Mark Dwight from Rickshaw Bags with their new Amazing Reflective backpack was able to raise 81K during their Kickstarter campaign. Mark Dwight a repeat crowdfunder shares all on this episode of CrowdFund Genius. He will share how much he spent on an upcoming promotional company known as Backers Hub. He will also tell you about what he wish he knew before he started his campaign and how to make 10K in 12 hours! Enjoy! – ZacBob
New Crowdfunding Web Series “Funded” click HERE
Kickstarter Campaign click HERE
Rickshaw Bagworks Website click HERE
Mark Dwights Twitter click HERE
Rickshaw Bagworks Facebook Page click HERE
Rickshaw Bagworks Instagram Page click HERE
Backers Hub Website click HERE
ZacBob: Welcome back crowdfunders. On todays episode we have Mark Dwight from Rickshaw Bags to tell us about how he raised 81K for his amazing reflective backpack.
I usually don’t interrupt with commercials or to fill you in on to much, but today I want to tell you about something exciting and new that I have been working on. There is a new video web series coming out soon with me, your host ZacBob. The video series will be called Funded. That’s all I can tell you for now It’s going to be exciting, inspirational and fun. So check it out at WatchFunded.com. Be sure to sign up with your email address to be alerted when we go live.
Okay now back to the show. So tell us about yourself Mark and your project, the amazing reflective backpack by Rickshaw Bags.
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Well thanks very much for having me, my name is Mark Dwight and I’m the founder and CEO of Rickshaw bagworks out here in San Francisco. Were running a project right now with a really cool fabric that we developed using a reflective thread that were weaving into a herringbone pattern and making some of our bags out of that fabric. And a few accessory items and offering those as rewards on our project on Kickstarter.
ZacBob: Now Rickshaw Bags sells other bags on your website RickshawBags.com, and have done so for quite some time. So do you sell just this one type of bag, or do you have a wide variety, are you like the Amazon of bags?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: No we have a small collection of bags, we make our own products here in our own factory in San Francisco. We like to keep the portfolio nice and tight because we got to make everything that we sell. So we’ve got a couple of different backpacks, we got a messenger bag line called the Rickshaw zero messenger bag. And then we got a number of accessories and other items; we got some panniers that we introduced for bicycles. You know we opportunistically develop new products for ourselves and friends of the company.
ZacBob: Thank you for the clarification. So the current Kickstarter campaign is just for the reflective backpack right?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yeah the headline is for the reflective backpack though were offering a messenger bag and some other accessory items and other bags as well.
ZacBob: Now were an audio only show here at CrowdFund Genius, but everyone listening can check out the show notes on our website CrowdFundGenius.com But in order to get a visual for the product you have to know this is not something you just strap on to a bag, or on to a backpack and its not battery operated right?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: No, no, this is reflective thread that is actually woven into the fabric so its integrated in the fabric. Its not any kind of accessory item or anything like that. And it’s a reflective fabric so its like the reflective accents you see on shoes, bags and other things. But this is a thread that’s woven into the actual fabric.
ZacBob: So its like glow in the dark fabric sort of, or well when light hits it, you notice its reflective.
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Correct, it has to have light shining on it. Though what’s interesting about it is even an ambient light in your office, you can kind of see it at the right angle you get a sense that something is going on with the bag. So its dynamic in both ambient light as well as in the dark when its hit bye the headlights for a car for example.
ZacBob: So how did you come up with the idea for this material? Did you read about in a magazine, see it at a store or trade show? How did the idea for the reflective backpack come about?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: I started developing fabric for Rickshaw about six years ago. We developed a line of fabric using recycled polyester thread and worked with a mill down in North Carolina to make that fabric and as time went on I just became very interested in other technologies that we might weave into the fabric literally. My vendor who supplied me with some reflective labels and I was talking with her about whether or not there was reflective thread. She gave me a sample of a thread that 3M actually license some technology for. And so we found a mill to help us out and do a sample and I just said we got to do this. This is really exciting fabric.
ZacBob: So Mark, Why did you decide to use Kickstarter instead of the other platforms out there?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Kickstarter is sort of the gold standard in my view in this space. I’ve been a Kickstarter supporter since 2011 and I think that was shortly after they had started and I think my first pledge was for the Lunatic. By Minimal Design and that was one of the first ones to flirt with a million dollars. I think they raised 980,000 dollars. But I was just fascinated by it and you know other sites like Indiegogo have popped up but I think Kickstarter is kind of the gold standard right now and I just launched my first product on Kickstarter last year and I just stuck with it.
