Podcast

Learn from Fast Growing 7-8 Figure Online Retailers and eCommerce Experts

EPISODE 54 64 mins

How Fashion Etailers, Linjer Successfully Raised $500,000 through Crowdfunding on Kickstarter & Indiegogo



About the guests

Roman Khan

Kunle Campbell

With a background in private equity and launching ecommerce ventures in South East Asia under the Rocket internet umbrella, Roman decided to disrupt the luxury leather good space alongside his co-founder, Jennifer in 2014 by launching Linjer on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Both they campaigns had tremendous success.



Jennifer Chong

Kunle Campbell

With a background in ecommerce and consulting Jennifer decided to disrupt the luxury leather good space alongside her co-founder, Rohan in 2014 by launching Linjer on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Both they campaigns had tremendous success.



Jennifer Chong and Roman Khan saw a clear gap in the market and set out to change an industry by raising capital and launching their business through crowdfunding: firstly on Indiegogo for $180,000 and then for a further $360,000 on Kickstarter. They just finished their first year of sales with $1mUSD in revenue. Passionate about their brand ethos, they are proud co-founders of Linjer, a direct-to-consumer maker of ‘minimalist leather bags without the luxury markup’. They sell their bags for about a quarter of the price that luxury brands will sell them for and are able to do this by selling direct-to-consumers, allowing them to cut out middlemen, store front costs, and excessive marketing spend.

On this episode, Jennifer and Roman walk us through the dos and don’ts in the art of crowdfunding as we detail their insights and experiences with both Indiegogo and Kickstarter. We also touch upon brand, the next steps to their growth, and promotional tactics such as blogger press outreach and scaling awareness through the media.

If you’re looking to effectively use crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter to launch a direct-to-consumer business or product that is set out to change an industry or maybe the world, then today’s episode will help you to plan your campaign successfully.

 

Key Points in Launching with Crowdfunding Success

Softbriefcase 004

1: Scaling the Brand and Business:

Scaling the Brand: The brand story has been a very personal one centered around how we were looking for a laptop bag and the search for that, and how we tried to come up with a solution ourselves. There was clear gap in the market for the high-quality leather bags for less than $500. So for us the story was partially connecting with a community that felt the same way and talking about how we were going to solve this problem. A part of that story which we don’t emphasize is that anti-luxury movement where we don’t need a flashy logo on the bag to make a statement, that minimalism and high-quality speaks for itself. So that’s been very much the brand story until now and we see that we’re a big hit with the early adopters.

Our first year was very much word-of-mouth

Community-based, hustling, doing growth hacks, reaching out to blogs. The question Jen and I now pose is: how do we go beyond early adopters? And going beyond that would involve us staying true to the narrative, but also adding some kind of an emotion and building a scalable brand. Next year we are taking the route of:

  1. Heavier reliance on paid marketing to get eyeballs on our brand: through traditional channels like Facebook, Instagram ads, opening up Pinterest.
  2. Creating a visual identity that goes with the brand ethos: basically upgrading the visuals and looks of our photos and creating something very distinct that can fuel our outreach to the press and the bloggers.

Supply Chain

2

We’re using the same supply chain in China as most of the top luxury brands, the industry’s been there for the past 15 – 20 years actually. China sometimes gets a bad rap but it has some of the best factories and it took us a long time to find the right partner for us, but we’re super happy with them. I mean the luxury handbag industry is a $50 billion dollar market – so millions of bags produced every year and so it’s a given that there is not enough Italian artisans to do that. And the great thing with China is that things are scalable. We have the best of both worlds. We get leather from Europe but we have, you know, excellent craftsmanship in China.

 

2: The Art of Crowdfunding

Why Crowdfunding:

  1. Understanding the Risks and Finding out What Sells: We estimated our first production costs to be $70,000 to meet all the minimal order requirements of all of our suppliers. And we did not have $70,000 to put into production. Nor did we want to be the ones taking bets into what designs would sell and what colors would sell and parking all of our money into inventory when we didn’t even know if people wanted to buy our stuff.
  2. Quality vs Speed: With investors, what we’ve seen in other consumer brands in the fashion space is that once you start raising money, suddenly your incentives are more like your investor’s where they’re trying to cash out, they want your valuation to continually grow. And then you’re suddenly you’re not playing a 20-year game where you are trying to build a brand, but you’re trying to maximize revenue growth every single month. We wanted to build Linjer as a brand that we could be proud of and we wanted to put quality at the forefront. We want our products to be perfect when they go out the doors to our customers.

Year 1 Sales

Half a million dollars, or half of our sales our first year, was through crowdfunding platforms.

  1. Indiegogo was our first campaign, raising $150,000 US in 60 days and then $33,000 US has come after, because Indigogo allows you to continue to sell on their platform after the ending.
  2. Kickstarter ended at $360,000 US in 37 days. So it was more than double in almost half the time: we learnt a lot between the first launch on Indiegogo and the Kickstarter launch.

Indiegogo Experience

Indiegogo was the campaign where we were new to the game, everything – from content production( video, photography, copy) to the actual marketing throughout the campaign. And in our toolkit we didn’t have paid marketing. We didn’t even consider it as an option. Prior to the launch we found communities online and told them we’re going to launch soon. And then we reached out to friends and family that we thought were within our target demographic; told them to tell their friends about it, you know, email their office email list etc. All these unscalable things to create something scalable, that’s basically what we did.

Blogger Outreach

We reached out to 400 bloggers which was a huge pain and I think at end of it, 30 of them covered us, and of those 30 only 3 or 4 made up 80% of our revenue from all of our bloggers. And the characteristics of those blogs 3 or 4 blogs are that they are not full-time professional bloggers, but they do it because there’s a shared passion for menswear or fashion. I think that for us these kinds of bloggers worked best because we were really new to the game and didn’t have a lot of money to spend on blog placements.

review

Like a lot of bloggers, especially if you’re looking at the female bloggers, they’ll charge you hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars. All of the ones that covered us were free and didn’t even ask for a product actually, they just really believed in what we’re doing, they genuinely saw the gap in the market too.

The target that we listed on Indiegogo was $50,000 and we reached that within 48 hours. Usually when you launch a crowdfunding campaign, very little traffic is organic, you really have to drive all the traffic and drive all of your sales and all of your pledges and rewards for the first few days. It’s only after you kind of show really great momentum on either platform that you might get highlighted.

Tips on Launching a Crowdfunding Campaign

So when launching a crowdfunding campaign:

  1. Make sure you have a really strong prelaunch email list: Whatever your goal is, let’s say it’s $50,000, you want to make sure you can hit that within the first 24 hours of launch. Prior to launch, make sure you have whatever number of customers you need lined up ready to pledge within the first 48 hours. And ideally you have twice that amount.
  2. Focus on the ‘Why’: The reason people back your project is greater than just buying a product. It needs to be about, for example, two founders wanting to change an industry like, what we’re doing. I think people back people, at the end of the day. So make sure that comes through, be authentic.
  3. Definitely use Paid Marketing. You have to have an element of paid marketing to be able to do what we did with the 37-day campaign raising $360,000.
  • On Paid Marketing: We predominantly used Facebook, 80% Facebook and 20% split across other things. Facebook is by far the most efficient. The way we look at it, we think next 12 to 18 months Facebook is still going to be affordable. But like everything else, there’s going to be a new platform. I mean there was a time when Google was affordable. And I’m sure there’s going to be 3 – 4 new platforms popping up in the next 12 to 18 months, whether it’s Snapchat, Pinterest, or any of these new guys. Someone is going to come. So just make sure that you use an element of paid marketing.

Key Aspects of the Campaign

A: Video

This is your platform for telling your story and the way you can really engage with your viewers emotionally.

Fine leather goods without the luxury markup from Roman Khan on Vimeo.

