Arlen: Welcome to the eCommerce marketing podcast. Everyone. I am your host, Arlen Robinson. And today we have a very special guest Khierstyn Ross is a product launch expert that specializes in Kickstarter & Shopify launches for physical products. In 2015, she began this journey when her first launch failed terribly. After relaunching, she went from a $16,710 failure to a $592,742 success story. Since then she’s raised multiple-millions of dollars in pre-order revenue on Kickstarter and Indiegogo with her clients and students. In her spare time, she’s a dog mama and currently training for her second Ironman triathlon.
Welcome to the podcast Khierstyn.
Khierstyn: Hey, thanks for having me.
Arlen: Yeah, not a problem. Great. I’m super excited to talk to you about this topic of, for today, which is, you know, launching a Kickstarter campaign, you know, for any commerce business. And I’ve never really talked too much about Kickstarter, so I’m going to learn a lot.
I know, and I know many of our listeners aren’t that familiar with Kickstarter. So I think it’s a, it’s a hot topic these days. I hear more and more about Kickstarter and the companies that have had success with it. So. I’m really excited to dig deep into that. But before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about your background and specifically how you got into what you’re doing today?
Khierstyn: Yeah, it’s funny because I get asked if I always knew I wanted to do product launches and. Definitely not. I was recruited out of university to run a student house painting franchise where essentially like the pitch is you learn how to run a six figure business in the trades industry. So for seven years, like straight out of university, I learned how to become an entrepreneur by knocking on doors, selling, painting contracts, to homeowners, and then arranging painters to come in and paint like windows doors, Interior bedrooms, like whatever it is that the client wanted. That’s how I got my start into entrepreneurship. And so I ran a franchise with them for three years and then became a district manager where I was coaching entrepreneurs on how to actually start these companies. And, you know, start from scratch, go from zero business experience, upwards of six figures within six months.
And that’s how I discovered my love of coaching and helping business owners go through that transformation of like, You know, realizing that they can be an entrepreneur and they can take control of their finances and everything. So I knew that I wanted to work with entrepreneurs, but up until that failure, which I’ll get into in a second, like, I didn’t know.
That e-commerce or even Kickstarter was what I wanted to do. So after leaving the student franchise at 24, I went traveling for a couple of years to try to figure out like what I’m doing with my life. And eventually after I worked a couple of corporate jobs in the UK and then ended up moving back to Toronto, I partnered up with the founder of my first crowd funding campaign, because at the time I was just taking any contract, like I was still lost, trying to figure out.
Kind of like find your feet as a consultant, like to really try to figure out what I wanted to do. What was my skill set online? And I was still even like learning. The digital side of things. So I took on and I think it was my willingness to try anything that got me to say yes to helping someone launch a product on Indiegogo, which I went at the time did not even understand what crowdfunding was.
I was just like, sure, you have a cool product. I know a little bit about online. Let’s like try to figure this thing out. And that first launch, we ended up making every mistake in the book and having a, like, Pretty bad failure, but they say that your failures shape you or whatever, I guess. So we learned a lot from that failure and because indie Gogo product launches are so public, everyone can see that, okay, this product failed.
So at the end of that launch, I found her and I had two options. We either just quit and kind of part ways. Because maybe the product wasn’t where it should be, or, or maybe it was the strategy and the execution of the launch. That is the reason we failed. So we decided to relaunch the product a few months later on Indiegogo again, and this time we actually paid attention to.
To strategy and figuring out how to properly do a crowdfunding campaign. And then we took that same product from a $17,000 failure to one that did $598,000. And that turnaround happened in about a six month timeframe. And that’s when I discovered how to really tap into. Like crowdfunding as a product launch source.
And from that moment, I just started working with other companies having other big launches. Like our next one did 342,000 and another one did three 50 and it just like kept going like that. So I guess you could say like, crowdfunding really found me and it fits really well in because I’m now doing something very similar to what I was in the painting industry, where I’m still working with business owners to start companies.
