In early December after considerable thought, I decided to begin a crowdfunding effort on the site indiegogo.com. I arrived at this decision based on two main factors, both which converged together into one main stream. First, I had been contacted by a number of people beginning in October inquiring if I was going to have glass blowing classes in the Fall like I had done every year for the last four. My studio has opened its doors to the public for an event/class that I call the BYOB which stands for “Blow Your Ornament Ball.” It is an opportunity for the person right off the street to design and help make their own Christmas ornament or suncatcher. Besides being a lot of fun, it is also very educational. It has been so popular that by October and into November of this year, I had to put off close to 20 people about whether I would be able to do this event. This is just how popular the event has become. These were all people coming to me, inquiring.
I teach part time at Radford University, and for the first time since I began teaching in 2010, the classes which I was assigned did not have enough enrollment for the courses to go forward, which meant that I was without an important part of income. Teaching made it easier to be able to open the studio for key periods during the year.
At about the same time, I had finally gotten the supplies I needed to make good on an old promise to a friend and colleague about turning a vase she had bought into a lamp. As it turned out, her request was something that fit neatly into something I had been wanting to do for YEARS with the particular line she had inquired about which was converting a hand blown vase into a usable lamp. It was one of those perfect kinds of matches. I even had a picture from another client and friend from California who had put a candle in a piece from the same line in order to show me how how her piece looked.
The bottom line was that these vases would make a perfect side-step into lighting, and I already had people already interested. I set about making the alterations necessary to make this vase into a light feature. The glass wall was drilled out and a light kit with an online switch was added. It was a simple yet elegant solution. I finished the fabrication at 3:00 one afternoon in November and couldn’t wait to see what it would look like in subdued light. The effect that it had on my foyer and my study was…..magic.
The Birth of a Campaign
When I went online with the new lamp picture to share with friends, the response was strong. People were asking when they could get one of their own. The only problem was there wasn’t a way that I could see to get the studio operation quickly enough to capitalize on all of the interest that had been stirred as a result of my initial reveal.
After some consideration, I decided to do the one thing that I had not done before, which was to FIND a way to raise the funds to bring this product to market. The added benefit would be that, with an open studio in the winter, people would get to blow their own glass like they had become accustomed to over the years. This was how the campaign was born. With about a week worth of working up a budget, I arrived at a target cost for this project, which would enable me to open the studio and launch this new product, now called The Gaia Lamp across the nation with galleries that sold handmade American craft. I learned very quickly the ins and outs of crowdfunding and once I felt like I had learned enough, I began sketching out the beginnings of a campaign.
I decided to run what is called a “fixed” campaign. In simple terms this is all or nothing. Meet the goal by a given deadline and you are funded. Miss that goal amount by the deadline, and you don’t get funded. People urged me to do a flex campaign, explaining that anything was worth something. As I thought about that, I found that for me, it was beside the point to do that. I wanted to be able to DO the project, not a PART of it. Flex meant doing only a part of it (and really, who knew what part would get done, right?). It also meant that the project might not even get done! Now tell me, who wants that?
Flex funding is good for people who are raising funds for medical expenses where ANY amount is appreciated, and for nonprofits seeking to raise funds for their cause. If people were going to give to MY campaign, I wanted to be able to have something to show them for it. I wasn’t ready to compromise on this point; I wanted my donors to feel a sense of accomplishment in their efforts just as I also wanted to feel accomplishment and the knowledge that I now had the opportunity to move forward with the project. I wanted it to be a win-win. The heat was on, the clock would begin, and the race was soon going to be on….
The campaign began on December 1st and went until January 7th. There was a consideration made for this being the Christmas season, which extended the original date times by an extra week. I am glad I did this, but as it turned out, the campaign goal of $5,600.00 was met nine days before the deadline. My concern was that we would have a dead zone for about a week straddling Christmas. That was the thinking that drove the strategy in terms of time.
The first week was nothing short of a scorcher. The campaign achieved 42% of its goal in five days. This put the campaign in the fourth spot prior to being on the main page for Indiegogo in my design category internationally. That meant that there were only four other projects that were performing better than mine in the world. This boosted my visibility on the Indiegogo platform and resulted in people giving to the campaign who did not know me or were outside my own personal network or community.It is worth to mention that when you can achieve a given amount of donations in a short period, it will boost your visibility on most of the crowdfunding sites. Your ability to hustle and get returns winds up boosting you on the site, which further helps your campaign by getting you attention you might not otherwise have.
