Jordan here, I have decided to use this blog platform for a series of lessons that expand on my experiences as an entrepreneur. I am by no means an expert in business, but I have learned a lot over the past 8 years running my own businesses. I have not had a job since I was 20 years old (I'm 28 now), and there are so many things I wish I knew when I started out. That's what this series will be all about, sharing solid advice that has proven very useful to me through trial and error. I would love to start a conversation through the comments after each post, so please share you input! I don't bite.
I should start off by saying that if you are interested in exclusively using crowd funding to launch a product, the blog series by Jamey Stegmaier (http://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter) will give you much more than this blog on the subject. I am here to talk about branding, running a business, and how to tie your creativity and passions into a career that is flexible and fun.
This first post will outline what the series will cover, and give a short overview of what it takes to turn an idea into a sellable high quality product. I'll start by sharing a little bit of my background. I grew up in a medium sized city in Utah, and was hell bent on being a musician since I was 9 years old. I played the drums in dozens of bands, toured, and explored every possible of genre of music (except for country and rap) that you can think of. Some of my bands were offered record labels, others were not, but after experiencing the life of a small to medium time musician I knew that it couldn't fulfill my desires in life. I still make music and really enjoy doing so, but I am an entrepreneur/maker/artist at heart.
After giving up on the dream of being a full time musician, I went to school and received an Associates and a Bachelors degree, both of which sit on my shelf and haven't offered me any new opportunities up to this point. I am not in any way saying that school is not useful or empowering, but my degrees have not offered me anything because I don't want a job. I want to run my own business and make my own decisions. Which brings me to the first point: 1) If you are an entrepreneur in spirit, you will know it. You will not want to work for anyone else, or do anything you aren't passionate about. Being an entrepreneur can involve immense sacrifices, and you have to be willing to brush off all of the negativity and setbacks that come with it. If you are really passionate about what you want to do or create, there is only one way forward, and that is through solid determination.
Soon after receiving my Associates degree, I opened an online Etsy store selling decals, phone cases, jewelry, and accessories. It started as a hobby, and turned into my only source of income and well over 4,000 online orders. During the first month of opening, I lived very seriously by that bold text above, working 10-12 hour days 7 days a week, designing all of the products in Illustrator (which I learned from scratch), coding my own website (again I barely knew basic html), and handling all of the customer service and marketing myself. 2) Make sure you are so inspired by your own idea that you will work tirelessly with no returns in sight to make it a reality. Sales were VERY slow for the first 6 months, I averaged around $40 per month. Once traffic to my store started picking up, and people could see what I was offering, many bloggers started sharing links, and orders started snowballing.
I then decided it was time to try out Kickstarter! I looked through a lot of projects, mostly just highly funded ones (this was a mistake), and determined that I could raise $10,000 to buy a high end desktop laser cutter by selling laser cut leather wallets. There was one thing I did right, which was to message all of my friends and family and ask them to help me out by backing for just $1 right when the campaign started. I flew up to $2,300 over the course of about a week, and then having tapped out every last personal contact I could think of, began flat lining. I didn't get a single backer for the next 3 days, and a few backers cancelled their pledge. I became very discouraged, and gave up on the project all together with 20 days left still! It's quite embarrassing, but you can still go to Kicktraq.com and see the flat lined bar extending endlessly in time for 20 days, eventually leading to a failed project. 3) Don't give up when things start looking grim. Adapt and come up with a fresh new strategy so you can seize the day again!
I've recently just finished running the Kickstarter campaign for my newest game Import / Export, which raised just over $70,000. What was the main difference between this campaign and my first one? I stuck to the three principles above, plus 4) Involve your customers and community in your brand, and in your design process! People grow loyal to brands because they reflect something personal in themselves, embrace this connection.
This was a very vague overview of four principles I would consider fundamental to starting a passion based business and selling a product you believe in. The rest of the series will feature very detailed steps relating to creating a product while and leading a successful, happy life as an entrepreneur.
Do you have any thoughts on the post? Disagree with anything I've brought up? Let me know in the comments!