“Speaking the language of investors made it quicker to find investment” says Jason Kirk of Kirk & Kirk

Jason Kirk co-founder of Kirk and Kirk, an upmarket eye-wear brand, is a very credible founder and business owner. He and his business partner Karen built and sold a successful business prior to starting Kirk and Kirk, they both have over 20 years’ experience in their industry, their latest business has made good progress and they have raised investment before (for their first business). You might think that they would find it a breeze to raise investment. And yet, when they were looking to raise investment for Kirk and Kirk they sought external support and advice. Hatty Fawcett of Focused For Business caught up with Jason to find out why.


Hatty: You decided to raise investment from business angels rather than any other source, why was that?

Jason: We didn’t need a huge amount of money, about £150,000. We were eligible for SEIS (Seed Entreprise Investment Scheme) which I knew would make us appealing to angel investors so it felt like a logical place to start. I was also interested to see what sort of angel we might attract and whether they might bring additional value to the business in the form of contacts or skills, as well as their money.

I’d also decided against going to the banks because they tend to be slow and expensive. The amount of work involved measured against the amount of support you end up with from the banks is, at best, frustrating.

Hatty: You had raised investment before, for your previous business, so people might assume you knew what was required. Why did you decide to get external support in preparing for investment?

“I really want to ensure I was speaking investors’ language. I know how time consuming raising investment can be. I wanted to get it right first time and avoid going backwards and forwards with investors and spending too much time on it.”

Jason: Yes. I’d raised investment before but this was a different business. Enlisting the help of someone who knows how to tailor a document to the needs of a specific audience is very time efficient and should lead to better results. I really want to ensure I was speaking investors’ language. I know how time consuming raising investment can be. I wanted to get it right first time and avoid going backwards and forwards with investors and spending too much time on it. Raising investment can be a big distraction from the day-to-day running of your business if you’re not careful!

Hatty: You’re right. Raising investment is a full-time job – on top of the full-time job of running your business! Raising investment gets an awful lot easier when you have a lead investor, someone willing to back your business and say why they are doing so. How did you go about finding a lead investor?

Jason: I didn’t have a huge network of investors so I admit it was daunting knowing where to start! But having worked on what I need to say to investors with you, it gave me confidence to go out and start talking to people. I remember you encouraged me to talk to everyone! Telling them about the business, what we had achieved and what we wanted to do next. I spoke to so many people I began to get board of the sound of my own voice!

“It’s definitely easier to attract other investors once you have a lead investor.”

But it paid off, one of the people I spoke to – looking for their feedback, I wasn’t actually asking for investment – was an active angel investor and he liked what we were doing. He agreed to be our lead investor. It’s definitely easier to attract other investors once you have a lead investor.

Hatty: That’s very true. A lead investor really gets things moving. I know it worked for you and, with the support of your lead investor, you were able to complete the investment round. Thinking back on the process of raising investment, what advice would you offer to anyone preparing for investment today?

Jason: I’d use an experienced pro to help you prepare the documents and figures you need because it saves a great deal of time and makes your investment look more attractive to potential investors.

Hatty: Have there been any surprising outcomes from raising investment?

Jason: The investment has allowed us to make significant progress in a relatively short time frame. In fact, we’ve achieved the milestones we set and are ready for our next round of investment!

Jason worked with Hatty Fawcett of Focused For Business to prepare for investment, with the specific objective of developing a strong summary of the investment opportunity (in the form of a one page executive summary) and a credible business valuation.

If you would like help preparing for investment, book a free funding clinic with Hatty Fawcett or attend a live and interactive, online masterclass that gives you the tools to prepare yourself for investment.