There were two newspaper articles written after the goal was met. I also had a news channel interview on WSLS with Brie Jackson about the effort which was very helpful. I learned that all of the coverage I was getting was showing me just how important it is to be doing this kind of promotion as a matter of course in a business. The effort pushed me to do more than I had done before, and I think that this helped me to dust off some of my skills at self promotion that had gotten a little dry and maybe even stale with complacency and time. I figured that even if the campaign was not successful, I would have put a spot light on what it is that I do and the products and services I offer, including the design dreams I have. I know that this might sound beside the point, but this effort taught me some important lessons that I needed to revisit, which was to learn how not to be resistant to tooting my own horn.
In the graphic below I have a screen shot of the campaign once it reached 104% and was very close to the deadline. I have since gotten just over 109% of the goal with the campaign today, which is its deadline. You can see the first week as the big surge forward followed by a lull that then went on to slowly grow over time. The trend line was always upward, even if the angle of that line made me nervous at the time. Would I make it with this kind of line? Well, as I can tell you, ANYTHING can happen, and did. The campaign went on with this up and down for a few weeks before the “big bang” took place, which had the effect of rocketing the campaign within shooting distance of the $5,600.00 goal.
In my case, I used Facebook at the main means of getting the word out, with newspapers and television news helping out a lot. Since I was unable to properly track traffic from my newspaper and television exposure, its hard for me to say whether it had a material effect. For those of you out there curious about running a campaign, indiegogo does have some good tools that help to track traffic and donations coming from a site that has a link to your campaign. While I did not have any donations coming from the link on indeigogo for the tv news story, for example, that does not mean that someone didn’t bookmark my campaign for consideration later. These tools do help, though, to show where donors and activity is coming from, and its important that you provide your campaign link because it will help you track where your contributions are coming from.
Another metric that indiegogo uses is logging the domains where traffic is coming from, not per isp, but by country. As a result of this, I was able to see what visitors indexed by country were visiting my campaign page. In the screen shot below you can see the first page of the most numerous page views for the campaign and where they were coming from.
The Power Of The Tweet…Blog?
While I was told that Twitter was king (or Queen) for campaigns, I only had about 30 followers (really) when this all began and had not had much luck finding out a suitable way to get people to sign up to get tweets from me. Instead, again, Facebook was my most used social media outlet.
I blogged and found that there was very little sharing of my blog posts, which was largely due I think to both my level of followers as well as the type of followers I had. This is not a criticism of them at all, and is likely more about how I have chosen to write on the blog. I was not “plugged in” to the entrepreneurial universe with my blog, that was not its main focus. Perhaps my blog posts are too long and might not encourage people who are action-based to read and participate. They might be too cerebral, too thought-based, I considered. I did have a platform with my blog, but when it came time to begin making some noise, I am not so sure that it was that helpful for getting the word out. To break out of my own limited circle of readers, I needed to have outlets picking up my posts and sharing them or leading traffic to them. In the end, my blogging was not a significant factor in garnering donations. It did, however, serve to inform people who came from Facebook, for example, who wanted to read more about the campaign and saw the link on my page.
Perhaps if I had galleries following me, perhaps if I had crowdfund enthusiasts following me, then perhaps I would have been able to use this tool better. Note to self; this is something to work on. And really, to be truthful, my blog is a way to provide content about my business to people who are interested in hot glass and the studio in a more expansive way (instead of the short quips of twitter and Facebook). It is an opportunity for me to discuss issues that may even be tangential but connected to making art, design, and hot glass. I also use it occasionally as a tool for informing my art students where I work part time, and it may be that this represents a sudden shift in my content and might even put readers off who follow my blog, I don’t know. Its been something of an experiment, and is one I will keep working on. It may be that in order to gain more interest my post will become more trimmed down to meet the growing shortening “quips” we see on the internet. Sadly, our world is becoming more like this as we are presented with content nonstop that all seeks to grab out attention. I must admit that my interests with the blog are more along the lines of reading a chapter in a book, something to think about, delve into, to consider. Perhaps I need to think about expanding my content to include more about my field, people in my field, and about how global influences are at work. And really, anyone with ideas, I am all over it. I have long thought that a trade of posts would be great….interviews with other artists….a round table….or posts that include gallery owners about who what when where and why.
The past week has been a busy one for me with ordering the supplies needed for the project as well as getting ready for a donor party at the studio, which I am hoping we can swing by the 24th come heck or high water. Finishing first and early has its benefits. And if you are reading this and you shared the news or gave, you did good! You really did do a great thing that goes beyond just one simple campaign. It gave me hope back, it gave me a place to create again and to launch a new product. It has also made it possible for many people to come out and see what their own creativity has to offer them. And that is a really wonderful thing. <3
Onward and upward! A village did it!