29 March 2016 | 15 Comments
Every now and then I read an article about a Kickstarter project that goes wrong. These stories seem to get way more attention than all of the other projects that are fulfill rewards largely without a hitch. Perhaps the headline, “Project Creator Does What They Promised to Do” isn’t as sexy as a Kickstarter fail.
So when I started reading this article about a project that ran into some issues, I thought I knew the ending. But I was wrong. Way wrong. The creator, Gareth Everard of Rockwell Razors, put his backers first and made things right. As a result, many of his original backers supported his next project, which is now live on Kickstarter.
I asked Gareth to sum up what he learned from the haphazard first project. Here’s what he has to say:
I started Rockwell Razors with a Kickstarter campaign in the middle of my senior year of college. After our campaign (we raised just under $150,000), we encountered massive manufacturing issues that resulted in a product that disappointed many of our 2500 backers and early customers.
The products that were shipped didn’t look anything like the manufactured prototypes that we’d approved before full production, and we had trusted their QC team to ship directly to a shipping facility for fulfillment. Our (American) manufacturer (who we’d already paid) essentially dismissed our inquiries into what happened, and kept everything we’d paid them.
After seeing a number of our backers were disappointed, I committed to them that we would make it right. We found a new (still American) manufacturer, and produced a new batch of re-engineered razors, and I QC’d every single piece from this new production run myself to ensure the quality was there.
We then shipped a free replacement to every single backer from our original Kickstarter campaign. The reviews have been phenomenal, and we’ve successfully made it right with thousands of backers who’ve been completely blown away by the effort.
Below are three of the main lessons I learned from this tumultuous Kickstarter experience. VentureBeat was kind enough to allow me to publish a guest post on the full story of the Rockwell Kickstarter campaign summarized about, give it a read if you’re curious about the full story! On to the lessons:
- Trust, but verify – We blindly trusted professionals without verifying their work at several points in the manufacturing of our product – our campaign, backers, and personal sanity suffered as a result. In the future, I will continue to trust people, professional or not, to do the agreed-upon work – but I will never ship products to customers without robust quality assurance processes in place, to verify the work being produced meets the agreed-upon quality standards.
- Keep a level head – I could’ve bailed on my campaign after it went sideways. It was my senior year of school, I had plenty of opportunities to interview for jobs more relevant to my degree. I wouldn’t have been the first campaign creator to bail. But I didn’t. During the darkest times of struggle when working to do right by my backers, and fulfill my campaign, it was entirely on me to keep a level head and push forward. I believe a stoic approach to overcoming adversity allowed me to push through challenges and ultimately have a successful campaign (for more on applied stoicism, I recommend this book by Ryan Holiday).
- Always make it right – It would be an understatement to say things did not go as planned during our campaign. Many of our backers were (understandably) angry, and felt betrayed when they first received a product that didn’t meet their expectations. Ultimately, however, we made it right with every backer by sending out free replacements. Since then I’ve gotten countless emails from backers expressing that because of our efforts to make it right, they would be “customers for life”. Many of these emails came from the same backers that had sent furious emails months earlier. There is so much value in committing to make it right with your early supporters. I believe it will pay dividends for Rockwell in the end.
Ultimately, I found the Kickstarter experience so enriching that I’ve chosen to return to Kickstarter with Rockwell’s newest product, the Rockwell Model T. I’m looking forward to applying all the lessons we learned in our previous campaign to creating a quality product, on time and the first time, and continuing to serve our loyal group of backers.
Gareth, thanks so much for sharing these insights! If any readers have questions for Gareth, feel free to post them in the comments below.