About this episode

This week I am sharing a Startup Story LIVE session featuring Emma Rose Cohen. In this session, she shares everything she knows about running a successful Kickstarter campaign. Collectively Emma has raised over $2 million across two Kickstarter product campaigns. Her most recent campaign for the FinalWipe launch, even with the challenge of gaining global attention due to a pandemic, exceeded the initial goal in just a few hours of its launch.

Emma Rose Cohen is the founder of FinalStraw. FinalStraw is a collapsible and reusable straw for a sucking alternative that will help reduce plastic waste across the globe. Emma is a Kickstarter genius, and this week I am thrilled to share her Startup Story Live session with you.

In this episode, you'll hear.

  • Some of the crowdfunding challenges Emma has experienced and what she learned from them.
  • The tactics and strategies she employed in her successful Kickstarter campaigns.
  • How long it took her from the pre-launch phase to the launch phase of her first campaign.
  • Raising awareness of your Kickstarter campaign, including getting press coverage and more.
  • Some additional strategies people who are looking to drive traffic to the platform can employ.
  • Questions to keep in mind when preparing to launch and then later to run your campaign: "Why do people need this?" "What is the advantage of this product over, everything else that exists?" "And why should they trust you?"
  • Keeping backers of your Kickstarter campaign engaged and the product fulfillment process.
  • Emma's for creating significant video elements for the best conversion

Resources from this episode

ExpressVPN: Get 3 Months Free → ExpressVPN.com/StartupStory
The Startup Story Inner Circle: https://www.thestartupstory.co/vip
FinalStraw: https://final.co/
Emma Rose Cohen on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emmarosecohen/
The Startup Story on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/thestartupstory
The Startup Story is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/jamesmckinney
The Startup Story on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thestartupstory

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Special Guest: Emma Rose Cohen.

Episode transcript

Startup Story LIVE- Emma Rose Cohen

In this week's episode we walk step by step on how to launch a multimillion dollar Kickstarter campaign.

Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.

James McKinney: Welcome to another episode of The Startup Story podcast. On May 14th and 15th we held our first Startup Story LIVE event which was an epic, two-day livestream event featuring 13 incredible founders from varying industries. Throughout those two days, our founder guests shared the various tactics and strategies they have employed in their businesses as a result of the global pandemic. This event also gave you the listeners a chance to have your questions answered directly by these founders themselves.

Well, Startup Story LIVE was an incredible event and I want to provide more opportunities like this to get you direct access to some incredible entrepreneurs so that you can get your questions answered directly. For the duration of the summer I have been and will continue to share the audio recordings from these sessions for you to enjoy. That said, I will not be releasing them in back to back weeks because I have some incredible founder startup stories to share as well. Also, if you're wanting access to all 13 founder sessions from Startup Story LIVE then please join our Startup Story Inner Circle. When you become a member of the Inner Circle you will get unlimited video access to every live event segment, as well as access to private livestream events just for Startup Story members. As if that we not enough, all Startup Story Inner Circle members will receive a hardcover copy of Jaime Schmidt's upcoming book titled Supermaker: Crafting Business on Your Own Terms absolutely free. That is a $25 value as a bonus for joining The Startup Story Inner Circle. You can see all the many perks by visit thestartupstory.co/VIP. All right, now let's jump into this week's founder session as it was originally recorded during Startup Story LIVE.

Emma Rose Cohen is the founder of Final Straw and an absolute Kickstarter genius. Emma has collectively raised over $2 million across two product campaigns. In fact, her most recent Kickstarter product campaign for the Final Wipe launched last month while all the media attention was on the coronavirus. Even with the challenge of gaining global attention due to a pandemic, FinalWipe's Kickstarter campaign exceeded the initial goal in just a few hours of its launch. Please help me welcome Emma Rose Cohen to Startup Story LIVE.

Emma, thank you for joining us for Startup Story LIVE. I've been so excited for your session because I am such a fan of you and everything that you're doing.

Emma Rose Cohen: Yes, James, it's so mutual. Thanks for having me.

James McKinney: So when we first connected earlier last year, again I don't know if you know this but you were episode number 17, so you were early days for The Startup Story. So but when we connected last year we had talked a little bit about your story and your passion for the problem you're trying to solve with the elimination of single use plastics. The beauty about passion is that it allows us to accept obstacles. It'll force us to figure out a solution, especially when it comes to getting your product to market. One of the challenges that people lean on as a barrier along their journey is capital. And with the growth and acceptance of crowdfunding there really is not a reason for someone to not get to market for the solution if it's based on capital. I mean of course unless it's just an absolutely horrible product.