B: Testimonials

Even with our web shop, what we see is that a lot of people who consider buying our products will go to some other website or google ‘Linjer bag review’ or something and then they’ll come back and purchase. And especially when you have such a high ticket item like ours and people have to put hundreds of dollars up front and wait five months to get it, it’s so, so powerful to have somebody respected vouch for you. And it doesn’t need to be a brand name, our reviews were done by really renowned people in the menswear community. It just needs to be someone who is a reputable expert who is not corruptible, where you know that they’re not doing 10 sponsored posts in a row. It needs to be authentic.

C: Product

linjer-leather-goods

 

Prior to testimonials, put at least 50% of your effort into product. Make sure it’s a great product. I think a lot of crowdfunding people go in and they don’t even, they haven’t even mapped out small details like packaging and these really essential things. Because you’re selling something online and the only tangible experience is when you actually receive the parcel. So you just want everything to be flawless in that regard and make sure that you have all your bases covered. Even before it goes out to the reviewer, you know.

Indiegogo vs Kickstarter as a Platform:

We have a strong preference for Indiegogo. From a technical standpoint, the platform is superior if you’re going to rely on paid marketing or require help with any issues in managing the campaign.

  1. They allow you to put a Facebook Pixel on checkout, so you can re-target, which is going to drive your costs of acquisition down substantially. So that’s number one.
  1. They allow you to manipulate your page a lot more, so you can have your own proprietary design, without being forced to have to use the typefaces Kickstarter is limited to. Which is very important to us because that’s all about brand.
  1. They also give you full control of removing and adding perks throughout the campaign.
  1. They have a couple things that are really cool which allows you to export the emails of your backers throughout the campaign, which again you can use for paid marketing or can use outside the platform which, to be honest, is a lot more convenient. You want to communicate with your customers by email, you want the ability to just export data and parse it throughout the campaign. For us, we were trying to take a snapshot shot every week trying to figure out what colors were selling more so we could pool our leather order ahead of time. With Kickstarter, it’s a nightmare. You really have to go and do it manually, you know, copy and paste line by line, you can’t export stuff.
  1. Indiegogo has superior customer service which can be really important to campaign owners: they give you a designated campaign specialist, even, so that’s huge.

Organic Traffic and Platform Promotion:

I think in the crowdfunding world there is this belief that Kickstarter has a lot more traffic then Indiegogo. It’s probably true, I don’t know what the exact numbers are. But what we actually saw was that we didn’t get a lot of organic traffic from Kickstarter. In fact I think we got less traffic from Kickstarter because when we were on Indiegogo, Indiegogo has these sorting algorithms that feature projects that are doing well and we were featured heavily by Indiegogo. So Indiegogo actually helped drive a lot of traffic to our campaign and helped increase our pledges a lot. Whereas Kickstarter, it has a bit more of a random selection process and we were never featured by Kickstarter.

Web Shop Activity

We shut off all sales on the web shop so we could pump the number on Indiegogo and Kickstarter to the maximum. And as soon as the campaign officially ends you know and you go in transition to post campaign sales, we’d switch our shop back on.

Why Sales Improved Significantly on Kickstarter

Wider range

On Kickstarter we introduced our women’s collection as well as a unisex weekender bag. And we were now targeting women, and the average woman owns something like nine handbags, at least, while the average man probably own like one or two

Paid Marketing

We spent money on paid marketing. We didn’t do that for our first campaign. On Kickstarter, we kind of figured out paid marketing after halfway into the campaign. And then you’ll see this hockey stick growth on Kicktraq where we turn on paid marketing fully. So you know, if we could do that campaign over again we would have spent paid marketing from day number one, and it probably would have been three times larger, because we think we would’ve hit half a million US halfway in, which would have resulted into a lot of press

  • Image Ads: We used image, we didn’t use video ads. Video ads on Facebook are still very, very cheap compared to image ads, just because Facebook really wants to roll out video and kind of kill YouTube. The problem is, as a browser on Facebook, the journey from watching a video to actually clicking through is very long, right. Why would you click through to watch the video and you are not interested? And taking into account the mobile experience, we think image is the best way to go.
  • Meeting Target Delivery Times: With our Indiegogo campaign we structured it so we had stretch goals. And so initially what you could order was a briefcase in black or cognac. And then once we reached a certain funding level, we said, okay, we’ll unlock two different colors and you can change your order to this if you want to. And so we had this extra layer of complexity where we didn’t know whether we were going to make the Navy and Mocha stuff until halfway through the campaign. So we promised initially that the regular products would be sent out in three or four months. And then at the stretch goals would be sent out in five or six months. And we reduced the lead time by actually placing our order for leather before we knew how much we needed to order. So we just made an estimate and then committed with our suppliers so that they could get started.
  • Repeat Customers and Die-Hard Fans: We’ve gotten around 2,000 customers across the two platforms and you know all of them I would say are die-hard fans. We get messages all the time from them, they’re really happy with the products.
  • Email Address Handout: Crowdfunding platforms actually give you the email addresses of your customers. It’s sort of at the end of the campaign because on Kickstarter you’re allowed to cancel. They only charge your credit card once the campaign is over. So up until the last minutes of the campaign you can cancel your pledge. So throughout the campaign of Kickstarter you don’t get the emails until after it’s ended. With Indiegogo you get it right on the spot.

So throughout the campaign of Kickstarter you don’t get the emails until after it’s ended. With Indiegogo you get it right on the spot.

3: Moving Forward with Brand Recognition

The Target Demographic

We think about our core customers as people who really appreciate quality and style, who aren’t out to buy a bag because it has some logo on it and it communicate some sense of status. And as for how we identify those communities all early on, I think a lot of it was finding online communities and finding bloggers who had the same values as us and connecting with them and their communities.

Press Coverage

press

We do PR ourselves and a lot of the coverage that we’ve gotten has come through connections. And I think that’s just how it goes. If you’re not working with an agency, and we can’t afford to work with any agency right now, it’s getting introductions to people, making yourself helpful to them, to reporters and bloggers as much as you can. It’s a formula we haven’t cracked yet. We’ve talked with tons of journalists and they say they hate being contacted by agencies but they accept them as middlemen in the industry. So we are still in this position of putting ourselves in front of journalists constantly, where we’re too small to hire an agency because they are really expensive if you want to go for the top-tier ones.

Social Media Promotions

Apart from paid marketing during our campaigns, most of it has been organic up to now.

  1. We’re now doing some paid marketing to create brand awareness with Facebook look-alikes audiences of past traffic to our website. So we’re doing that to create some more awareness around our brand. We’re very much focused on acquiring as many email addresses as we can rather than ‘Likes’.
  1. It’s such a crowded market that Instagram bloggers are expecting cash money, it’s become very transactional. We understand that they have to pay their bills: getting dressed, going out there and getting photographed is actually a job because we’ve done photo shoots and we know how big of a pain it can be. That being said though, it’s really hard to go to an Instagram influencer or a blogger who’s covering any brand that comes his or her way. And we don’t want to be associated with someone who just dresses up in H&M and then carries our bag. It can do more damage than good.

Summary of Key Focus Points for Next Year’s Growth:

  1. Paid marketing.
  2. Widening our assortment: listening to our customers and designing stuff that they are asking for.
  3. PR and non-paid channels: get the word out there by reaching out to journalists and telling the story about Linjer.

On Further Funding…

It’s definitely something that we don’t want to rule out but we don’t have any immediate needs. So if we were to take on funding it would have to be a strategic investor who’s built brands of similar quality or is targeting the same persona as we’re doing right now.

 

4: Parting Advice

Best Mistake

In the beginning we designed everything and anything that we saw as a core assortment in the category for men’s bags. But what we didn’t go down was on was what we would actually buy ourselves. And those were the bags that actually sold the most. So what we didn’t do well with our first collection was staying focused, staying on brand in terms of, not just communication, but also in the assortment of products.

