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Kickstarter, and other similar crowd-funding platforms, is an incredibly innovative tool to fund your business. I find this is particularly true for women, for whom early stage funding is notoriously more difficult to find. But like all great tools, you should know how to use them wisely. Here’s a little bit of what I learned in my experience:

1. Know what your goal is.

Make sure you’re clear about why you’re doing this–is it to test a new product line? To get the word out? To pre-fund production? This will help keep you accountable throughout the whole process and minimize distractions (there will be many, trust me!).

2. Tell a compelling story.

Investing in a great video is an absolute must! People will decide within the first 10 seconds whether they’re going to watch the rest of your video, let alone consider contributing to your campaign and/or sharing it with their friends. Spend a lot of time perfecting your pitch–keep it short (3-4 minutes), informative, funny, and engaging. You can fill in all the other details on the rest of the project page, but make sure you sell your audience right off the bat with a great video.

3. Set a goal that makes sense for you.

Don’t be tempted by setting a big, sexy fundraising target. Start by figuring out the absolute leastamount of money you need. For example, if you’re manufacturing a product, make sure you know what your factory order minimum is, how much the materials costs, etc. Make sure to add in extras like shipping and packaging, which can be easy to overlook. Once you have your minimum number, I would recommend staying at or around this number; it’s best to be conservative and blow your goal out of the water because if you don’t hit your goal you don’t get any of your funds.

4. Select your rewards wisely.

Create rewards that are exclusively available for your backers. This can be a discount on a product or an entirely unique product that won’t be available after the campaign. These people are taking a big risk in backing you–make sure you treat them well.

5. Timing can be everything.

Think about if your product has any seasonal association because that could mean the difference between success and failure. This past summer The Coolest Cooler became the most funded Kickstarter of all time, raising over $13 million. But this was his second attempt; his first campaign fell short of its $125K goal. So what changed? One big difference: his first attempt launched in November, whereas his second attempt launched in July, when beach-going customers were more likely to be in the cooler shopping mentality.

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6. Determine your fulfillment beforehand.

I spent months before the campaign creating the sample for my dress. What I thought would take me two months ended up taking almost 6 months, as I endlessly tweaked the fit and fabric, as well as tested several manufacturers. Doing this beforehand allowed me to set a realistic, but relatively quick turnaround time for my customers. The last thing you want to do is disappoint the very people that made it all happen by rushing through the fulfillment process once the campaign is funded.

7. Keep up your momentum.

Typically, you get a surge of support in the first week and a surge in the final days with a big drop in activity in the middle. So you have to strategize beforehand about how you’re going to survive those dead middle weeks and hit your targets by the end. This takes good planning by making sure you have blog posts, press, events, and backers, lined up to help keep your momentum going.

8. Kickstarter should be the last step, not the first.

If you think you can just post your project on Kickstarter and it will just fund itself, you’re in for a rude awakening. You must spend several months beforehand building your tribe of believers that want your product and support what you’re doing. I started my business a year and a half before launching on Kickstarter. Not only did I have a small base of customers, but I had relationships with numerous petite bloggers. It was because I had these longstanding relationships that I had an extensive list of people to email on day 1 of my project. I know for a fact I couldn’t have succeeded without these longstanding relationships.

9. Last but not least: make sure you’re making a great product!

This may seem super obvious, but for any business to work, it comes down to having a great product. Make sure you’re making an amazing product that’s solving a real problem. Ask yourself: “Would my customer’s life be better with this product?” The answer should be a resounding “YES!” before you hit that launch button.

Best of luck–it’s a fun, crazy and rewarding journey.

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