How to Crowdfund and Launch Your Startup Product – An Interview

Getting capital to get stated is one of the biggest challenges for startups and businesses and crowdfunding your startup with a product can be a good alternative to getting investors or taking a loan. Just as how Air B&B sold limited edition election themed cereal boxes to get the initial capital to launch Air B&B, we have a local entrepreneur who is using crowdfunding a product as a way to grow their startup, their brand and establish a presence in the coworking movement.

Interview With Sabrina from L’Atelier

YVR Startups: Thank you Sabrina for joining us for this interview. I saw your video and saw your campaign and know that you have a product that is very unique. Would you care to tell us about the Focus Journal in a short elevator pitch.


Sabrina: Thank you Edward for having me, the Focus Journal is a minimalist task journal that will help you increase your productivity while helping you balance well-being and happiness.


Y: Tell us about yourself, your background and what do you do right now?


S: I’m Lebanese-Candian and lived in the US for 9 years before moving to Vancouver. My background is in film production, specifically working on the production team as producer or production coordinator. I moved to Vancouver and currently run the coworking space, L’Atelier Coworking, which is French for the workshop. We have over 25 members ranging from freelancers, ecommerce entrepreneurs and creative professionals. And we are excited about our upcoming Focus Journal.


Y: From film to launching your own product, that’s amazing. Tell us how the Focus Journal came about? 

S: The Focus Journal was created at L’Atelier Coworking with the help of our coworking community. We noticed that despite the fact that most people were using digital tools to schedule their days and manage their projects, most were still using traditional pen and paper to write down important things that they need to remember. After much research on the topic and after discussions with our focus group, we came up with a graphic layout that most found really useful. The Focus Journal is meant to be used as a complement to your digital tools.

Product Design:

Y: I think I use a combination of Google calendar, Trello, Evernote and good old pen and paper myself. I know some people keep a note pad just to make a to do list but like your video they end up cluttering their desk and work space. Tell us about the design of the journal and how did you end up with this design?

S: We went for a minimal design because we wanted people to spend more time doing than actually planning. Each day has two pages dedicated to it in the journal: on the left side you have space to list tasks and to dos as well as your priorities for the day. We made sure to include space for fun and well-being tasks. On the right hand size you have a dotted notes pages for all your ideas, thoughts, notes, and calculations. At the end of the day you can evaluate your levels of productivity, fun, and well-being. Over time, this will lead you to a more balanced life.
Crowdfunding a product

Y: I can tell a lot of effort has been put into coming up with this product despite having a minimal design. Especially with the optimization and testing phase. care to tell us about the testing phase?

S: We selected 25 freelancers and entrepreneurs from our community to test out the journal. These testers are from various industries and each had a different way of working and planning their day. We handed out 25 booklets that included 10 days worth of journaling to them. After the 10 day period, we met up and had in depth discussions about how each person used the journal and how we could improve it. We then went through a few more versions before having the layout that we now have. We have what we have and are ready to launch.


 Y: On the topic of launch, tell us about your journey to launch, what were the days leading to launch like for you?


S: We have been prepping for the launch for about 5 months! First you have to get your product perfect, then you have to think about branding and build a landing page. We then started collecting emails through the landing page while building our social media following. Only about 5% of the people you email will actually convert and backup your project so you can calculate the amount of contacts you need in order to reach your goal: if your average pledge is $40 and your goal is $17,000, you need 425 backers which means you need to reach over 8,500 people!


Y: What did you do at launch? 

S: At launch we reached out to our friend, family, and close community. No one wants to support a project that is not yet backed so it’s important to get those people first. We threw a launch party and created a lot of buzz around the project. Launch day was super stressful but at least we also had fun and got to drink and celebrate all of our pre-launch work.
A crowdfunding launch party

Y:How did you get the word out and crowdfund your startup product?


S: Lots of email, Facebook ads, and collaborations.


Y: What were some challenges faced during the time leading to launch to the campaign to crowdfund your startup product?

S: The challenge is that now people expect you to have a near perfect product at launch but you need funding to do that so it’s a catch 22: you need money to make money!
Focus Journal team planning on their crowdfunding strategy

Kickstarter Campaign:

Y: On the topic of the launch, I noticed that you guys have a very good video that explains to potential backers what your product is. Im sure it is playing a big role on your journey to crowdfund your startup. Tell us about your experience with making the Video. What help did you get?


S: Our video currently has over 2,500 views and it’s definitely important to communicate your message in video form. People want to see who is behind the project and why they should pre-order your product. We were at a slight disadvantage because the journals in the video and photos are only prototypes; the actual journal will have a nicer cover and will have nicer design elements. However, I think we succeeded in showing what it was all about in a fun way.


 Y: A lot of people don’t feel comfortable making a video cus of the amount of work, how much did you spend? Do you recommend others to make a video for their crowdfunding campaign? 

 S: If you’re planning on shooting a video like that, you should budget at least around $1500-2000. It will of course depend on the complexity of your project but the video is a necessary part of a crowdfunding campaign. Our videographer was Darko Sikman. I definitely recommend working with him, he was able to shoot everything in 5 hours and had a very fast turnaround.
Crowdfunding your startup with products- Interview with Focus Journal

Y: Any last words for anyone looking to get into crowdfunding or have any other questions on how to crowdfund your startup product?


S: If you’re launching a crowdfunding campaign I would definitely recommend calculating how many people you can really reach knowing that only 5% will convert and set your crowdfunding goal accordingly. It’s nice to have a big goal but you also want to be able to reach it, espcially with a platform like kickstarter where it’s an all or nothing deal.


Thank you Sabrina for your time. We wish you the best of luck on your kickstarter and your product. If you are interested in checking out Focus Journal, you can check it out on kickstarter.

If you have a startup story, feel free to share you story with us. YVR Startups is constantly looking for stories on startups, ecommerce, entrepreneurship and marketing.


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