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Crowdfunding Uncut | Kickstarter| Indiegogo | Where Entrepreneurs Get Funded

Why should you listen to Crowdfunding Uncut? Because I’m asking the same questions you want to know. I know what it feels like to fail at crowdfunding. I also know what questions to ask, and what to do to raise over half a million dollars on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. As I’m also advising Crowdfunding campaigns, I need to keep up to date with what’s working and what isn’t. Questions that will get answered on this show: what crowdfunding platform is right for me? What can I do to have a successful product launch? How can I get 1000 backers for my project? What really matters? What if I have a small budget? What happens after crowdfunding? I will share with our best interviews showcasing the campaigns processes, failures, critical lessons learnt and actionable strategies showing YOU how to get your project funded. This is where project creators get funded.
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Now displaying: September, 2017
Sep 12, 2017

Insider Lessons Gained from Launching Successful Products

 

Dale Backus has a story with ups and downs, hard work and wins, and some really amazing entrepreneurial lessons. He’s won crash the doritos contest not once but twice. He used some of these earnings to help fund his startup. That startup is now doing over $20m a year in revenue. That business is  SmallHD, a camera accessories company. Big wins for a young man of 31 years old.

 

Khierstyn and Dale are working together on a new project and it’s really exciting. Real world experience of taking a company from nothing, self funding, and growing an impressive revenue stream.

 

That’s why Dale  was invited on to the podcast. To give you a chance to hear from someone who has built from ground up, from 0 to 8 figures, and is now starting at 0 again.

 

[04:30] 10 Year Journey in a Nutshell

 

Dale tells us that he had an entrepreneurial spirit from young age. When it came time to graduate high school, he wanted to take his own route. He didn’t want to follow what parent’s desired path. He knew he had skills and that it was just a matter of making money.

 

“It’s always a matter of money right?” Dale laughs.

 

He started a production company called 5 Point Productions and shares that it’s not something he would recommend. Products make more sense  and it’s inherently harder to sell services. It was like a weight bearing down. They created some car ad, but he tells us that those are the worst. Then, the super bowl contest came along and they were inspired. It was only 4 days from deadline when they saw it, but they decided to go all in.

 

It was the first ever consumer sourced ad content contest - and they won. It was a pretty revolutionary marketing strategy at the time. A unique concept. That was the first of 10 years they ran the contest. It was unbelievable.

 

“We didn’t get a lot of money but we got a lot of credibility and an increase in business.” They leveraged that for 5 Point Productions. “We had some fun making things that WEREN’T local car ads.” Eventually the fame wore down and they were back to the grind. It just wasn’t working for them anymore.  

 

In the process of running that company, they had to keep improving quality as they were getting bigger and working on accounts.  It was during this process that they discovered a need for this display to be able to plug in their HD camera into something they could monitor with. It wasn’t out there at the time, and decided to go out and build it.

 

Dale loves creating physical products, likes it more than sevices, and edged everyone towards launching the product. They launched SmallHD which was building these displays.

 

[10:40] Meeting Sales Without Inventory

 

It can be tough launching  product and meeting sales needs when you don’t yet have a physical product. Dale tells us that they tackled it head on. They threw together a few prototypes and crowdfunded themselves on their own website. Kickstarter wasn’t around because crowdfunding was still a new concept. They ran a 24 hour campaign pre-order and sold 60 units which opened up the possibilities. When they got money, they ordered parts. Orders would trickle in but it was slow. Then they developed a real product, something developed as the next step.

 

There were many lessons learned in the process. At first, Dale tells us that they fought against MOQ (minimum order quantity) for a new board for which they couldn't afford the MOQ investment. It so happens the Doritos contest popped up again around this time, though the prizes had increased dramatically.

 

Against wishes and recommendations from those around them, they decided to enter again. Long story short, they created 2 ads and both were selected as finalists.  One became the second best commercial and they won $600,000. This was the boost they needed to meet those MOQs.

 

It’s a Cinderella story, Dale shares, and it doesn’t always happen, but it did for them. That’s how they launched the company and grown it so much over the past 8 or 9 years.

 

What they learned is that going and meeting the producers in person, especially in overseas cultures like China, it goes a long way. “They build their sales on relationships” Dale explains. If you make these connections you can often work them down and get the MOQs to something more manageable.