Parting Advice if You are Considering D2C eCommerce

Make sure the addressable market for that product category is big enough. There’s some people who want to launch a direct-to-consumer French towel business online. And it’s just such a small niche, it kind of makes me nervous on their behalf on whether or not that’s going to succeed, just because the addressable market is very small.

Parting Advice to D2C e-Commerce Businesses Looking to Revive Their Brand

Branding is all about knowing who you are and thinking about how you want to convey that. So it’s just going back to the roots and finding your own identity and making sure that flows throughout any touch point with your customer such as your video or your webpage or your images.

Recommended Resources:

  • Shopify’s blog
  • Business Maharajas. It’s a great book covering tycoons in India and their path to riches, basically. Everyone from Tata to utter tycoons who started off at gasoline stations filling cars.

Key Takeaways

(02:30) Introducing Jennifer Chong and Roman Khan

(16:10) Scaling the Brand

(21:39) The Art of Crowdfunding

(49:28) Moving Forward With Brand Recognition

(57:25) Parting Advice

Transcript

"We didn't do that for our first campaign. So the second campaign we really spent paid marketing. If you actually go on our Kicktraq and you look at our daily chart, you see we only spent, we kind of figured out paid marketing only after halfway into the campaign. And then you'll see this hockey stick growth where we turn on paid marketing fully. So if we could do that campaign over again we would have spent paid marketing from day number one." (Roman Khan)

[Intro clip] Welcome to the 2X eCommerce podcast show where we interview founders of fast growing seven and eight figure eCommerce businesses and eCommerce experts. They’ll tell their stories, share how they 2X’d their businesses and inspire you to take action in your own online retail business today. And now, here he is, the man in the mix, Kunle Campbell.

This episode is brought to you by Remarkety. Remarkety is an email marketing platform specifically built for eCommerce businesses. With Remarkety, emails are automatically triggered by shopper behavior and purchase history. With a few simple clicks, Remarkety allows you to recover abandoned carts, win back inactive customers, make product recommendations, deliver newsletters, and a whole lot more. In other words, emails you will send through Remarkety will be highly targeted, with glaring improvements on your open rates, click rates, and most importantly, conversions. You are also able to track revenue generated from every single email sent by Remarkety.
Try Remarkety absolutely free for 30-days. No credit cards and no contracts.
To sweeten the deal, 2x eCommerce listeners can get Remarkety for 30% OFF an entire year using the coupon code PODCAST30.
Visit Remarkety.com to learn more. Remarkety is email marketing for e-commerce, simplified.

Kune: Hello 2Xers, welcome to the 2X eCommerce Podcast Show. This is the podcast to tune-in to for inspiration and actionable tips for growing and scaling e-commerce businesses. My guests on today's show are cofounders of the luxury direct-to-consumer fashion brand. They launched their business and raised capital through crowdfunding. They managed to raise over $180,000 on Indiegogo. And then went on to Kickstarter to raise more capital and doubled, yes, doubled what they raised on Indiegogo by raising $360,000, just over a year ago. They are founders of Linjer, a direct-to-consumer maker of minimalist leather bags without the luxury markup. They sell their bags for about a quarter of the price that luxury brands will sell them for and are able to do this by selling direct-to-consumers, allowing them to cut out middlemen, store front costs, and excessive marketing spend. So if you're trying to effectively use crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter to launch a direct-to-consumer business or product that is set out to change an industry or maybe the world, then listen into this one. They take us through the exact steps they used to raise capital on Indiegogo as well as on Kickstarter, and talk us through promotional tactics such as blogger press outreach and scaling awareness through the media. This episode is really not to be missed! Grab your pen pens and paper as I welcome Jennifer Chong and Roman Khan of Linjer to the show.

Hi guys, I'm super excited to have you both, Jen and Roman, because I've had a look at your business and it is quite interesting because you guys come from a crowdfunding background, roots, you have roots in crowdfunding and you've been able to build pretty much a minimalistic leather bag fashion brand. I'm just super excited, really, really excited. The name the main Linjer has Norwegian origins. Could you shed bit more light about how you came about the name and the brand, either of you, please?

Roman: Yeah. Well first of all we're super excited to be part of this show too, thank you so much for having us. Yes so that's an excellent question, Linjer, as you say it in Norwegian, I'm from Norway, I'm one of the founders, it means 'lines' in English. It kind of present represents our design aesthetic. If you look at our bags and everything we've designed, it has clean lines going throughout and we don't clutter these lines with logos, so you can't find logos on the outside of the bags, only on the inside, and it very much reflects the design aesthetic of our little studio in Oslo.

Kunle: So it's quite minimal. You're from Norway. Jen where are you from?

Jen: I'm from Hong Kong but I grew up in Canada as well.

Kunle: Fantastic. Okay, good Stuff. So I had a look at your profiles prior to the interview and I realized you guys come from corporate backgrounds. Could you tell listeners about your journey, starting with you Jen, from a corporate to an entrepreneurial route or path?

Jen: Sure. So after I graduated from university where I studied economics, I started working as a management consultant, as I wanted to just get some general business experience and that's a great way to acquire that. After a couple of years of working in the corporate world, well, after a couple years of dressed for the corporate world I realized that I was missing a leather laptop bag that was would really pull my outfit together. You know it's really important to look professional when you're working in an industry such as management consulting. And I just couldn't find a laptop bag that really helped me convey the professionalism that I wanted to. And the problem there was that I couldn't find a high quality leather bag that was less than $2000 and not covered in logos. And Roman actually had the same problem as me and he can touch on that later on. But that was, when identified that that was when I decided that I think there's an opportunity to make high quality leather products at a much lower price point, you just make them accessible to more people, and so at that point decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.

Kunle: Okay. Do you have a design background by any chance or?

Jen: I was not formally trained but I've always had an interest in design so when I was really little I loved playing with Lego and I would always build things with Lego. In university I really enjoyed woodworking, and I enjoyed making jewelry as a teenager also.

Kunle: Okay. Very, very interesting. Very interesting. And yourself, Roman, could you shed a bit more light on your background and your path to entrepreneurship, please?

Roman: Yeah. So same story is Jen, after I graduated I jumped into the world of finance, worked a couple of years in finance. Had the same issue, I couldn't find a laptop bag that didn't cost, you know, all laptop bags cost more than the actual laptop it carries so that was the problem, a high-quality one at least. So I ran into the same issue looking for something and after a couple of years in finance I worked at Rocket Internet, it's this e-commerce incubator from Germany and they clone Amazon, they clone Zappos, all around the world and I was very lucky, I was when the first employees in Asia so I kind of went through that journey until they went public and saw e-commerce firsthand at a very large scale. We went from one order a day to a couple of hundred thousand orders a day. So I was working on a supplying chain and as a CFO for the largest country in the region, which was Thailand at the time, which was really cool and opened my eyes to e-commerce. And then when I met Jen it became this natural journey to starting Linjer because we were both looking for high quality bags and we shared the same passion for the industry and we took a leap of faith.

Kunle: Yeah, because I was just going to ask, how did you cross paths? Because you're Norwegian and you happen to be in Thailand, and Jen's Canadian. So where did you guys actually meet? [laughs]

Roman: That's a great question.

Jen: Funny story involving many countries. [laughs] I was actually living in Dubai the time and Roman was in Hong Kong, just about to move to the Philippines for one of the stints at Rocket Internet. But Roman knew my sister

Roman: For many years.

Jen: and they'd been friends for a few years and she introduced us and she saw common thread, like an interesting business and design, between the two of us and then just decided to connect us when I was back home for holiday.

Kunle: Interesting.

Roman: Yeah, we immediately hit it off. We wanted to start a niche business, both of us, and yeah, the rest is history.

Kunle: Was it the problem first or did you guys... was it like a jinxed moment where you're like, well, 'I have a problem with my bags,' and you guys just took it up from there? Or was it more like, 'We need to build a business and are you interested?'

