Michelle Shemilt worked in finance for five years before realizing she was uninspired by her work. From there, the question became: What did she want to do instead? Annoyed by the countless times perspiration stained her expensive blouses (and even more annoyed by the resulting dry cleaning bill), she came up with the idea for Nudy Patooty: a women’s undergarment that, using a special bamboo fabric, prevents perspiration stains. To get her project off the ground, Shemilt launched an Indiegogo campaign—and she’s already raised nearly $7,000.
Considering she’s living through it right now (her venture ends on July 18), we asked the budding entrepreneur to share some of her top tips when it comes to building a successful crowdfunding campaign. Here they are, in her words:
Create a prototype of your idea
Crowdfunding campaigns are most successful when you have built the foundation of the project and are now asking for support to help take it to the next level. Before I launched Nudy Patooty, I worked for over six months writing the provisional patent, sourcing fabric, finding a manufacturer, and then working with their pattern maker through numerous design prototypes before I was ready to take my project to a crowdfunding platform.
Pick your platform
As the popularity of crowdfunding increases, so do the number of platforms available. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the two largest (note: Kickstarter has US and UK residency clauses). Other platforms to look into are: Crowdfunder, RocketHub, and Quirky.
Build your project page
Research similar projects that have been successful and make note of the type of detail they included on their page. Your project page is your opportunity to sell your idea and engage potential supporters to become involved in what you are doing and contribute to your campaign, so make sure it is well written with a clear objective—and includes pictures! And speaking of visuals, campaigns with (short!) videos are 50 percent more successful than those without. A digital camera/smartphone with video functionality will do just fine. You can check out my video here and see how I laid out my campaign here.
Decide on your “perks”
Perks are what people get for contributing to your campaign—they’re the incentive to get involved. If you’re launching a product with a tangible good, you should probably offer this as your perk. For Nudy Patooty, my perks are different quantities of Nudy Patootys all at a discount (I am pre-selling them for $35 when the retail price is $49.99).
Set up your payment structure
Different sites use different methods of payment, so make sure you look into what is required to set it up on your chosen site seven to 10 days before you plan to go live. Indiegogo uses PayPal, but you need to upgrade to a premium account and verify your bank information, which can take up to seven days (mine was processed in three). You don’t want to be all ready to go live and have no avenue to accept funding!
Start pitching the media
Write a skeleton of a pitch that describes who you are, what your project is, and why you are crowdfunding to get it off the ground. Beyond this core information, each e-mail should be tailored to the specific person/publication you are addressing. Include something you like about their site, or reasons you find their content engaging and informative. Keep these emails short and to the point, as bloggers and journalists receive hundreds of pitches a day. It is a good idea to attach a press release and some other form of information (I included my look book) that you can refer them to for more detail. I started sending emails a week and a half before my campaign started and then followed up once I went live. I have over 150 media contacts on my list, and I make note of my last email sent to them as well as what their response was. Your media list is never complete, so keep adding to it as you come across new blogs and journalists who you think would be interested in your story. Only a small percentage will respond, which is why it is important to be persistent and continue to build your list and follow up.
Reach out to family and friends
Friends and family are going to be the backbone of your campaign, so be sure to get them involved early. Three weeks prior to going live, I sent a mass email (bcc, of course) to my extended network of family and friends telling them what I was up to, explaining what crowdfunding is, and preparing them for launch day. Two days before I launched I wrote over 250 personalized e-mails that I set up to send out the morning of my launch (via Boomerang on Gmail). Yes, this was a lot of work, but you are asking for their money—people are more likely to respond to a personalized email than to a mass distribution list.
Keep the energy going
After the initial burst of activity that will come with your launch the next phase is keeping up the momentum. That means focusing on getting more press and spreading the word about your exciting new project. Staying engaged and involved is key.
Want to support Nudy Patooty? You can do so here!