Top 5 tips for successful crowdfunding

This interview has been originally published by Women in Focus.

Kasia Gospos is one incredibly courageous woman. As we are increasingly encouraged to step out of our comfort zone to seek out new experiences, Kasia took a leap of faith from a great height and landed firmly on her feet.

As a successful management consultant in Poland, she couldn’t have imagined the sacrifices and rewards that would come from stretching her career, and herself as a person to the limits. Eight years later, and a world away from her homeland, Kasia is paving the way for change and leading tens of thousands of women as Founder and Publisher of Leaders in Heels, a leading Australian online community and magazine.

One of Kasia’s more recent significant achievements, a successful crowdfunding campaign with the first Make Your Mark leadership notebook in 2014, gave invaluable insights that helped shape her second campaign which is currently live and thriving.

Here this incredible feminist and change-maker shares with us her Leaders in Heels journey from her humble beginnings as a blogger to collaborating with designers and publishers making a positive and unique impact on the complex issues of gender equality.

What inspired the Make Your Mark concept? 
In 2008 I left my life behind in Poland and moved to Australia. In this new world, I encountered women from many different walks of life. I realised that some women succeeded in shaping their career and life, while other women didn’t. Intrigued, I started interviewing successful women in Australia to connect with them, learn from them and then share their experiences with other women. Leaders in Heels was born.

Since my humble beginning as a blogger Leaders in Heels has now hundreds of interviews with successful women and articles covering leadership, success, career development and entrepreneurship. We also organise events, are active in the gender equality space and offer inspirational prints and eBooks. The blog has been visited over a million times!

As an analyst at heart and always curious about why certain women are more successful than the other, I ran my own research and collected over 200 responses from Leaders in Heels readers about what makes a successful female leader. I cleaned the data and grouped the responses into clusters to realise that there were six common traits that they all used in their life.

They were passionate about what they did which gave them energy to stay long hours or not to give up even when the odds were against them. They were creative in achieving their goals no matter if it was about implementing new products or running effective meetings – they looked for innovative ways of doing things. Passion was giving them confidence to stand up for their beliefs and determination to keep going when things were falling apart. And lastly, they were kind in their actions.

These traits are now part of the Leaders in Heels Manifesto which, for me, is a road map to become a leader in every aspect of my life.

The Make Your Mark stationery was created to bring to life the Leaders in Heels Manifesto and help women develop these leadership traits daily by creating a habit.

Who did you collaborate with to create such functional, inspirational and supportive content for Make Your Mark? 
I love the power of collaboration and when women do amazing stuff together. The Make Your Mark journal has been reviewed by Australian leadership experts Ozlem Beldan, Catherine Nolan, Sonia McDonald, Lisa Phillips and Natalie Goldman as well as my mentor, Devika Mohotti. All of these women I met through Leaders in Heels. They’ve also contributed to Leaders in Heels and provided some of the content.

Why crowdfunding and how has it disrupted traditional funding?    
Crowdfunding allows literally anyone with an idea to share the project with the world and start raising funds. There are many amazing projects that were brought to life by creatives who were supported by the crowd, projects that otherwise would not came to live as would be seen as not safe enough for the investors.

As I already had a community of women interested in leadership, crowdfunding seemed to be the most obvious way of raising funds. I see the crowdfunding as an opportunity to validate the idea, gain some momentum in building brand awareness and presale as much as possible.

It is not only about funding but also about doing it quickly and selling quickly. Crowdfunding enables savings in warehousing costs and it is also much more efficient to bulk ship many orders rather than doing it every day or every week in small amounts. I am obsessed about efficiency and automation.

Top 5 tips for starting a crowdfunding campaign 
The first campaign was on StartSomeGood which is designed to crowdfund social projects. This time I decided to try Kickstarter. StartSomeGood is a smaller business and therefore they were really supportive in helping me launch the project. However I can see the benefits of Kickstarter that is much more advanced in terms of analytics. The design and the user experience on the site is top notch. It also offers currency conversion making the experience friendlier to backers from overseas and broader payment methods. It all results in higher conversion rate.

Last time I had only 12 days due to proximity to Christmas and a large upcoming order from one of the leadership courses provider under the condition it was delivered before Christmas. The campaign would be much more successful if I didn’t need to rush. This time I am running my campaign for 39 days.

According to Kickstarter research the most successful campaigns are 30 days and under so I am going against the research. But I really wanted to enjoy the journey and not rush. I wanted to give myself more time and I feel a bit more relaxed this time.

If I won’t reach my goal, Kickstarter will cancel the project and I won’t get to keep any of the funds raised. So it is important to be reasonable when setting up the goal. The amount to raise should be the minimum you need to fulfil the project. For me this is a minimum volume required by the printing company. It is important also to cater for shipping costs and the fact that Kickstarter and financing fees will also be close to 10%.

Crowdfunding campaign is not an online store. I always treat it as a very personal project, an opportunity to share my story, share my vision on how I came up with the idea and why I need the backers’ help. People are more likely to support you if they relate to you and see there is a real person who is pushing really hard to make her dream happen.

I love to take people on the journey and make them a part of this beautiful project. I also firmly believe that these products are the change-makers in the empowerment and gender equality space and through crowdfunding I have an opportunity to share the message with the world!

The most important lesson I learnt is that marketing starts before the campaign starts. I have been purposefully designing different marketing strategies to attract my tribe before I go on to launch the campaign.

Two months before the campaign I already had a pre-launch landing page where people were able to register to be notified about the campaign on day one. One month before the campaign we run an amazing giveaway “Be Empowered” with over $2,500 worth of leadership books (including Sheryl Sandberg Lean in & Ariana Huffington Thrive), eBooks, online courses, motivational prints, inspirational stationery and coaching sessions – most of the products I was able to source from our generous contributors and supporters of Leaders in Heels.

We had over 1,700 entries for this competition only. Lastly, I used Jeff Walker’s technique from The Launch book when communicating with my audience, keeping the momentum. I also run a fun image-based survey letting people design their ideal stationery product. It not only helped me learn a lot about my audience but was a fun way of communicating what’s coming and that I really care about their needs.

About the Make Your Mark line
Leaders in Heels stationery is purposeful and very different to what is on the market. The main goal is to help women develop a habit of six leadership traits: passion, creativity, innovation, determination, confidence and kindness. And the ultimate goal is to have more female leaders.

It’s elegant inspirational stationery promoting leadership traits aimed at nurturing and empowering future female leaders. Each product has six sections focusing on one leadership trait at the time and provides daily dose of inspirational quotes and thoughts.

I also love beautiful clean design so my goal was to create a product that is very elegant, business-focused and minimalistic on the outside yet creative and arty on the inside. I literally can’t wait when I will be able to use these products in my daily work.

Back Kasia and the Make Your Mark line here.