Entrepreneurs Find Success A Second Time On Kickstarter

By Lucy Berry
Alabama Media Group, Birmingham

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the Birmingham couple who learned from their crowdfunding mistakes the first time around. After their first kickstarter campaign failed, they dusted themselves off and launched a second SUCCESSFUL campaign for their “Coffee Brake Mug”

Alabama Media Group, Birmingham

The day after Ben and Lisa Clark’s first Kickstarter failed, the couple lounged in a hammock, trying not to think about relaunching the campaign and what that might entail.

Ben Clark, a third-generation Huntsville resident raised in Oxford, said they couldn’t let it go.

“So within probably about 10 minutes, we’d made a list of a dozen critical things that we knew we would do differently next time,” he said. “Some of those things are visible, like some new imagery and making the page easier to search for. Some seem obvious, like a lower base goal made possible by negotiating a lower minimum order quantity than we had available last time.”

The entrepreneurs recently unveiled a new Kickstarter page for their Coffee Brake Mug, which happened by accident 10 years ago while Clark was riding his bike to work on a chilly morning in Minneapolis. It was a normal bike ride for Clark, until his front wheel slid on a sheet of ice and his mug hit the ground, spilling hot coffee and shattering the plastic handle.

The bike enthusiast brought the broken cup to work, found a used brake lever and attached it to the mug. After customers took notice and began requesting cups of their own, Clark started producing the Coffee Brake Mug in small batches.

Eventually, the product made its way to more than two dozen countries.

The couple’s first Kickstarter effort earlier this year did not succeed. With only nine days left in the new campaign, the Clarks have already surpassed their fundraising goal by $19,000.

“We sought feedback from a couple of companies that have run successful Kickstarters in the past, and they graciously gave us some really critical input,” Clark said. “We took their advice on several aspects and we believe it’s paying off.”

We talked with Clark this week about the Coffee Brake Mug and his advice for others who want to use crowdfunding to get their projects off the ground.

Question: Since the original campaign was not successful, has anything changed to the product design or delivery?

A: Nothing has changed in regards to the design. We’re still shooting for a Christmas delivery. We do have something new for local — Huntsville/Madison friends, all the way out to Birmingham, Nashville, Chattanooga … anyone close enough to take advantage of this. We are offering local rewards packages with zero shipping. Once the mugs arrive, we will have a pick-up event at Straight to Ale (date/time to be announced) and you’ll be the first in the world to wrap your fist around the Coffee Brake Mug v4. If you’re unable to make that date, we’ll hold them for you, or make arrangements to get them out to you or a shop near you.

Question: What will the money raised on this campaign help fund?

A: We’re going to Disney World!! Ha. No really, make more mugs, of course! We’ll use a small portion of it for all the stuff that goes into running the business, but the published goal was the bare minimum needed to get a jump on production and run the campaign. The more orders that come in, the more it costs to produce and fulfill them all, so the money’s going back into the business.

Question: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs/inventors who want to crowdfund their projects?

A: We’ve had a few people reach out to us already for advice and we remind them that we’re amateurs at this. With that said, it takes a lot of elbow grease to put a successful campaign together but most of all you have to believe in your product. Don’t be afraid to speak for yourself — no one else can “sell” your story, product, or vision unless they know you and your market and believe in your product the way you do. Do your market research — know who wants your product and why. Build a community of support that will follow you over to the Kickstarter campaign.

Choose a team that shares the same goals and values. Clarify in advance whose job it is to do what, when. Write out your plan and map it onto a calendar for the weeks leading up to, during, and following the campaign. You’ll figure out where the holes are and be able to fill them. Dig into the details early and get that stuff out of the way so you aren’t surprised by it later on. And if you’re doing this in your “spare time” between work, family and other obligations like we are, we can’t recommend enough to arrange in advance for some extra help with the day-to-day stuff so you can actually have fun with it.

Question: Where would you like to see this venture in a year?

A: After this production run, we’ll be moving into the co-brand phase (your logo on the mug). We’ve already got some great companies in the cycling and coffee industries jumping in, so we’ll have our hands full with that, as well as selling the mugs retail. It’ll be fun to see where it goes!

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