Roman: That's a very, yeah let me think, it was probably... we both talked very passionately about how easy it was to start a business nowadays and how we were both corporate slaves and we wanted to get out of this vicious cycle of working very late hours and not benefiting from the upside of actually owning or having ownership in the company. So that was you know definitely where we kind of hit it off because we didn't start off talking about bags as our first conversation. But then that naturally became a topic, you know we're talking about things and gaps in the market and then bags was something that was repeatedly mentioned.

Kunle: Okay, freedom, so the core thing was freedom. Okay, I have two questions but a start out with the first one which has got to do with the idea... so just real quick... you were founded in 2014, when did you sort of come up with the idea for Linjer? Was it in 2013 or?

Jen: Yeah, we started working on it in 2013. And 2014 we call our launch year because that's when we first put our products out to market and then started selling.

Roman: Yeah, so the way we actually did it was we bootstrapped our whole way, you know, we were a bootstrapped venture. We haven't taken on any external capital and we spent less than US$20,000 building the business to what it is today

Kunle: $20,000, okay. All right.

Roman: Yeah, $20,000, like yeah, a little bit less than that.

Jen: And of course the sacrificed income.

Roman: And the sacrificed income. Which we won't count because that's kind of depressing. Yeah so what we did is one of us worked full-time. So in the first year's Jen quit her job. And I was still working at Rocket, that's kind of how we paid our bills. And during that year Jen flew out to the Paris Leather Fair, met with suppliers all over the world, basically, learning about the industry, identifying long-term partners and setting everything up operationally.

Kunle: Okay.

Roman: And then after a year of R&D and sampling we had everything in place to launch our first collection. We just didn't have the money and that's where crowdfunding came in place. We switched roles a month before our Indiegogo launch, which was our first campaign. And Jen got a job in San Francisco and that's why were temporarily here. And I took over Linjer prelaunch. And just seven weeks ago, Jen quit her day job and joined me full-time and now are both on it.

Kunle: Wow. Congrats. Wow.

Roman: Thank you.

Kunle: So you've reached a milestone here.

Roman: Yeah.

Kunle: Okay, really, really interesting. And my second question had to do with design. Everything I see from you guys has minimalism in it and there's a deliberate... there's something deliberate about every image. It's well thought through, it's very visual, very stylish, very minimal. Does that come from one of you or does that come from both of you?

Jen: Yeah, it's definitely both of us. So I personally do most of the product designing myself but it's with a lot of input from Rome, and on the art direction and then just visual storytelling, and storytelling general of the brand, that's both of us.

Kunle: Which is very strong by the way; very, very strong.

Jen and Roman: Thank you.

Kunle: Yeah so I came across, I was searching and I came across your Product Hunt. So Product Hunt, guys who are listening, ProductHunt.com - it's a discovery website for really cool stuff. And you guys were basically, your page was titled 'Linjer: the Warby Parker of Luxury Leather'. Well, it looks like your luxury brand at an affordable price, exactly what Warby Parker is on about. They are really trying to disrupt the market. Could you shed some more light on this? Did you set it up yourself and do you view yourself as a Warby Parker in bags, especially for corporate's, for corporate people?

Roman: That's a great question. Yeah so it's interesting with Product Hunt. We didn't actually nominate ourselves to be on Product Hunt. There was some entrepreneur based out of New York who discovered us somehow when we were running our latest Kickstarter campaign and then posted about us on Product Hunt. And she framed it as Warby Parker for luxury leather bags. We have enormous respect for Warby Parker. They kind of paved the way for direct-to-consumer online. And we would say in terms of quality we're really trying to be really in the top-tier bracket so to say and Warby Parker is probably a slightly more mass-market. But you know we're doing something very similar in some sense. All out tannery is more than 100 years old so we're working with partners who where our business model is a splash of cold water in their faces. You know, when you try to explain to them that we sell stuff only online, we don't have a store, and that customers are willing to 4 months to get their products delivered, it kind of, I guess that must've been the similar story to what Dave and the guys at Warby Parker experienced when they entered the industry and talked to their partners. So we take it as a compliment because they are a clearly direct-to-consumer leader within their vertical and that's the ambition we have too for the leather goods industry, we want to be number one in this thing.

Kunle: Yeah, I picked up on a comment online and one of your customers said your products are actually significantly better than Dunhill and Ferragamo's which in itself speaks volumes, especially from a third-party.

Roman: Yeah, thank you.

Kunle: So yeah, that's quite interesting. Let's talk a little bit about your brand story. Heritage is quite important, the Scandinavian brand. I guess, how important is your story and could you sort of brief our listeners on how you put together your story, and what it is, what it encompasses?

Roman: The story. That's the really great question. The story has been, it's been a very personal one. So the narrative up to now has been about the hurdle Jen and I faced and how the market has a gap of, you know there's clearly a gap in the market for the leather nerds, which is basically full-grain vegetable tanned leather bags for less than $500. And that's clearly a niche. But there were other people out there that felt the same way. You know for us the story was you know partially connecting with a community that felt the same way and talking about how we were going to solve this problem. So our story is very much centered around how we were looking for a laptop bag and the search for that, and how we tried to come up with a solution ourselves. It's also you know, a part of that story which we don't emphasize with these words, but it is that anti-luxury movement where you kind of want, we're seeking out like-minded people who don't need a flashy logo on the bag to make a statement. You know, who believe in the same ethos we have which is minimalism and the belief that high-quality leather speaks for itself. So that's been very much the story until now and we see that we're a big hit with the early adopters. The question Jen and I kind of discuss or talk about every day is: how do we go beyond early adopters? You know we had a fantastic first year with almost $1 million in revenue. And yeah, how do we go beyond that, and going about beyond that would involve us not changing the narrative, staying true to it, but also adding some kind of an emotion and building a scalable brand.

Kunle: You've touched on a lot of things. One's the anti-luxury which I absolutely love. And then the other the second is how do you scale? What are the plans ahead, from a scalability standpoint, are you looking at? You've got the press, we're going to talk about that later. You're building the awareness, but how are you going to get into consumers beyond early adopters?

Roman: So maybe if we take a quick recap of our first year. It was very much, you know word-of-mouth, community-based, hustling, you know doing growth hacks, you know kind of like inspired by what we saw Tim Ferris's blog and all of these guides you have out there, reaching out to blogs. Next year we see ourselves having a heavier reliance on paid marketing. So part of it is going to be a traditional channels, you know like Facebook, with Instagram ads, opening up Pinterest. So paid marketing is going to be a large portion of how we're going to get eyeballs on our brand. The second part is creating a visual identity that goes with the brand ethos. So you know upgrading the looks of our photos and creating something very distinct that kind of fuels our outreach to the press and the bloggers.

Kunle: That sounds about right, especially with regards to paid media. Because that's scalable really, and measurable at the same time. Especially when it's backed up with the visuals, with proper visuals and now with video, with shots from video. I can see it having legs and you've had the proof of concept from crowdfunding anyway and from the your existing customers in Year 1 which is brilliant. Okay, right. So where are your bags made? Are they handcrafted in your studios? How do you make your bags, and where?

Jen: Our bags are made manufactured in China.

Kunle: Okay.

Jen: And we're actually using the same supply chain as most of the top luxury brands. China has some of the best factories. I know that China sometimes gets a bad rap but there are really good factories there and it took us a long time to find the right partner for us, but we're super happy with them and it's been great to work with them throughout this journey.

Kunle: That's interesting. You mentioned that you were in the Paris leather show or exhibition earlier. So do you source the leather from Europe and then have been manufactured in China?

Jen: Yep, that's exactly right.

Kunle: Okay.

Roman: That's exactly right. Yeah, actually it's funny. The supply chain for most luxury brands is set up that way. I mean the luxury handbag industry is pretty crazy. We're talking about a $50 billion dollar market. So we're talking about millions of bags, not thousands, produced every year. And it's a given that there is not enough Italian artisans producing millions of bags every year. And the great thing with China is that things are scalable.

