On this podcast, you’ll learn from an entrepreneur who harnessed crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter to not only fund his ideas but tap into new customer bases.
Viktor Grabovskyy is the co-founder of Forever Spin, a Canadian company dedicated to making the world’s finest spinning tops.
In this episode, you'll learn:
- The criteria they used to figure out what they wanted to sell.
- How to attract non-English speaking Kickstarter backers to your campaign.
- Why you want to launch on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Listen to Shopify Masters below…
Felix: In this episode you'll learn the criteria they use to figure out what to sell, how to attract non-English speaking Kickstarter backers to your campaign, and why you want to launch on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Today I'm joined by Viktor Grabovskyy from ForeverSpin.com. ForeverSpin is a Canadian company dedicated to making the world's finest spinning tops. It was started in 2013 and based out of Toronto Canada. Welcome Viktor.
Viktor: Hello Felix. It's very nice to be on the show.
Felix: Great. Tell us a little bit more about your story and what is the products that you sell?
Viktor: Absolutely. ForeverSpin is essentially a very high quality, very elegant collection of metal spinning tops, and right now comes in a variety of eighteen different metals and finishes ranging from aluminum to titanium to stainless steel, tungsten and copper. There are eighteen different varieties, so we've gone through a very wide range f metals, but effectively it's a very high quality spinning top collection.
Felix: Awesome. Have you always been interested in spinning tops? How did you get involved in starting a store. I guess we'll get into this a little bit later, but you first started the Kickstarter campaign, but how did you get involved in creating spinning tops?
Viktor: I've actually not been that big of a fan of spinning tops for all my life. It's something that I remember from my childhood, but I've always been a fan of just items that you can hold in your hand, items with a tactile experience, something that you can fidget with. Now I do have two business partners. The other two business partners are really the ones that had the inspiration for the spinning top project that I'm speaking about today. We decided to bring a product to life, really something that's very high quality, something that we can dedicate a level of excellence to.
We started going through some criteria, and in our brainstorming sessions going through our criteria, through our values, we just found that all of us remember a wooden spinning top as our first ever toy. In that experience, we decided to make it very elegant, very sleek and stylish and make it out of metal, which isn't very common.
Felix: It sounds like you had a pretty methodical approach to figuring out ... well it sounds like you guys all wanted to start a business. You wanted to start something, and you guys had a list of criteria or some kind of exercises you guys worked through to figure out what it is that you should start, what is it that you should be selling. Can you talk to us a little bit about that exercise you went through, because I think it's a situation or a stage that a lot of entrepreneurs go through where they have inspiration to start a business, but are not sure how to narrow down the options here. Can you talk to us about how you guys worked to narrow down your options?
Viktor: Absolutely. To give you a bit of history about our company, we actually didn't start with products per se as we began. We did start working with some software projects, really working towards solving problems that exist in the real world with software and applications that you can do with data. From there, we found out that we really didn't have the capital required to sustain what we had wanted to do. We ventured into alternative funding means, which drove us to Kickstarter and there we really started to buckle down on this criteria that we had for a project. Some of that criteria was that whatever we create it has to be incredibly high quality, something that has to be revered, something that's highly respected for its quality and for its dedication to detail.
Another criteria of our brands and our projects is that it's something that brings joy to the individuals that do get that experience to experience a product. It's something that's also I guess paired with the nostalgia for this particular project, but really it's just the fact that we can bring such high quality to our product and really instill that sense of joy and really brighten up anyone's day. The fact that is also nostalgic, the fact that it is high quality, that's also a learning tool for a lot of individuals over the world is something that contributed to us selecting this project.
Now going through the process, we actually had a list of twenty different projects, and as I did mention earlier, it's something that we settled on because all of us really remember that tactile experience, our first ever toy had been a wooden spinning toy and we just went with it and wanted to create it, and put some little magic behind, put some quality behind it.
Felix: That makes sense. You had those list of criteria; sounded like you said high quality, needs to be bring joy and then maybe as a bonus be nostalgic. You had this list, and I think maybe other listeners out there that are either thinking about starting a business or thinking about expanding their product line also have criteria. Then from there, how do you know what kind of I guess options you have to throw against it? Do you do your research from there or just sit down and brainstorm and think about all the things that might fit this list of criteria?
Viktor: Really it's just the method was very unique. We just sat down. We thought about things that we could do. Another criteria that I did that I failed to mention earlier is that it has to be simple as well. There's really a beauty in simplicity, there's an elegance in simplicity that you don't really see much anymore, especially with how high tech telephones becoming, how high tech apps are becoming and how saturated you are with technology on a day to day basis.
What we wanted to do was bring a little bit of simplicity back into the world, get some calmness into the hectic day to day of everyone's life. That was another criteria of ours. In our brainstorming session we just went through different ideas, thought about what would be cool, what would be very unique to do, what would we have the capability to create as well since there is a restriction on our abilities as professionals and as engineers. From there, we had a short list of about twenty ideas, twenty feasible ideas, and we went with spinning tops, which we've never looked back from.
Felix: That's awesome. Were there any other products that almost made the cut or were there other finalists that made it through the list of criteria and then you had to make a hard decision on which direction to go?
