In this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we interviewed Daniel Ekstam, Cofounder of ZEEKSACK™, a Swedish design brand, driven by functionality. As creators of travel gear & accessories to help calm your mind and organize your life, ZEEKSACK recently released the Organizer, a multifunctional backpack designed to fit everything you need, the way you need it. Listen in and learn about the brand’s product development journeys and it’s road to Kickstarter.

Topics Discussed and Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • Daniel Ekstam’s background as a lighting technician and the inspiration behind ZEEKSACK
  • How Daniel determined what features to included in ZEEKSACK’s final design
  • The challenges that came with sourcing and manufacturing ZEEKSACK
  • How the ZEEKSAK team prepared their marketing materials to launch on Kickstarter
  • The biggest takeaway throughout the entire crowdfunding process

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.
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. Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today, I am talking with Daniel Ekstam, founder and CEO of ZEEKSACK. Daniel, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
Daniel Ekstam:
Thank you for having me. Thank you.
Roy Morejon:
So you’ve got a product that’s about to launch, The Organizer, a really beautifully designed multifunctional backpack, designed to calm your mind and fit everything that you need. So I’m interested to hear about where this all began and what inspired you to create ZEEKSACK?
Daniel Ekstam:
Well, it began quite a few years ago, actually, where I spent a lot of time on the road as a lighting technician, I spent somewhere between 250 and 300 days on the road. And I started to think about getting out of that lifestyle, that’s not a job, that’s a lifestyle, but before I managed to do that, I kind of ended up getting burned out and sitting at home with a burned out diagnosis. And I never kind of let that idea of creating something of my own go, and when on my road to recovery, I figured that organization, everyday small detail stuff like that really helped me, and where I didn’t organize, and where I didn’t think about that, it really, really affected my wellbeing.
So I started to organize my bags because I wanted to get back to my lifestyle and work of traveling around. And I really felt that the way I did it, I slashed up an old bag, did my own compartments, I sewed it together in some really ugly looking way, but it really helped me kind of get that edge of disorganization off, and I realized that this is a product, this is something that people actually would need, so I just started digging into the design and digging into that thought. And a few years later we’re here and I sourced it and we just made something out of it, but that’s how it started.
Roy Morejon:
So you’re in the room, just chop it up other backpacks and designing it the way that it fit for you for your lifestyle. And now, give us an idea of how… Because we’ve seen a lot of backpacks on Kickstarter and crowdfunding, and I definitely think this one has a lot unique functionality to it. How did you go about deciding what features to include in this design?
Daniel Ekstam:
Obviously, I went from my own needs and my own kind of perspective, I’m a techie guy, I like my gadgets and I always have a camera around, I’m an active guy, I tried an athletic career, and I work out quite a lot, I’m a busy guy. So I kind of came from that perspective and didn’t want to overwhelm myself when doing this, the reason why I did and slashed up all these bags and put them back together was because I wanted something neat, I wanted something that looked clean, that felt clean, and that it could keep my organization clean. So the features they’ve just grown out of that perspective, like the word clean, the word slim, the word easy, calm, is kind of every feature comes from that perspective.
Roy Morejon:
What were some of the challenges that you’ve encountered along the way, while not only designing the product, but sourcing it and getting the first ones manufactured?
Daniel Ekstam:
Sourcing is a pain in the ass, in one sense. I came from nothing, I had no idea where to go, where to start, nothing. As I said, I was a lighting technician, I know a lot about rock and roll lighting shows and TV shows, but I didn’t know anything about creating products in the soft goods environment.
And I just started talking to people who’ve done it, reaching out to friends or acquaintances that started to create physical products and just talk to them. And all of a sudden, I had some contacts in South Asia and started to order kind of custom products from them, designing my own small things. And then I kind of found people down there with the Western connections and it got easier along the way, but the real challenge is understanding their culture and my culture and then trying to talk design, and details, and construction, and all of that, that’s the real challenge. But you learn along the way, you make few mistakes, and then you make them again, and then you don’t make them anymore. Then you have new mistakes, that you make again, and yeah, it’s just how it goes.
Roy Morejon:
So have you been using a sourcing agent or you’ve been doing all the direct contact and back and forth with the factories?
Daniel Ekstam:
I do everything myself, I still do. After a couple of prototypes, and turns, and meetings, I actually went down to visit the factories, and I visited three or four factories and decided which one I wanted to go with and work with. And we’ve been doing prototypes, and products, and working together for almost three years now.
Roy Morejon:
Do you think that initial visit was paramount to finding a successful company or factory to partner with long-term?
