how is kickstarter formed?
September 5, 2012 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Kickstarter advice: Have you done a successful Kickstarter? An unsuccessful one? What do you wish you had known in advance? And does my Kickstarter sound likely to succeed?

Having asked this question, I'm now planning to launch a line of reproduction vintage dresses on Kickstarter. The idea is to take preorders via the kickstarter, then do a production run at a factory in Baltimore. Our funding goal is $10k, and 100 preorders.

There will be four dresses to choose from, all 1950s cotton day dresses with full skirts. I'm having a local seamstress make a copy of each of the originals in a neutral fabric, with contrast stitching so the details show, since I won't be able to choose final fabrics until later in production.

The manufacturer I'm working with will be able to do all the sampling and pattern grading in-house. I'm planning to offer at least sizes 0-18, with more plus size options as a stretch goal. All production will be done in the United States, with as close to vintage quality as I can afford. Since I live in DC, I'll be on hand to observe the whole process.

I've got a graphic designer friend making an illustration of each dress, and a postcard set of these will be a lower-tier reward. I've also got a friend lined up to make the video.

I want to give my backers plenty of input in the production process-- putting up a poll for fabric choices, for example, and basing my sizing on their actual measurements.

What am I missing? If you were looking at this Kickstarter, what would you want to see? What rewards would you want? What would make you more likely to back it? Is there a step I've skipped? How can I make this a Kickstarter that people can get excited about?

I really think this could be an awesome project, and the start of something cool, but I've only been running my vintage business since the end of February and it's all very new to me. Thanks for your input!
posted by nonasuch to Work & Money (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What you're missing is an audience. Have you planned out how you're actually going to publicize this Kickstarter? That is what is going to make or break the Kickstarter regardless of how awesome it is. I'm not sure if you just didn't mention what you're doing -- emailing friends, posting on Facebook, making a dedicated website, hopping on related forums -- but Mohammed isn't going to go to the mountain on this one.
posted by griphus at 11:16 AM on September 5, 2012

Response by poster: Ah! I knew I forgot something. Facebook, yes, obviously, but I also plan to get in touch with as many vintage and fashion bloggers as humanly possible. I have a few contacts via the vintage store I rent space in, so I plan to make good use of those. We will also likely be blogging the whole process.
posted by nonasuch at 11:20 AM on September 5, 2012

Have you checked out your "competition"?
posted by acidic at 11:24 AM on September 5, 2012

timing is important: the best kickstarters i've seen have started and ended at "regular" hours. make sure you account for international backers.
posted by raihan_ at 11:37 AM on September 5, 2012

I just read this review of It Will Be Exhilarating, a book by the guys from Studio Neat. The reviewer begs one to read the book before launching their next kickstarter project - so maybe it's worth the $5.
posted by backwards guitar at 11:45 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Speaking as someone who has just graded a load of patterns, please don't use a commercial pattern's back length. Ye gods.


A good video is paramount. Funny is good if you can swing it because people will share funny and entertaining things.

Audience: do you read sewing blogs? Do you read blogs of people who are specifically interested in vintage clothing? Do you know what blogs have good followings? You need to know this stuff, and then you need to get in touch w/ those people - sewing blogs can be HUGE. I read a bunch, but here are two:

This lady is pretty focused on Vintage looks; she blogs here as well at at The Sew Weekly.

Peter runs Male Pattern Boldness and has a load of faithful followers. He also sews retro.

That's the tip of the iceberg. Good luck! If you offer petites I'll be interested!
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:47 AM on September 5, 2012

I'm in the midst of a successfully funded Kickstarter (we've got 4 days left and yesterday we hit our goal!)

It would be helpful if you are an active member on a forum or website of people who are into this sort of thing, or at least versed in something related to it in some fashion. (For example: mine is an online pastry business, but a good portion of backers came from a game developers forum. The connection is that we're building our own site and developing apps and whatnot focused around it. Plus everyone loves cookies!) And read the Kickstarter blog - they'll show you some examples of what to do and what not to do.

Definitely reach out to bloggers and any other network - try to frame it as asking them to share it with their friends/audience/network instead of asking them to fund it. I felt much better when my friends showed their friends my cool project instead of throwing ten bucks at us.

That being said, try to come up with rewards that you can put down at lower dollar amounts. The postcard idea is a standard one, although I have no data as to how well they go over. You may also want to look into things like stickers, posters, keychains, etc - cheap for you to produce and somewhat interesting. I don't know how many people will be willing to pledge whatever the amount is for a whole dress, but I often kick in $15-25 on projects that I'm not super invested in but sound interesting and I get a trinket from.

Also: keep the video short and sweet! Good luck! Feel free to memail with any specific questions.
posted by firei at 11:56 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just make ABSOLUTELY sure that your rewards don't wind up costing you more than they're worth. I saw in the last question that you were thinking of offering actual dresses as rewards at a $100 or $150 level- that seems far too low to me.

For reference, I was involved recently with a Kickstarter for a business venture where an item that retailed for about $8 was the reward for the $50 donation tier. And our most successful level, for $10, was not a tangible item at all- it was just the opportunity to name something.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:00 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a dressmaking Kickstarter funded. It was an interesting experience. 100 preorders at $10k? Once you consider the Kickstarter fees involved I think you'll really be scraping by. Reconsider how much money you're going to need to do this, and then consider adding more -- because there will be hidden costs. Also factor in some money to make your customers happy if things don't fit/work out/whatever. A little padding so that you can ensure good customer service will go a long way towards creating customer loyalty. I know it's kickstarter and it's all a crap shoot with what you're getting -- but set yourself up to be able to be good to your customers.

