By Carol Thompson
The Record-Eagle, Traverse City, Mich.
Stacey Feeley learned the online crowdfunding website Kickstarter can be used for more than raising money.
And it’s not just for creative types looking to fund a new project or hopeful entrepreneurs seeking startup help.
“The exposure on Kickstarter is huge,” Feeley said.
Feeley is a co-founder of Silikids, a Traverse City company that produces glass and silicone products such as baby bottles, sippy cups and bibs. Silikids wares are colorful and stylish, and help parents avoid the chemicals in plastic. The company’s most popular item is a stretchy silicone lid that can fit over any cup, with space for a drinking straw.
Feeley and her partner Giuliana Schwab tried a Kickstarter campaign about three years ago and discovered the website’s potential for promoting the business. The campaigns are easy to share on social media and the last one attracted a lot of attention to Silikids.
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They decided to try it again, this time to launch a line of cups for adults that are only available through Kickstarter.
The cups feature cartoon characters designed by Feeley and Schwab’s husbands Jim Feeley and Bill Schwab, both professional graphic artists in Los Angeles, Calif. who have worked on projects such as the television show American Dad and movie Frozen, respectively.
“This is a marketing platform for us,” Feeley said. “It’s a way for us to come out with a unique, different item that we would have never made otherwise.”
The marketing push also helps retailers that sell Silikids products, such as Hazelnut Kids in Traverse City. Store owner Tracy Coe started selling Silikids about a month ago and already ordered a second shipment.
Hazelnut Kids sells most of its wares online, and Coe said her business will improve with more Silikids marketing.
“When someone sits down to order Silikids, they’re searching, and they’re going to find (the Silikids website), but by default I’ll be in that mix,” Coe said. “I suspect the demand’s going to be quite high. I think there’s enough business to go around.”
The cash generated by Kickstarter campaigns is another plus for Silikids — it will allow the company to fund another round of its silicone lids and sell more products.
Feeley said cash and growth are two major concerns for Silikids, like most businesses. The company got $400,000 in angel investment this year, and is using it to get Silikids products into big retail stores.
That’s a concept many of the company’s boutique retailers don’t like, but Feeley said it’s necessary.
“If we’re only exclusive to boutiques, somebody else is going to come and knock us off and put (similar products) in the Targets of the world,” Feeley said. “If we can’t manage the brand and the actual product, then nobody wins.”