 

[24:54] Best Decision for SmallHD

 

Every thriving businesses experience highs and lows. For Dale, the best decision was to stay focused. Along the path there were many opportunities to branch off or expand, but they stayed the course. Dale explains that the displays can work with and touch a lot of other technologies within the same vertical, so it’s natural to want to dabble in different opportunities.

 

Dale gives us some general advice. “It’s easy to get distracted by perceived opportunity. “ Until you dominate the space you are already in, why would go off and do something else? You must first achieve the primary goal of the primary focus first. That’s what they did.  Dale and his team wanted to make the best countertop displays in the world and they believe they’re almost there.

 

[27:15] To Swag or Not To Swag

 

When discussing focus,it stands to reason that the topic of swag comes up, because it can certainly take tame. The thing is, swag works.

 

You’re not trying to be the world leader in t-shirts, it’s an accessory. There should be limitations though.

 

There’s not a lot involved in swag like t-shirts. It’s about how much time it will take away from the main project and what resources it will divert. It shouldn’t slow you down from reaching that primary goal, it should be a support feature.

 

As an entrepreneur you need to, everyday, decide to work on the most impactful things. “I strongly recommend making sure there’s good people around you.“  Dales stress that having the right people around you is how you accomplish those supportive tasks without splitting focus. You are the leader. If you are working on mugs and t-shirts all the time, it may not be a good thing, but if you have someone to do it for you, it’s likely a good deal.

 

[29:38] Lessons Learned: Part One

 

Like most entrepreneurs, Dale insists that he has made an enumerable amount of mistakes. Reflecting on those mistakes is something he does frequently. Still, there’s the number one lessons Dale feels we should all learn.

 

Hire with purpose and have a hiring strategy. There are lots of things that could be problematic, but hiring properly can take care of 80% of those things.  Dale says, “Most of your time should be spent on hiring and developing people.” Only hire when necessary, not because it’s fun.

 

When they started, hiring was fun. It was a sign of growth, but what he didn’t understand was that you need to hire the right people. This is the number 1 thing. You see (and can clearly hear) that Dale has been burned which is why he is so passionate about it.

 

As a founder, you need to get people to believe in your vision. The smaller you are, the harder it is to do that. As a result, you hire those that are easy, that you’re comfortable with; friends and family. They know you and it’s easier to hire them as they are already supportive. However, they aren't always the best fits for your company.

 

Dales shares, “We hired the first 5-0 people and the were all friends or family.” When he hired his first team, he hired fast and hard, and didn’t get the right team. It meant major delays and nearly bankrupted them.

 

After learning that lesson, they have a great team now, and it’s helped grow the company by leaps and bounds. Bottom line, hire the right people.

 

[40:21] Lessons Learned: Part Two

 

Though since we got Dale rolling, we thought his second and third most impactful lessons would be good to dive into.

 

Dale’s number 2 -Don't over optimize too early. He shares that it’s very easy to want to do things the right way, almost to a fault. You can spend too much on big shiny systems before you need them.

 

Develop and spend as you need it. You shouldn't be bleeding because of a system. Before you start spending money on a system, you should be desperate for it. Keep your overhead as low as you can as long as you can.

 

Lesson 3 for Dale, is be more data driven, know your numbers. When they started, they didn’t have any idea what the number really were ever. Often they wondered where the money was. They were making money but there never seemed to be enough when it was needed. Know your margins, your costs of goods, your KPIs. It sounds corporate but it's’ really valuable. You don’t have to be rigid but you need to know what it’s going to cost you to get a customer. This helps you better know where to spend your time.

 

[42:13] Something Nifty This Way Comes

 

Before he signed off, Dale helped get us hyped up. He’s getting ready to launch a simple product business. He invented this product, and wants to get it out fast and hard. Dale’s working on learning more about online marketing. It’s time to get back into entrepreneurial side, the startup side.

 

Dale is launching Oh Snap, a cell phone accessory. Want to know more? We urge you to visit getohsnap.com.Dale can hardly contain his excitement about getting it out to the world.

 

As part of the new venture, Dale says that they are looking for a marketing person, looking for a marketing strategist so if this is you send email to dale@fornom.com

 

Nothing beats listening to the episode, so if you're reading this and you haven't tuned in, check it out above.