Viktor: There definitely were. There were a few projects that we're actually working on right now. We're hoping to bring them to market, and I guess that's the extent of what I can say about them, but they are very related as well. We do always incorporate that aspect of quality, that aspect of simplicity and dedication to detail. With that said, these new products that we do hope to bring to market are also metal based. They are metal objects. It's also something that we developed strong efficiencies in and something that we can reliably bring to the level of care and the level of quality that our customers appreciate and are expecting of us.
Felix: You don't really go into details about this other product, but it sounds like because there was another competing product that you guys wanted to do, how did you know not to try to do all of it at once? Because I think that's another situation that a lot of entrepreneurs run into, which is that we have so many great ideas and a lot of them are quote/unquote "derisked" because we've worked through some exercise or worked through a list of criteria that you guys went through, but then how do you force yourself or maybe how did you know not to try a launch with more than one thing?
Viktor: Really now it's becoming harder than it was in the past. In the past we were more dedicated to really working back to what we had been doing earlier, and that's the software project that we were working on, just getting some funding for what we had really been working towards. With the spinning top project, we launched on Kickstarter and never really anticipated that it would become as popular, as successful as it is now. From there, I guess we got the validation, it's something that we've turned to and it's something that we are very, very proud of now.
We have a community of backers, of individuals in over ninety different countries that we have a commitment to, we have an obligation to, and we keep bringing new products to our collection for them. As far as jumping into that first project, I guess our circumstances were a bit different but I don't anticipate that it would be hard for us or that it would have been any harder had we a different motive.
Felix: Makes sense. You guys were launching Kickstarter, got that quick validation, and we'll go into details about this, but because it became so successful so quickly the decision was made very easily that, hey, this is taking off, let's just devote our time on what's already working?
Viktor: Yeah, absolutely. The process for any Kickstarter project is also a strenuous one, so you do learn a significant amount from the time that you do launch a project, from the time actually that you create your photographs, your prototypes, everything of this such, to the time where you actually ship all of your backers, all of your contributors, rewards, and they're spinning tops in this case. That was a very humbling process. It's one that we learned a lot during and it's something that we just decided. We had a bit of a paired arm shift and it was something that we were very happy to continue with.
Felix: I want to take a little bit of a step back towards the very first entrepreneurial thing that you guys wanted to do. You guys were a group of three founders that wanted to start a business. Was that the goal, to start a business because you were saying before that you started off trying to start a software company. Give us an idea what was your motivation when you guys all sat down and said, "Let's start something together."
Viktor: Really it was the need for something better. Better I say from a global perspective because better can be very different for a lot of different individuals. It can be better seller, it can be better pay. For us really, we have this dedication to quality, and that's really our credo is quality, simplicity and the fact that we can bring elegance with what we create. Really that was our motivation for starting something of our own. We really wanted to be responsible for what we create, and we wanted to achieve excellence, which is something that we're very happy to see other entrepreneurs striving for.
That's really the motivating factor, something that still drives us today. It's something that we always strive towards is the continued growth from a professional perspective and from a personal perspective.
Felix: What was that transition like going from mostly working with digital, not necessarily digital but not tangible products now to producing and selling physical products? What was that transition like? What were some things, maybe some new skills that you guys had to pick up now that you're moving into this new territory back in the very beginning?
Viktor: It was definitely an incredibly strenuous learning experience, and we did learn an incredible amount. Actually given that we were working in that space earlier, that's not something that we ever needed to ship products for. We went through that logistics process, really the discovery stage of how to ship a product to over two hundred different countries. There's a lot that you learn as time passes, there's a lot that you're forced to learn. Again, our driving factor is our dedication to our backers, our dedication to our craft and to that excellence. With that, there's no real limit on what you can achieve.
Felix: Awesome. When you decided to focus on spinning tops, did you guys try t validate the product in any other way, or was the first really big validation coming from the Kickstarter campaign?
Viktor: We actually had another project launch before the spinning top company. It was an unrelated project and that we used just to test the waters of Kickstarter. Really aside from validating spinning tops and what they could be and what they are, we decided to validate the platform as a whole and really work through a way of getting to know that shipping process, of getting to know the fulfillment process of really how to communicate with a global audience. From there, we just threw up the spinning top project on Kickstarter. Luckily it got a bit of traction and got viral in some scenarios, and we just hit it. We got very lucky and hit it out of the park on that first project.
Felix: That's awesome. That's interesting that you wanted to validate the platform first. I've heard this more and more frequently over the last couple months, which is about how you should really try to figure out the distribution channel first, not necessarily physical distribution but how can you get your message, how can you get your product out to people first. It sounds like that's exactly what you guys are doing. You wanted to make sure that Kickstarter was actually going to be a viable way to launch a product, and obviously you learned a lot of things along the way too. Can you say what that firs project was and it was it successfully funded?
Viktor: It was successfully funded. We actually did go through another iteration as well with a different addition. It was a plush project. It didn't perform as well as ForeverSpin has naturally and it hasn't gone on to raise millions of dollars through several crowd funding campaigns, but it was a very strong stepping stone for us and it did let us learn all those introductory skills that we needed to be successful for ForeverSpin and our subsequent projects.
Felix: Let's talk about that. What did you go into your first campaign with the first project, you said plush toys, was that what it was?