Throughout the day we've been following these questions that are inside, and we have questions for you that'll be at the end. So for all you watching, if you have a product and you're curious about crowdfunding, whatever the case may be, post your questions now for Emma and we'll get them all at the end. But part of the questions have been about getting to revenue quickly, monetizing things. And because it's a crazy time right now, we hear about how we can leverage an ecommerce solution to help drive business and whatever the case may be. But there are solutions out there that require capital up front, again whether it be a service or product. Of course final straw being a product, and now FinalWipe, that is your second Kickstarter campaign.

But when we think through capital, I want to come right out the gate, I want to just get into the nitty gritty of crowdfunding. You have raised over $2 million on Kickstarter, and before we get into the tactics and strategies that you utilize to achieve such success, I want to ask you to lay out if you will the challenges that you've had to work through and that you've learned from, because I don't want people thinking that crowdfunding is without its challenges. I don't want them thinking that it's an ATM machine. I don't want them thinking it's this Holy Grail if you will. I know there's challenges and sometimes we don't see the full picture which is why we have The Startup Story, to unveil all the things that most people don't think of when it comes to entrepreneurship. I would like to ask you to share the lessons learned, the many lessons learned, through your crowdfunding journey.

Emma Rose Cohen: So oh man it's been a wild ride. When we launched on Kickstarter and I hit that button after five sleepless nights, and just like working so hard and bought the first straw on Kickstarter, because yeah, we had no idea what to expect. It could have gone in so many different ways. We were not prepared at all for what happened. So just to create a little clarity around why Kickstarter, I think Kickstarter is such a good platform to test the market. It's not necessarily an end all, be all if your product doesn't do well on Kickstarter because it is a more niche audience. You have a higher male demographic that are looking to be the earlier innovators and adopters of these kind of like innovative products. So there is a very kind of not super specific demographic, but just be aware that is who you are marketing to when you go on Kickstarter.

We launched on Kickstarter as a way to test the market. Instead of doing going out and doing surveys, and all these things because when I talked to my friends and I was like, "This is the project I'm working on now," they're like, "Oh, cute straw. Don't quit your day job." I was like, "No, I think this could be a thing." Launched with very low expectations and that's kind of my first recommendation. Don't expect your product to go viral. Don't think it's going to be an overnight success. And plan for the bet and then also plan for the worst. The best case scenario is that the campaign takes off, and that was a huge challenge that we didn't prepare for. 24 hours into the campaign, it's just going off the chains. We're getting a gazillion emails and there was two of us. It was like I was completely overwhelmed. I didn't have anyone to help. So I just started hiring family members, and anyone that knew English and could type was basically like you're hired. That's kind of my first recommendation is be prepared with backup because you don't know what the campaign is going to do, and hopefully you can kind of use your friend and family network so you don't need a lot of capital for that.

The second thing to be aware of is that Kickstarter campaigns do require investment. You have to be able to present your idea in a way that shows people and encourages trust with the consumer that you're actually going to make it. Because the hurtle that you're dealing with is that people have been screwed over by Kickstarters in the past, where the products never came out, and so you need to convince the consumer not only is this an amazing product that you need, but I'm a trustworthy person and I'm going to actually make it by the deadline that I say I am.

James McKinney: With that idea of having trust if you will, obviously and your second one you had that. How do you establish that on the front side, your very first one?

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. So you know we had team pages where we talk about ourselves. There's photos. You really try to make it as personal as possible. And this is just kind of a branding and marketing bit of advice in general is use your voice. That's what makes you so uniquely different than everyone else, than all of the other products. The voice of FinalStraw is just me wrapped in a little bow. We're cheeky, we're sassy, we're a little snarky, and we're funny. We love puns and all these things. I think the consumer immediately lands on our page and they're like, "Oh, this isn't just another brand or random thing trying to rip me off. This is actually a person behind this trying to make a difference, trying to change the world.

James McKinney: So again, before we jump into the playbook if you will on how to execute a great Kickstarter campaign. So I, gosh I don't know how many years ago this is now, this is probably five or six years ago, I ran an Indiegogo campaign for an app I wanted to develop. Failed miserably, but one of the things in my research of this, again it was a software solution so it was less of an issue, but one of the things I heard all the time is the fulfillment challenges that come with a Kickstarter campaign. One of the things I've read about yours in particular is the knock off side of running and getting the visibility of a Kickstarter campaign. So can you unpack a little bit those learnings when it comes to Kickstarter?