“Crowdfunding proved a brilliant way to market test a new product and boost sales” says Kellie Forbes Co-Founder of YUU World

**** Free, live and interactive webinar “How to succeed at crowdfunding” packed full of practical crowdfunding advice, insider tips and resources that support your crowdfunding campaign. RESERVE YOUR FREE PLACE ****

Kellie Forbes and Gill Hayward, Co-Founders of YUU World, know what it takes to raise investment. They survived “Dragon’s Den” (TV programme) receiving offers from all five dragons and going on to raise investment from Peter Jones and Deborah Meadon. Then, in 2016, they raised £210,000 from a number of business angels. In 2017, with the business doing well and a new product to launch, Kellie and Gill turned to crowdfunding to raise investment to launch the new product but, more importantly, to test demand for their latest creation, YUUGo a GPS tracker backpack which provides parents with everything they need to keep their kids both entertained & safe on-the-go.

Their crowdfunding campaign didn’t raise what they hoped but they still feel the campaign was a success and that crowdfunding was very worthwhile. Hatty Fawcett  of Crowdfunding Accelerator caught up with Kellie to find out why and to discover what they’d learnt in the process.


Hatty: What attracted you to crowdfunding for this investment raise?

Kellie: We were attracted to crowdfunding to launch our new product not just because of the financial support, but because we thought it would be a great way to test the desirability of our newest product. We also wanted to gain some valuable insight on how to improve our product along the way.

Hatty: What influenced your decision to do reward-based crowdfunding (rather than equity)?

Kellie: YUUGo is a tech product (it uses GPS/Wi-fi tracker to allow children to track their journeys whilst giving parents the ability to see where their kids are). We noticed that “wearable tech” performs particular well on reward-based crowdfunding platforms. It seemed a good way to reach out to new customers beyond those who already love our core product. Nothing is certain in crowdfunding – and we had some concerns – but we wanted to give it a try.

Hatty: How did you decide at what level to set your crowdfunding target?

“I would urge anyone considering crowdfunding to think very carefully about their crowdfunding target…setting this at the right level is more complex than you might think.”

Kellie: I would urge anyone considering crowdfunding to think very carefully about their crowdfunding target (the amount of money you want to raise).

We reviewed a lot of crowdfunding projects before launching our own and, in many cases we saw the percentage reached outshining the actual target. When this happens “the crowd” tends to be encouraged by the initial response and join in backing the project causing an over-funding situation. This is very exciting when it happens but it can also be misleading. You have to deliver your promised rewards the minute you hit your (minimum) target, even if you are planning to go on and over fund. We considered setting a lower target (so that we were seen to achieve our target quickly) but we were concerned that if we set our minimum target too low we would not raise sufficient funds to meet our minimum order quantity with our factory, leaving us needing to deliver rewards without the minimum order quantity economies of scale. That would have cost us money!

I guess what I’m saying is that setting your crowdfunding target is more complex than you might think. You’ve got to think about what you need, the costs of delivering your promised rewards and recognise that there is human psychology at play too.

“It is dependent on you to get the first 40-50% (of your target) pledges in – and you need these pledged in the first few days of your campaign. I cannot stress this enough”

Hatty: Had you lined up some initial investors to support your crowdfunding pitch when it went live?

Kellie: I cannot stress enough how important it is to do some in-depth prep and ground work on lining up initial investor pledges. I’d recommend lining up initial pledges that account for 40%-50% of your target – and you need these pledged in the first few days of your campaign to get the traction your campaign will need to reach “the crowd” (people you don’t know).

We’ve found there is a difference between American and UK consumer behaviour on crowdfunding sites. We found that our campaign received good numbers of visitors but the conversion from our Facebook advertising and our database was not what we had anticipated. People can be scared off, or simply be confused about what they are there for, if they have not made a crowdfunding pledge before. I’d recommend providing a clear, short explanation on your pitch page explaining how crowdfunding works. UK consumers, in particular, seem less familiar with crowdfunding compared to, say, the USA.

“I wish we had worked with somebody independent to our campaign and company so that we had another perspective and view.”

Lastly, and I feel this sincerely, I wish we had worked with somebody independent to our campaign and company so that we had another perspective and view on how to approach our campaign. In my experience, you cannot cover enough angles when preparing for your campaign!

Hatty: Have there been any surprising outcomes from your crowdfunding campaign?

