crowdfunding community, make sure to listen to this exciting episode!

Challenges faced with designing a new pet product.

Creating a new product should be easy, right? As most innovators can tell you, that couldn’t be further from the truth! What makes the process so worthwhile? Can the challenges be overcome to create a product that people will purchase? On this episode, you’ll hear from Zel Crampton as he explains the challenges he faced when creating a new pet product. As difficult as it was, Zel was determined to find a way to bring a dog crate to market that was sturdy, easy to use and affordable. It took a lot of research and a lot of patience to finally find the right combination of materials and features that eventually composed the Revol Dog Crate. What can you learn from Zel’s story? Find out on this episode!

Tips for startup and entrepreneurs looking to bring more pet products to the marketplace.

What should you know if you want to bring an innovative pet product to the marketplace? Should you go with something that will have broad appeal or should you go with something that will connect with a passionate niche group? On this episode, Zel Crampton shares some helpful insights and tips for fellow innovators who want to develop a pet product for the crowdfunding community. Zel stresses the importance of projecting professionalism as much as possible throughout your pre-launch, launch, and post-launch phases. Too often business leaders get lax when it comes to crowdfunding projects, don’t make that mistake! Get more helpful tips from Zel by listening to this episode!

Why it’s important to incorporate feedback from backers.

One of the worst things you can do as an entrepreneur and innovator is to ignore feedback from your fans and consumers. What is your plan to incorporate feedback from your backers and supporters? Don’t leave to the last minute! Start now and have a plan in place that will impress and inspire confidence in your tribe! According to Zel Crampton, reaching out to your community is a helpful way to test and validate your plans for accessories and improvements to your products. Learn how Zel was able to leverage the feedback he got from backers to set his product up for continued success by listening to this helpful episode!

Key Takeaways

  • [1:05] Zel Crampton joins the podcast to talk about his product, the Revol Dog Crate.
  • [2:30] Zel shares his background with engineering and how he got his product designed.
  • [5:30] Challenges faced with design.
  • [6:30] Why did Zel bring his product to the crowdfunding community?
  • [7:50] Tips for crowdfunding pet products and surprises faced along the way.
  • [10:00] Incorporating feedback from backers.
  • [11:30] Zel enters the Launch Round.
  • [12:45] Why you should check out Diggs.


Connect With Diggs


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!

backerkitArt of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, raise additional funds with add-ons and manage orders for fulfillment, saving creators hundreds of hours. To learn more and get started, click here.


Connect With the Art Of The Kickstart team

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 $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 BackerKit and the Gadget Flow.

Roy Morejon:                    BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you print and ship faster. The Gadget Flow is a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save and buy awesome products. It is the ultimate buyer’s guide for luxury gadgets and creative gifts.

Roy Morejon:                    Now, let’s get on with the show. Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today, I am joined with Zel Crampton, founder of Diggs. Zel, thank you so much for joining us.

Zel Crampton:                   Thank you for having me. It’s good to be here.

Roy Morejon:                    Zel, you have created the Revol Dog Crate. Let’s talk about this really innovative dog crate and where it all started. What inspired you to create this product?

Zel Crampton:                   It all started exactly two years ago when I got my latest dog, Louise. I adopted her from a shelter, and I care about the products that I use for my pets, so I try to go out and buy the best crate on the market, so I went out and, whatever we do, and tried to get what I thought was a really good wire crate and then, when I came home and started using it, within a few days, I couldn’t believe how ugly it was, poorly designed, noisy and rickety, pinched me a bunch of times. I struggled to collapse it and store it away.

Zel Crampton:                   I just hated, so I said, well, you know, given how much I love my pet, and other people do, I just figured there has to be a better way to do this, so the idea was born, and then the more we looked into it, the more we found that a lot of people share this problem. We did a lot of research and it just resonated with a lot of people that, hey, there’s a way that consumer products have evolved in a lot of different, why has it not evolved here?