Kunle: Exactly.

Roman: We have the best of both worlds. We get leather from Europe but we have, you know, excellent craftsmanship in China.

Kunle: Absolutely.

Roman: The industry's been there for the past 15 - 20 years actually.

Jen: Yeah.

Roman: So we're really happy.

Kunle: Yeah, the biggest minimal brand, Apple, has it designed in California as they claim and everything else is done in China and brought back to sell back in China and the rest of the world, so yeah.

Roman: Yeah.

Kunle: Okay let's talk about crowdfunding. I'm very, very excited to have you guys on especially given the fact that your business pretty much launched through crowdfunding. There were numerous options available at the time, you know for startup entrepreneurs like yourself. Why did you finally choose crowdfunding as an option to kick-start and launch your business?

Jen: Yep. So our first production one was going to cost tens of thousands of dollars. We estimated $70,000 to meet all the minimal order requirements of all of our suppliers. And we did not have $70,000 to put into production. Nor did we want to be the ones taking bets into what designs would sell and what colors would sell and parking all of our money into inventory when we didn't even know if people wanted to buy our stuff. We didn't want... so faced with this need to somehow come up with $70,000, we thought, okay, we could raise money from investors or we could crowdfund. And with investors, we didn't want to take that route because for us, we wanted to build Linjer as a brand that we could be proud of and we wanted to put quality at the forefront. And what we've seen in other brands, other consumer brands in the fashion space is that once you start raising money, suddenly your incentives are more like your investor's incentives where they're trying to cash out, they want your valuation to continually grow. And then you're suddenly playing a different game, you're not playing like a 20-year game where you are trying to build a brand, but you're trying to maximize revenue growth every single month. So we really shied away from that because we wanted to make sure that we had control over our brand and over the quality.

Roman: Yeah, it was really a question of speed versus quality. For us, we're okay not going at a hundred miles an hour because quality is everything to us. We want our products to be perfect when they go out the doors to our customers. It's not like we're launching a tech product and we can just push a new update. It's very complex making a physical product. So that was one of the main drivers. As Jen said it was one: find out what sells, don't take any risky bets when you don't know if people want it. And number two is: the quality play versus investors.

Kunle: Yeah that makes a lot of sense guys because also that essence of the brand, that the longer you have it the more you know what it is in the long haul. And when or if investments ever come you know they see something mature at hand.

Roman: Exactly.

Kunle: And quite established. Okay, just an offside question, just a side question. One: are your lines, are they timeless in a sense or do you release things in season? Are they quite seasonal or are they kind of timeless designs?

Roman: Yeah, I mean when we design our products we want them to be timeless, that's the intention. We want as many say, 'slow fashion'. When you purchase a product of ours we want it to last you for years to come.

Kunle: I like that.

Roman: So that kind of makes them timeless. That being said you know, we will have limited runs of selected colors for existing styles over coming seasons because we see a lot of inbound requests from customers. There is going to be some seasonality to it but that's not how we think about our assortment when we design and produce them.

Kunle: That makes sense, that makes sense okay let's get into this, your crowdfunding. You managed, from what I could see online, $182,000 from Indiegogo, and approximately $330,000 when I did the calculations, when I did my currency conversions if it was accurate, $330,000 from Kickstarter.

Roman: That's right.

Kunle: Could you talk us through the process. You mentioned earlier you did Indiegogo first and then went on to Kickstarter. Could you just shed some more light on how you built out the campaign and how you saw success, basically, on the crowdfunding platforms?

Roman: Sure. Sure. So yeah, Indiegogo was our first campaign. I think at the time of closing the campaign, we were at $150,000 US and then the remaining $33,000 US has come after, because Indiegogo allows you to continue to sell on their platform after the ending.

Kunle: I see. Okay.

Roman: And then the Kickstarter actually ended at $360,000 US.

Kunle: Wow.

Roman: But the Norwegian Kroner has fallen quite significantly ever since...

Kunle: I see. The oil prices, I suppose, which...

Roman: Exactly. So we've done close to half a million, or half of our sales our first year, was through crowdfunding platforms

Kunle: [laughs] That's amazing.

Roman: So yeah. So the first campaign with Indiegogo, that was the campaign where we were really, if I could use one word to describe it, it would be 'hustling'. We did a lot, we were new to the game, everything - from content production, being the video, and the photography, and the copy, to the actual marketing, you know, getting the prelaunch email list together to marketing throughout the campaign. And in our toolkit we didn't have paid marketing. We didn't even consider it as an option.

Kunle: Wow.


Roman: So what we did is prior to the launch we found communities online. We told them that you know, we're going to launch soon. And then we reached out to friends and family that we thought were within our target demographic; told them to tell their friends about it, you know, email their office email list etc. So you know, think of all these unscalable things to create something scalable, that's basically what we did.

Jen: Yeah, we also reached out to bloggers.

Roman: Bloggers, yeah exactly. Which was a huge pain. We reached out to 400 and I think at end of it, 30 of them covered us, and of those 30 only 3 or 4 really made up 80% of that revenue, you know, so...

Kunle: Wait, 3 bloggers made up 30% of your Indiegogo $150,000...?

Roman: No.

Jen: All of our blogger revenue.

Kunle: Your blogger revenue okay. All right. Okay.

Roman: Yeah, 80% of the blogger revenue. So out of those, 3 out of 30 was really the ones that (inaudible 00:28:03).

Kunle: Do you mind sharing the 3 blogs that

Roman: Sure, they're a bit, we wanted to keep that a secret, but you know they're...

Kunle: Fair enough.

Roman: But the characteristics of those blogs are that they are not full-time bloggers, professional bloggers, they do it because there's a shared passion for menswear or fashion. So that's a commonality we saw.

Kunle: And how long... Go ahead, Jen, please.

Jen: I'm sorry, I was going to say I think that for us these kinds of bloggers worked best because we were really new to the game and didn't have a lot of money to spend on blog placements. Like a lot of bloggers, especially if you're looking at the female bloggers, they'll charge you hundreds of dollars or thousands of dollars.

Kunle: It's paid. Exactly.

Jen: Yeah.

Roman: And all of the ones that covered us were free, they didn't even ask for a product actually.

Kunle: Wow

Jen: They took a chance on us.

Roman: And they just really believed in what we're doing, I mean they genuinely saw the gap too.

Kunle: And how long did it run for, the Indiegogo campaign?

Roman: It ran for 60 days, right.

Kunle: 60 days, okay.

Roman: Yeah. So we did the $150,000 over 60 days. The Kickstarter that did $360,000 ran for 37 days. So it was more than double in almost half the time so it was really, we learnt a lot between the first launch and the Kickstarter launch.

Kunle: Okay. So what was your target in Indiegogo and when did you surpass that target?

Jen: So the target that we listed was $50,000 and we reached that within 48 hours.

Kunle: Wow. And how did you feel?

Jen: It was incredible.

Roman: It was great. I couldn't sleep the first night. Because we launched, when did we launch the campaign?

Jen: We launched it at 12:01 Pacific Time.

Roman: Like midnight San Francisco time. And Jen was going to go into work the day after and of course like the first 10 minutes we had like 3-4 thousand dollars and then it just kept ticking up. And then by the time we woke up it was at 28,000 and then by the time, it just, at 47 hours in we had $50,000. That was really exhilarating. So that was a great 48 hours.

Kunle: Okay. Did you put any work in play prior to the $50,000, or was that more or less organic from Indiegogo's traffic?

Roman: No.

Jen: Actually very little of it was organic.

Roman: None of it was organic.

Jen: Usually when you launch a crowdfunding campaign, you really have to drive all the traffic and drive all of your sales and all of your pledges and rewards for the first few days. It's only after you kind of show really great momentum on either platform that you might get highlighted. And then you'll start to get traffic from the platforms.

Roman: Yeah. Exactly.