 

 

Episode Outline

 

Introduction: Insider Lessons Gained from Launching Successful Products

 

[04:30] 10 Year Journey in a Nutshell

[10:40] Meeting Sales Without Inventory

[23:42] Backetkit

[24:54] Best Decision for SmallHD

[27:15] To Swag or Not To Swag

[29:38] Lessons Learned: Part One

[40:21] Lessons Learned: Part Two

[42:13] Something Nifty This Way Comes

 

 

Resources and Sponsor

SmallHD

getohsnap.com

Crowdfunding Product Launch Guide

Crowdfunding Product Launch Academy

 

Sponsor: BackerKit - use the code “uncut” to get 50% off setup services

Sep 5, 2017

We’ve been looking forward to this week’s guest for some time. Khierstyn joined James on a panel listening to Amazon sellers. She listened to how he was able to grow organically through influence marketing. Brands can fast-track by doing paid advertising however influence marketing is long term.

 

Many business owners and entrepreneurs don’t understand how to leverage influencer marketing. Therefore, James is the perfect podcast guest. He’s going to help us better understand his journey, and in turn, yours.

 

[03:38] Who is James Swanwick?

 

James didn’t take the shortest path to success, but certainly a colorful one. He worked in Brisbane Australia,  where he stared as a newspaper reporter before moving to the US. James tells us that he tried to start PR company in 2008 during the financial Armageddon. In fact, he had to shut down in 6 months. James ran to South America to lick his wounds for 6 months before returning for round 2.

 

This time, James started learning about biz and online marketing. Like many, he recants that he struggled for a few years. He didn't’ make much money and that was hard for him. It drove him to get a business mentor, which was his turning point for success.

 

A couple years ago, he was introduced to the idea of no blue lights at bedtime. He heard that blue light could inhibit production of melatonin. James sought a solution. He knew a friend who had a pair, but they were really ugly, which lead him to develop the stylish Swannies. Now he’s had over 1 million dollars sales in 11 months all grown organically (no paid ads).

 

[06:20] Riding the Mainstream Curve

 

When the idea for Swannies first came about, it was ahead of the now mainstream blue light glasses curve. James shares that when he got into the vertical, he was able to catch the wave. Catching the wave means to jump on an idea, not when it’s mainstream, but right before. At a time when people were starting to pay attention and eager to become more educated on the subject. The danger is that, at any time, a bigger company can come along (think a huge sunglasses brand) and come in and crush.

 

For instance, there was Friendster a before there was Myspace. That was before Facebook eventually took over. You don't want to be a Friendster. James shares, “We might be a Friendster, there's always that danger, but I think it was a good thing to start when we did.”

 

With Swannies, they utilized a different angle. The company is not Swannies Sunglasses it's Swanwick Sleep. They aren't just glasses, they are a sleep company selling glasses. That differentiation makes an impact. They may not be able to compete against the large glasses companies but they can compete as a sleep company. It allows them to sell glasses as an additional product to support the overall goal. It’s a niche of its own.

 

[12:43] To Niche or Not to Niche?

 

James laughed with us, he wanted to tell us that he knocked it out of the park first thing, but that’s not reality.

 

There’s a lot of stuff James threw at the wall to see what would stick and it was the bio-hacking community that got behind the product. Once he saw that, he doubled down on that community to be the biggest proponents, the cheerleaders, to help spread the message to a larger audience. Free marketing so to speak.

 

Biohackers are so particular about their health. James stresses that if you get them behind you, they are going to tell their mothers, their friends, anyone who will listen, how great the product is. That’s the real power of influencer marketing and niches - you don’t have to spend money on advertising.

 

[20:08] Top 3 Ways James Boosted Swannies’ Revenue

 

Khierstyn asked James what the biggest proponents to boosting initial revenue were. Here’s what he came back with.

 

Reviews:

 

When Swannies first launched, they were only on Amazon; No website or online presence. James knew reviews were important to managing the visibility metrics. He did everything he could think of to generate reviews. He tried giving some away for honest reviews. He asked friends, family, anyone, he could think of, to share their feelings online. He was persistent -. Stayed on top of them, pestered them, because getting the reviews were paramount.