Roy Morejon:                    Yeah, I think we’ve all shared the challenge of putting together one of those dog crates, the large metal ones that are obnoxious and just not nicely designed basically and kind of archaic, so it’s really exciting to be working with your product, so is this your first product that you’ve ever designed?

Zel Crampton:                   Yes. Also, I have a background … I studied mechanical engineering at McGill University when I was living in Montreal, so I’ve designed products there. One of my big projects was to bring a surgical robotics tool design concept to a business, but this is certainly the first time I’ve done full kind of end-to-end bring-a-product-to-market and actually make it happen.

Roy Morejon:                    Let’s talk about that. When you were creating this, what was that process like, and how did you go about deciding what features to include in the design?

Zel Crampton:                   Yeah, so the first place we started was, although I’m an engineer by training, I certainly do not have the skills myself to actually design something that’s complicated and intricate, so the first process was actually finding the right design and an engineering firm, and that was a huge process where, I’m not exaggerating, we reached out to 55 engineering and design firms around the country and got proposals from about 20 of them to understand sort of like who’s the right partner, and then, once you get into the design phase, you start to do the research and you … We went in to people’s homes and did ethnographic interviews, we did surveys, we did dog park you know, stopping people at dog parks and just talk to them about dog crates, and watch them use dog crates.

Zel Crampton:                   To kind of figure out what are the core features that are common problems to everybody, versus the nice to have features and stuff you’d like to have, but you know, are not core to the main design criteria.

Roy Morejon:                    You’re digging in the crates huh.

Zel Crampton:                   I was digging into creates. You know one thing I found interesting you know, specific to our market was that, there were about three to four very recurring themes across all of our research in terms of what people really had trouble with, with existing crates, specifically the aesthetics. I couldn’t tell you how many people referred to them as dog jails. Number two was, ergonomics, people just found them very clumsy to use, and pinched them and what not. The third was I would call transportability, able to kind of collapse, store, move it around. And the fourth is safety, because a lot of injuries happen to both people and dogs in crates.

Zel Crampton:                   So those four things were I would say universally common in all of our research. Then you had a long tail of different kinds of needs, wants, requirements, that were very unique to different kind of dog owners, and dogs with different kind of either needs, or personalities, ranging from dog owners who want to watch their dog while they’re away. So we’d love a wifi camera integrated into a crate. To someone who says no I want the crate to be extremely dark, so they want like a very, all covered dog crate covered. To I really care about the comfort of my dog inside the crate, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Zel Crampton:                   So what we decided to do is to create a crate that kind of addressed those first four key issues I referenced before, and then make a line of accessories to address that long tail of other needs and wants, which is why we created our snooze pad as well, to go along with the crate. It being our first accessory, and we have a lot of other accessories in the pipeline as well.

Roy Morejon:                    That’s really innovative as well. So what has been the biggest challenge that you’ve encountered when designing this product?

Zel Crampton:                   So there’s been a lot of challenges frankly as far as design goes. You’re trying to optimize a few things, at the same time, in some cases are in complete opposition to each other. So the ideal crate would cost nothing, would weigh nothing, be super strong, and collapse into nothing. But of course all those things together are impossible. Do you try and find the right balance of everything right, so you try and find is it just strong enough to achieve kind of like an increased safety you’re looking for, but how do you achieve a lower weight, right? So you have to start using plastics and aluminum’s. Oh but that raises the cost.

Zel Crampton:                   Okay, that also means you can’t collapse it quite as low. So there’s just like all these kinds of trade offs that you kind of come up with until you find the right balance of everything that kind of achieves the optimal product. And I would say getting that balance, and getting the engineering right to achieve all of those things, to achieve a product which we think we have, which is you know, a very affordable, cost accessible price, something that looks good, something that’s very strong, but is also relatively light weight, was hard to achieve. And that took a really, really long time.

Roy Morejon:                    So, how long did you spend preparing for the crowd funding campaign, and how did you know that crowd funding was the path that you wanted to launch this product with?