ZacBob: So you have ran a campaign before?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yea we ran a campaign for a different fabric last November a hounds tooth made out of recycled polyester that we designed. So I kind of liked this idea of you using the platform to launch these fabric projects, we have minimums, minimum orders to kind of get these fabrics kicked off and so Kickstarter is a great place to do it.
ZacBob: So does this fabric only come in one standard color?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Well it depends. There is minimums on a per color basis. So part of the project tends to be if we exceed our goals, then we will ad colors or variations of the fabric as we hit milestones. And so there’s a potential on the current campaign that we would add some colors. We tested some colors wen we wove the first sort of sample fabric. But presently were doing the black, kind of a black background with the reflective thread woven into it.
ZacBob: I heard you say if you exceed your goals. So are you hinting at the fact that this could be a stretch goal later on?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: We haven’t officially done that yet. Frankly it’s a little dependent on kind of how many variations on the product and how many people request solid verses stripe. We have two different variations of the black fabric, there’s the stripe version and a solid version. The reason for that is the thread is so expensive that I decided to come up with a version where I economized on the thread. And that’s the striped version and it turns out that the stripe version looks really cool. Both of them look great, but I’m kind of seeing were people sort themselves out.
ZacBob: What was your original goal amount for this project?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Oh for this particular project, 10,000 dollars was the goal that we set to kind of give us enough juice with our manufacturer in North Carolina to make it compelling for them to weave some fabric for us.
ZacBob: And your already surpassed that goal? How long did it take you to hit your original goal amount?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: It took about 12 hours. I launched kind of in the dead of night on a Thursday to kind of get it out there. And I sent out a few emails to people I know and I also sent an email to my previous backers on the other project and the next morning things kind of, sort of heated up a bit and we hit 10,000 dollars within 12 hours I think.
ZacBob: Did you know you would hit your goal that fast?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Honestly I had no idea. You just never know what captures the imagination of the Kickstarter community. And you know we don’t have a very loud voice ourselves as a brand. We have about 40,000 people on our direct email list. And our Facebook followers are about 15,000. And you know the response rates are pretty low for stuff like that so I just had no idea. Figured we did over 20,000 in our first project so 10,000 was probably an achievable goal.
ZacBob: So tell us about the thought process behind your pledge amounts. Right now you’re at 21 pledge amounts. Would you want more or less?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Well I wanted to keep it fairly simple, but the challenge is the fabric is so expensive that the bags are very expensive. Especially in the solid fabric. Our back which is normally 199 dollars, in Cordura would retail for 450 dollars with this reflective fabric. We did a couple of accessories like our cellphone holder and our small bags to get some smaller; you know some lower price points. You know they say and in our experience you get the good success in the 15 to the 40-dollar range on our first campaign. I think it really depends, you know you saw the cooler go off the hook and that thing was over 200 dollars. So you know, people pay for things that are compelling. You know I wanted to keep not to many rewards but I had to separate striped from solid and since then we’ve added a number of products because people have been asking us, “Hey why don’t you add your computer bag, why don’t you add…” you know this or that. So part of the cool thing with Kickstarter is getting to engage with people and find out what they really want.
ZacBob: Lets move on to some of your highest performing pledge amounts. Your two early bird specials and both of them sold out correct?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yea both of them sold out very quickly. And they are popular bags of ours. You know we kind of know where our sweet spot is in our own product line our medium messenger bag and our backpack. And both of those price points are compelling for what you get. And I think the phenomenon on Kickstarter is that the early bird specials tend to go quickly.
ZacBob: Lets talk about your crowdfunding video, it came in at about 1:25 long and it was short and to the point. You showcased the product and explained about the new thread, the reflective thread. I’m not 100% sure but I believe you filmed at Rickshaw Bags?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yea we do it all in house. That’s all us, that’s my team doing the filming and editing, the background there is just a white background that we have in our photo booth that we use for photographing our own products for our website. And the other shots are just in the factory, I’m in the product development area showing off the fabric. You know my view is were all about coming and seeing what we do so we want to do it in the factory and do it ourselves because we make our own products and we make our own videos.
ZacBob: Did you have any media attention going into the campaign?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: No we didn’t, we just sent an email to the backers of our previous project as well as an email the next day to our own direct customer list of about 40,000 names that we have in house.
ZacBob: Everyone listening, start collecting emails. Mark, have you been building that email list for the last 7 years?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yup just one bag at a time.