Daniel Ekstam:
I think that initial visit gave me more than it kind of gave maybe the relationship of what we’re working today. It gave me an understanding on how the culture in these factories work, how they actually create the bags, how they sew them together, what machines do they have? It gave me a lot of insight for that, which means when I sit home here in Sweden, designing and drawing, I can think of, okay, they will never be able to control this in a production environment that I know looks like this and stuff like that, so it gave me a lot, kind of small details like that, that I managed to put together. And the design work I do today, contra what I did three, four years ago, is completely different. I design from a constructional point of view almost now, because I understand it, so that’s what the initial visit gave me, mostly.
Roy Morejon:
That’s great. So let’s transition a little bit in terms of, what made you decide that crowdfunding and Kickstarter was the right avenue for launching your Organizer backpack?
Daniel Ekstam:
Well, there’s two reasons how I see it. One, is the obvious one, the funding part, we’re not made of money and it costs a lot of money to kind of bring this project going and to reach the world. I mean, reach the world today on online ads and everything, it costs a lot of money. So it’s that perspective, but also, the audience and the crowd that comes with a platform like crowdfunding platform, like Kickstarter or any other, it’s the audience that we were looking for. So I won’t say it’s a shortcut, but it helps to be on a platform like this, so for me it’s fifty-fifty a crowd kind of funding perspective and fifty-fifty a great marketing perspective, it creates a great story, it creates a good buzz, it’s all of the above, so to speak.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah. So in preparation leading up to the launch and the Kickstarter campaign, which will probably be live once this publication goes out. Talk a little bit about the prep work leading up to the Kickstarter campaign, that’s potentially evolved since you’ve gotten started here?
Daniel Ekstam:
Yeah. So we’ve spent a lot of time understanding our message and our message comes from, that they should calm your mind. This is kind of an expected way of looking at stress relief, there’s a lot of talk about yoga, meditation, all of that, but we feel, and we know, and we believe at ZEEKSACK that there’re other ways to attack this problem, so we spend a lot of time prepping that story, and the wording, and how we want to communicate this product. And then it’s all about building that prototype, building the details, we spent all the… I don’t know how to pronounce this. We spent all the time, all up until we started kind of working with the campaign page, perfecting the product in detail together with the material coming around it. So it’s very important for us to get our point across that this is a product that’s for stress relief, that will calm your mind, and how do we present that in the best possible, clear way, that’s where most of the time has been spent.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah. It’s interesting you mentioned that. How do you feel going about deciding the target market and audience? Obviously, you’ve built this bag and backpack with you in mind initially, but certainly there’s a larger group out there that will want to be targeted and tried to find the right fit for this product. We talk about Kickstarter and crowdfunding being the true market validation test for product market fit, how are you going about deciding how to target that market and audience?
Daniel Ekstam:
So the first prototype of this bag, we made… I think I had a couple of 100 pieces, I think about two years ago. So I started to kind of test sell and test the backpack already two years ago, in the local market here in Sweden, and it got perceived very well and I got a lot of feedback, but I got feedback on unexpected things. I thought I would get constructional feedback, I thought I would get feedback on stuff that kind of breaks, and stuff like that. But the feedback we got was mainly why hasn’t this been on the market before? Why do they always have to do backpacks that’s so overwhelming? This is the perfect kind of amount of organization.
And then the feedback kind of shifted into, okay, we need this part a little bit bigger, we need this part a little bit smaller, and so on and so on. So just looking at where that feedback came from, made it super clear for us when we change and make those updates to this, The Organizer, we knew where the audience was, we knew what people liked about the bag, and we knew what people who they were, so to speak, in the test phase that we did. So I wouldn’t say it was easy, but now we had a quite clear view of who the audience is, because we did that initial test phase.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah, that’s critical, overall to the success of just not being in the echo chamber and getting an experience with the community or the people that are touching and being able to utilize that product. And certainly, once the campaign goes live, you’ll be getting a lot more feedback from customers that are actually pre-purchasing the product as well.
Daniel Ekstam:
Exactly. And we did that test phase, not kind of we want to validate this product, I did it as a learning curve of anything to running a business like this, to creating a brand like this, to communicating around like this. It wasn’t only just the product that we tested, we tested the entire package and tried to learn and suck out as much information as we could from this local market here. And Sweden is a good market for kind of mental awareness, for health awareness, and stuff like that, so it’s a very critical market to launch on. So it was a really good learning curve for us, and it helped us a lot in this prepping for this campaign.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah. And speaking about the launch, what’s probably the number one takeaway that you’ve learned throughout the whole process of the prelaunch phase of the upcoming campaign?
