Are You Ready To Make Your Mark On Kickstarter?

A product you want doesn’t exist. Ever experienced that frustration? Kate Matsudaira has, too. Only she created the very thing she longed for and launched it on Kickstarter. Now her creative enterprise is a runaway business called Ink+Volt.

Since its debut in 2009, nearly $13 billion has been pledged to support Kickstarter projects. Time hailed the crowd-funding site as one of 2010’s best inventions. The New York Times declared it "the people’s National Endowment for the Arts." With a short and sweet mission (“to help bring creative projects to life”), the platform has fostered a thriving community of creative entrepreneurs.

In anticipation of GJAC’s first annual Creative Impact Luncheon this August (featuring Kickstarter CEO and co-founder Yancey Strickler as keynote speaker), Arts Tribe Monthly spoke one-on-one with Kate, a Seattle-based productivity and lifestyle guru who’s seen all of her project launches (her fourth arrives this fall) capture or exceed full funding.

When Kate left her corporate job six years ago, she said goodbye to tightly scheduled weeks dictated by Google calendar. But the freedom of unstructured days brought on its own brand of stress. Some research on productivity led her to the concept of time blocking and other systems. Soon she was cutting and pasting her own crudely designed pages into Moleskine notebooks just to satisfy her own need for a different planning tool. A trip to Office Depot’s print shop to create a real version proved disastrous. The result was at once cheap looking (plastic binding) and expensive (more than $50).

What Kate needed was not on the market. So she used Kickstarter to create that product herself. The Spark Notebook was born. Then came the Spark Planner. When a hiccup with trademark registration forced her to rebrand, Spark Notebook metamorphosed into Ink+Volt—with even greater success. Now she curates and sells other stylish and functional office supplies that sync nicely with her own products. Plus, she’s readying her most ambitious Kickstarter offer yet—a high-end laptop bag set to go live for funding this fall.

Like her first endeavor, this latest idea came from personal desperation. With two young children, Kate travels close to time margins to minimize away-from-home hours. That often means she goes directly from the airport to a lunch meeting or presentation. “I need a bag that can carry a lot of stuff, but I don’t want it to look like I’m schlepping a college backpack.”

Once again, Kate set out to create precisely what she wished already existed, a scenario quite common among successful Kickstarter traders. Another shared trait is that many of them are operating outside of what are—or once were—their 9-5 fields. Sound romantic? It certainly has the potential to be. But the work grind necessary to pull off a Kickstarter winner is not for the faint of heart. It can be quite intense. Read on for our Kate certified tip sheet on how to navigate this fascinating world of crowd-funding. And mark your calendars for GJAC’s Creative Impact Luncheon with Kickstarter’s CEO on Thursday, August 24th at the new Westin Jackson.

SO YOU WANNA LAUNCH A KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN?

Tip #1 - Make a list of successful Kickstarter projects that might be similar to yours, then reach out to those traders using Kickstarter Messages. Most are willing to get on the phone and talk you through their experience and offer advice on strategies (and vendors). By nature, it’s a close-knit community of people who truly want others to find success, even in the same competitive market.

Tip #2 - Think about your marketing strategy well in advance. Kickstarter in and of itself won’t carry your project to success, so consider your own platform. Kate had a popular personal blog that provided an initial boost to her first venture. Maybe your initial step is organizing and growing your own email list in preparation for your big idea.

Tip #3 - Conceptualize your offer (and the photos, video and campaign copy that promote it) as a story. No matter what you’re selling, do it in a way so that potential backers see themselves as part of that story. What you’re offering should make them feel inspired and be an avenue for them to be a better version of themselves.

Tip #4 - Plan your campaign well in advance. Pre-write backer updates, for example. Because just responding to customer service inquiries during a campaign can be overwhelming.

Tip #5 - Cross-promote with other Kickstarter creators running similarly timed campaigns. It drives sales and can be your own version of display advertising.

Kate's Ink+Volt planner (in pre-orders now for an August 2017-July 2018 version) is a stylish paper planner answer to high productivity tool seekers.

Kate's next Kickstarter venture is an upscale travel laptop bag designed to take you from a cramped seat in coach to a five-star restaurant business meeting with effortless style. Shown here as an early prototype. Expected to launch in September 2017. Visit Kate's website here.

David Lewis