ZacBob: What about a press release, have you thought about doing any type of press release?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: We’ve contacted about 20 different friends of Rickshaw who are bloggers and writers and everything from “Cool Hunting” to “TechCrunch” you know the usual suspects. I think there is a little bit of fatigue out there about Kickstarter so you know they kind of wait and see what seems to be hot. Because that’s the story. So we will see, you know I call it the Oprah moment and I have never experience the Oprah moment in my bag making days. So you just never know when something is going to go viral.
ZacBob: I like it. Like the Oprah Book club right.
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yea so I call it the Oprah moment. If she blesses it, it’s a hit.
ZacBob: So share with us Mark, so our audience can perhaps have an Oprah moment themselves. What did you say or write when you sent the email to the press, like Cool Hunter and TechCrunch?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Well one thing to understand is that we’ve been making bags for 7 years and before that I was making bags with another company so I have a track record. So were announcing hey Rickshaws produced another product and we think you might be interested in this. Some of these people have covered other products that we have done so were not an unknown quantity. It would be harder if I were doing my first project for my first company out of the blue. So we have already kind of a relationship with these folks plus I write for Inc. Magazine, and the people were talking to know who I am. So then it’s really a matter of are they going to show us any love by writing about us.
ZacBob: So would it be Taboo for you to write an article about your own Kickstarter campaign?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: I did write an article about Kickstarter small manufacturing businesses using Kickstarter for their own projects. And so I have written about Kickstarter but they would not advertise or promote my product and I would not ask them too.
ZacBob: And earlier you said you had 15,000 likes on Facebook?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yes.
ZacBob: That’s a lot of likes, almost a small army. Are they pretty actively involved with you on Facebook?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: It’s hard to say, we have not been as diligent in our social media outreach in the past several years as we might be. But in the past six months we hired someone for customer service whose really interested in social media and engaging and she’s good at it. So I think over the next year were going to see a lot more engagement with our brand. And again there is so much noise out there you never know what people will kind of in the moment seize on and find interesting. At the end of the day my goal from a PR perspective is jus to tell good stories and I think that this fabric story is a good one. And anyone who sees it, I’ve been wearing a prototype one now for a couple of weeks now, people who see it are like “Wow that’s really cool!” But you know you have to see it to believe it. I’m only as good as however many eyeballs I capture whether its online or just walking around with a bag.
ZacBob: Speaking of eyeballs, your product is very visual and seems like it would do well on Instagram or Pinterest. So besides Facebook, what other social media platforms are you using for your campaign?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yea we are using Instagram more now and we do have some Pinterest boards that we started posting too. We have something called the “fresh bag feed.” Which we send out over Twitter if a person orders a bag and gives us their twitter handle we will tweet out a photo of their bag from our factory. Your right we do have a very visual product and I’ve encouraged my team to distribute more photographs but the problem on our end is were busy in the process of making bags. And so the process of photographing and posting thought it seems like “Ah you just take a photograph and then post it” you know you have to do it. And we can’t afford to have someone that’s just a documentarian.
ZacBob: So are you doing that for the Kickstarter campaign as well? The “Fresh Bag Feed?”
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Well we wont make the bag until we finish up the Kickstarter part of it. What we are doing right now is people love to see our process and so the other day when the iPhone 6 was announced we quickly developed and tweaked the current phone case we have for the iPhone 6; its slightly larger than the iPhone 5. And then we made an iPhone 6 plus case and we showed people the pattern pieces and me making a cardboard mock up. And the people watching that, love that kind of stuff because it’s the process you know. And posting today were going to send out a video kind of explaining; I know there is a number of videos on the internet now out showing you what exactly, how big the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus is. So we have our little cardboard mock ups and I show how putting it in your pocket, it sticks out your back pocket, so watch out for pickpockets. But you know we tried to have some fun with it but also show people the process of making patterns, sewing product and you know getting to the final product. The beauty of what we cut and sew is we can do that pretty quickly; you don’t have to do any tooling or anything like that.
ZacBob: Now before you launched your campaign on Kickstarter, did you have any kind of marketing building up to the launch of your campaign? And if so, how long before your launch did you start preparation?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: no we weren’t really, as a matter of fact I had already done my prototype fabric six months prior. I was all ready and excited to get it out there but other things got in the way like running a business everyday here. Finally about a month ago I said guys were going to miss this year if we don’t get on with this so mic me up and get the camera out. Lets do a video. I actually do all of the pledge interaction. So I’m glued to this computer for the next 35 days. I’m the person at Rickshaw that corresponds with all the people making pledges or making inquires not my customer service department. I need them to focus on customer service of our existing customers.