Right. Starting to scale companies. So I’ve found my passion accidentally.
Arlen: Wow. That’s awesome. Well, it definitely sounds like you really learned from the school of hard knocks for sure. I mean, I know selling, painting contracts to the residential community and hallmarks. I know it’s not easy. Yeah, you can.
I’m sure you learned a lot as far as sales are concerned.
Khierstyn: Yes. Because you’re dealing with someone’s most important asset, which is their home. Right. I met some great people. I absolutely loved that experience. But yeah, it’s definitely interesting people for sure.
Arlen: Right? Right. Definitely. And then, you know, with the other startup that you had the, uh, you know, that’s what people always say, and it’s really the truth.
You, you really only learn from your failures, you know, that’s where, you know, you fall, you fall hard and then, you know, you take that as a lesson and know what not to do the next time and you know, what you should do the next time. So, you know, that’s the only way, that’s the only way you’re going to learn, you know, people.
I rarely hear successful people say, Oh, you know, You know, I didn’t learn anything from the failures. I’m, you know, I just learned from my successes and double down, I didn’t get it. You don’t really hear that. It’s, it’s always the failures where you, where the learning
Khierstyn: happens. So true. Yeah. Yeah.
Arlen: You know, today, of course, as I mentioned at the beginning, we’re going to be talking about Kickstarter, which is a little bit about your bread and butter.
But for those listeners that aren’t really familiar with the platform and what you do there and what you know, businesses can do on there on why don’t you tell us a little bit about Kickstarter and how exactly it works?
Khierstyn: Yeah. So Kickstarter, even if you’ve never heard of it, It’s a model for how you can sell products online.
So Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been around for over a decade and they are the top two crowdfunding platforms. So instead of talking about what Kickstarter is, let’s talk about what crowdfunding is. Crowd funding is. Like the normal way that an eCommerce entrepreneur would go and get, they would get a product idea and then they’d have to invest thousands of dollars into buying inventory.
And then only after about four or five months, can they start selling that inventory? And then eventually, maybe like eight months later after putting in like paying for this inventory, do they start making profit? Off of the product, right? So crowdfunding, reverses that process and takes the risk out of paying for inventory upfront.
So crowd has been around for 10 years and they got started to help entrepreneurs. Like launch different products. So the premise behind a crowdfunding campaign is that if I had a physical product that I knew I needed to about $15,000 to pay for inventory, instead of me taking that money out of my cashflow or investor, or getting a loan to do that, I’m able to do a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, which means I set a goal of over 30 days.
I need to raise $15,000 to cover inventory. And how you do that is you are getting people from all around the world to place preorders in your product. So over the course of 30 days, you have 30 days to raise $15,000, which after that point, you walk away with money to cover inventory, as well as hundreds or thousands of customers that have actually pre-ordered your product.
So crowdfunding is a way to help you actually get real orders from people that are your customers. So you cover inventory and then you deliver product a couple months later.
Arlen: Gotcha. Gotcha. Very, very interesting concept because you’re, you’re really. Accomplishing two things at once with it. And which is a little different, because like you said, prior to crowdfunding, if someone in the had a particular product, they wanted to put it to market, you know, they didn’t have any sales.
Of course, you know, resources only option is to get investors, get loans, and that’s really about it. And. You can do that, but then there’s still no guarantee. Once you develop these products, you’ve gotten this loan, you’ve gotten these investors. There’s no guarantee people are going to buy it. Crowd funding is different because it accomplishes two things.
You get money up front from customers that are actually. Willing to that have already pre-ordered your product. So they’ve already kind of been sold, so to speak on the particular product, if you will. And at the same time they’re covering your costs for the inventory. So, um, awesome concept. And I think, um, you know, a lot of businesses have taken advantage of that.
Khierstyn: Yeah, they have.