Felix: What are some things, some assumptions maybe that you had going into launching your first campaign on Kickstarter that were maybe changed as you were running the campaign?
Viktor: Actually one of the very first assumptions that was quickly proved wrong for us is the limitation of your customer base, the exposure that you get and what we had assumed is that Kickstarter was primarily visited by an English speaking audience, which is true. It is a fact, but actually now what our data reflects is that almost fifty percent of Kickstarter visitors are from outside of Canada and from outside of the United States bringing a lot of potential market, a lot of potential individuals that can see your product, that can be interested in it and pick it up for themselves. That's where you do have to establish that capacity to ship worldwide. That was the very first thing.
There were a bit of things that we didn't know from a logistics perspective that were required after the fact, but with respect to marketing and with respect to just the platform as a whole, there's definitely many things that we learned.
Felix: Once you did launch the Kickstarter campaign for the spinning top, did you do any validation of the product, trying to sell it in any other way or find other ways to validate it before launching Kickstarter, or did you guys just say, "Let's put this on Kickstarter, see what happens and then that will be the validation itself?"
Viktor: For ForeverSpin for the first project, we really just threw it on Kickstarter and let the quality of our work speak for itself, and that's really how it was picked up. That's how it became popular, since we do have the dedication to excellence and to quality. Our marketing materials were on point. People just liked our page, our spinning tops. They, again, had that feeling of nostalgia which helped in the sharing of it, and from there it just took off.
Felix: When you launched the spinning top Kickstarter campaign, you said that you learned things about logistics and shipping from the very first campaign. Did you learn anything as well about how to present the product itself? There's just so many things that you see on a Kickstarter page, and so many different ways that you can get your message out there through your Kickstarter, so many ways to optimize it. What are some key things that you learned between the first Kickstarter campaign with the plush toys to your Kickstarter campaign to this first spinning top campaign?
Viktor: Absolutely. The time between our first campaign and now is quite long periods. We have learned a substantial amount during that time. Now there's things that we learned even during our first campaign, which I guess are more relevant to the conversation now rather than how its evolved over time, but first and foremost I can say that really what you have to focus on is just making sure that you have a keen eye for details to make sure that all of your text is correct, that the images are accurate, that they're representative of your product, that they're well photographed, well lit, that your text and the way that you communicate with your backers is also universal and simple.
There's a lot of key things like that that are very important. When it comes to the video as well, there's many stylistic choices that are specifically set for the global audience that a lot of people don't understand why we did this over this, but really it's because we do have that obligation to the rest of the world and not just the English speaking population.
Felix: You said a few things there that I want to touch on. What are some keys to include in your page or your video to be more inclusive of the global audience rather than just focus on English speaking visitors?
Viktor: Being from a language perspective, for instance, all you have to do is really try to simplify your language, make sure that it's clear, that it's concise and that it's understandable by as much of the world as you can make it to be. Now with that said, there's Google Translate and there's all of these different services for Chrome, for Safari that can translate the page for somebody living in Turkey but for somebody living in China, but the easier that you can bring your message across is somebody that dos speak English. I can guarantee that will also be easier for that individual that doesn't speak English, after translating, before translating. Aside from that, the actual images themselves and how you present your product are also incredibly important.
For instance, pointing out features on the image page versus typing them out on the list of bullet points down below, that's something that works far better for that global audience versus the English speaking audience.
Felix: I see. Basically almost like speak less and just show more. Show more of the images or just don't rely so much on the written language itself, but be more I guess demonstrative with the images and the videos?
Viktor: Yeah, that's exactly right. It does also give a little bit of more emphasis on your product itself and the design of your product. If that's something that is supported by pictures speaking louder than words, then that's something that's definitely better for you from a marketing perspective and getting your message out. Video, for our particular brand, for a spinning top is significantly more effective than images are. We try to get in as much video as possible, make sure that all of our information, our points are brought up in the video versus the text below it. Especially with spinning tops, it's something that you have to see in action to really appreciate. Beyond that, it's something that you have to really feel in your hands, get that tactile experience and see in front of you to appreciate even more. That's the experience that we've been able to bring to our backers, to our customers and the expectation of that experience.
Felix: Got you. You mentioned earlier about how you really had to have a keen eye for detail. Based on your experience and maybe other campaigns you looked at, are there some common details that you see other campaigns missing that you would definitely advise new Kickstarter campaign creators to make sure they hit?
Viktor: Missing, I don't know per se. I don't actually look at that many projects anymore personally. We are very busy with our obligations. We're making sure that we ship packages all over the world into our backers, but definitely one thing to look out for is I guess not to add but to make sure that you don't add is any contradicting points you make sure that your project page, that your presentation is as simple as it can be, and that may have to result in you just eliminating a lot of text, but if that's what has to be done for you to convey your message better, that's simply it.
Felix: That makes sense. I think that a lot of times we want to get everything out there, all the features listed, everything, but based on what you're saying just now and then also your I guess emphasis on supporting being more inclusive of the non-English speaking audience is to not use so many words and try to be as simple as possible. I think that's a great piece of advice to give. When you're creating these Kickstarter pages, either with your video or your images, through the copy that's on the page, do you guys hire any help for that or is it all done in-house?
