The story so far: regular readers may recall that historically, we've mostly sold our stuff to shops and websites who then sell it on to customers. Traditionally, that means developing styles a year in advance, selling as much of them as possible to the stores using tradeshows, and collecting a deposit to finance getting them made. This is helpful if you're a small brand who are bootstrapping (that is, you have no-one with a bunch of cash backing you).
Over the last few years sales to stores have been falling as a percentage of the business, and have shifted to being items that are in stock. Thus we have a new mission; to explore strange new methods of getting knickers made, seek out new manufacturing schedules and new tactics, boldly going where mostly tech start-ups have gone before!
In this episode, we worked on kickstarting for a swimwear collection. Swimwear is a small but growing part of what we do, there were some fairly offbrand (read: surprisingly cheerful and therefore risky) designs mixed in, and if I made a complete mess of it it's not crucial to the business, so it was a good test. Think of it like a proof-of-concept!
We went with Kickstarter rather than other crowdfunding places because it's the dominant site, so I thought we might find some new deadlies, and you set a minimum level, which was important for me as I didn't want to take the P*** too much with our factories generous offer to lower their minimum order quantities for this project.
You all helped us make it to just under 70% of the funding target - not enough to get it to go forward now, but way more than about 80% kickstarters who never make it past 20% of their goals. This is especially true of fashion; it's music and films that get the funding on kickstarter as that's where it started, really.
So now we're going to do a music video ;)
The important thing to say is that this doesn't mean I scrap all the work on the swimwear. I've been collecting data and looking at other options - and KMD designs don't go out of fashion, being not based on trends, so it's not an issue to rethink them next year. DO NOT DESPAIR, SWIMWEAR LOVERS.
From both the process, comments and the feedback collected from people who backed it, here's the list of changes, issues, and just some hopefully entertaining facts!
First, the big one; if and when we do another it will be ONE BIG ONE. The biggest issue was not being able to make staggered rewards between £1 ( a thank you) and £69 (a swimsuit). Basically that's because the only way to do a swim product for less than that would be to make something like a triangle bikini out of poor quality swim fabric, and that would be rubbish.
A few people asked why we didn't do vouchers or current products as part of it. That's against kickstarter rules - they are pretty strict and they do check projects - we can't do anything that makes a project more like a shop and we can't do financial incentives (vouchers and discount codes would count).
75% of people pledged for a product, and 25% because they just think we're funny/good/awesome. Bless you all :)
Very few people came new to it from kickstarter - massively below average! So the get-new-deadlies-from-kickstarter thing doesn't seem to work. one person hepfully said they thought the video appealed to current folk more than people new to the brand, so Lydia and I are currently plotting how to better introduce the brand and products and make as many viral-worthy moments as possible!
Unlike most kickstarters we also had pledges from people in their 50's. Deadlies are clearly forward-thinking!
Some people were disappointed the discount wasn't more. Here's why: Kickstarter take 5%, and their card processors take another 5%. The UK government take another 18% in VAT, not to mention 20% if by some miracle we make a profit, and possibly more if we did digital products (it's a complicated VAT issue that makes me cry). Postage for our garments can end up at £20, because of the weight and bulk of retro styles, so between the fees, taxes and free post worldwide, the numbers were pretty tight. Next time, what I would most likely do is sort out actual postage figures for each country and then offer a bigger discount.
Similarly, someone requested a "bread and butter line", i.e. a cheap basics option. This might sound a bit brutal, but this already exists and it's called the UK high street. I can't compete with that - the economies of scale involved are not available to small brands like us, and to get down to that price we'd have to do rubbish quality, which I wouldn't be OK with.
Things we're thinking about as none-product rewards, for people who wants to keep pledges small and not get hit up for international postage; none-shark based exclusive digital artwork
Speaking of which, apparently people hadn't realised that a) the drawing was a Goblin Shark and that b) Gobline sharks are actually quite pink-ish. And also that I get bored of pin-up art and would like to subvert the medium. Sorry about that :)
Facebook; in spite of massively decreasing our ability to speak to you on facebook (we have about 65,000 fans, but can only speak to 1-2000 of them on each update generally), facebook was still competing with our site and mailing list in sending people who pledged. Baffling.
In general next time Lydia and I would be posting more content more of the time to all our social media sites; but we'll endeavour to make it varied. Tell us what you'd like to see in the comments!
Timing issues. Firstly, can we extend a kickstarter - no, they won't let us. Secondly, can we make sure it matches your payday and/or when each of you has some money - er, probably not. I can try and get it to end at the end of a month next time, will that help? Thirdly, can we reduce the time between ordering and delivery - not really. I deliberately over-estimated it, because it's better to delight than disappoint, but realistically a 3-6 month lead time is pretty normal for small brands with small orders. Though we could kickstart to start our own small factory?! Lastly, timing of delivery of swimwear - yes, delivery in Summer would be better, but that would mean Kickstarting in January, which I suspect would cause fiscal sulking. Basically the timing of swimwear is a bit of a pain!
Do more press. For various reasons, Lydia and I didn't push press on this occasion. As and when we do another, both of us will be talking to anyone and everyone we can! You might have noticed us asking you about fashion blogs and so on in recent months, since lingerie blogs themselves, bar The Lingerie Addict, have fairly minimal traffic.
If I can get anything made this year, it'll be this bikini by the way - it was a fight between that and the leopard swimsuit for top favourite place, but the bikini is more possible to make. The swimsuit involves underwires and they need special skills and equipment.
Here's a round up of the blog coversage we've found so far.
Lingerie Talk saw the deeper undercurrents to the silly face of the kickstarter.
Warning:Curves Ahead delightfully informed "ladies and germs" that she has positively reviewed us on many occasions.
The Swag Guide liked the notion of swimwear that is both dangerous and doesn't reveal all. (I might nick the phrase "get bikini dangerous" from them).
Pin-up Persusion basically just loves all the designs :)
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!