Emma Rose Cohen: And even to rewind a little bit to keep kind of talking a little more about the challenges going into the Kickstarter, another really big one is that no one responds to your emails. So you write all these Kickstarter campaigns and you're like, "Hey, I want to collaborate. We should do shout outs," and they're like, "cool, show me how many people you have signed up and then I'll consider it." So we went from begging all of these companies to collaborate with us, to being like, "Actually we just raised way more than you in a few days. Never mind." It's funny because the tables can turn really quickly but creating that outreach strategy on the forefront is super, super important and we can kind of go a little more into that in the execution phase.

James McKinney: Perfect. So the fulfillment of product though.

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. So in terms of fulfillment, we had such a huge challenge because the software that we used to connect Kickstarter with the 3PL which is the facility that ships out all the packages did not have an address verification system. So someone could write 69 MyButt Lane - sorry, that's terrible…

James McKinney: The fact that was like your go to address was so good. Back to the whole thing FinalStraw is me wrapped up, full of sass. MyButt Lane.

Emma Rose Cohen: But so people could write whatever they want for their address and then it would just get dropped from the 3PLs software and so we just ended up with thousands of packages that didn't go out on time. It was such a disaster. We call it "Strawmageddon" and everyone at the company who was there at the beginning just has very deep seeded PTSD, so it's a lot of convincing that I had to do when I was like, "Let's launch FinalWipe," and everyone was like, "Ugh, too soon." But we figured it out.

In terms of the knock off issue you brought up, Kickstarter is such an amazing platform to launch these ideas that are timely and relevant and innovative, and super cool, and change the world. But you do have people overseas watching this platform to see what is getting kicked off quickly, and how can they replicate it. And we were just the most classic Kickstarter story of two kids with an idea, and that's it. We didn't have any manufacturing connections. I had no clue how I was going to make all these straws. It was an idea thrown together with basically packing tape and chewing gum.

So when the campaign went viral, these companies in China primarily copied the design and immediately started producing it. So we don't even have straws in the market, and then all of the sudden they're flooding Amazon, Ali Baba, Wish, all of the platforms, and this created so much discord with our community and our customer base because people were just thoroughly confused. They're like wait, so now you're selling this product on Amazon and I'm not getting it until November? These companies that are ripping us off, they have zero regard obviously. So they're using all my photos, all of our copy, all of our marketing material. Creating domains like thefinalstrawstoreshop.com, using our exact website, and bidding on keywords that we're doing on Google.

So just about as many tactics as they can use to create confusion they were doing. And so this was a really, really intense and emotional battle for me because the reason I created this product isn't to make millions of dollars. I honestly could live on Ramen for the rest of my life. The reason I created this is to reduce waste, and these knockoffs were super low quality, they break in five minutes. Then people were angry and upset, and also like a lot of people, this was their first step into sustainability. This is the first time they're like, "Oh, well maybe I do want to reduce my waste. Here, I'm going to try this product," and then it just breaks and then they're like, "I give up."

It was really hard. There was so much anxiety and luckily we brought on a very good brand protection team, and the product is patented but the confusion around what a patent is also very prevalent. You can have a patented product, but you then have to enforce it. The enforcement is so expensive and so time consuming. We have two people on our team who work on this all the time, and we're a tiny little team.

James McKinney: That's crazy. Again, you talk about the enforcement side of it. One, it's one thing to enforce in the US; it's a whole other thing to enforce internationally. And that's a whole other discussion that we should probably have another separate livestream on just talking about patent infringement and the pursuit of that. Right now is the time, I know the audience is dying for this. We've gotten 20 minutes into our time together, but let's get super tactical for everyone watching. For everyone watching, make sure you're ready to take copies and notes. In fact, if you just want to be Emma is so great to listen to because she's hilarious, but if you just want to listen and just make quick notes, make sure you get access to The Startup Story membership where we're going to have all the video content, we're going to have transcription services as well as action summary notes, and of course all the private livestream opportunities that will follow. But we're going to get super tactical right now. And so as we enroll in the Emma Rose Cohen school of crowdfunding, what are the tactics and strategies you employed in your successful Kickstarter campaigns?