Kunle: Okay. I'm on the page right now. Stunning video, good story, great story. There's also the as-seen-in's: Wall Street Journal, GQ, Racks and Inc. All really top-tier press platforms. And stunning images. So you had to put a lot of work to get this out. Very, very interesting. Okay. And so what were your takeaways from Indiegogo through to Kickstarter?

Roman: That's a great question. So number one: make sure you have an email list. So you want to have at least... so whatever your goal is, let's say it's $50,000 US as us, you want to make sure you can hit that within the first 24 hours of launch.

Kunle: Wow.

Roman: And so whatever you do prior to launch, make sure you have whatever number of customers you need lined up prior to the launch and ready to pledge within the first 48 hours. And ideally you have twice that amount. So that's number one: have a really strong prelaunch list. Number two: focus on the 'why', the reason people would back your project is greater than just buying a bag. It needs to be about, either two founders wanting to change the world or changing an industry like what we're doing. I think people back people, at the end of the day.

Kunle: Yes.

Roman: So make sure that comes through, be authentic. And then number three is: definitely use paid marketing. If you're going to do crowdfunding, you have to have an element of paid marketing to be able to do what we did, which is a campaign that's $360,000.

Kunle: How do you, what platform do you buy the traffic work or execute the paid marketing?

Roman: That's going to be predominantly Facebook. We used a couple of other platforms too. But you know it's going to be 80% Facebook and 20% split across other things.

Kunle: Gotcha.

Roman: Facebook is by far the most efficient. The way we look at it, we think next 12 to 18 months Facebook is still going to be...

Jen: Affordable.

Roman: Affordable. It's not cheap. It's not expensive, but it's...

Kunle: At the moment yeah.

Roman: Yeah. And 18 months from now it's probably going to be very expensive and not affordable. But like everything else, there's going to be a new platform. I mean there was a time when Google was affordable. And I'm sure there's going to be 3 - 4 new platforms popping up in the next 12 to 18 months, whether it's Snapchat, Pinterest, or any of these new guys. Someone is going to come. So just make sure that you use an element of paid marketing. Actually what Jen and I do is we manage a lot of paid marketing for other crowd funders, that's what allowed us to bootstrap. So we've done that for a lot of other campaigns now. And they've all had phenomenal results. They've all been north of six digits and it's because they're using paid marketing.

Kunle: You guys should put a course together on how to... [laughs]

Roman: Yeah.

Kunle: Alright. Okay. Right, I absolutely, absolutely, absolutely agree with you. Facebook is now the number one discovery engine in the world. It used be TV but with the amount of demographic data brands have at their disposal with Facebook, it is just a no-brainer for brands. And it's just quite fascinating how you mapped that to a crowd funding campaign to gain traction, which is fascinating. Okay. Now I have another question with regards to the optimization, I'm sure listeners would really want to hear this. So if there were like two elements, we could make it three, on page, on the content, within the confines of Indiegogo or Kickstarter, where should they spend 80% of their time on. You know elements like video, your story, press coverage, where do you think you get the most leverage from content within your listing on a crowdfunding site?

Roman: Wow that's a really tough question actually.

Jen: Yeah. I personally would say the video and testimonials.

Roman: Yeah. I agree.

Jen: The video because you want to... that's your platform for telling your story and that's a way you can really engage with your viewers emotionally. And then secondly with testimonials what we found was that a lot of, I mean even with our web shop, what we see is that a lot of people who are about to buy our products or are thinking about buying our products will go to some other website or look up like 'Linjer bag review' or something and then they'll come back and purchase. And especially when you have such a high ticket item like ours and people have to put hundreds of dollars up front and wait five months to get it, it's so, so powerful to have somebody respected vouch for you.

Kunle: And the reviews are external, you said, Jen. So you want to have that prepped out where you have given to whoever, to bloggers and to publishers who are to publish a review about your product, so search is really prepped up with their content, not you saying it, but other people saying it, is that more or less?

Jen and Roman: Yep, exactly.

Roman: And it has to be someone reputable. It doesn't need to be a brand name, like our reviews were not done by like Inc. or GQ. It was done by really renowned people in the menswear community.

Kunle: Okay.

Roman: And it just needs to be someone who is an expert who is not corruptible, where you know that they're not doing 10 sponsored posts in a row, when it's just cranking out for money. It needs to be authentic. So you know what Jen said is you know, we did our own testimonials but prior to that I would put at least 50% of your effort into product. Make sure it's a great product.

Kunle: Of course.

Roman: But I think a lot of crowdfunding people go in and they don't even, they haven't even mapped out small details like packaging and these really essential things. Because you're selling something online and the only tangible experience is when you actually receive the parcel. So you just want everything to be flawless in that regard and make sure that you have all your bases covered. Even before it goes out to the reviewer, you know.

Kunle: Talking about packaging, we have to talk about the unboxing experience so and I'm going to just pack that for later. Okay, fantastic. Which is your favorite platform besides the money you raised, Kickstarter or Indiegogo, and why?

Roman: Yeah. We have a strong preference for Indiegogo. It's just because from a technical standpoint, the platform is superior if you're going to rely on paid marketing. So they allow you to put a Facebook Pixel on checkout, which is really strong, so you can re-target. Which is going to drive your costs of acquisition down substantially. So that's number one. Number two: they also allow you to manipulate your page a lot more, so you can have your own proprietary design, without being forced to have to use the typefaces Kickstarter is limited to. Which is very important to us because that's all about brand. Number three: they also give you full control of removing and adding perks throughout the campaign. And lastly they have a couple things that are really cool which allows you to export the emails of your backers throughout the campaign, which again you can use for paid marketing or can use outside the platform which, to be honest, is a lot more convenient. You want to communicate with your customers by email, you want the ability to just export data and parse it throughout the campaign. For us, we were trying to take a snapshot shot every week trying to figure out what colors were selling more so we could pool our leather order ahead of time. With Kickstarter, it's a nightmare. You really have to go and do it manually, you know, copy and paste line by line, you can't export stuff. And Indiegogo has that. So there's just like small details, it's just technically a superior platform.

Jen: And then in our experience, Indiegogo has superior customer service as well. Which is really important to campaign owners when...

Roman: Yeah, they give you a campaign specialist, even, so that's huge. Very few people know that but you could, if you are running a campaign on Indiegogo and you reach out, you'll actually have a designated campaign specialist. So they'll help you wherever they can and however they can which is a huge plus.

Kunle: Wow, interesting. I was actually expecting you to say Kickstarter because Kickstarter has almost become the poster child for crowdfunding, you know, in the mainstream. But with the control and from a seller standpoint or from a lister standpoint, I could see the flexibility and the appeal for Indiegogo. Which begs my next question. Who came up with the idea of going for Kickstarter after Indiegogo? I'm not sure how often this is done but, yeah, is it typical in crowdfunding campaigns to go on both? And how did you do it, you know, it's quite bold.

Jen: Yeah, so I think in the crowdfunding world there is this belief that Kickstarter has a lot more traffic then Indiegogo. It's probably true, I don't know what the exact numbers are, but after we ran a couple of campaigns on Indiegogo we were thinking okay, maybe if we did our next campaign on Kickstarter would get a whole ton of organic traffic from Kickstarter and that would really boost our campaign. And what we actually saw was that we didn't get a lot of organic traffic from Kickstarter. In fact I think we got less traffic from Kickstarter because when we were on Indiegogo, Indiegogo has these sorting algorithms that promote projects or that really draw attention to projects that are doing well. Whereas Kickstarter, it has a bit more of a random selection process and we were never featured by Kickstarter but we were featured heavily by Indiegogo. So we actually got a lot... Indiegogo actually helped drive a lot of traffic to our campaign and helped increase our pledges a lot.

Kunle: And were you getting sales on both your website and Indiegogo concurrently or was it just Indiegogo?

