Makers are often curious about crowdfunding... What's it like? When should I use it if at all? What platform is best for me? What's the process like? We have some great insider knowledge from member Pam Morales of Bubblegum Belles who used Indiegogo to help her start an artisan retail truck in Calgary (she's our first member from the Great White North!). Thanks Pam!
Q: Please introduce yourself and your business.
A: My name is Pam Morales and I’m the owner and operator of the Bubblegum Belles Artisan Truck in Calgary. I’ve travelled many different paths to get to this point. I started out working as a Mechanical Engineer but soon left that field in search of more creative work. After a couple of years working in science and technology, I went back to school to study broadcasting. For the past 15 years, I’ve been working as a graphic artist for CTV - one of Canada’s television networks. It’s been a fun career but now I’m looking for something that is rewarding too.
Bubblegum Belles is an artisan hub on wheels featuring the works of Calgary’s many talented artists and designers and I am getting ready to launch in April 2015. The truck will carry a wide array of handcrafted items all created by local makers. Besides operating as a mobile boutique, I’ll be collaborating with some of the artisans to offer workshops to everyday Calgarians and to other artists wishing to expand their skill set. I’ll also be offering private parties where clients can have the truck curated just for them either by theme/season or by medium.
My hope is that my truck will not only get Calgarians excited about supporting and buying locally handmade products but also excited about wanting to learn to create too.
Q: Why did you decide to start a mobile handmade shop?
A: I was inspired by the overwhelming success of the food truck industry, the growing trend of pop-up shops and my love of everything handmade. The food truck business has become quite a phenomenon and so I thought that a crafty off-shoot of Calgary’s food fad would be a great fit. Having a brick and mortar store in my city is way too prohibitive so I’m taking advantage of the lower overhead costs involved in having a mobile retail shop.
Q: You funded the start of this endeavor with a crowdfunding campaign, can you tell us about it a little?
A: I debated for a very long time about using a crowdfunding platform. I don’t like asking for money and I felt vulnerable by putting my idea out there to be judged before it even started. But, because I already had some financial debts, I didn’t want to dig a deeper hole for myself. Using a crowdfunding platform was a great way to raise funds so as not increase my financial burden too much more. It’s a growing trend and gaining in popularity though you’ll still come across skeptics and people who think it’s silly to give to anything other than a charity.
Q: Why did you decide to do this over a loan or credit?
A: I’m actually using both the funds I raised through my IndieGoGo campaign and a loan I took out against my house. The money from IndieGoGo is being used to purchase a truck, renovate it, and wrap it with new graphics. The money from my loan is being used to purchase stock, marketing, and advertising.
Q: What platform did you use and why did you choose it?
A: Basically I chose to use IndieGoGo over Kickstarter because Kickstarter doesn’t allow campaigns to fund a new business.
Q: What was your experience like on this platform?
A: I would definitely recommend IndieGoGo for starting a business. Their platform is easy to use, has flexible options and though it’s not as mainstream as Kickstarter, it is a powerful crowdfunding site. If you’re looking for a platform to fund a creative project or product line, then Kickstarter definitely has the backing of a much larger community.
Q: What was the biggest advantage and disadvantage of this platform?
A: The biggest advantage to IndieGoGo is that they allow you to set up either a Flexible Funding campaign (you get to keep all the funds you raise even if you don’t meet your funding goal) or a Fixed Funding campaign (all contributions get returned to the contributors if you don’t meet your goal). Kickstarter, on the other hand, has an all or nothing approach.
The biggest disadvantage is that is not as popular yet as Kickstarter and so campaigns probably don’t get seen by as many people.
Q: What marketing strategies did you employ? What worked and what didn't?
A: I used Twitter heavily and Facebook to some extent. I didn’t want to spam my friends too much so I stuck with tweeting and Instagramming on a daily basis for 60 days. I send tweets directly to every small and large media outlet and to every artist, artisan, and small business owner I knew. From those tweets I managed to get several interviews and was featured in a newspaper, magazine, and two radio shows. Since I work in broadcasting, several of my media friends did a lot of tweeting and retweeting for me too. Social media is key. I was on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posting once, maybe twice per day.
I also rolled out a video a couple of weeks after launch. I think doing things in stages keeps people interested and looking to see what’s going to happen next. At about the halfway point, I started doing weekly draws for prizes that were donated to me by other Calgary small businesses and artisans.
I posted an update on IndieGoGo once per week and tried to build relationships with people I follow on Instagram and Twitter. Having them share my campaign was a huge help. It’s a lot of work and requires a daily commitment of at least a few hours. You can’t just launch the campaign and wait for the money to come in. You’ll never reach your goal that way.
What I would do differently next time is use social media to inform people that a campaign is coming. I didn’t have any lead up, I just launched one day out of the blue without any warning to anyone. I think building hype about the campaign before it starts would be a huge asset.
Q: Where can people find your stuff?
A: Since I’m still in the startup stage of my business, I don’t have any products available yet for sale from any of the artisans I have signed up. I still have a few months left to finish the construction and wrapping of the truck and to get through the winter here in Canada first. The products I make though can be found at bubblegumbelles.etsy.com