Viktor: Everything to date has been done in-house. It's something that we're very proud of. The team that we have here in Toronto, they're brilliant. They do a very good job, and really it all starts with our dedication to quality and our dedication to excellence. At the end of the day there are a lot of activities that we believe will always be done better in-house because we imagine them in the first place. We know how it should look, we know how it should be written, how it should be portrayed, that we don't believe that there are many individuals that will be able to I guess succeed more than ourselves in that capacity.
Felix: Do you ever feel that you might be spreading yourself too thin by trying to take everything on? Have you run into that issue yet with trying to not necessarily hold onto everything, but keep it all in-house? Do you feel like you are running up against a limit at any point with trying to handle everything yourself? Not yourself, but the company itself?
Viktor: Yeah, absolutely. There's definitely that concern, and that is something that we alleviate as we grow our team. We train individuals that we add to the team to be able to perform our tasks. I guess in what you're saying, that would be identical to hiring a professional or hiring some company. Really we do at the end of the day have more care for our project. We do put in that extra mile that is always lost, or most of the time it's lost. It's just not that much emphasis on detail, not much attention to excellence when you do work on somebody else's project.
Felix: I see. If you did need help with something in particular, you guys would just hire them in-house and train them on basically your ethos or your philosophy on this excellence and focus on quality? Is that what you're getting at? That you wouldn't outsource it, but if you wanted some help there, you would just hire them in-house and train them?
Viktor: Really to date most of the issues that we have come across and most of our challenges in growth have all been tackled in-house by the immediate team, by the founding team. We do have a really strong ability to problem solve, and that's where our strength lies. A lot of our problems have been solved internally. That's something that we're really proud to have been able to accomplish. For some higher level task, for programming work, etc, etc, that is something that we would contract out, but as far as anything that's qualitative of our brand, that's something that we tend to keep internally.
Felix: I see what you're saying. Quality is like the core competency of your brand, of your company. Anything that requires or that is required to uphold that quality, you guys have a stance to keep it in-house. Anything that is not related to that core of quality, then you're more comfortable actually outsourcing or hiring outside?
Viktor: Yeah, that's exactly right.
Felix: Awesome. Let's talk about your Kickstarter campaign some, the ones for ForeverSpin. It looks like you have three campaigns that you guys have launched, all super successful. Can you give us a rundown of the funds I guess that were raised from these three?
Viktor: Absolutely. The very first campaign we launched was in 2014, it launched in February, which is early in the year, and that campaign was the one that we didn't really have validation for. We threw it on Kickstarter and we had tremendous community support. We had a lot of individuals calling us, asking about different metals to add, asking about expanding our collection, which is something that drove us to creating more Kickstarter projects in the future. The very first campaign, it raised about $140,000 with seventeen or eighteen hundred backers. Now from there, the period to fulfill that is a learning period. We learned a lot about how to really manage our project, how to perform the manufacturing, how to perform our shipping, and really how to handle all of that. That project was fulfilled in I believe July or August, if memory serves correctly.
From there, we started working on the next iteration of spinning tops, which on Kickstarter can be found as ForeverSpin 2.0. Now ForeverSpin 2.0 we added to our collection yet again. The original collect was ten spinning tops, where in the 2.0 we added some very, very unique spinning tops and we also pride ourselves in really reaching for stuff that's never been done before for very innovative things. We created some spinning tops out of black rhodium, white rhodium, out of a plated silver, cast iron and rose gold, which is the spinning tops that we added to our collection in the second Kickstarter project, which launched in October of 2014. Later that year we had about $400,000 raised in that project with thirty-eight hundred backers.
That collection also did include another addition to our collection, which was the spinning base, which was an item that was highly requested by our backers. Now a thing that really sets us apart from a lot of other project creators and a lot of the community on Kickstarter is that we have this very strong dedication to our backers. Really the reason that we do go back to Kickstarter is to accommodate their needs. There's a lot of individuals that are exclusively familiar with Kickstarter that like to support the platform and that are really comfortable with purchasing online and other locations. With that said, we went back to Kickstarter with their recommendations, with their suggestions and bringing items to the market that they had requested.
For instance, the spinning base, the accessory to the collection that we had, it was specifically for them. It was requested I believe two hundred, three hundred times with our first set of backers, with the other metals also being all requested over a hundred times with rose gold being very, very popular. Wee did always dedicate our projects to our backers. The second campaign finished in December and we successfully delivered all of our backers awards in July of the following year, and then we began working on another project, which is again, expanding our collection. We redesigned our spinning base, we redesigned some items and some proportions, and in that, again, it was a very strong dedication to our backers to expand our collection, to make sure that it is as high quality as it could be. In that, we just found a lot of success with the continued support that we got from our audience, from our backers.
Felix: Awesome. Let's start with the very first one, the ForeverSpin spinning tops campaign that raised almost $14,000. It looks here that your original goal, I'm not sure if this is Canadian dollars or U.S. dollars, where it says $1,500. Either way, very slow goal that was destroyed by your ultimate amount that you raised. How prepared were you guys to almost have, what is this, a hundred times your original goal that you end up raising? Were you guys prepared at all for this kind of a massive funding?