Daniel Ekstam:
Small decisions take longer time than you think, the bigger decisions doesn’t take as much effort, that’s what I learned. When you dive into details, the last 10% of the small things take as much energy and as much time as the first 90%, that’s the biggest learning curve of all here.
Roy Morejon:
Yeah. So you’ve been working with us here at Enventys Partners for a while now. What were some of those considerations that you were looking at when choosing the right agency to partner with?
Daniel Ekstam:
First of all, knowing that you’ve done other campaigns, knowing that you’ve done similar campaigns, but also how you kind of attacked and how other agency attacked the questions that we had, that was very important. Because what I’ve learned, being sourcing in China and creating a product in South China, is communication is a big thing, and I always want to work with partners who have good communication and have clear communication, so that was one big factor. But also, as I said, to doing similar campaigns in the soft goods spectrum, would be important for a successful campaign.
Roy Morejon:
Absolutely. Well, Daniel, this has been really inspirational. I’ll launch round, where I’m going to rapid-fire a handful of questions at you, are you good to go?
Daniel Ekstam:
Yeah, let’s do it.
Roy Morejon:
All right. So what inspired you to be an entrepreneur?
Daniel Ekstam:
The way of building your own legacy, I would actually want to say that word. I’ve always had something in me that I want to build something of my own and it’s not a choice, it’s a need I think.
Roy Morejon:
Interesting. So if you could meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?
Daniel Ekstam:
Oh, that’s a hard one. I would actually want to meet with the owner and creator of the Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines. I’m not good at names, what is his name?
Roy Morejon:
Sir Richard Branson.
Daniel Ekstam:
Yeah, Branson. But obviously crazy people like, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates, and these guys obviously. But Branson he’s inspiring.
Roy Morejon:
What would be your first question for him?
Daniel Ekstam:
How my first question would be, what was the first kind of big hurdle you had to jump over before you saw success?
Roy Morejon:
Interesting. Any books you would recommend to our listeners?
Daniel Ekstam:
This would be… I want to recommend two books, I am not sure if they’re in Swedish, if they exists in English. But there’s a friend of mine who just released a book, it’s called… If I can translate that, good luck with the rest of your life, it probably will come in English later on, but it’s a book about burned out. And from a perspective similar to mine, that it’s not about these small things, it’s not about meditation, all of these things, it’s about your life and how you can adapt to it and not keep getting burned out in stress, I would really recommend that, her name is Isabel Boltenstern. I would really recommend that, if it’s available in English later on, it probably will.
Roy Morejon:
Excellent. Daniel, where do you see yourself in three years?
Daniel Ekstam:
Still creating products that could help people calm their minds and be better versions of themselves. I see myself as a more stable and a calmer person myself, but yeah, I see myself still doing this and still needing to create more stuff like that.
Roy Morejon:
Nice. Last question for you and I know we haven’t run the campaign yet, but interested to hear your take on, what does the future of crowdfunding look like?
Daniel Ekstam:
I think the future of crowdfunding will kind of split up into tiers, that’s crowdfunding for now is a mega thing. I think we will see more smaller versions of it and crowdfunding in small detailed little boutiques, local small products are super nichey. I think it will scatter into being a broader spectrum of crowdfunding.
Roy Morejon:
Awesome. Well, Daniel, this has been great as I’ve mentioned, 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 you out?
Daniel Ekstam:
So we at ZEEKSACK we really burn and really believe that small things make a change. And to be a more calm person, and to have and live in a calmer environment, product like this and products that can help you calm your mind and take that edge off everyday life, helps more than expected. We know that 77% of the world feels stressed and that… I’m struggling with my English here. Feels 77% of everyone in the world feels stressed that impacts your mental health. And small things like this, like organizing your everyday backpack, like organizing your organization in the car, everything like this will help you get that edge off and become a calmer mind. So that’s what we believe in and that’s the product we want to make, and that’s why you should check us out.
Roy Morejon:
Awesome. Well audience, thanks for tuning in. Make sure to visit artofthekickstart.com for the notes, the transcript, links to the campaign once it goes live. And of course, thank you to our crowdfunding podcast sponsors, The Gadget Flow in product type. And if you like this episode as much as I enjoy doing it, make sure to leave us a review on iTunes. Daniel, thank you so much for joining us today on Art of the Kickstart.
Daniel Ekstam:
Thank you.
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 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.