Camila Prada recently ran a Kickstarter campaign to bring her cute, ceramic tableware characters to life. Capturing the imagination of a whole new audience with her passion, drive, and personal ambition, she smashed her initial crowd-funding target within 24 hours.
Having worked in the ceramic industry for the last 10 years as an artist, freelance designer, and craft maker, Camila Prada has experienced firsthand the labor-intensive process involved in making short-run ceramics. This often meant her collections would sell out faster than she could make them.
When it was time to scale her small business, Kickstarter felt like the natural route to raise the necessary funds. At the end of her campaign, the total raised was five times more than her initial target.
Read on to see some of her tips for Kickstarter success.
1. Follow your passion
Camila started her career as a crafts-person and artist. Shortly after graduating, she hit the craft circuit. "I didn't have any business skills back then so it was a steep learning curve, and I wasn't making profits."
Taking inspiration from a craft fair stall selling affordably-priced jewelry from store-bought parts, she enrolled in the only industrial ceramic MA course in the world at the time. "It prepared me to work for companies as a designer, which I thought I could do for a few years to equip myself with the knowledge to strike out on my own."
2. Build trust
As a designer, the main objective is to create something people want. "Kickstarter is for projects - it's not designed for charities. At the heart of it, you're asking people to invest in you and your products," says Camila, who advises creating something "attractive and cool" that people are willing to pay for.
Getting pledges is a staggered process with a few steps involved. Developing a relationship with people online (potential customers) who like what you do, is the key to a successful campaign. It's very hard to put a value on reach, as a large audience doesn't mean people will pledge.
Instead, it's essential to nurture an engaged audience—and that takes time. "People need time to trust you. They see your work over and over in their news feeds, and months later when they're ready to gift something to themselves or they need a birthday gift, they make a purchase from you."
3. Make It Personal
"I had been thinking about it and making notes in a Google Doc years before I actually launched anything. My idea was really convoluted at the beginning but then I narrowed it down to the most obvious thing and what I really needed: funding for manufacturing. I knew that the ceramic history of Stoke-on-Trent was integral to my story. I think it's a really special thing that's taken for granted and kind of forgotten. The techniques, materials developed, and the industry veterans here, are unique in the world."
For any small business owner, the idea of raising money through crowd-funding holds a huge amount of appeal, but success stories like Camila's are rare. Luckily, she found a great method for outreach. "Connecting with your community is essential; one of the best ways to do this is to make a campaign film," says Camila.
"Learning how to talk to the camera takes practice, and I scripted what I wanted to say before the camera started rolling. There was a lot of editing and some re-shoots, but it was worth it. I knew I had to be the 'presenter' as all my favorite Kickstarter videos have that element, and it's a great way to tell your story."
4. Nurture & Collaborate
Camila's success arguably owes much to the relationship she has nurtured over the years with her online community of ceramic enthusiasts, collectors, and buyers. "I've done a lot of 'micro-blogging' over the last three years," she reveals. "I've opened up my process - and what I'm going though - to the world online."
"Collaborating with established artists helps widen reach, and that's awesome. This is why I included collaborations in my campaign, as I needed all the help I could get. But it's one factor (of many) that needs to be working to actually get pledges. The artists I collaborated with are all amazingly talented and I am super grateful they were up for getting involved."
5. Plan Your Rewards
There is an art to this. Low-priced pledges in limited quantities are the way to go. You have to encourage people to pledge early as this is essential in gaining momentum for your campaign.
"The target goal was the least amount of funds I needed to get a minimum order of storage jars from the manufacturer," she says. "Because I'm a fan of Kickstarter, I studied my favorite campaigns and looked for parallels with what I'm doing in my own work."
6. Set Realistic Targets
Be patient. It's very hard to get a large amount of people to drop everything and give you their hard-earned cash just like that, without knowing anything about you or your brand.
"I was fortunate to get featured in the style sections of both The Observer and The Sunday Times - major publications with readerships of 100,000+, yet this exposure didn't translate to massive sales. This early experience taught me that potential customers - the people who genuinely like what you do - are your most valuable assets. Building a relationship with these people is the best route to success."
7. Do Your Research
Give yourself months in advance to have a successful campaign. "I already have experience selling online, but I also know that's it's all about share-ability. You need to create something people want to show other people."
Find other successful campaigns you can relate to. Have a very clear objective. Know your story. Is it compelling? Is your product or idea something someone will share with his/her Facebook friends? Gather up a list of relevant publications and bloggers that might want to cover your idea. When you're ready, give yourself at least two months to create your video and prototypes before you launch, and start building an audience for what you do.
"A big mistake people can make is launching a campaign then sitting back assuming that the entire Kickstarter community will be exposed to their campaign. This isn't true. You still have to promote it yourself. All the successful campaigns I have read about started promoting their idea months before the Kickstarter doors open. In many ways, this can make or break your campaign."
8. Be An Entrepreneur
"Kickstarter gave me a chance to produce my designs in a way that actually brings me a return for the work I put in. It would not be sustainable otherwise. With the internet, we have an opportunity to build our own audiences, which would have been impossible ten or twenty years ago. It does take an entrepreneurial mindset, but it can mean creating a living for yourself when 'the gatekeepers' of the world are not choosing you."
"You have a chance to choose yourself," Prada concludes. "I like the freedom of creating my own schedule and using all of my skills - I wouldn't change it for the world."
Learn more about Camila Prada's Kickstarter campaign and her cute storage jar characters at camilaprada.com. And, if you need royalty-free stock images for your own campaigns, you can start things off with a 7-day Free Trial from Bigstock.
About the Author: Lisa Hassell writes for a number of international publications, focusing on illustration, graphic art and creative business. She is the director of Inkygoodness.com.