Top 3 Lessons from When Kickstarter Blew Up My Life: A Guest Post

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:

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

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Gareth, thanks so much for sharing these insights! If any readers have questions for Gareth, feel free to post them in the comments below.

15 Comments on “Top 3 Lessons from When Kickstarter Blew Up My Life: A Guest Post

  1. Hey all – like Jamey mentioned, I’m more than happy to answer any and all questions! Manufacturing can be hard – may we all not make the same mistakes I made the first time around.

    1. Kudos to you, Gareth! I remember admiring your courage to face all the negativity back when I first saw it on /r/wicked_edge. You really took it on the chin!

      Maybe it’s time to upgrade my Parker 24c =)

  2. HI Gareth. Great article. A friend of my sons did some very stupid things while drunk. While I was driving him to court, I told him that we all make mistakes. It’s how we deal with them that show what kind of man we are. We are hoping to start our Kickstarter campaign in October and, also being Canadian, were wondering if you could give us a few tips.

    1. By going all-in with personal savings, relying on a belief that “making it right” would resonate enough with our customers that the risk would pay itself off – fortunately I won that bet! Thanks for the kind words!

  3. Very interesting read, knowing your a creator with integrity made it a very easy decision to back your Model T. Good luck with your current and future campaigns.

  4. They say that people are more likely to leave negative feedback as opposed to positive feedback, so when you get letters of appreciation for the good you’ve done, it’s gotta make you feel great! A compliment balances out 10 complaints ;)

  5. Respect is earned, and you earned it, Gareth. Perhaps a little metaphysical, but people appreciate honourable behaviour, because it lifts their spirits. It resonates and stays with us long after the action.

  6. Gareth, Is there no recourse when it comes to dealing with the first manufacturer? It seems to me it was a case of fraud.
    Very happy for you, as an honest person, to see things worked out well.

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