Roman: Throughout the campaign the first 60 days we had it solely on Indiegogo. So we shut off everything so we could pump the number on Indiegogo and Kickstarter to the maximum. And as soon as the campaign officially ends you know and you go in transition to post campaign sales, we'll switch on our shop. So that's basically what we did. Yeah.

Jen: Yeah. But back to Indiegogo versus Kickstarter, this idea that... so a lot of people choose to go on Kickstarter because they think there will be a lot more traffic there. But really what we've learned is that at the end of the day you really have to drive all the traffic yourself.

Kunle: Okay, okay. Given the fact that you generate all the traffic through to Kickstarter, why did Kickstarter raise more money than Indiegogo?

Jen: I think it was because of what we were selling.

Kunle: I see.

Jen: So the Kickstarter campaign was us introducing our women's collection as well as a unisex weekender bag.

Kunle: Okay, so there was a lot more on offer.

Romans: Yeah. And we were targeting women, you know

Jen: And I think the average woman owns something like nine handbags, at least. [laughs]

Roman: Yeah, some crazy number.

Jen: Yeah and the average man probably own like one or two.

Roman: If even. It's probably going to be a backpack.

Kunle: Wow. Okay.

Romans: No, and then it's also number two is that we spent money on marketing. We didn't do that for our first campaign. The second campaign we really spent paid marketing. If you actually go on our Kicktrack and you look at our daily chart, you'll see we only spent... we kind of figured out paid marketing after halfway into the campaign. And then you'll see this hockey stick growth where we turn on paid marketing fully. So you know, if we could do that campaign over again we would have spent paid marketing from day number one, and it probably would have been three times larger, the campaign, because we think we would've hit half a million US halfway in, which would have resulted into a lot of press. So you know, there's a lot of things paid marketing helps you do and our biggest regret if anything is not doing it from day one.

Kunle: Yeah. And I'd like to unpick the paid marketing on Facebook which was the primary platform. Was it visually driven, or was it visual and video?

Roman: It was image. We used image, we didn't use video ads. Video ads on Facebook are still very, very cheap compared to image ads, just because Facebook really wants to roll out video and kind of kill YouTube. So you know they made video very, very cheap. The problem is, as a browser on Facebook, the journey from watching a video to actually clicking through is very long, right. Why would you click through to watch the video and you are not interested?

Jen: And also the mobile experience.

Roman: Yeah, mobile experience. It's just, they haven't figured it out yet, that's at least what we think and we still think image is the best way to go.

Kunle: Okay. Were you guys Facebook experts prior to the campaign or did you have any training prior to the campaign or was it pretty much just learnt on the go?

Roman: Yeah so both Jen and I have quite a bit of experience with paid marketing. Me from Rocket Internet, you know managing the budgets. And we spent hundreds and thousands of dollars per day at my old job. And Jen was heading growth for the biggest international market at Square. She was also overlooking marketing budgets. So we both have a very strong understanding of the principles and the fundamentals of paid marketing. But you know, this campaign was our first time with hands-on experience, actually running the ads, and with the creative and everything. So it was a great experience. Now we really know it. Now we run 5-6 campaigns and we help out other people manage their paid marketing.

Kunle: That's amazing.

Roman: Yeah, it's been a real journey the past four months. It's a platform we are very... you know paid marketing is something we're very comfortable with right now. I would say we know more than the average because we talked to a lot of people in the industry. And in particular for crowdfunding, that's really where we want to specialize.

Kunle: Your strengths, right. You guys should spinoff an agency off the back of your experience.

Roman: Yeah, exactly.

Kunle: Okay, right. Let's quickly talk about delivery times. You mentioned four or five months wait times. What kind of delivery times did you promise? And did you hit target on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter?

Roman: Yep. So we promised four months, or four and a half months I think... was it four or five months?

Jen: Yeah. So actually with our Indiegogo campaign we structured it so we had stretch goals. And so initially what you could order was like a briefcase in black or cognac. And then once we reached a certain funding level, we said, okay, we'll unlock two different colors and you can change your order to this if you want to. And so we had this extra layer of complexity where we didn't know whether we were going to make the Navy and Mocha stuff until halfway through the campaign. So we promised initially that the regular products would be sent out in three or four months. And then that the stretch goals would be sent out in five or six months. And we tried to... we reduced the lead time by actually placing our order for leather before we knew how much we needed to order. So we just made an estimate and then committed with our suppliers so that they could get started.

Kunle: Okay, okay. And you hit target?

Jen: Yep.

Roman: That's right.

Kunle: Nice one. Okay and has Kickstarter and Indiegogo led onto like repeat customers and you know, like raving fans?

Roman: Definitely. It definitely has. I mean we've gotten around 2,000 customers across the two platforms and you know all of them I would say are die-hard fans. We get messages all the time from them, they're really happy with the products.

Jen: Yeah, and we've only had one return and that was because something couldn't be delivered in time for somebody's birthday.

Roman: Yeah. Exactly. For someone's father's birthday, right. So yeah we've only had one return which is, you know we're really phenomenally happy with that number. Yeah, it's just been phenomenal.

Jen: We see familiar names pop up in our, checking out in our store and a lot of past customers are now referring their wives, girlfriends, sisters, for [inaudible 00:48:13] bags.

Kunle: There's that word-of-mouth engine going, just the product speaking for itself and the brand experience.

Roman: That's right. That's right.

Kunle: Awesome. Good stuff. Because a lot of people focus a lot on the marketing and shouting rather than the core, which is the product. And then using marketing as a leverage, really. Okay, let's go into who are your target demographic and how did you identify them really quickly when you're both launching the campaign? Actually, sorry, before I ask that. Do the crowdfunding platforms actually give you the email addresses of your customers?

Jen and Roman: Yes, it does.

Kunle: They do, okay.

Roman: It's sort of at the end of the campaign because on Kickstarter you're allowed to cancel. They only charge your credit card once the campaign is over. So up until the last minutes of the campaign you can cancel your pledge. So throughout the campaign of Kickstarter you don't get the emails until after it's ended. With Indiegogo you get it right on the spot.

Kunle: Okay. So you're engaging, you have substantial email database at the minute I suppose, from both platforms. Okay, right. So how did you find your target demographic initially and how did you identify your true fans? You said this first year has been really' the early adopters'. So could you talk to us real quick through that process of discovering this core customer base, please?

Jen: Yeah, so when you think about who our core customers are, I think just broadly, we think of them as people who really appreciate quality and style. And people who aren't out to buy a bag because it has some logo on it and it communicate some sense of status. But who people who want to buy a bag because it's beautifully designed and it's not ostentatious and it's high-quality. And as for how we identify those communities all early on, I think a lot of it was finding online communities and finding bloggers who had the same values as us and connecting with them and their communities.

Kunle: Yeah, and I came across some communities on some forums like PurseBlog and Styleforum. Okay. What about the press? I've seen you in SF, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, GQ, Detail Magazine, Wall Street Journal and the like. Do you guys manage your PR yourself or do you hire an agency?

Jen: Yeah, we do PR ourselves, and it's not something that we can sit down and focus on all the time, unfortunately, I wish we had more bandwidth for it. But a lot of the coverage that we've gotten has come through connections. And I think that's just how it goes. If you're not working with an agency, and we can't afford to work with any agency right now, it's getting introductions to people, making yourself helpful to them, to reporters and bloggers as much as you can.

Roman: Yeah, I mean we always, every time we talk to someone we admire or who we kinda look up to, we always end the conversation or ask in the conversation, like okay you know, how do you get the word out there about the brand? Like, how do you get press? That's often the question we ask. It's a formula we haven't cracked yet. We've talked with tons of journalists and they say they hate being contacted by agencies but they accept them as middlemen in the industry. So we are still in this position where we're too small to hire an agency because they are really expensive if you want to go for the top-tier ones. And between that and between putting ourselves in front of journalists constantly, which I think we need to do in our second year business.

