As an entrepreneur you hear a lot of cliche advice. Some of it’s good, others not so much.
Putting your money where your mouth is changes things though. Consulting for Kickstarter was awesome – helping startups create their dreams is pretty cool. At the end of the day though it was never my business, my ass was not on the line.
That changes when you’re thrown in the fire. Suddenly everything’s personal, everything’s on you and everything you thought you knew falls away.
“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.” – Yogi Berra
Twice as Long, Twice as Expensive
I don’t know if it entrepreneurs or individuals in general who are a bit egotistical. But we hear advice, hell we hear all the time from more experienced, skilled and successful people than ourselves and yet somehow we always ignore it.
That can’t happen to ME…it’ll be different for ME…
Well let me tell ya, I fell hard this one. I’d interviewed over a hundred crowdfunders, creators and entrepreneurs – dozens dealt out the same advice and yet I totally ignored it.
Then I got real serious about Shido Stand three or four months ago. Before that I’d toyed with the idea of a mobile stand desk but never solved the challenges of making it awesome. After a watershed moment and committing 100% to a better, healthier on the go work alternative, I’ve been full steam ahead ever since.
The Problem with Product Development – it’s HARD!
There was just one problem, well a rather a problematic problem – prototyping and production.
After 3D CADing up what I felt to be a great model, something travelers and stand desks users would be psyched about I found a local manufacturer in Vietnam to help with samples.
And here befell the first hurdle, the major roadblock I suffered. Please pay attention and avoid making the same stupid mistakes I did.
Blind Trust is a Business No-No
Let’s preface all this by saying it was entirely my fault. As the entrepreneur behind Shido, I’m 100% responsible for the success and failure of the business.
That’s something I’d forgot and many entrepreneurs often attempt to offload to their manufacturer. But remember it’s your baby, would you trust it to just anyone?
Asides aside, I met a manufacturer in Saigon who strung me along for 6 weeks. After paying I made an ass of myself and assumed my prototype was being built.
Don’t. Never assume, always ensure. I should have followed up better, demands results or done something different – instead I prepped the Kickstarter, the copy and worked on marketing.
Well 6 weeks and some serious work later I had nothing.
The whole time I held faith I’d be launching soon. “My prototype will be ready soon.” I’d tell people. “We’ll be launching in about 2 months”
Money Matters – Product’s are Expensive
Most of us are bootstrapping our businesses. Whether your product’s a full time gig or a passion project in your spare time, odds are funding this yourself. And you’re considering crowdfunding, that means you NEED money and frugality probably a focus.
Unfortunately successfully launching a startup product takes cash. From samples and prototypes, hopefully from multiple suppliers(for more on Alibaba check this related post), you need money from the get go to get going.
And if you’re new to Art of the Kickstart, I also spent 6 weeks in China working with factories to get Shido Stand sorted, not necessarily necessary but incredibly beneficial (9 Necessary Tips for Startup Manufacturing and Moving to China in case you are considering it).
But all that’s before even approaching your Kickstarter campaign. If you want a sexy video that sells, if quality product photography’s important to you backer base(Hint, it is!), you are probably going to need to hire someone, someone good.
And great products don’t sell themselves, great marketing does. Whether you do this on your own, drive facebook ads to a landing page or bring in a marketing master to get you campaign eyeballs, it all adds up.
Plus testimonials are tricky. Of course, you know I love testimonials. Social proof sells your product, especially when customers cannot touch it themselves. Well now for Shido Stand I’m actively seeking influencers and media outlets to help promote the campaign and build the world’s best mobile stand desk. Well most influencers actually want the product, that means buying pre-production prototypes – more money on the line!
But none of this is meant to intimidate – information is power. These were all things I’d overlooked, even as someone intimately involved in the crowdfunding space. Plenty of entrepreneurs make the same mistake.
By knowing the road and stumbling points in advance you can prepare – I hope this does that for you.
Design Changes Mean Sample Do-Overs
While not universally applicable, most prototypes take a while to manufacture. For Shido Stand, even while living in China it was always at least 2 weeks between deciding on changes and holding it in your hands.
For Kickstarters this means the faster and more efficiently you’re able to finalize your designs, the better. In our case, quite a few tweaks and improvements later, it’s taking time.
So back to that “when ya gonna launch” question.
Probably about 2 months…
Twice as long, twice as expensive – at least.
Product Creation and Crowdfunding is Harder than it Looks
It’s hard to really understand and fully respect something until you’ve done it yourself.
Before Shido I always had a great deal of respect for Kickstarter successes, the companies that nailed their funding and saw their business dreams become a reality. After the incredible effort I’ve already put into my stand desk and knowing the challenges and struggles on the journey ahead, I have a newfound respect for product entrepreneurs – even failed Kickstarters.
If you’re someone working to build a business or launch a product, I want to personally take a second to congratulate you. It’s hard, it’s really freaking hard. But by taking action you’re setting yourself up for success, you’re overcoming the initial obstacles and that means you’re winner.
Remember it’s a long road though and they’re will be problematic bumps along the way. You’re already gassed up and ready go, even if the trip takes longer, has a few detours or forces you to backtrack, as long as your keep your foot on the gas and eyes on the prize you’ll get there.