I'd also reconsider basing your sizing on your customers' measurements. For one thing, people are terrible at taking their own measurements/judging their bodies. It's good that you're making full-skirted styles, as those are forgiving to a lot of body shapes. Keep it simple for yourself, come up with a sizing metric that works for you, and stick to it. There are just too many body types to cater to everyone.

Good luck! I hope it works out for you!
posted by another zebra at 12:21 PM on September 5, 2012

I have no experience with Kickstarter but smaller level perks could be fashion-minded/vintage as well: neckerchiefs, costume jewelry etc.
posted by halseyaa at 12:34 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you allowed to offer "gift certificates" as rewards for the lower tiers? I would probably never fund for the price of an actual dress, but $25 off of a purchase once you were up and running would feel like I was getting something of value (as well as that happy-in-my-heart-I-helped-a-Kickstarter feeling).
posted by sparklemotion at 12:42 PM on September 5, 2012

I had a funded Kickstarter project. Make sure you have a good list of blogs to reach out to. Double dip too! If you were featured on a blog early in your campaign, they're invested in your success and they'll run another piece as you approach your goal. Be shameless and fearless in your promotion!

Have a good plan for fulfillment-know exactly what your rewards are going to be-labels, packaging, sizing, the whole works. I fell flat in this area. Don't underestimate shipping costs. Put some money in there for legal and accounting professionals.

When I ran my project I was getting impatient. I wanted to see if I could get some traction and ended up launching before I had a solid plan for fulfillment. If I had it do over again, I would have polished the product a bit more before launching. Best of luck!
posted by fzx101 at 1:02 PM on September 5, 2012

Amazon + Kickstarter fees will take close to 10% off the top, and that doesn't account for taxes you may be responsible for.

I'd make all production decisions yours alone. Sizing metrics should be figured out before you launch as should fabrics. Few people who order dresses will want that part to be up-for-grabs and decided by polling after they've committed. Supporters may not respond to polls in the numbers you'd like, or not in time, etc. Don't give people extra reasons to be mad ("my pick didn't make it"). Keep supporters involved by posting about progress, maybe a video from the sewing floor, or inspirations for your designs.

Most Kickstarter fundraisers often worry about making their goal, but don't consider what their plan will be if the campaign is wildly successful. Can you ramp it up effectively without your costs doing crazy things?

Make sure your actual shipping and handling costs are correct. This can be a huge money pit if incorrectly calculated.

Kickstarters I've supported usually amount to me pre-buying something I'd want to buy anyway for close to the same price as retail. For lower-tier supporters, make the premiums worth it. Can you do a smaller production run of a simple accessory or less expensive item (handkerchief, apron, do-it-yourself pattern)? It's insulting to expect supporters to throw in a larger contribution ($50+) and get some inexpensive token. A recent restaurant Kickstarter I considered had a premium gift of a $10 dish for a $50 contribution. That's not to scale, in my opinion. I didn't support it. Family and friends will want to throw extra money at you, but the general public may not want to give larger amounts and get little in return.

Make sure you have made your blog and PR contacts before you launch. Don't start cold calling after the clock is ticking. Make sure people are ready to support you before you start.
posted by quince at 3:55 PM on September 5, 2012

So, this academic paper might be helpful.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:06 PM on September 5, 2012

I ran a graphic novel KS that was funded within 48 hours. And it started mid-day on a weekend, too.

1. Fanbase. You need one. If 10% of the people who follow your work bought the basic package, would you be funded? Don't rely on anyone taking the bonus packages, do all your math based on people buying one single dress.

Don't count on anyone publicizing it if you aren't already regularly news items for them.

Don't count on random browsers buying it.

2. Shipping. Don't forget to include this in your estimates. I only did rough guesses for mine, this may come back to bite me. I'll know pretty soon as I'm sending the files off to the printer this week. Also be sure to account for international shipping being more expensive; get a rough estimate of this, add a little on the top so it's a round number, and ask international buyers to add that to their pledge.

(you can probably dispense with that last worry on the, like, "$2000 super patron who's listed on the line's site as a major supporter" levels.)

3. If this is your first venture into serious manufacturing of stuff, I suspect it will go a lot easier if you can afford to lose some money on the deal. I'm in a position where I can afford this. Plus I'm doing a bigger run of books than just fulfilling the backers, and have enough fans who reliably buy stuff from me at cons that I'll definitely break even in the long run.

COST YOUR WHOLE PROJECT OUT BEFORE LAUNCHING. Add in like 10-20% fudge factor in case you missed something.

4. Make a nice video. Be enthusiastic. I have not seen ANY projects without a video succeed.

5. Explain the whole thing in the text, as well. Show pictures. Nobody except maybe your parents will buy stuff you make sight unseen.

6. Look at some successful clothing kickstarters. Look at some running ones that are pretty clearly destined for failure. What are the winners doing that the losers aren't? Closed and failed campaigns tend to vanish from Kickstarter's search, you might want to also dig through Kicktraq to find some. (Kicktraq is pretty useful in its own right!)
posted by egypturnash at 2:13 PM on September 6, 2012

The Fabric choice is such a key thing in a clothing and you are leaving that until after the funding stage. I think a lot of people would see that as an increased risk that they will not like the final product.

I personally would prefer that I can see from the outset that you have a good eye for fabric, and that I like your choices in fabric before putting in the money.
posted by mary8nne at 12:04 AM on September 7, 2012

Something else people don't consider is "what if we are way more successful than expected?" It's not a purely good thing, and it has complications. Like if your goal is 100 for 10k, and you get 1000 orders, are you still going to meet your timelines? Would you need to find a new supplier? Is your profit margin good enough that it is worth spending 10x the time on getting the project out? A lot of people run into big problems when they have a hit, and it might be worth capping the rewards at a reasonable number instead.
posted by smackfu at 7:51 AM on September 19, 2012

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