Kellie: Yes! it was disappointing that we didn’t hit our target but we have learnt so much and had such useful feedback we feel the campaign has delivered – just not in the way we expected.

We now know that we were not focused enough on finding that first 30% (of our target). It was dependent on us to get those pledges in and, whilst we believed we had these teed up, it took more than we anticipated to bring them home. The first two days of the campaign were exhausting, asking friends and family to pledge. If we had understood the importance of this better, we’d have prepared more pledges before going live.

That said, we’ve had amazing feedback regarding the new product. That’s been insightful. We know we have a desired product, but we now realise there is another way to deliver this – as an add-on option rather than a bespoke product. We had considered this before but had opted to make a stand alone product. It was feedback by via the crowdfunding campaign that has caused us to re-think this decision. We have a better product as a result.

Another unexpected outcome has been the amount of exposure our business has received and the impact this has on sales. We’ve had some lovely PR which has been brilliant (including a spot on BBC Business Breakfast). Better still, we’ve seen this exposure directly impact on sales. Our sales are up almost 20% which is thanks to the crowdfunding campaign exposure. Experience tells us that this will also bode well for the all-important Christmas sales period too.

“All in all, crowdfunding been a win win situation for us.  We have collected so many assets from the experience. It was never our intention to use the campaign as a market research or selling exercise but that has been the unexpected result. If you look at the pound for pound result – it’s been great value.”

 

***************************

**** Free, live and interactive webinar “How to succeed at crowdfunding” packed full of practical crowdfunding advice, insider tips and resources that support your crowdfunding campaign. RESERVE YOUR FREE PLACE ****

Crowdfunding Accelerator is an eight week online programme that makes it quicker and easier to be successful at crowdfunding. Find out more

“Crowdfunding enabled us to turn a shared vision into a tangible financial commitment” says Robert Woodford, Marketing Director for Deep Time Walk

Schumacher College in Dartington, South Devon seeks to inspire, challenge and question people as co-inhabitants of the world. They are an international centre for nature-based education, personal transformation and collective action. They offer a range of residential courses on ecological themes and transformative courses for sustainable living.

A number of co-creators from the college developed the Deep Time Walk App which provides a walking audio history of the living Earth, giving people a detailed and dramatised experience of the planet’s 4.6 billion year history.  During this educational walk, people walk a distance of 4.6 kilometres whilst listening to the Earth’s story (via the app) and are encouraged to connect their own short-lived experience of time on Earth with the vast expanse of geological time.

The college needed funds to complete development of the app and with revenue generated from the sale of the app hopes to raise sufficient investment to fund a number of bursaries for the college. On World Earth Day in April 2016 they set out to raise £21,000 on reward-based crowdfunding site, Crowdfunder.co.uk.

robert-woodford-from-vision-to-financial-commitment-websiteHatty Fawcett, experienced crowdfunder and Founder of Focused For Business and Crowdfunding Accelerator, asked Robert Woodford to share what he learnt from this crowdfunding campaign and to offer advice to others thinking about doing crowdfunding.

“Schumacher College has a strong alumni who share the Deep Time Walk ethos and vision for the world…it was a project born out of the work of the college and it was natural for us to reach out to this pre-existing community for support”

Hatty: What attracted you to crowdfunding?

Robert: Schumacher College has a strong alumni who share our ethos and vision for the world. Many of our alumni had undertaken the physical Deep Time Walk at the College (from which this project arose) and so had a strong affinity for the project. It was natural for us to want to talk to this pre-existing “crowd” (via a mailing list of 17,000 people) and share our vision. Crowdfunding enabled us to turn a shared vision into a tangible financial commitment of support for our project.

“It proved crucial to have advice upfront …we would have missed out if we hadn’t had all the elements of the campaign lined up well in advance.”

Hatty: How did you approach your crowdfunding campaign?

Robert: We did a wide review of best practices associated with crowdfunding and spoke to a number of people that had already managed a campaign, including yourself Hatty – your advice helped us think about the common pitfalls involved in the process of crowdfunding. The team at Crowdfunder were also a great help in providing support and advice both before and during the campaign. It proved crucial to have this information and advice upfront because, once live, the campaign moved very fast and we would have missed out if we hadn’t had all the elements of the campaign lined up well in advance.