ZacBob: So if you have questions for Mark, just ask him via his Kickstarter page the Amazing Reflective Backpack.
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: If they send me a message on Kickstarter they will get a response from me, and I tell you I’m not getting much sleep right now.
ZacBob: Did you use any promoted posts on Facebook or any paid social media posts?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Not yet, but we are going to run a Backers Hub promotion next week. I’m really keen to see what that, or if that will generate anything for us.
ZacBob: And when does your Backers Hub go out?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: The email that they send will go out on the 22nd of September. And then there will be 3 Facebook postings the first one being on that Monday as well. Then there is one subsequently on October 2nd I think and then the final day of our project which is the 24th, Friday. There will be the kind of; im sure it’s the hey its almost over. 3 posting and an email.
ZacBob: And besides Backers Hub, have you hired any other companies for promoting your crowdfunding campaign?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: No, once you run a Kickstarter campaign and it has any kind of success you start getting all kinds of people telling you how they can help you. And so we’ve been getting numerous emails and I had already known about Backers Hub and it seemed like they’re doing some pretty good work there and take a flier on it and see what happens.
ZacBob: And about how much was Backers Hub if you don’t mind me asking?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: We went for their deluxe package and that’s $497.
ZacBob: And what’s all included for 500 dollars?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: What comes with it is the email to 3 or 4 thousand people they got on an email list and their Facebook following is about 10,000 people now. So the 3 Facebook postings go to roughly 10,000 people and the email directly goes to several thousand people.
ZacBob: What about Staff picks or popular projects section of Kickstarter. Did you get a chance to make it to any of these sections?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: We were a staff pick the first day. And you get kind of obsessed with that because I look up on my iPhone to see if I’m a staff pick and how high on the list am I, and we were way down the list. You had to kind of part it out to design, product design, san Francisco, but you got to drill down for us to sort of bubble up to the top. I know that they promote certain projects just that their interested in and they don’t always kick. I don’t know what their dialogue is inside a staff meeting picking these things. But would it be great yea, but would it be an Oprah Moment? I don’t know, for me at this point its all gravy, I love the PR so if this thing came off the hook and became some huge monstrous success it would be a high-class problem. You know I’m really thrilled we got a couple hundred people and a lot of those are new to our brand. And our video has been viewed over 3000 times so even if nobodies buying anything people are learning about us and that’s really important.
ZacBob: 3000 views is pretty good.
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yea I check it every once in awhile. We were at 3300 I think this morning. You know I don’t know what other projects do but that’s… you know on our first project we only had 2300 views in the entire 30 days that we ran. And were 7 or 8 days in and we have over 3000 views. So that’s pretty good.
ZacBob: So you said in the first 12 hours you pretty much hit your 10,000 dollar goal, and you were a staff pick within the first 12 hours right.
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yes
ZacBob: Do you think that had anything to do with you being a staff pick, and do you have any idea how you became a staff pick?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: I wish I could tell but I have no idea other than you know, well I think the project is compelling and probably they saw that 10,000 dollars; kind of like the start up world. We hear about all the billion dollar start ups right, but the world is filled with lots of little start ups doing there thing. And I think this project world is the same thing, we hear about cooler, and Pebble and the multi-million dollar success, but the fact is most projects don’t get funded, most, and I haven’t checked the stats lately but I think the sweet spot is below 10,000 dollars. So there must be some trigger at Kickstarter somewhere that says hey, 10,000 dollars we got a winner here. So ill just tell you from my stats page right now, were at 39,000 dollars almost 12,000 dollars from Kickstarter and 27,000 dollars from external referrers. I’m going to guess that a lot of that is from people who found out about us from our Facebook or our direct emailing. So it looks like 1/3 of what we got come from Kickstarter itself, so probably, it was very nice to have a staff pick.
ZacBob: Did you have any coaching, or Facebook groups or just any type of resource you would like to share with our audience that has helped you along the way?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Not other than what I have read on the internet. So originally we ran our first campaign and I had read the Kickstarters little original, Kickstarter 101 or whatever they call it.
ZacBob: The Kickstarter Creator Handbook?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Yea there online handbook yes. And again its story telling so I kind of get that, so I worked within their framework. Tried to apply my story telling technics to get people excited about what were doing and convey our excitement about what were doing. So for so good, I don’t claim to be an expert, I am just in awe of some of the other projects, the cooler thing was just remarkable. I didn’t buy one of the coolers by the way but a lot of people did.
ZacBob: You said your not an expert Mark, but getting 10,000 dollars in 12 hours is pretty genius in my book.