Zel Crampton:                   You know, it was one of those things where, it just seemed like, when you bring a cool, innovative product to market, crowd funding’s a great way to kind of you know, get some exposure, get people excited about it, early adopters, and you know, learn a lot about the market, get some early working capital, and help fund a business a little bit. So it just seemed like a pretty good fit for what we were trying to do, and you know, I started reading about crowd funding from the early days, right, almost two years ago, you start to think about it. Read about it.

Zel Crampton:                   I would say it took a few months to really kind of ramp up all the content, materials, and all that stuff, but you’re thinking about this for a very long time, because everything you’re doing as far as strategically in the business, aligning all your funding, and the timing of your launch, and how you’re doing, has to coincide and fit in a crowd funding campaign, so we’re thinking about this for many, many months, if not you know, years as well.

Roy Morejon:                    With all the marketing efforts that you’ve put forth into this project, where have you seen the biggest return thus far?

Zel Crampton:                   The combination of I would say you know, email and the audience, and community have been able to build over time. That’s a very kind of low cost, high conversion audience. Then you have I would say you know, Facebook advertising is always a good one to get your name out, and there’s been some good traction there. PR as well as has been very good.

Roy Morejon:                    What tips would you have for someone looking to crowd fund their pet product?

Zel Crampton:                   Specifically in terms of the crowd funding experience, or bringing a product to market?

Roy Morejon:                    Either.

Zel Crampton:                   I would say that like with any crowd funding campaign, from what I can tell, the professionalism that goes into this has evolved over time. I would highly advise against someone either bringing a product to market, or launching a crowd funding campaign that has not been very well thought through, that you don’t have professionalism in everything that you do, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s branding, whether it’s engineering, you know PR, any kind of component to the whole process that would not appear as a very professional company, and you on the receiving end as a customer would not view as professional, I would hesitate, I’d advise against launching until you’re ready to do that.

Zel Crampton:                   And that might require, you know, raising money to get the resources to do that, it might require finding co founders or hiring people to be able to you know, take it to the next level. I just think that you know, kick starter campaigns that do well nowadays just require the higher degree of quality, perhaps that they’re used to.

Roy Morejon:                    Absolutely. What’s been the biggest surprise of your first kick starter campaign?

Zel Crampton:                   Well specific to our business, we launched with just a small size of our crate, and so just for context, a lot of crate manufacturers have anywhere from five to six sizes, we launched with one size to kind of a little test the market. You know, we knew that there would be interest in our product, but I just was so overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for larger sizes, once they become available. We’ve considered, like we’ve tried to find ways of you know, making a stretch, to make larger sizes come to market.

Zel Crampton:                   But, the overwhelming, the hundreds of messages I’ve received between Facebook and email, and directly through kick starter has just been really exciting to see that kind of demand. And that’s on the positive side. The negative side, I think surprising was how you know, emotionally up and down kick starter can be right, and like you know you have good days, you have bad days, and then you’re like oh man, today was not a good day, or today was an amazing day, and you have these highs and lows, but then you have to look at it over the trend and the longer average than just day to day.

Zel Crampton:                   But because the campaign is so short, you feel those ups and downs every day, which I found surprising.

Roy Morejon:                    Absolutely. You’ve got hundreds of backers, tens of thousands in capital raised so far, let’s talk a little bit about the experience with the backers, you said that they’ve been giving you feedback all over the place. You know, how have you gone about managing that feedback, and then potentially bringing that into new product development, or manufacturing changes?

Zel Crampton:                   Yeah. That’s a great question. We’ve captured the feedback in a number of ways. You know sometimes the feedback is not very helpful. People don’t necessarily understand kind of what goes in the product, but sometimes it’s very helpful right, so, you know, for example when we were planning our stretch goal, we actually surveyed, at the time we had something like 250 backers, we surveyed all of them to see kind of what they cared about in terms of the next accessory, right.