I have to say, it was tough work and enduring attention to detail was needed in the weeks up to launch and then constantly throughout the campaign. Gruelling but rewarding!

“Crowdfunding takes longer than you might think. It’s gruelling but rewarding!”

Hatty: How long did it take to prepare your crowdfunding campaign?

Robert: We starting thinking about our campaign six months before we went live, and then planning started in earnest three months before. Crowdfunding takes longer than you might think. We’d expected to launch about a month before we actually did. It was the right decision to delay the launch as it meant we had everything lined up and, importantly, we secured upfront financial commitments which ensured the campaign was a success.

“The biggest challenge was getting the timing of these pre-pledges lined up with the actual day our crowdfunding campaign went live.”

Hatty: How much of your campaign target had you had promised by the time you put your crowdfunding campaign live?

Robert: We had about 20% ready to be pledged before we went live. The biggest challenge was getting the timing of these pre-pledges lined up with the actual day our crowdfunding campaign went live, and then timing the push out to the wider support base after this.

“One thing that worked really well for us was having incentives that were, effectively, limited edition.”

Hatty: What advice, tips or successful tactics would you offer to anyone preparing for crowdfunding?

Robert: Planning is essential – I can’t stress that enough– as is keeping the momentum going throughout the campaign.

One thing that worked really well for us was having incentives that were, effectively, limited edition. The rewards were also of high value to our target base for support. We made exclusive audio recordings with Satish Kumar, Martin Shaw and Stephan Harding, and provided an set of lectures which totalled over 4 hours. We also have put in the effort to produce an exclusive book and audio cd, which was attractive to potential supporters. And, we would only release a certain number for each reward category and when these were taken, that was it, they were gone. This encouraged people that visited our crowdfunding campaign to pledge, there an then, whilst they were on the site. If they’d waited the reward might have run out.

We used several tactics here:

1) We kept the number of each reward low so that people were encouraged to pledge before a reward ran out.

2) We offered an incentive that the first 50 people that pledged would receive access to an early version of the product, which really helped bring in the early pledges.

3) Half way through the campaign, we launched a match-fund campaign, which brought in a substantial mid-boost to our crowdfunding campaign. It worked so well it enabled us to add stretch targets which provided further momentum to the project.

“We launched a match-fund campaign…and what started as a £1,000 commitment became an £8,000 investment.”

Hatty: How did the match-fund incentive work?

Robert: Essentially, I got three donors in place who each promised to contribute a relatively large sum if we raised matching funding through the crowdfunding site. It was difficult getting the first major donor but, once we had one on board, it was easier to encourage others. The first donor offered a commitment of £1,000 if we could match it through the crowdfunding site. I then got a commitment of a further £3,000 from another two donors. This created a theoretical match-fund pot of £4,000. All we had to do was raise the same amount of money through our “crowd” and that would trigger the match-fund investment. Our wonderful “crowd” came up with the goods on the same day we told them of the initiative! So, what started as a £1,000 commitment became an £8,000 investment. In fact, we actually went over the target amount before the match-fund was pledged and so we pushed on to reach towards our stretch target. Originally we’d hoped to raise £21,000 but we actually raised over £26,000.

Match-funding really incentivised our crowd and our match-funders were excited by it too. They felt they were doing something special which boosted support generally.

“We’re no longer a team of eight, but a community of 267 with a common passion and commitment to the project”

 Hatty: Would you do crowdfunding again?

 Robert: Yes, it’s an exhilarating if sometimes stressful ride, and it was wonderful to be part of a project that not only delivered the investment, but also has the potential to change people’s perspective on their place in the cosmos and how Earth formed over 4.6bn years.