Arlen: Yeah. So as far as you know, you’ve mentioned different products, but is there a particular criteria that a business must actually meet in order to launch our Kickstarter campaign? Or can anyone just kind of get, go out
Khierstyn: there and do it so anyone can go out there and do it. It’s more about what kind of products.
Work well on a Kickstarter campaign. So anyone can do a Kickstarter campaign while you are limited by like the country. You can run it from and stuff, but we don’t need to get into those details. But the kind of product that does well on Kickstarter is one that you see consumers buying on Amazon. So if you have a B2B SAS product, probably won’t do well on Kickstarter Kickstarter.
Indiegogo’s demographics is going to be consumers. And so you need to ask yourself, does my product serve B2B or consumer? And if it’s consumer great for Kickstarter. And then second question is. Is my product serving a big need in the market, as in, is it a validated product people will pay for? And if so, those are contenders for you going to Kickstarter.
And so it’s like, you can pretty much do any product as long as it fits those two criteria
Arlen: pretty straight forward.
Khierstyn: Yeah. The other. Sorry, third criteria is that there’s a misconception that people just need to put an idea on Kickstarter and raise money for it. So like you don’t actually have a prototype.
So another criteria to crowdfund is you do need to have like, actually show a little bit of skin in the game and have developed a prototype. So that you’re ready to go straight to manufacturing with that money raised.
Arlen: Okay. Got you. I’m glad you mentioned that because I was a little unclear that as well, I recently knew that, you know, you typically do have to have something developed or some type of prototype, not just a concept or proof of concept, but you have to have the physical product developed at least.
Khierstyn: Yup. Okay, great.
Arlen: Great. Yeah. That’s, that’s good to know. And you know, with Kickstarter, of course, You think of it as a great vehicle or a channel for somebody that’s fresh out of the gate. You know, they’ve got this product, they’ve got a proof of concept. They’ve developed a prototype. They want to prove that people will buy it.
They need to get the funding. So they, they get out there and they launched it as soon as they have that prototype developed. But is there, are there any other, you use this for Kickstarter, is that the really kind of the only route for business to
Khierstyn: use it? You don’t need to use Kickstarter only for products.
Like if you really go down there, like they, there are film projects that were funded through Kickstarter there’s theater productions, a bunch of different, different ways, but typically it’s a preorder model for either beginner companies or established companies like bows. For example, they did an Indiegogo campaign to do a preorder for one of their headphones.
Wow. So it really can be used by any business as long as the product fits the platform. Gotcha. Gotcha.
Arlen: Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Um, I’m really curious, cause you mentioned bowls, you know, they’re, they’re a big global company and you know, kind of one of the top headphone companies out there, uh, for them to go that route, you know, why would they feel the need to really go in and go that route as opposed to cause you know, I’m sure they have a ton of assets.
They could just throw at different products at any time. Why would they go that route go the Kickstarter route rather than, you know, just allocate some resources to a particular product and seeing what happens.
Khierstyn: I’m seeing it growing like a growing trend of existing companies that are going to use Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
And it’s less about the cashflow play that they’re doing it for. It’s more a marketing campaign around a new product. So a while the number one reason someone thinks to do a crowdfunding campaign is to get inventory covered. The second. Big benefit is that you are tapping into another traffic source. So existing brands can use it to introduce their brand to a new audience.
So that Bose, for example, when they fulfill this product can then cross promote their other products with this new audience. All right.
Arlen: Gotcha. Gotcha. So it’s I see it’s a marketing vehicle really. It’s trying, getting to reach another platform or channel. That a particular brand may not have access to otherwise.
Is that really, really kind of what it is.
Arlen: That’s. That’s awesome. Yeah. Another thing you mentioned, of course, we talked a lot about the product companies. You mentioned the bowls anyway, anything of course that you can buy on Amazon will be a good product for sure. You know, this type of crowdfunding or Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
Uh, one other thing that I did see that it’s kind of unique and I, and this probably not the only case of this, there’s probably other artists that have done this, but I do recall a couple of years ago, the hip hop group, they lost soul. They launched a Kickstarter campaign for their album that came out a couple of years ago that they were looking for funds to get the album completed.