Viktor: Absolutely not. That resulted in a lot of late nights. Really we are very dedicated to our backers to make sure that we fulfill our liabilities as fast as possible and really fulfill on obligations. It did lead into a lot of very late nights, making sure that we give every fiber of our energy to our backers, and that is something that was a lesson very well learned. That's not something we expected. That's something that we faced and we overcame in the end.
Felix: That's awesome. The initial amount of $1,500, what did you I guess need that funding for? Was it just for validation? It doesn't seem like a lot of money to be working with to start a company? What did you need that $1,500 for?
Viktor: It was for some prototyping. Just make sure that we had the perfect design, and the design did go through many, many iterations. I believe we went through hundreds of drawings, through hundreds of redesigns making sure that we do have that perfect spinning top from an appearance perspective and a spinning top perspective. There is a bit of a dual function there. It's something that has to look incredibly elegant while also functioning very well from a performance standpoint. That is a very nice balance. It's something we've been able to achieve, and it's something that wasn't fast. It didn't happen overnight. That is something that we did need the funding for. Aside from that, just to make sure that our process is solid, that it's complete for the metals that we did add to our collection as well.
There's some alloys that we used and some different pure metals that are very, very rarely machine that they're very rarely used and that's something that we're very proud to have brought to our collection as well.
Felix: Once you did hit this $140,000 funding goal at the end of this, again, from almost nineteen hundred backers, what was the next step? Actually before I get there, how quickly were you able to break through that goal? Was it very early, like the very first day or how soon did you break that $1,500 goal?
Viktor: I think it happened in seventeen hours or something. It was crazy. Then from there, there was several thousands of orders the following day as well, and the last three days of the campaign also just exploded. It's not something that we expected but we did face it and we did overcome that in the end, and that's something that we're very happy about.
Felix: What do you think, how did you guys get traction so quickly? The $1,500 is obviously great, but raising $140,000 over the entire life of the campaign is obviously better. What was happening? How did you drive the traffic and promote the campaigns?
Viktor: The way that Kickstarter works, it does reward some projects in terms of visibility as they're immediately launched. At the end of the day, Kickstarter is about successfully funding projects. It does inflate the visibility of projects as they're launched, just to create that buzz, to create that significance and that visibility in those projects. Being that we did get a lot of traction right away just based on the merit of our spinning tops, a lot of people love the idea, and we've had repeat customers. We've had collections shipped to schools for teachers that have backed us in the past, to museums, to universities even as well.
Our collection was just liked a lot, and Kickstarter's own visibility and its algorithms for sorting and the appearance of the project helped us a lot. In that, just as the buzz grew, as more individuals started talking about it, we got picked up by a few news outlets and that significantly helped as well. There is no real PR. There is nothing that we did internally to support that traffic. It just came organically.
Felix: I've heard this from other campaigns too about the very beginning, which is what you're saying about how if you can get the traction early on, because Kickstarter is incentives to successfully fund campaigns, they're going to want to highlight campaigns that are successfully funded. What did you do early on? Were you promoting it to friends and family? How did you get that early traction to get Kickstarter to pay attention to an obviously great product and everything, but how did you even get them to notice your product in the first place?
Viktor: Yeah, it was something that we did promote to our friends and family. They naturally helped in the start, but really we we our success and the funding of that project to the Kickstarter community. The first person sees it, then they let one of their friends know, "Hey, this is very cool." Then that second person sees it, and from there Kickstarter's algorithm kicks it. It just boosts the front page, to the What's Popular page, to the top design page, and from there it's just something that spiraled and you did get that viral affect or that pseudo viral affect.
Felix: Once you raised $140,000, was this a thirty-day campaign or how long did it run for?
Viktor: Thirty-five days.
Felix: After that thirty-five days ran and you guys had a good amount of cash, capital to invest in the business, what was the next step? Did you have to get manufacturers? What was the very next thing you guys decided to do once you got that check? I'm not sure how Kickstarter pays you, gives you the money, but once you got the money in the accounts, what did you guys do immediately?
Viktor: Again, we just went back into the design stage. We learned a lot about our product as well and about what the customer wants as we did launch the product. We had seventeen hundred people send us hundreds of emails, thousands of emails and we actually had them call us on a dedicated hotline as well, which is something that not a lot of other project creators do. In that, we just went back to the drawing board, or I guess returned to the drawing board just to make sure that our product and our spinning tops are as elegant and as high performance as they can be, maintaining that balance between the two. There was a lot of design work that had to be done.
Beyond that, the next stage was to make sure that we select the right materials, that we use only the finest alloys. We started sourcing our materials and manufacturers, and from there it was just making sure that that manufacturing process is coordinated, that we have all the quality control checks in place since we are a company that is highly dedicated to quality and making sure that we do have a very keen eye as to what we do ship to our customers and to our backers.
Felix: I was going to ask about that because you emphasize on this episode and on your Kickstarter campaign and on your store about this, quality and attention to detail, which I can imagine could be stressful when you are looking for a manufacturer and making sure that they are adhering to your standards, and there's probably listeners out there that don't need this kind of attention to detail, but can still probably benefit from your device on this. What can you do to ensure that manufacturers are producing things to your standards?
Viktor: Naturally there's several quality control checks, and they actually start at the material stage before the manufacturing stage. It is very important that you have stringent QHX at each process of your manufacturing process. There's the shipping of materials that has to be checked before and after departure with a composition test making sure that your tops are exactly as you designed them, that they're exactly to spec.