 

Associating with Influencer:

 

James says he made an effort to ensure that he was associating with influencers already paving the way in his vertical. He connected with Dave Asprey, founder of BulletProof, because he knew that Dave’s audience of bio-hackers would love the glasses. James sent Dave a message and offered to help educate listeners about dangers of blue light. James gave him benefits for his viewers, for his audience, in his field of interest. Dave responded by text and was all over it.

 

It wasn’t without work though. James waited 2-3 months for the interview. He ended up scheduling the interview while in midtown, at a conference. They managed it though, Dave interviewed James over Skype in this hotel room. 2 months after that, Dave published the episode on YouTube. [Watch it here]

 

Sales quadrupled overnight. Within 3 days, Swannies they went from selling 15 pairs a day to 50 or 60 pairs a day. This truly opened James eyes to the benefit of being on a show with influencers in the right market. James reached out to other podcasts, got interviews, and continues to do so now.

 

The Selfie Ask:

 

James tells us that he would ask customers to take selfie photos of themselves using the product. He asked that they send them and post/tag on Instagram. It’s the ultimate marketing tool because customers would wear and share and talk, and it grew. That’s free marketing.

 

[26:47] Influence Marketing When you Don’t Have a Product

 

Don’t have a physical product to give away? That’s OKAY! Do as many videos as you can. Cool, fun, demo videos and get influencers to use the product. If you only have one prototype, have them use it and then return it, the point is to capture the experience visually.

 

Show people, not tell. People are well known to need to see before believing, so make videos and give them something to believe in. If they can’t touch, at least let them see.

 

[29:26] Hot or Cold - James’ talks Media

 

James shares that he did both warm and cold connections, but NEVER cold pitches. He had folks like Dave Asprey who he was friends and felt comfortable with. He showed anyone who had a podcast or platform using existing relationships to build conversations. He always talked in their benefit and made it about their listeners.

 

There were times when James tells us he had to reach out to cold media contacts. His strategy was to talk about their interest. No mass emails though. He made sure to research first and made the pitch about them, their work, and how he could support their growth.

 

From his experience, cold, impersonalized pitches didn’t work. He made sure to tell us that he throws them out all the time. James recommends that you Google the media person you're pitching to. Read the last three articles they published and then connect your pitch to them. Craft the pitch around their interests and why they should be interested.

 

[34:00] Growing Pains

 

Like any other business owner, James has dealt with his fair share of challenges. For Swannies, it’s growing pains.

 

"The first few months, everything is moving up, growing and expanding. Then, you get to 1 million and you realize you don’t have systems and process in place." James had to hire because, all of a sudden, he was managing people. He had to work with staff, customers, and more. They've experience plateaus, inventory shortages, as well as a host of other complications.

 

There are all these little things that, in the beginning, you’re not worried about because you’re trying new things. If you don’t have systems, and things like KPIs for staff, you end up putting out fires.

 

As the CEO, James feels what he did poorly was not prioritize processes and systems enough. Swannies had to slow down, put out fires, add systems and processes, to pick up and start moving forward again.

 

[42:13] The Future Starts Now

 

Where is James headed? He shares that he has 2 distinct visions in the coming years.

 

Swanwick Sleep he intends to grow to a 100 million dollar business while on track to selling. He’d like to see it grow to be something big and the sell and walk away with a great payout.

 

James shares that with his 30 Day No Alcohol Challenge business, he wants to grow forever, so that it can be his perpetual income machine. It’s the lifeblood, something that will always support him.



 

 

Episode Outline

 

Introduction: Influence Marketing; Expert Secrets to Fast, Inexpensive Growth

 

[03:38] Who is James Swanwick?

[06:20] Riding the Mainstream Curve

[12:43] To Niche or Not to Niche?

[20:08] Top 3 Ways James Boosted Swannies’ Revenue

[25:40] Backetkit

[26:47] Influence Marketing When you Don’t Have a Product

[29:26] Hot or Cold - James’ talks Media

[34:00] Growing Pains

[42:13] The Future Starts Now



 

 

Resources and Sponsor

James Swanwick

James’ Inner Circle

30 Day No Alcohol Challenge

Swanwick Sleep

James Swanwick on iTunes

 

Follow James on:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

YouTube

 

Sponsor: BackerKit - use the code “uncut” to get 50% off setup services

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