And I think they, they completed. And from what I just saw online, it looks like they raised, I guess, about. About 600,000, I think towards it. Um, I think the album did come out. So it was very interesting. Had you seen any other cases where you’ve had like artists, musicians use it as a vehicle?
Khierstyn: Yeah, I’ve seen a ton personally.
I like, I only really pay attention to the product side of things, but Kickstarter’s awesome for the creative side. So you see a lot of board games, you see a lot of photographers or musicians that use it to sell, like either a photography book or limited edition run, or you also see it. Musicians to fund their EAP because like Kickstarters project based.
So if you need to raise X amount of dollars to accomplish this thing, and you can benefit the consumer, like Kickstarter’s not about donations. So it’s about people getting involved, helping you raise $10,000, we’ll say. And in exchange for that, you get the limited edition EAP or tickets to a local show, or like, you know, something like that is what I’ve seen musicians do.
Arlen: Gotcha. Gotcha. So I see. So they’re there, they’re doing, they’re using those resources to fund, you know, maybe some other, other particular project, but in return for that, you’re, you’re getting something. Rare that you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. Like you said, unlimited signed copy of something or, you know, limited release albums, something
Khierstyn: like that.
Exactly. And even like, for example, physical product creators, sometimes people ask like, okay, well, why would I buy it? Your thing on Kickstarter when I could wait four months and go to Amazon for it. Well, you want some exclusivity, something like huge perk around pledging your Kickstarter campaign. If it’s a prelaunch discount, if it’s a free gift, if it’s a limited edition or you’re offering like just something unique and novel about the offer on Kickstarter, as opposed to waiting.
To buy it on Amazon.
Arlen: Right. Gotcha. Gotcha. Gotcha. Yeah, that’s great. And it definitely seems like it’s, it can really be a, you know, a, a channel that other business that businesses don’t really have access to at the current, the present time, specifically a great way to reach people, other people that aren’t really in their current ecosystem.
Other than that, what are some of the other benefits of launching, you know, Kickstarter or crowd funding in general, other than that,
Khierstyn: So we have inventory. We have their global community, which means that so Indiegogo and Kickstarter will take 5% to, of every dollar you raise on their platform and exchange for that.
You you’re going to see, like when you do a crowdfunding campaign and you’re able to get organic platform sales. So depending on the platform and how well you’re doing, I’ve seen Kickstarter. Give like it’s less recently because of the amount of competition on it, but Kickstarter will get you like five to 10% of your total pledges from their platform organically.
So that’s like stuff you don’t directly have to pay for, but then Indiegogo we’ve had campaigns. You know, they’ve given not given us, but we’ve had like 42% of our funds come from Indiegogo’s community, which is huge. So like overall, you’re able to have a lower cost per acquisition because you’re essentially getting free platform traffic.
When you do it properly, you get SEO benefits of being on a platform. You also get PR exposure. So. These plot, like these campaigns that you’re doing are completely public, which means you’re going to get people contacting you for wholesale deals, interviews, press. Distribution. Like there’s a whole bunch of other side benefits that happen from you getting your product out there.
Arlen: Yeah. Very interesting. I never thought of that, but you’re right. There’s really just from being out there gives you a whole nother vehicle of exposure. And you mentioned SEO on one of the things I was wondering. If you can answer this once you do a Kickstarter campaign and you see it through, regardless of what happens, do you have an evergreen presence on Kickstarter?
Is your campaign always out there?
Khierstyn: Yep. Campaign is always out there and I’ve even seen it where your Kickstarter campaign will be like a top page one when people search your product. And even when you’re not active on Kickstarter anymore, when someone clicks over to your Kickstarter page, there’s a button and directing them to your store.
So you’re still going to be able to take advantage of that. Like evergreen. Benefits with SEO with the Kickstarter.