Felix: Are you testing this or is there somebody that's at the manufacturer testing this?
Viktor: There would be manufacturers testing it, there would be intermediaries testing it, just making sure that we have the best materials that we could possibly get. The best materials in the context of what we're doing.
Felix: I don't know anything about this stuff, but are you giving them specific numbers and then from the test you want your alloys, your metals to hit a certain I guess number of purity or quality? I'm not sure what the right term for it is, but are you doing this in a quantitative way, saying, "Hey, I want you to test this," but has it hit these particular checkpoints?
Viktor: That's exactly right. For instance, the copper that we use is 99.9 percent pure. This is something that not a lot of people machine. It's not a metal that's commonly found as well. Most people do get copper in an alloy state, which is either bronze or brass. With copper, that 99.9 percent pure, it does have to be checked for purity, does have to be checked for contents and for everything like that. There are the other metals that we did use that we introduced to our collection. For instance, the titanium, we use a very high grade of titanium. That has to be checked for composition as well to make sure that it does abide exactly by our specifications; otherwise it's not what we had promised to our customer. We promised the highest creative titanium possible for the context of what we do for our spinning tops, and that's something that we intend to deliver on.
That's something that's very important to us and that did go through that QH process.
Felix: One thing you were saying about the campaign, the very first one that was happening, and then as you're gearing for you second one, was about how you got a lot of feedback. I think feedback is obviously invaluable, and you said that you even had a hotline set up to get this feedback. What were you doing I guess to solicit feedback? I think this is a problem that other entrepreneurs might run into, which is that they want to do things to improve their business, they want to improve the product, but they're not getting enough feedback from their customers. Are you guys doing anything specific to try to get people to give more of their opinion to you guys?
Viktor: Not really anything specific, no. Again, really Kickstarter is among the top thousand visited websites in the world. It is a website that gets a lot of traffic through it day in, day out, and if there's enough people excited about your project, then you do open up that possibility for them to speak with the founders, to speak with a member of the staff, to make their suggestions and to improve ultimately a project that they back and an item that they purchase. It's something that a lot of individuals are open to the opportunity of. With respect to our spinning tops, it is something that a lot of people are excited for, and just again, on the basis of that, there's a lot of individuals that called. We had hundreds of calls, and unfortunately it's just not something that's shared. There's not an ideology that's shared by a lot of Kickstarter project creators.
There's not many projects that do have that line open, that do have that dedicated telephone line for individuals to call.
Felix: Can you say a little bit more about this, just in case there's anybody out there that's thinking about launching campaign and wants to be really tapped into the potential customers? How do you set up, what is this hotline that you set up? Is it just a cell phone number, and how do you display it on your Kickstarter page?
Viktor: We effectively bought a dedicated telephone line, and that was tethered to our cell phone, so whenever somebody called we would answer. We would speak with our backers. We would take in their feedback, and again, when you have that personal connection with one of your customers and as a customer, when you have that connection with the founder, the person that you're buying something from, you do feel much more special, and that's something that you're very happy to support and support in perpetuity and through project iterations, through additions to that product find, and we are very grateful to all of our backers.
Felix: One other thing you mentioned in the I guess pre-interview things that we were talking about was about how social proof is really important for you guys. Can you talk a little bit more about this? What does social proof mean for anybody out there that might not know what that is and how does it help you with your business?
Viktor: Naturally transitioning into Kickstarter and to our website, which is where we make sales on a daily basis, we do sell on ForeverSpin.com, it's something that significantly supports your brand and significantly supports the perception that people are buying this item. A spinning top isn't something that everybody would buy. The reality of it, it's just the way that it is. When you do have that social proof, when you do see that, hey, my neighbor bought it or somebody that lives a few blocks down from me bought it in the state of Pennsylvania or the state of wherever, or in X country, that's something that really supports the fact that we do bring something that's very special to the entire world. Now we have shipped to over ninety different countries, and that's something that supports our social standing and supports the fact that we do ship, that we're a very legitimate company and that we are here to stay.
Felix: What do you mean by social proof though? Just so I can clarify for listeners, social proof is just basically the validation I guess from your peers, like you were saying, your neighbors or your family that have purchased this, and because they purchased it, you feel a little bit less, it becomes less risky for you to purchase it as well. How do you demonstrate something like that either in a Kickstarter or on your Shopify store? How do you emphasize that there's been I guess social proof for your product?
Viktor: Transitioning into our website now, again, it did go through Kickstarter, and on Kickstarter the numbers speak for themselves. There's eighteen hundred people that supported our first project. There's thirty-seven hundred people that supported our second project, and five thousand people that supported our third project. This is from all walks of like all over the world, and it's something that people can join. We really have a community here where our customers speak to each other on the message board that exists within Kickstarter as a platform. Now beyond that, there's Facebook, there's just the reviews that come from the individuals that we've shipped spinning tops to, the social proof that we got from Dragon's Den as well, which is the Canadian equivalent of Shark Tank, which was somewhere we were very happy to be included.
When you have that proof it becomes undeniable, and there is a stage at which people say, hey, this is a very legitimate product. This is something that I was skeptical about at first, and now something I really want.
