My First Kickstarter Experience

June 24, 2014 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

Now that the dust has settled from the Kickstarter close, I thought it would be good to write up a review of my first Kickstarter experience. So often, you hear the glowing reports of a Kickstarter that shot up to the stratosphere and funded at 300% or something insane like that. But what about the ones that didn’t do so spectacularly? (Don’t worry, while candid, this will not be a whole sob story/pity party post).

A little backstory for those of you who don’t know: I ran a Kickstarter for 30 days in May to fund creation of my Panda Bar  plush. The design is basically an ice cream sandwich with a panda face and little front paws. The reason I came up with this design is a bit long, but can be seen here at the original Kickstarter page.

The super cute and kawaii chocolate and strawberry panda bar plushies!

The super cute and kawaii chocolate and strawberry panda bar plushies!

Plushies are a huge thing among the anime con crowd. You often see con attendees running around the event hugging a cute animal or character from a popular anime (like Kyubey from Madoka Magica). I’m a sucker for a cute plush myself and have often thought that some of my designs would convert well into plush. I worked with Gann Memorials to create prototypes of my pandas and get pricing. Then, I compiled an exhaustive list of items I could offer for backer rewards, some of which included exclusive artwork. I put all my levels together and got feedback from friends and family, agonized some more, changed more stuff, hemmed and hawed over the video (I HATE myself on video) and then it was time to launch.

The first day, it went really well and then – well, cue the tumbleweeds and crickets. I had been warned that the middle is to make you sweat and boy did I ever. There were long stretches of days where NOTHING came in).

Ok, I lied – I did get some action throughout the first half, a couple of pledges, but mostly a lot of spam email from companies promising a stupendous KS campaign if I gave them a bunch of money to run it for me. Er, if I had that much money, I could produce my own plush or hire my own marketing firm! So I largely ignored these. Someone else told me that this was a relatively new thing as they didn’t get those emails when they did their campaign a few years ago.

Anyway, things did pick up a bit at the very end, but the deadline came and went with only 46% funding. Mine ended at 6am PDT time so that’s what I woke up to: a message that my campaign hadn’t funded successfully. Even though, it was becoming clear during the last days that I wasn’t going to fund successfully, this was still not the greatest way to start my day.

I’ll be honest here, Kickstarters can be rough on your ego. Obviously, you believe in your project enough to put it out there and ask strangers to actually put out money to back it’s creation. It can be rather depressing at times when nothing is happening, despite all your best efforts to market the project. I used all the social media I had a presence on and posted as much as I could. I had write ups in some blogs that had actually helped another Kickstarter that was running around the same time enormously.

According to my stats on the Kickstarter page, I did get views, but they just weren’t converting to pledges. My project just wasn’t connecting to the majority of people who didn’t already have some form of a connection to me. I started having a sneaking suspicion on what was wrong and it was confirmed when someone asked ‘But can’t you just make these on your own?’

Ding, ding, ding – we’ve got a winner here.

My Panda Bars, while cute, were just too darn simple. Most people felt like they could make it on their own and so why should they put money into something when they could probably do it cheaper? Granted, I’ve found that a lot of people who say ‘I could totally do this for WAY cheaper’ have not actually tried to make something like that and aren’t factoring in the time, materials and effort. But I believe that thought process, whether legit or not was a significant factor to my KS failing.

While I don’t have the following numbers of some of my fellow ‘kawaii’ artists who’s likes number in the thousands, I do have a pretty decent following online. During the time the Panda Bar Kickstarter was running, I was also creating some other plush. One of them took off like crazy and still remains huge for me. In fact, I’m having trouble keeping up with demand on that one and another one is close behind. The engagement I’ve gotten on those two has far surpassed the Kickstarter Pandas.

I think I tried to err too much on the ‘safe’ side with my first Kickstater. I was a bit timid of production costs and went with the simplest design I had that was getting good feedback (people did like the 2d design), not even thinking how that would hurt my chances with the project. I also lost track a bit of what my business is based on. Kimchi Kawaii has made a name for itself based on my combining cute art with puns which I love coming up with on a regular basis. I actually got some questions that showed there were some people more interested in the more ‘punny’ backer rewards than the main project! Eek!

So anyway, you live and learn. Gotta get back on the horse and all that. I’ve been evaluating what I could do differently and will be trying another project in March. I know that sounds kind of far away, but this will allow me to get through the bulk of my anime con season this summer and the holidays. I have plans for what I’m going to do for the next campaign and will start lining up resources and all in the meantime. Stay tuned!

P.S. The exclusives that were attached to the failed Panda Bar one? Well, I didn’t want them to die with the project so I’m releasing them into the shops and usual Kimchi Kawaii line up. So far, you can find them in my Redbubble shop and I’m working on getting them loaded into the Zazzle store and added to my Storenvy and anime con inventory.

 

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Print on Demand: Zazzle Artist Alley Review: Anime Expo 2014

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