Perhaps even more importantly, we’ve created a growing community around this project. And that’s more compelling than the app on its own. We’re no longer a team of eight, but a community of 267 with a common passion and commitment to the project and it’s potential to give anyone, anywhere on the planet a perspective of deep time and where they came from”. If we nurture this relationship there are lots of opportunities down the line to do other things.  Now, that’s exciting!

To find out more about the Deep Time Walk, visit deeptimewalk.org or join them on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/deeptimewalk

**************************************

**** Free, live and interactive webinar “How to succeed at crowdfunding” packed full of practical crowdfunding advice, insider tips and resources that support your crowdfunding campaign. RESERVE YOUR FREE PLACE ****

Crowdfunding Accelerator is an eight week online programme that makes it quicker and easier to be successful at crowdfunding. Find out more

Crowdfunding Success: “Momentum is the key to crowdfunding success” says Peter Ramsey, founder of Movem

Movem, the online community marketplace for landlords, agencies and tenants to list and review rental properties, raised £200,000 on crowdfunding site Crowdcube in just ten days (in August 2016). The investment allows Movem to expand into the residential lettings market, growing the business significantly.

Picture of Hatty Fawcett

Peter Ramsey, Founder of Movem

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hatty Fawcett, experienced crowdfunder and Founder of Focused For Business and Crowdfunding Accelerator, asked Peter to reflect on the process of crowdfunding and share his learnings.

“I loved the idea of having emotionally and financially invested brand advocates.”

Hatty: What appealed to you about crowdfunding?

Peter: I loved the idea of having 100+ brand advocates who are emotionally and financially invested in our product.

Hatty: Did you consider any other forms of investment?

Peter: We considered raising funds privately, including business angel investment. However, I felt Movem needed to make a mark on the industry – which is exactly what crowdfunding helped us to do.

“Crowdfunding isn’t easy – you’ve got to create momentum but that requires hard work.”

Hatty: How easy did you find the process of preparing for crowdfunding?

Peter: Developing a crowdfunding campaign took a lot of time. It probably took me 2 months from making the decision to do crowdfunding to going live. The hardest thing for me was the video pitch. I knew it had to be good, but I didn’t know anybody that could help me make one. So I did it myself. I rented camera gear, got a tripod and filmed/edited the whole thing on my own.

I wasn’t actually that happy with the final cut, but I couldn’t get any more footage, so I had to put up with what I had. On the positive side, that did stop me re-filming again and again. The guys at Crowdcube were very supportive too.

Hatty: If someone is considering crowdfunding, what advice would you offer them?

Peter: My biggest piece of advice is you need to recognise that crowdfunding isn’t easy. There’s a lot of work and effort that goes on behind the scenes. For example, I’d raised some of our investment target prior to putting our crowdfunding campaign live. That was hard work and took time, but it was really important in creating momentum for our crowdfunding campaign when it did go live. That’s the key really, demonstrating momentum.

“I’d wake up at 7am every day and spend the whole day contacting as many people as I could. Literally until I went to bed!”

Peter: Even once you’ve gone live you have to keep that momentum going. You have to keep talking to everyone you think might be an investor. I’d wake up at 7am every day and spend the whole day contacting as many people as I could. Literally until I went to bed! I used everything available to me. LinkedIn, email contacts, the press, friends of friends, Facebook adverts…you name it. I tried it. Crowdfunding is a numbers game – and that requires persistence and hard work.

Hatty: What percentage of your crowdfunding target had you raised before you put your crowdfunding campaign live?

Peter: I had raised £85,000 so just over 40% of our target.

Hatty: Is there anything you would do differently, knowing what you know about crowdfunding now?

Peter: I’d probably be a bit more ambitious. I spoke to so many people during the course of our crowdfunding campaign, there was a ground swell of support and momentum. So many people got in touch afterwards that we could have easily funded £500k.

********************************************

**** Free, live and interactive webinar “How to succeed at crowdfunding” packed full of practical crowdfunding advice, insider tips and resources that support your crowdfunding campaign. RESERVE YOUR FREE PLACE ****

Crowdfunding Accelerator is an eight week online programme that makes it quicker and easier to be successful at crowdfunding. Find out more