Felix: It looks like one of the keys is that you've had a lot of very public purchases or at least pre-orders through Kickstarter, makes it a lot less risky purchase for other people because they see that lot of two thousand, five thousand or whatever the other number was, a lot of thousands of people are already buying this product, which makes them not necessarily only trust you guys more, but then also want it. Because they're like, "Why is everyone buying this? Let me take a look at it." Is that what you mean?
Viktor: Yeah, that's exactly right. To put it into simplest terms, nobody wants to be the first. You go to Amazon and you see some product listing that sells all over the world but it has two units sold. You don't want to be that second person, you don't want to be that fourth person to test an item that you may not believe has the quality that's promised. You want to be that seven thousandth person that's supporting it and that knows that you're getting something good, and really that's the social proof that we've gotten. It's with that support and with that audience and our thankful ability to have been able to ship to thousands of individuals all over the world that we're able to do that.
Felix: I'm not sure if you guys experienced this with Kickstarter, but if you are launching on Kickstarter this is why it's really important to try to get that early traction, because if someone doesn't know you and haven't ever heard of you and they come to your Kickstarter page and zero people have funded it, you're not going to want to be the first one, but if you have your network, your friends and family who already do trust you, who don't need social proof, if they're the first ones to help support you or your business or you Kickstarter campaign, then that starts this kickoff of social proof. Just by the fact that there is more than one person already that's supporting this campaign could be enough to compel strangers to also back it.
Cool. Let's talk about the shipping because you mentioned this a couple times. You ship to did you say ninety countries or what was the number?
Viktor: Yeah, we've now shipped to over ninety different countries.
Felix: Awesome. What is that experience? How do you set up your I guess supply chain, your logistics to be able to ship to over ninety different countries?
Viktor: Essentially we've been searching for a very long term for a perfect solution, and it hasn't been an easy search. In time and as you dedicate enough time to that, enough resources, you do find the ability to do so. You find partners that can ship all over the world for you and different companies, and that's something that we have put our trust into. We've found these companies that can ship all over the world, that can ship packages with tracking information, comprehensive tracking checkpoints. It is something that just, we didn't have the ability to do before and I have never dreamed of being able to ship to all of these different countries, but it's something that in retrospect just seems incredibly easy, but it's not the easiest transition to get into.
Felix: Do you have to work with multiple logistics and shipping companies to do this, or is there a central one that you can maybe recommend that listeners check out, if they want to be able to ship globally?
Viktor: We did go through several different companies, at least in our search, and there's a few companies that will definitely be better than others, but I can't recommend a specific company over a different ones because there's a lot of variations in your cost depending on what you're shipping and where you're shipping. There is a lot of options, and you just have to do your due diligence, which is another thing that we believe is just with every decision that you make you have to make sure that all the options are laid out on the table, and that you have a very understanding of why you're doing what you're doing.
Felix: Maybe you can tell us what kind of key factors that our listeners should look out for if they are looking to partner with a shipping or logistics company to ship globally. What are some important things that they should either ask the company or include in their research?
Viktor: Naturally first and foremost, there's cost. There's going to be a cost of you shipping. Then there's transit times, there's tracking capabilities. A lot of individuals, especially with Amazon being so incredibly popular and widely used, a lot of people expect tracking information for their packages, and this is true for destinations all over the world. Those are really the three biggest facts, and transit time is becoming much, much more important than it had been in the past.
Felix: I see. That makes sense. Cool. I want to talk now about branding. You mentioned this as well, something that you wanted to talk about, which is the importance of having a brand. I think that word is just so I guess in general is a vague word. Maybe for you, on a day to day basis, what are you as a company or maybe what are you personally doing to I guess establish and push the ForeverSpin brand?
Viktor: Branding yeah, again, just exactly as you had said, it is a very broad word and it's hard to define in one sentence because there are so many factors that accumulate with the amalgam of what a brand actually is. With that, there's definitely social aspects and this goes back to the social proof that we spoke of. Really to break it down in how we establish our brand is just making sure that we do dedicate our products to quality, to make sure that every single spinning top is 99.9 percent pure copper, to make sure that every titanium top is indestructible and perfectly balanced. With that, you just get a lot of individuals that have an appreciation for your product, they do share with individuals, you get that social proof, you get individuals sharing with their friends and family, and it trickles down from your customer base and the people that you're loyal to. First and foremost, if you're loyal to your product.
Felix: You're focusing on the product itself, making sure that the product is upholding the brand. Outside of the product, are there other ways for you either through marketing that you focus on or someone from your team focuses on to make sure that the brand is established?
Viktor: All the creatives that we do, and we do advertise online as well. We advertise through Facebook, through Google AdWords. Pretty much all the creatives that we have, they do all reinforce that image of quality, that image of simplicity as well as excellence. It is something that is uniform. It's constant across all of our outlets, for all of our partners that we engage with, for our own marketing efforts in-house, for the companies that retail our product and that sell our spinning tops, it's something that we demand from ourselves first and foremost.
Felix: Now after you had funded on Kickstarter I think the first time, is that when you open up the Shopify store or when did you open the Shopify store?
Viktor: We opened the Shopify store just before we aired on Dragon's Den, which was November of 2015, just last November.
Felix: This was after all three campaigns?