Emma Rose Cohen: pre campaign work is so, so important. I basically spent three months with one other person working fulltime on creating our pre campaign strategy. So the first thing you need to do is setup a landing page on your website, and I suggest, and I use a model similar to what Harry's did for their launch. Something that entices people to want to learn more about your product. So coming soon, minimal copy, really nice bold image that people can land on and say, "Oh, this looks cool." So then what you're using this landing page for is to collect emails. From there, once they enter their email you create an incentive system for them to share that landing page with their friends. So there's a website called ViralLoops, I recommend using that. Super easy to just create that system. So if they get one person to sign up, they get 10% off. If they get 20 people to sign up, blah, blah, blah. That's a really good way to create an email list of people who are interested specifically in what you're offering. We had 4,000 people on our email list before we launched FinalStraw.

James McKinney: wow.

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah, so that's huge. The way to drive people to your landing page is either through social media. I really focused on building an Instagram account that was funny and full of memes, and just stuff people wanted to follow. And then that way people were just tuning in because they liked the content, not because we were trying to sell something. I was able to get like 10,000 followers on Instagram before we launched.

And then additionally you can run ads on social media. There's so many resources out there. I basically attended the university of YouTube in terms of learning how to run ads, how to choose audiences, how to AB test, that's a huge one. At Final, we're such big proponents of testing and whether it be copy or images or text color, test everything because what you like may not be what people respond to. With that in mind, always stay true to your voice because as soon as you try to start appeasing others you become disingenuous and lose the authenticity.

Another tactic that employed, and this was really, really helpful, was that straws were becoming a topic. We got so lucky on the timing of that.

James McKinney: Can you reframe what year this was? Again, we recorded your episode, episode 17, can you reframe the time period in which you were running the FinalStraw Kickstarter?

Emma Rose Cohen: We launched on April 17 of 2018, and just to put that into context in terms of what was happening in the world, in January of 2018 Seattle banned straws, which created this cascade of events where you had sweeping legislation as well as corporate buy in in terms of reducing single use plastic straws. So not only were we seeing it being banned in all these different cities and even countries, but also seeing corporations like Starbucks, Ikea, Alaska Airlines cutting straws. Such a huge part of our success is due to timing, and really any business you look at, any successful business, can put 51% of their success on timing. The other 49% is working your ass off and never stopping, and believing in what you're doing.

The other tactic that I used is I created Google news alerts for plastic straws so I could see every single article that people were writing about plastic straws. Now, I created a humongous Excel spreadsheet with about 700 people's names on it of reporters that were then writing about these plastic straws. So right before the Kickstarter goes live, I'm like so excited and ambitious, and think that people are going to be so excited to hear my idea, I send out 700 emails to all these reporters. Guess how many responses I got?

James McKinney: Zero?

Emma Rose Cohen: I got one. The one response I got was from Buzzfeed and they loved it, and they wanted to do a video on it. You put in so much work to hope to get one yes, and our one yes was really what is so much of what our success was about, because they put a video together that went live the day the Kickstarter launched, just about the product because straws were so hot. So that was tuning all these eyeballs to Kickstarter. From there, it just exploded.

James McKinney: So when you think of all that pre work effort that you just talked about, the social side, really it's about generating the leads in order to make the announcement for the Kickstarter. So when you think of all that pre work prior to launch, how long would you say that period is? To get super tactical for those watching, if they're thinking of leveraging Kickstarter for a product launch or for example there's been loungewear and pajamas has been kind of the recurring questions. So if they have a new loungewear article for Kickstarter how much of that pre work? How long is that period, or at least was it for you?

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. So that was three months and I was really focused on all the marketing and building the audience, because you just need to get as many eyeballs as possible, and people listening to what you're doing, caring about what you're doing, and ready and post to share it as soon as it goes live, because that's how things go viral. You just need people to relate to what you're creating, so much so that they want to share it with their friends.

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James McKinney: The Kickstarter homepage if you will, let's just talk about the Kickstarter platform itself. And I don't know the details so I'm actually asking this question because I don't know. Is there a pay to play model inside of Kickstarter where you can get prime viewing and location like a pay per click model? Is there something you can do inside of Kickstarter to gain higher awareness besides your own efforts?

Emma Rose Cohen: No, so that's the beauty of the platform. They really do recognize and promote projects that they either love or that are gaining a lot of traction. So this is another little hack in terms of setting up your campaign. We initially put the $12,500 as our goal even though that was lower than what we wanted but there's software out there that's tracking how quickly you hit your goal and therefore we will hit higher ranking. You can cancel your Kickstarter campaign at any point if you don't reach your in your mind goal, but I would say set that goal a little lower just so you can hit quick.

