My name is Shivani, and I’m the Creator of Arture, a lifestyle accessories brand based in Chennai. There’s a long story about how my brand came to be but the first big step in the creation of Arture was my decision to crowdfund a year ago. Every time I tell people that I crowdfunded, I’m always greeted with surprise and curiosity, probably because of how rare it is to do that in India.
Which brings me to one of the first major challenges I faced; India’s lack of exposure to the world of crowdfunding. To make things clear to everyone reading, I crowdfunded through a platform called Indiegogo, which, similar to Kickstarter (Global) and Wishberry (India) focuses on reward-based crowdfunding. In the simplest of terms, this means that anyone who backs my project, is simply placing an advance order for a product that they want, and will receive the product few months down the line. This is very different from equity-based crowdfunding.
I learned very soon that though Indians seem to be aware of the latter, there was very little awareness about the kind that I was doing. While trying to tackle this and multiple other challenges that I faced during my 45 days of crowdfunding, I learned some valuable lessons that made me a better entrepreneur. None of the books or articles that you read are going to truly prepare you for what’s going to come your way once you actually get down and do it. These are the 5 biggest lessons I learned:
- The importance of a community:
When you’re starting a crowdfunding campaign, never underestimate the importance of a community. These are the people who have 100% belief in what you do, who want to see you succeed, who will push you on the days that you don’t feel motivated enough. They’re your tribe. The same goes for starting a business. You need to find your community and that’s when your path to seeing your idea through begins. A large part of my community came from the Startups Club, and during my campaign I was moved by the support I received. Members from other cities who hadn’t ever met me decided to back me and that’s when the value really hit me.
Building this community takes a lot of work, pre-campaign. You can’t just launch your campaign or your business and expect the community to build itself. Invest time and effort in building a tribe of people who love what you do and your efforts will definitely pay off.
- The art of asking:
Nobody wants to be the one asking for money. We all hate to be ‘that’ person. Many people tend to be on the fence when deciding whether to crowdfund because of the fear of having to ask people for money. And sometimes we assume that we can just put up our campaign, and random people are going to back it because the internet is just cool like that, right? Wrong.
As scary as it sounds, you’ve got to start with family and friends. For my campaign, I personally went out and showed my products to my relatives and friends and explained what I was doing and what crowdfunding was all about. That’s when I really started getting somewhere. I was overwhelmed by the support that started coming in from all of these people.
For a shy person like I was, it was really hard to put myself out there and talk to people about what I was doing but the outcome was so gratifying. Let people in on your dreams and you’ll be surprised at how far it can get you.
- The impact of a good campaign:
This cannot be stressed enough. Crowdfunding does not happen overnight. It’s not as easy as it may sound. It takes days and months of planning to get out a campaign that’s worth talking about. It took me 4 months.
One of the most important parts is having an amazing introduction video. A home video is not going to cut it. You’ve got to be creative and even if it’s not professionally made, it has to be visually appealing, have good sound clarity, and be very gripping. Your video is the first thing people see when they look at your campaign so make sure it’s great.
Keep the number of products limited. Less is more. Don’t confuse people. I learned that if I had fewer products on my campaign, I may have gotten a higher conversion rate. Always remember to keep it simple, yet interesting.
- The clarity of a single message:
Few months after I completed my campaign, my co-founder and I looked back at it. We went through the campaign to see what we would have done differently had we done it at this point in time. One thing stood out. We lacked a single message. We were saying multiple things. That Arture products were 1) Eco-friendly, 2) Fashionable 3) Practical and functional, 4) Made of cork, 5) Vegan, 6) Natural, 7) Sustainable. We were also talking about the benefits of using cork. Way too much!
While all of these points stand true about our products even today, the way we market ourselves is very different. While we still do talk about all of these aspects (because people need to know), we let our core value shine through. Our tag line is now “Fashion does not have to come at the price of a life”, so no matter what we talk about, we make sure it points in that direction. Having an aligned compass makes a huge difference.
- The joy of sharing :
At the end of my campaign, I was left feeling overwhelmed and immensely joyful at how it had gone. I did not meet my complete goal (which was $15,000) but I made close to $12,000 and Indiegogo allows you to keep what you make. I needed a minimum of $10,000 to get started on my dream and I had made it there. I didn’t allow the challenges to get me down and I had spoken so much about my dream that I had built the most amazing community.
The beauty of crowdfunding is that you end up building a group of followers who are rooting for you and are so excited to help your vision become a reality. That is one of the most motivating feelings. These are people who believe in you so much that they were willing to order products months in advance just because it means that they would be the first to own them. These are people who will talk about you to their friends because they want you to get even closer to your goal. These are people who end up sharing your vision because you made them a part of it. These are your backers in every sense.