Viktor: This was after two campaigns. The third one was launched in December. We launched this last campaign in December, and it had actually run in concurrence to our store being live.
Felix: Did you have a storefront on another platform? Were you capturing any I guess other demand after the campaign ended? What'd you do about that?
Viktor: We did have a store. It was a custom store that we built ourselves. It wasn't Shopify, it wasn't really any other platform, and we did switch to Shopify we found that it was a much, much better solution for us. Ever since we made the switch, it's been significantly better.
Felix: Did you do anything to drive traffic to that very first store or is it mostly just from the traffic that was coming from the Kickstarter page? How do you transition from Kickstarter to your own store? How do you transition that kind of buzz?
Viktor: The very first thing that we did get traffic from was actually Dragon's Den, and we did launch that Shopify store a little bit before Dragon's Den. There are a million individuals that watched that episode, that watched that specific episode, that watch every episode for that matter. We did drive a lot of traffic from there. From that, we just gained a lot of valuable data. We really, again, established who our customers were, and from there we've had a lot of initiatives. We've had our paid advertising campaigns. We've had some social campaigns as well that have been targeting those individuals. There is always inbound traffic. A lot of it is paid, but we do have alternative means as well, and definitely it all started with that Dragon's Den appearance and Kickstarter's incredibly influential factor as well.
Felix: What are the plans for this year? I know that you were talking about working on some other products that you can't say much about coming up, but are there any other big goals that you as a company want to hit for 2016?
Viktor: Absolutely. For ForeverSpin, we're looking to get our collection into a lot more schools. That's something that we're focusing very hard on. We have this educational aspect for our collection, and really we call the ForeverSpin collection the metal museum. That's because all of our collection, they are in different metals. Now we have a variety of over eighteen, and in that variety there's a significant amount of variance and variety in our collection. I can gather from what I know about most of the population is that you for instance, you've never held solid titanium and solid tungsten in one hand and the other at the same time, is that correct?
Felix: That's correct.
Viktor: For instance, when you have that tactile experience firsthand, you'll never forget that tungsten is signification heavier than titanium is. You'll never remember what the texture of solid nickel is or how much bronze weighs or that copper develops a patina over time. That's just things that we're very passionate about bringing to schools and bringing that learning, that tactile experience to children all over the world. That's something that we've started to do. There are a couple schools that we've gotten into that have shown our collection, taking it to their science classrooms, to their students for stress relief, for brainstorming sessions, for just getting some more focus. It's something that we're, very, very happy to be doing in the future.
Felix: Awesome. Thanks so much Viktor. ForeverSpin.com is the website. F-O-R-E-V-E-R-S-P-I-N dot com is the website and the store. You can definitely Google ForeverSpin Kickstarter campaigns if you want to see how they built their Kickstarter pages. Anywhere else that you recommend listeners check out if they want to follow along with what you guys are up to?
Viktor: Definitely our Kickstarter would be a very good starting point. Our website is also up to date and it does feature our entire collection minus what's available on Kickstarter. In addition to our Kickstarter page right now, we do have an active collection on Indiegogo.com. Also another crowd funding platform where you can find our newest five tops from our collection.
Felix: What made you make that transition from Kickstarter to launching on Indiegogo?
Viktor: Indiegogo is right now the campaign that's running on Indiegogo is an in demand campaign. It's effectively a campaign that runs in perpetuity. Again, just going back to the fact that there are a lot of individuals that are very wary of making purchases online. They're strictly and exclusively comfortable with Kickstarter, with Indiegogo, with Amazon.ca for instance or Amazon.com, and really just going back to we do have a very strong dedication to our customer base, to our backers and there's a lot of people that have been requesting it which is why we've gone back to Kickstarter three times and back to Indiegogo.
Felix: Very interesting. You're basically saying that the customers that you have and probably maybe a lot of other listeners might have these customers too, they only feel comfortable buying through certain almost websites. Kickstarter was what you guys cut your teeth on and noticed at first, but then you also now find that some customers feel best funding or buying through Indiegogo, so that's why you're launching there even though you don't necessarily need to launch on Indiegogo, is that correct?
Viktor: Yeah, that's exactly right. It's out best channel for communication as well. That's why we're acquainted with them, with a lot of our customers and a lot of our backers, and that's where we're happy to come back to bring that collection to them.
Felix: Awesome. I think that's a great gem. I'm glad that I asked why you launched with Indiegogo too. That makes a lot of sense. I never considered that people might not feel comfortable or maybe feel more comfortable buying on Kickstarter or Indiegogo for whatever reason they might have. That makes a lot of sense. Awesome. Thanks so much again Viktor. Again, ForeverSpin.com, look up ForeverSpin on Indiegogo for a live campaign, or is it called in demand campaign, which I guess should be running in perpetuity, like you said, and ForeverSpin on Kickstarter if you want to see the past campaigns.
Thanks again so much for coming on Viktor.
Viktor: Thank you Felix. It's been a pleasure speaking with you.
Felix: Thanks for listening to Shopify Masters, the e-commerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. To start your store today, visit Shopify.com for a free fourteen-day trial.
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About The Author
Felix Thea is the host of the Shopify Masters podcast, the ecommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs, and founder of TrafficAndSales.com where you can get actionable tips to grow your store’s traffic and sales.