Zel Crampton:                   And we got a lot of great feedback, it was actually different than my initial hypothesis about what we would develop next. There was a lot more interest in actually very simple accessories, like crate covers, and you know, water bowls that attach to our crate versus, I was more leaning towards, like you know, like pet tech, like a wifi camera, or automatic feeder, things like that. So that was really helpful. You also learn a lot in terms of perception versus reality. There’s a lot of people who would you know, say something you know, about your product, based on what they think rather than anything that they know about it.

Zel Crampton:                   So for example, because our product is more aesthetically pleasing, there was some assumptions that were made as a result, they couldn’t be as strong as like other products. Where in fact the opposite, it’s stronger than other products, and designed to a higher level standard. And so that’ll inform our marketing messages going forward. I found really helpful.

Roy Morejon:                    Interesting. So, where are you headed next after this campaign ends?

Zel Crampton:                   Once the campaign ends, obviously goal number is to fulfill the campaign. Right, we have a promise to a lot of backers, we want to get that done. But then, we’re going to be getting our inventory for our direct to consumer business, one our website at the end of the summer. And, we’re going to you know, launch via that. We’re launching to retailers at a big expo in June in Las Vegas. We’ll be raising a round, our first, our second major round I should say, to fund the next sizes, and you know, potentially a couple of hires, and R&D of our next product line.

Zel Crampton:                   So a lot of exciting stuff coming this year.

Roy Morejon:                    Sounds like it. Well Zel, this is going to get us into our launch, rapid fire, hand full of questions at you. You good to go?

Zel Crampton:                   Let’s do it.

Roy Morejon:                    So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?

Zel Crampton:                   I’ve been an entrepreneur before. And I just wanted to work for myself again, and so I was just, it’s just in my blood. Everyone in my family is entrepreneurs, it was just something I’ve been around forever, and I just really wanted to kind of bring an idea to market, so there’s just so many reasons why I wanted to do it.

Roy Morejon:                    If you could grab a beer with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Zel Crampton:                   Elon Musk.

Roy Morejon:                    He’s the normalized answer on here. All right, what would’ve been your first question for Mr. Musk?

Zel Crampton:                   How in the world do you dream so big and actually make it happen? Like how does one person conceive of ideas so outrageous, and actually bring it to life?

Roy Morejon:                    Favorite book?

Zel Crampton:                   I’m going to say this tongue in cheek, The Art of the Deal.

Roy Morejon:                    There you go. Favorite dog breed?

Zel Crampton:                   That’s a really hard one. Probably English Mastiff I would have to say.

Roy Morejon:                    You’re not going to make Louise mad?

Zel Crampton:                   She’s a mix, oh my goodness, she’s got like five breeds in her. So pick one.

Roy Morejon:                    Last question Zel, what does the future of crowd funding look like?

Zel Crampton:                   I think the current future of crowd funding is, sophisticated. I think it’s all about who’s bringing cool ideas, and doing it in the right way.

Roy Morejon:                    Absolutely. Well Zel, this has been awesome, please give our audience your pitch, tell them what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should check you out.

Zel Crampton:                   Sure, we’re Diggs, we’ve been the future of pet products. Our first amazing product is called Revel, with a complimentary snooze crate pad. We’ll be on Diggs.pet, and you can place pre orders, until our e-commerce site is live at the end of the summer of 2018.

Roy Morejon:                    Awesome, audience, thanks again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for notes, transcript, and links to everything we talked about today. And of course, thank you to our crowd funding podcast sponsors, the Gadget Flow, and BackerKit. And if you love this episode as much as I did, make sure to leave us a good review on iTunes. Zel, thank you so much for joining us on Art of the Kickstart.

Zel Crampton:                   Thank you for having me, been a lot of fun.

Roy Morejon:                    Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kick Start. The show about building a business, world, and life with crowd funding. 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 kick starter 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 start ups find this show, and helps us get better guests to help you build the better business.

Roy Morejon:                    If you need more hands on crowd funding strategy advice, please feel free to request a quote on inventuspartners.com. Thanks again for tuning in, and we’ll see you again next week.