Startup Savvy: How to Raise Cash on Kickstarter

Ten years ago, Kathy Strahs had at least one thing in common with Oprah Winfrey: Strahs’ panini press, a Christmas present from her sister, was one of her favorite things, too. Home with a new baby, Strahs got busy in the kitchen and started blogging about her recipes for the appliance.

“I really enjoyed the creative process and would stay up late and work through the night,” recalls the former marketer. “I had never been a workaholic before, but for the first time I loved what I was doing and felt invigorated.”

Her aptly named blog, Panini Happy, eventually led to a cookbook on the same topic. When her next idea, The 8×8 Cookbook, wasn’t picked up—“Publishers didn’t think the panini press person could sell books about an 8 x 8 inch pan”—Strahs decided to publish the book herself and start a publishing company, Burnt Cheese Press.

“I had friends who had successfully crowdfunded cookbooks and other creative projects on Kickstarter, so I consulted them and decided to go for it,” she says. Her first Kickstarter campaign pulled in $21,000 from 404 people.

Now Strahs has a third book, The Lemonade Stand Cookbook, out on bookstore shelves, and two Kickstarter campaigns under her belt. She’ll be leading a roundtable on crowdfunding at the 2018 Watermark Conference for Women; until then, here are her five tips for entrepreneurs looking to raise Kickstarter cash.

#1. Put in the time to develop your story.
“You need to tell your story in a compelling way to motivate family, friends, acquaintances and strangers to support your project. They need to know who you are, understand your project and feel excited about it. It also helps to have good rewards.”

#2. Budget for campaign expenses.
“It may come as a surprise, but you need to spend money to raise money. What you spend your money on depends on the project and your personal skill set. I paid a videographer and a publicist, and I did everything else myself. You also need to figure in costs for those good rewards, whether they’re T-shirts with your branding or the actual product, and costs for shipping them.”

#3. Set your campaign goal carefully.
“You want to set your goal high enough to be able to cover your costs, but also not so high that you aren’t able to reach it. On Kickstarter, you have to reach your set goal in order to receive any of the funds. So take a realistic look at what it will cost you to execute your project and at your ability to bring in contributions and choose a goal accordingly.”

#4. Make a plan for bringing in backers.
“It’s a misconception that the platform will deliver the donors. Most of your backers will be people who know you or know of you—so you need to map out how you’re going to reach them and how much they’re likely to contribute. Before you go live, encourage potential backers to pledge right when you launch, because the bigger you open, the more word-of-mouth you’ll get. Send personal emails to your contacts, communicate via your social media channels and encourage sharing. If you don’t feel like you’ve been annoying by the end of your campaign, you probably haven’t been talking about your project enough.”

#5. Thank everyone.
“Remember to send a personal note of thanks to everyone who pledges, forwards your link, shares your story on social media. Their support is vital to the success of your project, so let them know how much you appreciate it.”

Kathy Strahs will be leading a roundtable about crowdfunding at the 2018 Watermark Conference for Women on February 23.


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