James McKinney: Oh, so that by tracking you mean how fast you're getting close to that target and then you get the homepage. The idea of not hitting your goal, if you do cancel the campaign can you relaunch a campaign, or is there a Kickstarter shadow ban?

Emma Rose Cohen: Nope. You can absolutely relaunch a campaign. I have a friend that I think the first time he did his campaign he raised like $20,000 and cancelled it. He went back, reworked, took all that learnings from the cancelled campaign and relaunched and raised like a quarter million dollars. So it's very possible and I think timing obviously has an impact. The audience that you created before you launch is a huge impact. So there's quite a few things that can be improved on if you do have to cancel and then relaunch.

James McKinney: You know one of the things you mentioned in I think when we talked about some of the lessons learned, you talk about the collaborations and the partnerships, reaching out to other people to participate. What does that look like in the Kickstarter space? We just talked with Eric Huberman about partnerships when it came to existing products and sales, and B to B or B to C. In Kickstarter, what does that look like? I didn't even know this was a thing.

Emma Rose Cohen: Oh, it's so a thing. So basically within Kickstarter people send these updates out as to like what's going on with the project. In those updates it's very common for other companies to include a shout out to another company. So whether that is either an, "Okay, you shout me out, we'll shout you out," or I've also seen, "Hey, we'll put you in this newsletter but we're taking 10% and tracking links." So I think there's quite a few models. Our model is really we are down to promote anyone that is working on a project that is sustainability related. We get hit up by so many… I got a chat board game the other day. This is not related what we are and so for us and the trust that we built with our community, it feels really important that we only promote projects that are sustainably based, but in that note, we collaborate with a lot of other sustainable items in terms of swapping announcements and promoting each other. And that is a sense well beyond Kickstarter because we do a lot of work with other companies, giveaways, and social media collaborations.

James McKinney: There's just so many things about so many platforms most people don't know. Amazon, most people have no idea how big of an economy is just and part of supporting an Amazon business. There are trade shows that are specific to just Amazon sellers. If you're an Amazon seller you can go to this, if you're not you can't see these products ever. Inside the Kickstarter world, I had no idea there was this collaboration market where there was revenue sharing. What other elements inside of the Kickstarter ecosystem can we learn about as we're thinking about our Kickstarter campaign? What other things are people leveraging to just continue to drive traffic to the platform?

Emma Rose Cohen: So a big one is there's all of these ad agencies that are specifically geared around Kickstarter projects. They don't do regular advertising; they only work on Kickstarter companies. For FinalStraw we were so lucky. The campaign went viral. We didn't spend a dollar on advertising. Most campaigns are not like that and most people if you scroll down the Kickstarter page a little bit you'll see "powered by" or "supported by" and so those are the marketing companies.

We played around with that idea for FinalWipe and tested a couple, but what we found is that their return on ad spend was not much better than ours, and they're taking a cut. They're taking like a 15% cut of every pledge they drive towards you. Because we're pretty well versed in running our own ads, it didn't really make sense. We wanted to test their audience and see hey, can they create higher conversions with their audience than we can with our own running of these ads? And the answer was no. I think that's for a few different reasons, potentially because the Kickstarter company is a little bit more male. I don't know for certain, but I know that it didn't work for us and so I would recommend before going with an agency find out what your ROAS, or your return on ad spend is, when you run your own ads, and then work with an agency. If they can't really improve on that, then it's not worth it.

James McKinney: You know, you said it a few times and I have to ask, and maybe you don't know this but you said that Kickstarter has a primarily male audience. Do you know if Indiegogo is any different?

Emma Rose Cohen: I believe Indiegogo is the same, and it's not that it's entirely male. It's just that our primary audience at Final is female, and so it's very different from the Kickstarter community, and in general Kickstarter looks a little more at kind of like… they have a lot more artistic stuff, there's board games, there's video games whereas Indiegogo is very tech based, a lot of electronics and stuff like that. I don't know the exact categorical breakdown, but that's kind of the general one.

James McKinney: Awesome. We've got a question here, you said you emailed 200 reporters. I think you said 700 though, right? And you only heard back from Buzzfeed. How did you go about finding the original 700 reporters solely from the straw articles? Is that the only way you located them?

