by Noemi Distefano

How to fund your way to the front of the crowd

Coolest-cooler. Exploding Kittens. Pono Music. Oculus Rift. Fidget Cub. Kingdom Death.

Launched by visionaries and backed by thousands worldwide, these projects came to life thanks to crowdfunding.

The trend has become one of the most popular ways to promote the creativity and ambition of our generation. Dedicated websites create a level playing field for entrepreneurs, with or without experience, to share their ideas with those who have the cash to make them a reality.

Kickstarter is the most popular online platform to date. In the last two years, over 22,000 projects were successfully funded on the site, raising a massive $530 million overall.

SURGE went to meet a young crowdfunder to get some tips on how to run a successful campaign.

Samantha Paton is a Scottish designer and creator of the brand, ‘Isolated Heroes’. After completing a Fashion Design degree at Heriot-Watt University, Samantha returned to Dundee to launch her label.

“I wanted to create my own brand rather than work for someone else,” she said.

However, without the funding to open a studio, she soon realised that “it was going to be completely out of [her] own pocket”.

After trying to finance the enterprise herself, she quickly found that she needed additional income to keep the brand running. At this time, Samantha was still working full time and so she turned to crowdfunding to help expand her business.

Her successful blog had already given her an insight into her target audience: “I saw a gap in the market – affordable luxury for young generations of consumers”.

Kickstarter was the clear choice for Samantha. The ‘all or nothing approach” suited her brand and, “it had a bigger audience compared to other websites”.

After setting herself a 30-day deadline, she focused on the campaign, hiring a video maker, finding models, and working tirelessly alongside her team: “You need an amazing, sleek campaign to be featured,” she said.

In 2012, her project was featured on STV. She has also been featured in both the Daily Record and the Evening Telegraph.

Through Kickstarter, Samantha raised £6,500 – exceeding her target by over 20%!

Samantha says, unique rewards are a good way of attracting donations, yet warns that they come with a risk. One of her own rewards had a production cost higher than the donation required to get it. She offered a black dress that you can usually buy for £125, for a £50 donation, and while she managed to make a profit, this might not work for everyone.

Now running her own company, and having featured designs on The X-Factor and for Paloma Faith and Marina and the Diamonds, Samantha advises potential starters to take it seriously.

“It is an easy way to raise money, but the campaigns aren’t light-hearted. It’s like another full-time job”.

Top tips for a successful crowdfunding campaign:

Build your audience/customers:

While you can launch from nothing, it’s a lot easier if you’ve already got a following online. Building up your blog and/or social media following will make crowdfunding a lot easier.

Choose your platform:

Kickstarter might not be for you. Look at what is available on other platforms and figure out where your idea fits.

Be realistic:

Having an achievable goal is essential especially on Kickstarter. You don’t want to do the work to end up with nothing.

Create a marketing plan:

Research and write up a plan with how you will get your crowdfunder in front of the people who will fund it.

Stand out:

Not only does your idea, service or cause have to be unique and interesting, it has to look good too. Put the effort in with some good imagery and a video if you can.