I had heard it before, but I didn’t fully understand until trying it myself: Doing a Kickstarter campaign is like running a marathon. We are just wrapping up the second week of our 39-day Kickstarter campaign to get the Ask A Bookkeeper project off the ground, and it has been an insane roller coaster of successes and failures. OK… mostly failures. Fortunately, we learn the most from our failures.
What is Kickstarter?
Most people today who own a computer and are not living under a rock have at least heard of Kickstarter, but many still don’t really understand what it is and what it does. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. People with a creative idea can make a campaign to educate their audience about their endeavor and request financial support. “Backers” can contribute to the project through a secure payment gateway, and there are usually rewards offered for various levels of support.
Kickstarter is different from some of the other crowdfunding platforms out there. The main other ones that you may have heard of are Indiegogo and GoFundMe. While Indiegogo has a similar mission, there are some key differences between the two platforms. GoFundMe is primarily for personal needs. For example, if someone has a medical emergency and would like to request the support of their community, GoFundMe could be a good tool for them.
The primary thing that sets Kickstarter apart from Indiegogo is the “all or nothing” funding model. With Kickstarter, if a campaign does not reach its minimum funding goal for the project to take flight, no money is rewarded. The backers are not charged until the campaign is complete, and if the goal is not reached no one is charged at all. Indiegogo offers a bit more flexibility in their project types and funding plans, but they have a much smaller following. A Kickstarter campaign is much more likely to go viral online if popular.
The Ask A Bookkeeper Journey
We are fortunate in that Ask A Bookkeeper fit neatly in Kickstarter’s project guidelines. It is a true creative endeavor. The factor that makes it truly unique is the audience of small business owners. Most campaigns target a very specific audience that may wish to purchase a product once it is complete. The Ask A Bookkeeper videos and access to our community on Facebook are offered to the world for free.
We are all business people here on Between Wall and Main. We know that it doesn’t work to just give everything away for free. In the long term we hope to have Ask A Bookkeeper be sustainable through sponsors and guest stars that would like to contribute to be involved with the show. Alas, we have discovered the hard way that no one wants to contribute a larger dollar amount to the show until we have built the audience. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? In order to get an audience we need sponsored content, and in order to get sponsors we need an audience.
That is where Kickstarter comes in.
A Journey Together
We launched the campaign for Ask A Bookkeeper just two weeks ago, and we are working hard to get the word out there about the project. The facilitating beauty is in brand recognition. Previously, if I told someone that we had an online educational video series with puppets, they would say that it was a neat idea and move on. Now, when we tell them that we are in the midst of our Kickstarter campaign, they recognize that the project is something that we take seriously. They also know what stage of development the project is in, and that there is something that they can do to help. Plus it gives our audience of small business owners something tangible they can do to participate in the project in a material way.
Another beauty of Kickstarter is that it gives us a reason to reach out to people that we never would have dreamed of reaching out to before. The realization that we are trying to create something important that is so much bigger than ourselves really pushes us to succeed. In order to make this goal we need to step way outside of our comfort zones. We need to believe in ourselves and in the project enough to know that others will believe in it, too. All we have to do is ask, and ask we have.
Miracles Can Happen
Today I contacted the founders of Kickstarter, following them on social media and on the Kickstarter platform itself. Perry Chen, Yancey Stricker, and Charles Adler created the company in 2009 with the mission to help bring creative projects to life. In 2015 they reorganized into a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC). Their own words from their website really express it best.
“Kickstarter helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and other creators find the resources and support they need to make their ideas a reality. To date, tens of thousands of creative projects — big and small — have come to life with the support of the Kickstarter community.”
To a creator, that is really nothing short of a miracle. The miracle for Ask A Bookkeeper is yet to come. We are still testing our limits and finding our echo chambers in the community. If we don’t ask, the answer is already no. Today I asked the founders of Kickstarter for their support. A copy of that letter is at the end of this article. Perhaps this will inspire you to get involved in Ask A Bookkeeper or to start your own creative endeavor. So long as we are empowering your passion, our work here is fulfilled. Together we are making the world a better place, built on a foundation of thriving small businesses.
My Letter to Kickstarter
I would like to begin by thanking you for your amazing work. Kickstarter has made such an impact in the lives of so many, including close friends of mine. You have created a way for miracles to happen by popular demand, and the world is grateful.
As an accounting professional, I have worked with hundreds of small business owners who are struggling with understanding the business side of their business. They may love being a contractor, massage therapist, or Uber driver, but they often don’t know how to manage their income and expenses, file taxes, network to find clients, or find the help they need to fill in the gaps in their own knowledge.
That is why we have started the Ask A Bookkeeper show. We are working to create for small business what Bill Nye does for science: a fun and easily understandable way to make big, important concepts less intimidating. The best parts? We do it online, for free, and with puppets. We are just getting started with our Kickstarter to launch the show, and we think that we can create something that will inspire small businesses everywhere. Thank you for the opportunity to get our project out into the world.
One thing that has surprised me since I have started my Kickstarter campaign is that so many people still don’t know what Kickstarter is, how it works, and how it can help them get their dreams and visions launched. I think that this would be a great topic to educate small business owners about on the Ask A Bookkeeper show, and I want to do it in the most profound, impactful way possible.
You are a shining example of what can happen when we eliminate the idea of a zero sum game in our business interactions, creating win-win opportunities whenever possible. I would love the opportunity to present your story to our audience. Would you be willing to join us for a video interview to educate our audience about Kickstarter, crowdfunding, and Public Benefit Corporations?
I understand that this may be asking a lot. I am currently at pre-visibility with you, and there is no reason for you to hand me the “keys” to your hard-won networks. If the descriptions in this letter and the information on our website do not do the trick to push us up the credibility ladder, I would love the opportunity to just talk with you or someone on your team. I really value what you are doing, and I think we could do amazing things in collaboration for small businesses everywhere. Thank you for considering it.
Our vision is to make the world a better place, built upon a foundation of thriving small businesses. That is a big goal, and it is made easier by the fact that we are standing on the shoulders of giants and we don’t have to do it alone. Your ideas have revolutionized the way that people go after their dreams, and your great work is very appreciated. I aspire to help as many people with my work as you have with yours.
One way or another I hope that someone on your team sees this little love note and passes it around so that your team can see the impact they are having on the world. Thank you so much for being such a great small business that turned into such an amazing worldwide network. You are an inspiration to entrepreneurs everywhere.
PS – If you have any tips for me on our Kickstarter campaign, I would love to hear them. This is our first time doing a Kickstarter, and there have been a lot of ups and downs. I have been getting a lot of advice from so many people, but it already feels like I’m running a marathon just keeping up with all the social media. If there is anyone who can narrow it down to the actions that will have the most impact, I’m sure it is you. Thanks again.