While travelling in Australia Lucy Bartlett fell in love with the concept of a “swag” – a bed that is easy to roll out and set up. But there was only one problem, she found that it was too bulky. This ignited the idea of designing a bed that was portable, compact, comfortable and easy to roll out in seconds, anywhere. Later on Lucy met her business partner James Clark who was also an avid traveller and a keen camper.
The partners initially tried the route of using a sourcing agent from the UK to link them with factories in China. However, after 18 months they realised that this was not going to be a viable option. When Lucy’s husband was offered a job at JIS Brunei, they decided to visit a factory in Brunei to explore the possibility of having them make the products. When she met with Stephen So, the head of Famous Textile, Lucy immediately felt at ease. Stephen who is fluent in English and has a vast amount of experience within the textile industry was really keen to come on board to help them with the production of the beds.
This is a story of how one person had an idea, identified a problem, raised funds from the international community and marketed their products internationally through the internet. What makes it so compelling is that, this story happens right in our backyard in Brunei. Which means that you too, can make it happen.
We spoke to Lucy to learn about her experience with Kickstarter; and about the challenges and excitement of starting a business. Read on and enjoy.
Traditionally, people crowdfund their projects in Brunei by taking their business ideas to their friends and family. What gave you the idea to solicit crowdfunding from Kickstarter website?
We see Kickstarter as a fantastic platform to get the word out about the brand, get feedback from all over the word and also to raise funds. Kickstarter appealed to us because essentially it is pre-sales, so we could guarantee numbers before we launched, but there is no need to give up any equity.
How difficult was it to actually go through this process?
The initial step was working out the target and the amount of funds that we needed to raise. This required going over our sales forecast, MOQs for production and working out our initial outlays. After that, James came to Brunei, where we spent 10 days with 4 A-Level film students from JIS Brunei, filming, photographing, recording voice-overs, and creating loads of amazing content for the campaign page. We were very lucky to be able to use these students as it kept costs down, but the quality of filming and editing was fantastic. Then it was a case of promoting the campaign.
You have managed to raise £66,785 for your project, surpassing your initial goal of £25,000. How much of the funds came from your friends and family in Brunei? How much from overseas?
We have had a total of 362 backers. 40 of those have been friends and family. The rest have come from all over the world.
What were the key factors behind your success?
• Having a good product idea.
• Having a good working relationship.
• Working with a good branding agency and creating a good brand.
• Creating and following through with a good PR plan.
• Being realistic in fundraising and setting goals.
How did you “market” your crowdsourcing campaign?
Our first port of call was getting in contact with family and friends who could help us spread the word. After that, it was creating a list of contacts who could reach the right target audience. We then asked all of these contacts to spread the word via email, social media and word of mouth to colleagues, family and friends. Social media has played a key part in helping us get the word out, along with linking up with like-minded brands and bloggers to share our page link, and talk about us. We also have a good branding agency which has been key to our launch and success so far.
We paid for some basic PR at the start of the campaign, but to be honest, we’re not sure if we’d go down that route again because getting a random company to mail out a press release and beg for coverage isn’t really our style – we think we’ve learnt that in this first week.
‘It’s a camping bed. It’s a guest bed. It’s a kid’s sleepover bed.
– Lucy Bartlett
Most small businesses in Brunei treat marketing and branding as an expense. You, on the other hand, saw it as an investment. Why?
For me, the brand is the bit that sets us apart from the rest. It’s our story. It’s who we are. It’s as important as the product and gives you an identity from the very beginning. Take for example UGG boots… They were the first movers, they developed the brand and created the product, however they have been copied by hundreds of brands. They have had a strong brand and message from the start, so people still want a pair of UGG boots.
The branding agency that we work with is based in London and have invested interest in our company. We paid them a small starting fee, but will work together on an equity based deal ongoing.
What do you see as the main challenges ahead, now that you have achieved your goal of raising funds?
This is a really hard process to get right. Although we have the factory, working out the timelines to ensure that we constantly have stock is a hard thing to do, especially with no history of sales to work with.
Shipping and logistics
Ensuring that we are taking the best routes and are able to meet timelines with product coming from Brunei into the UK.
Ensuring that after the initial funding, we are able to keep a good cash flow within the business to be able to create more product before we sell out.
What advice do you give to fellow Bruneians wanting to crowdfund their ideas?
• Come up with a realistic timeframe for creating the campaign.
• Start thinking about promotion and PR from the start.
• Ensure that you have an engaging video that is personal, tells your story and shows off the product to its best.
• Support the video with a strong campaign page that has all the relevant details. Make sure that this reflects your brand and is full of interesting images.
• When you launch, tell EVERYONE about it! Get in touch with bloggers, magazines, papers, websites and use all the contacts that you have.
• Do not be afraid to ask people for help.