Two months back, myself and another student at Ulster University launched a crowdfunding campaign, successfully raising £6000 to get our business off the ground. Since then we’ve launched the business in full and are seeing it grow every day. It’s given us more than a few sleepless nights from its conception to now, but it’s undoubtedly been a great learning experience.
My friend-turned business partner originally had the idea back in November of last year. He subscribed to a popular ‘Geek Goods’ subscription box, which sends out novelty collectibles, figures and the odd t-shirt to its subscribers once per month. It was apparent the boxes focused on quantity over quality. The T-Shirts [his favourite part] only came once every two months and were often lacking in quality. The idea was simple; cut out the cheap novelty items and focus only on the t-shirts. We decided on the basic concept – each month we release four new pieces of art, printed onto heavy-weight t-shirts. Every month our subscribers would pick the two they liked most and we deliver them wrapped up in an [optional] luxury gift box.
That was the idea at least, though we had little idea where to begin. For the first few months we made slow progress. The idea of starting a business seemed alien and unrealistic, but as time went on our t-shirt designs grew in quality. By January of this year, we had confidence in our own work and began to put real time into the project. We created a business plan, contacted suppliers and designed a basic website and social media presence. As of March, we had a large stockpile of designs and began looking towards the next step; launching to the public. Luckily for us we were both keen artists, both undertaking computer programming at university. This cut out many of our early costs, as we could design both the t-shirts and the website in house.
We knew, however, that money would be needed to make the project a reality and getting it would be hard. We calculated £6000 would be needed to purchase the supplies and have our t-shirts printed to the quality we hoped. But with little past business experience to show and no solid numbers, investment was unlikely. At that point we turned to crowdfunding – a relatively new concept that was popularised by Kickstarter (the largest crowdfunding website around).
Crowdfunding in theory is simple. You create a project (in our case: 24Tees), you set a monetary target to reach (£6000) and a timeline to reach that goal (30 days). During the campaign it’s down to you as the project creator to convince the public to back your project in return for rewards (a subscription to 24Tees). It sounds easy, but there’s more to crowdfunding than it may seem. Firstly your project needs to meet Kickstarter’s rules, of which there are many. Secondly crowdfunding is a highly saturated field, full of shiny projects with awesome ideas. We knew there was a serious amount of work ahead of us to get 24Tees funded.
In March we got accepted to Kickstarter. We finalised four designs that backers could choose from and promised to deliver our t-shirts by July. We also promised to open up the full website at the same time and continue to release four unique, exclusive designs every month. With the project well fleshed out and plenty of family and friends ready to share our idea, we clicked the big green launch button. By the end of day one, we had raised just under £2000; nearly a third of our goal. With spirits high we continued to push, however, soon we hit the famed ‘mid-campaign slump’. Every day the money ticked up just tiny fraction of what we needed. Twenty days into our 30 day campaign, we had reached only 50% of the target.
With constant work and some luck, we secured a number of articles in local press and media. With three days to go, suddenly the number of people viewing our page on a daily basis tripled. On the last hour of the last day we crossed the £6000 line and knew our funding was secured. There was a clear feeling of success and a little hesitation at the work in front of us. Since our success on Kickstarter, we’ve managed to fulfil all our rewards and launch the full 24Tees website. Our designs are improving rapidly in complexity and we’ve seen our business grow with new subscribers coming on board each day.
It’s really only the beginning of our first venture, but looking back to its conception it feels like an age ago. I’ve regularly been asked my views on crowdfunding now I’ve been through it, and if I would recommend it. It certainly isn’t the easy solution to funding that some people [myself included] expect. However, if you’re willing to put a good deal of work into your idea and spend entire days of your life on social media getting exposure, it really can be a rewarding experience.
We’ve just launched our four new designs for August, are looking at full time office space and are planning to expand to six monthly designs by collaborating with outside artists across the world. You can take a look at 24tees.co.uk to see our work. We’re also more than happy to give what advice we can to anyone interested in crowdfunding. Just drop us an email on [email protected].
Niall McGeehan is co-funder of 24 Tees.
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This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.