Kunle: That's quite interesting. Very, very interesting that you know you guys do it yourself and you've been able to get to top-tier publications. Good stuff. Okay, what about, how do you harness social media for driving brand awareness? Have you started your paid social media campaigns or have all your social media updates and promotions really been organic?

Roman: Yeah, so most of it has been organic up to now. We've only spent paid marketing throughout our campaigns. But what we're doing now is we're spending some paid marketing to create brand awareness. I'm sure anyone who's listening to this podcast is probably familiar with Facebook look-alikes where you use your traffic data, so you place a Facebook pixel on your website. Facebook will then know who's on your website and then you can use that to find similar people. So we're doing that to create some more awareness around our brand. But beyond that we're not really doing anything. We're not focusing on increasing the 'Likes' of Facebook because you'll have to spend money to have your post show again. So we're very much focused on acquiring as many email addresses as we can.

Kunle: Okay. Okay. And direct sales I suppose.

Roman: Yep.

Kunle: Okay right, what about celebrities and brand advocates for awareness.? Are you using any celebrities or Instagram models, quote unquote, to drive awareness?

Roman: No.

Jen: We wish we knew some celebrities who want to model our stuff.

Roman: Even finding Instagram celebrities, I don't know, it's such a crowded market where Instagram bloggers are expecting cash money.

Jen: Yeah, it's become very transactional. And our brand is really built on authenticity and it's hard for us to come up with an arrangement that would work with people who, just are…there is a lot to give them.

Kunle: Yeah, it's, you're right, it's absolutely transactional, everybody who's gained traction on Instagram through a model or some celebrity on Instagram has had to pay them.

Jen: Yeah, we understand the value that they bring to the table, it's just we need to find a good balance ourselves.

Roman: Yeah. And it's very imbursenary because, we understand that they have to pay their bills, giving them a bag wouldn't pay their rent, right, it is a job. Getting dressed going out there and getting photographed. It is actually a job because we've done photo shoots now and we know how big of a pain it can be. That being said though, it's really hard to go to an Instagram influencer or a blogger who's covering any brand that comes his or her way. And we don't want to be associated with H&M, someone who just dresses up in H&M and then carries our bag. It's fast fashion versus slow fashion. And it's just very hard to find that balance and super-hard to scale, to be honest

Kunle: Yes. Pairing and association is really, really important.

Roman: It really is. And it can do more damage than good.

Kunle: It can. Absolutely. Absolutely. There's a reason why you know Bentley and Breitling joined forces. Okay, right. Let's really move forward, I didn't think the conversation was going to be an hour-long but it's that interesting anyway. Just being respectful of people's time. Just growing the business, besides crowdfunding, how have you managed to grow the business thus far? I know it's been one year, the window has really been short, but so far so good. Out of crowdfunding, what have you latched onto, and what seems to be working?

Roman: I think next year of growth is going to come from, A) paid marketing, B) widening our assortment, listening to our customers and designing stuff that they are asking for. So we're already working on that. And then number three is going to be PR and non-paid channels. Like trying to get the word out there by reaching out to journalists and telling the story about Linjer.

Kunle: Okay. Are you guys going to get any funding, are you opening open to funding opportunities?

Roman: It's definitely something that we don't want to rule out but we don't have any immediate needs. If we were to take on funding it would have to be a strategic investor who's built brands of similar quality or targeting the same persona as we're doing right now. And we haven't come across an investor that fits that criteria. So yeah, it's an open question we would say.

Kunle: Okay, okay, so an alliance. Okay, now let's start out with what I call the evergreen questions. They are really quick you know, you could just take a few seconds to answer them if you like. So yeah, lightning round so to speak, other people call it. Right. So what has been your best mistake to date? By that I mean a setback that's giving you the biggest feedback.

Roman: Yeah, so in the beginning we designed seven different styles of bags. And we kind of had a shotgun approach. We designed everything and anything that we saw as a core assortment in the category for men's bags. But what we didn't go down was on was what we would actually buy ourselves. And those were the bags that actually sold the most. So I think what we didn't do well with our first collection was staying focused. And staying on brand in terms of, not just communication, but also in the assortment, or the products. So that's probably one thing we would've done differently.

Kunle: Okay. What parting piece of advice do you have for people considering using Kickstarter to launch their direct-to-consumer or DTC e-commerce business?

Roman: Make sure it's a category that's fairly large and defensible. You know you see direct-to-consumer stuff all the time. I got an email from some people who want to launch a direct-to-consumer French towel business online. And it's just such a small niche, it kind of makes me nervous on their behalf on whether or not that's going to succeed, just because the addressable market is very small. And yeah, so I think just make sure the addressable market is big enough.

Kunle: Gotcha. You guys are in a $50 billion industry. What about existing direct-to-consumer or DTC ventures looking to revive their brand? What marketing piece of advice do you have for them?

Roman: To revive their brand. Jen?

Jen: I think it's... branding is all about knowing who you are and thinking about how you want to convey that.

Roman: Yeah, I agree. So it's just going back to the roots and finding your own identity and making sure that flows throughout your video or your webpage or your images or even your local...

Jen: Just any touch point with your customer.

Roman: Exactly.

Kunle: Any touch points, okay. What books or resources would you recommend to listeners from a personal development or a business standpoint?

Jen: For a business, I really love Shopify's blog.

Kunle: Nice. I was on it today actually.

Roman: Yeah, it's a great blog, they did such a phenomenal job. My recommendation would be Business Maharajas. It's a great book covering tycoons in India and their path to riches, basically. And it's really cool, they tell about everyone from Tata to utter tycoons who started off at gasoline stations filling cars, so yeah, it's a great book.

Kunle: I've just bookmarked it on my Amazon. Okay, finally could you let our audience know how they can find and reach out to you guys?

Roman: Sure thing. Yeah, drop us a line at hello (at) Linjer (dot) co. We're more than happy to chat or answer any emails you may have. You know we do offer marketing services for other crowdfunding campaigns, so do reach out for us if you need anything.

Kunle: Hello (at) Linjer (dot) co. I will link to it from the show notes.

Roman: Perfect.

Kunle: It's been an absolute pleasure having you Jen and Roman on the show, thank you so much for coming and our listeners will be appreciative of all the golden nugget you've had to share on your journey with Linjer.

Jen: Thank you.

Roman: Thank you so much for having us.

Kunle: Cheers. Best of luck and yeah, thank you again.

Thank you for sticking to the very end of today's episode and hope you found Linjer's crowdfunding startup story inspiring. I mean, 13 months on, they haven't done bad, they've hit close to seven figures in 13 months. They launched through crowdfunding, it's a very interesting story. Model excellence, that's my principal. They have shared a lot of tips on launching and promoting a crowdfunding campaign. Hope you picked up actionable tips from this episode. I'll share their details in the show notes. You just need to head over to 2X eCommerce.com to download the show notes and read the full transcript of this episode. On another note, if you haven't left us a review, please don't forget to leave us one on iTunes, as it only takes about a minute and it does a ton for the exposure of this show. For more updates and tips to help grow your store, be sure to sign up to our email newsletter. The email newsletter, I guess I only send out about three or four emails a month and one's about a webinar, others about the show or really important tips I think will help grow you you're in e-commerce store or e-commerce business. So until the next show, adios. Bye-bye.

[End clip] Thanks for listening to this episode of 2X eCommerce. To help you get more actionable insights and eCommerce growth hacks that will help you 2X your online retail business, hop over to 2xeCommerce.com

It’s a blog dedicated to eCommerce and multichannel marketing run by the show’s host, Kunle Campbell. 2XeCommerce.com is packed full of articles and guides to help increase traffic to your store, increase repeat purchases and average order value.

Thanks for listening. Visit 2XeCommerce.com

[Theme music, fade out]

About the host:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

Learn from eCommerce Entrepreneurs & Marketing Experts


Get Free Email Updates by Signing Up Below:

Podcasts you might like