Arlen: Gotcha. Gotcha. All right. Yeah, that’s, that’s some really cool stuff. And just the kind of SEO link juice alone is a, is I know a huge benefit that a business, uh, you know, business owner. Would probably not be able to otherwise get.
So, um, yeah, that’s good to hear as well. Now, as we get ready to wrap things up, what are some examples of some companies that, you know, we may all be familiar with that have launched successful Kickstarter campaigns, you know, that have gone on to do very well.
Khierstyn: Yeah. We have, um, some of these, okay. Oculus rift, for example, that was, I think a VR headset that was sold to Facebook a couple of years back.
Oh, I don’t remember if cards against humanity was a Kickstarter, but they also founded exploding kittens, which is like a huge card game. You have purple, which does the mattresses and the pillows. So they’re like a Multimin multimillion dollar company. We have Beau’s best self co that’s publishing company.
Yeah. There’s Sago mini. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them, but they are a. Subset of spin masters. So spin master is a large children’s toy manufacturer. And so Sago mini is I worked with them out of Toronto and they, at the time had a bunch of kids, apps and books and like good digital presence, but they didn’t, they weren’t too big in e-commerce.
They ended up launching a product on Kickstarter too. Really start to promote and build their economy, Mars presence in the physical space. So there’s foundr.com, which used to be just a digital publication. But now they’re like huge resource for entrepreneurs online. So I worked with them for coffee table book.
Arlen: Yeah, that’s, that’s great. Those are definitely some success stories. And I’m familiar with, uh, you know, several of those that have really exploded. Um, like you mentioned purple, the Mac batches company. They’re, they’re huge. They’re huge. They’re huge now. I guess they owe a lot of their success to their crowd funding, Kickstarter campaign, and that’s really kind of where they got their start.
So, yeah. Good, good stuff. Um, one thing that I also know I wanted to kind of interject, I do also see a lot of companies that do Kickstarter. It seems like they test the waters a little bit, a lot on, on Instagram. I see a lot of Instagram ads that are for Kickstarter type products, or it may not just certainly be Kickstarter.
It could be Indiegogo, could be any other crowdfunding products where, you know, it seems like they’re just, they’re using the Instagram platform just really to test the waters because of the, you know, because of the amount of viewers and users on Instagram.
Khierstyn: Correct. Yep. Yep. You’re right. So a common practice.
I mean, I think everyone needs to do is you need a buildup and to build your audience a little bit before you go into a crowdfunding campaign. So because you need traction on the first day for the platform to pick you up as a popular project. So that based start to give you traffic, right. And more visibility.
Right. So you’re going to see. Like, I don’t know. I see a mix of campaigns being advertised before launch as a play, to like build their prelaunch wait-lists. And so Facebook and Instagram are like my fan favorites for doing that audience building ahead of the launch. But then you may also be seeing like live Kickstarter campaigns being advertised on Instagram too.
Arlen: Okay. Gotcha. Yeah. And I think I’ve seen a mix of both then. Yeah, I was just curious and I figured that was really. You know, one of the main reasons out there is to really get access to that, that early, that, that information and, you know, get their prisons out there quickly. Well, great Khierstyn. That’s that’s awesome.
And I appreciate you coming on and breaking everything down, um, with regards to Kickstarter and crowdfunding, it’s a hot topic these days and yeah, for sure. And I’ll definitely be sure to encourage people like, cause I talk to entrepreneurs all the time. Unique products and, you know, are looking for ways to really get out there and definitely encourage them to consider crowdfunding or Kickstarter specifically, because I can seem like that can definitely.
Give these young businesses or entrepreneurs that kind of a boost initially where they may not otherwise be able to get. So, yeah, good stuff. And yeah, what I always like to do is to finish up the podcast, uh, switch gears a little bit, just so our audience can get to know you just a little bit better. Um, it’s a closing fun fact question.
Um, what’s one fun fact that our audience may be interested to know about you.