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: You know I will tell you also, this time around our average pledge is 143 dollars. So my last campaign for the tote bag which are pretty inexpensive to begin with and we had some bundles. But our average pledge was 47 dollars so the cash register rings a little louder when the average is higher. So we have less pledges so far and more money so its pretty simple math. But I’m just saying people tend to think I’m going to sell millions of 10-dollar pledges well that’s a tough way to make a living and people also underestimate the cost of fulfillment. So we were really careful this time around to really you know how much does the box cost to send it, how much will the postage really be, how much is the cost of good so that were not losing money on this deal but still selling direct to consumers which is much better than retail pricing. But I see some projects go live and I know enough about what it will cost to make stuff and I think wow these guys are not going to make any money on this.
ZacBob: How could Kickstarter have made your experience better on their platform?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: You know that’s a really good question. On the back end I really struggled with fulfillment last time you know printing out all the labels and all that kind of stuff. They could, and there are services that could kind of do that for you but they cost money and you got to figure those out too. And I honestly haven’t had time to do a lot of research on that and I imagine I’m going to have the same kind of pain this time printing out labels and making sure everything gets packed right. I packed all 433 rewards for the last one myself so I wouldn’t have to burden the shipping department. You know I think the Kickstarter platform is pretty decent, I like their dashboard. Its just enough information there could obviously; you can always purge the data into other slices. But you know they tell you enough information to kind of make it interesting. And I don’t have any other complaints or frankly real suggestions for Kickstarter it’s a really cool platform and I really like it.
ZacBob: Okay so now were down to our big two questions. What’s the one thing you wish you knew going into this crowdfunding campaign?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: I would say the one thing I wish I had known is probably how fast my early bird specials were going to get picked up. They sold out really quickly and there’s kind of no going back on that once you done it, and I cant go back and say oh lets make it 100 instead of 50 because I’ve got people that have pledged subsequently who would feel gipped or change their rewards obviously. So you kind of got to set it and run. And so the next time around I would probably make a few more early bird specials and maybe make them higher quantities.
ZacBob: What was your best tip or best advice you could give to any crowdfunder listening right now that’s hoping to accomplish their own crowdfunding goal?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: You know I think that you will hear this from a lot of different sources. Its really bout the video, you know there is a lot of components that go into your success. How you choose your rewards and stuff like that but at the end of the day a kind of personal connection to the person doing the project. You know understanding that they’re passionate about what they’re doing that they’re really engaged, that they’re authentic about what they’re doing. And as a project supporter myself I think I’ve supported 60 projects and honestly I don’t use all of the stuff, I tend to get product stuff. Because I like pens and I like MAC accessories and stuff like that. A lot of the stuff I giveaway as gift’s or I don’t use them at all. But I just like the engagement the interaction I like supporting people that r doing thins they are compassionate about. And I think if you can convey that in a video that’s short sweet and to the point, and really authentic an personally I think that enhances your odds to success. You know the rest is the project compelling to the Kickstarter world? And I think there is some pretty good statistics about wallets and pens and whatever. But at the end of the day a good, short, sweet, personal, authentic video is the keys to success.
ZacBob: In the event that your campaign has ended before airing of this show, were can people go to get their amazing reflective backpack?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: So we will post the entire portfolio of reflective bags on our website so you can pre-order those and that will be done coincident with the end of the project that way nobody will feel like they got completely left out. But we will have to fulfill our pledges first.
ZacBob: And where can people find you and Rickshaw Bags at Mark?
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: So you can connect with me and Rickshaw bags at our website first and foremost RickshawBags.com and I am Mark@Rickshawbags.com and my email is readily available and you can email me directly you can also find me on Twitter I’m just MarkDwight one word. And then I respond to that and I use mostly Twitter and email.
ZacBob: Alright Mark Thank you for coming on CrowdFund Genius and sharing your story about the Amazing Reflective Backpack and about the amazing company Rickshaw Bags.
Mark from Rickshaw Bags: Well thank you ZacBob, I am honored that you have an interest in what were doing and thank you very much. I appreciate your time today.
ZacBob: Thank you everybody for listening, and a little fyi, Mark and The Amazing Reflective Backpack did finish with 543 backers and over 81 thousand raised in funds. Make sure you get a chance to sign up for my email list on our website CrowdFundGenius.com and Ill send you 100 free Crowdfunding Tips. Oh and I also have another 100 tips, tools and facts ill throw in for free making it 200. So leave me a review and as soon as your done with that, starting putting pen to paper and making your crowdfunding dream a reality. Happy Crowdfunding, ZacBob out!