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(SBS Small Business Secrets)

Kickstarter is a great way to raise funds to get a business off the ground, but with so much competition in the crowdfunding market, how do you make your campaign stand out?

Amanda Copp, Justin Sungil Park
Published on
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 - 10:57
File size
2.06 MB
4 min 30 sec

For some reason, most water bottles are round, making it inconvenient for them to fit into things like briefcases and handbags.

But one company in Melbourne decided to turn water bottle design on it’s head and create a flat water bottle called ‘memobottle’.

Founders Jonathan Byrt and Jesse Leeworthy developed a passion for reducing plastic waste growing up together on the Mornington Peninsula.

“We spent a lot of time surfing and on the beaches and after a while we started seeing single use water bottles washing up on the beaches,” Jesse said.

Their solution was memobottle - a durable, dishwasher-friendly, BPA-free plastic bottle.

However, Jonathan and Jesse struggled to find funding for their idea and eventually turned to crowdfunding to get their business off the ground.

“We launched a Kickstarter campaign in August 2014 and it went semi-viral,” Jesse said.

“We needed $15,000 in the 45-day campaign and were fully-funded in 36 hours. We ended up with $260,000 in 45 days.”

But this early success was the result of a lot more than luck.

It followed months of intensive research into what defines a successful crowdfunding campaign.

“I think, to make a campaign stand out, you need to have an original idea,” Jesse said.

“It needs to be something that is innovative, that is different to what people have seen.”

They also discovered the most successful campaigns had great imagery --high-quality videos and pictures that conveyed what the campaign was about.

Their next step was setting a price point.

“Price point is always one that you need to really really nail, you need to make sure people are willing to pay that amount for the product.”

Their aim of protecting the environment was also a big plus.

“People don't buy what you're doing, they buy why you're doing it,” Jon said.

They say that the success of their business on Kickstarter had all sorts of unforseen benefits.

It allowed them to validate the business and assess market demand.

Once the campaign got off the ground it also provided them with free publicity and exposure.

Their designs even made it to the Oscars goodie bags two years in a row -- high profile exposure that got their business noticed.

But having rapid, early success on Kickstarter brought its own problems.

“I think we expected to sell between 300 to 500 bottles in the Kickstarter campaign, and we ended up selling 15,000 I think in the end,” Jon said.

“So all of the systems that we thought we had in place that were going to cover the shipping and production and all those other things and the timeline just got completely blown out.”

Almost overnight the pair had 6000 customers in 72 countries, and all this before the first bottles rolled off the production line.

Manufacturers they were initially going to use ended up not being able to produce a bottle to the standard Jon and Jesse had promised the Kickstarter backers.

So after having issues with several manufacturers, the two flew to Taiwan to directly oversee the prototyping process.

“We ended up pretty much living on the factory floor for 5 weeks, day in day out, working with all the staff there and making sure that we could get the bottle to a certain quality level that we needed,” Jon said.

But falling behind their production schedule, meant dealing with a lot of unhappy customers.

“Most of them were amazing about it … But there were definitely others who were like 'Where's my bottle?' It was due 6 months ago, give me my money back.’”

They say regular and honest communication with customers helped during this time.

Despite the initial hiccups, they worked through their initial problems and this year Memobottle expects to turnover $3 million from global and local sales.

The pair also just finished a second Kickstarter campaign, launching a new round of products, including custom leather satchels, for easy transport; a desk stand in various colours; and a memobottle cleaner.

“Obviously we've been pretty successful with both of our campaigns but it's also really enjoyable experience just with all the customer feedback, the exposure it's created for the product,” Jon said.

“So I think we'll definitely going down that path again.”

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