Khierstyn: Well, you kind of covered it in the beginning with the whole Ironman thing. I think for, I don’t know, eat well, pandemic, I think has definitely mellowed me out a little bit. My race season was canceled this year, so I was supposed to be doing the, like the Ironman this August, but that’s moved to next year, but I had this theory that I had to train at an elite level, like for endurance in order to like, Keep my head on as an entrepreneur.
Cause it’s like, you know, running for two hours is such an amazing outlet just to get any frustration or problem solve or whatever. So I was like, I can only, as long as I’m training fiercely five days a week, I’m going to be a more effective entrepreneur. But I think that my belief system has changed slightly.
Now that I’m just. Like training, like a normal human being, like, you know, just a couple of five Ks a week or whatever. So now I’m striving to have a little bit more balanced in my life, but yeah, I think the fun fact is like, I’ve done an Ironman and I’m crazy enough to go back and do it again.
You’ve got me beat. I’m probably nowhere near being able to do an Ironman. So that’s awesome. The hats off to you and, and thank you for sharing that. For going through that and even consider doing that again, because yeah, that’s um, I remember several years ago I watched the one part of one online and I’m like, wow.
I mean, I can’t imagine that just one of those components, the swimming, you know, in a, I’m not in a pool, but you know, I guess what do you guys usually swim with those it’s usually like, is it a Lake usually or the oceans
Khierstyn: on the course? Like I did mine in Kenema city. Beach actually so Florida, and that was fun.
Cause that was open ocean. And I didn’t find out until after the swim, the swim is for me, it was like an hour and 27 minutes. But if you picture like a big circle with turns, apparently at turn two, there was a family of. A hammerhead sharks that were watching us. And of course there’s like 2000 swimmers going by them.
So they’re just like, not dealing with you guys, but so, you know, in Florida you just kind of go with it, but you know, swimming could be in a mountain Lake, like. The wandering and trombone is it can be the ocean. It really just depends on the course.
Arlen: Yeah. Yeah. That’s that is impressive. Cause you know, like I said, it’s, it’s hard enough just to do, you know, laps in a pool, you know, for like half an hour or whatever, but just in an ocean, I mean, like you said, you’re dealing with the elements, like sharks, you have waves, you have all types of stuff, so yeah, definitely that’s off.
Khierstyn: Do get used to it though. Like, you know, I used to only be able to mentally stand 10 minutes in the pool. And then gradually, if you have to do a buildup over eight to 12 months of training, you know, you can, you can listen to music in the water. If you have like proper headset to do it, or you just get, you just get used to it with that.
Arlen: yeah. Yeah. That’s, that’s really kind of the lesson, a good lesson to close on. It’s like with anything you can really do anything. Um, once you get used to it and, you know, kind of get conditioned to do something. It’s, you know, it’s not that bad. It’s, that’s kind of half the battle, but it’s just a matter of getting past that initial hurdle
Arlen: getting into that mode.
But, uh, yeah. Good, good stuff. Well, yeah. Thank you for sharing that Khierstyn. And thank you again, of course, for joining us today on the eCommerce marketing podcast. And finally, of course, if any of our listeners would like to pick your brain anymore about. Kickstarter or Indiegogo or crowdfunding and how to launch a campaign successfully.
How do they get in
Khierstyn: contact with you? Yeah, the best place is just to go to my website and you guys should grab a pen because my name is impossible to spell, um, ego to Khierstyn.com, which is K H I E R S T Y n.com on that I have two full podcasts, one dedicated, completely to crowdfunding as well as a YouTube channel.
So a ton of free resources online. You can also book a call with my team and I directly on that site. So.
Arlen: Awesome. We thank you for sharing that. I’m actually going to check out some of those as well. Just so I’m a little bit more knowledgeable on the subject then. Yeah. I would encourage all of our listeners to do the same.
So yeah. Thank you Khierstyn for that. And of course, thank you again for joining us today on the eCommerce marketing podcast.
Khierstyn: Thank you for having me.
Founder and director of the Product Launchpad