Emma Rose Cohen: It was kind of a whole host of thing. I read a lot of those articles. I read the headline of every single one, and if there was something that was of interest in the article I would read it. A lot of times it would point out different organizations that were working on things, and so it wasn't just the reporter who was writing about, it was the content of the article. Maybe there's an activist in Connecticut who's really passionate about straws, I'd reach out to them. One trick for reaching out to people is Twitter. Don't underestimate the power of Twitter. People respond on it way more than email, and go to all the channels. If there's someone you really want to talk to, hit them up in every single direction until you get a response. Obviously, be nice about it. And don't do that to me.

James McKinney: See that's what you were inviting right there with that. Okay, she gave everyone approval to do so. One question here, what good sources would you suggest for making… well actually the question is what good sources for making videos for Kickstarter, but I want to go back to the tactical approach. We've covered a lot on the pre side, the pre launch. Let's talk about the construct of the campaign itself. What are the things that in your mind are just gospel truth, it has to be on that Kickstarter page or don't even expect any type of success or to make any noise?

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. Any time I'm designing a marketing campaign, I'm just thinking about why. There's a really good TED talk about this in the why, how do we get connect with people's internal reasoning for doing something. And so for me with the straws, why is someone going to spend $25 on a reusable straw? Well, it's because they want to replace a single use plastic one because they care about the environment. So by framing the communication around the why, I think that's so important.

In terms of what is a must on your page, I could break it down but really just look at the FinalStraw page. I think we did a really good job answering all the questions in terms of what are the alternatives. Okay, it's plastic straws versus a FinalStraw. The story of the team. People want to get connected with who is actually creating this product. Speccs. But the thing about speccs is it changed so much. Uh, we're going to make this thing out of mermaid tears and frickin' pixie dust.

James McKinney: That sounds like a band playing Coachella, by the way.

Emma Rose Cohen: Yea, I think they were supposed to play this year. So I think just trying to put out as much information as you possibly can, knowing that it may change depending on what phase of development you're in creating your product. A lot of things can change. So tell the story of why do people need this, what is the advantage of this product over everything else that exists, and why should they trust you.

James McKinney: So we've talked a lot about executing a Kickstarter campaign, but the fulfillment of it, once it closes, I'm going to make a statement without the firsthand experience but from my understanding of your story and Kickstarter, is that the fulfillment side will really set you up for success for another campaign as well. And then of course long-term customer acquisition. What are some strategies around once someone makes a contribution to your Kickstarter campaign keeping them engaged and into the fulfillment of the product? What are some strategies you've employed for that?

Emma Rose Cohen: When you finish your Kickstarter campaign, you've got two options. You can either send out your survey where they pick their color choices through Kickstarter, or you can use a third party where they have a platform that you can really customize and then do add ons. I would definitely recommend the latter depending on how much additional things you can offer, but there is a really big potential to get a lot of add ons. So I think in the FinalStraw campaign we raised another $350,000 after the campaign closed with all of these add-ons. That platform, and this is where our fulfillment issue came in is that we used a company called Crowd Ox and they just had a huge disconnect with the address verification and 3PL.

So we're using BackerKit this time. I don't know that I can recommend them yet, I will let you know in a month or so if we're having struggles again in part two, which we hopefully aren't. But what's really cool is that in that platform, you've captured customers in the funnel. They have to complete this survey in order to get the product that they already paid for. So you've got these eyeballs, you've got attention, what else can you offer them? And that's where BackerKit really brings so much value in that you can offer them upgrades or different products, or really whatever you want and they have to at least click no or yes or whatever in order to get to the end. I think that's a really valuable alternative versus just using the Kickstarter software.

James McKinney: That's awesome. There's a question that came up that it speaks to the idea of how do you come back to Kickstarter if your first one was less than stellar, if you will? But I actually want to talk about your current one that ends tomorrow morning, so the timing is fantastic. So FinalWipe. Real briefly, share with the audience what FinalWipe is?

Emma Rose Cohen: Sure. So FinalWipe was a reaction to the current situation and I was using so many sanitizing wipes at home, and I hate using things once and throwing them away obviously. I'm obsessed beyond most people's understanding. And so I was like what can we do to fix this? At that same time, this is where the story gets a little weird. We had created an April Fool's video for reusable toilet paper. It was like a mermaid making poop jokes. I was like this is going to be great. And then COVID19 hit, the world changed, and I just felt like that wasn't the right path, and not the right thing to release. The combination of those two things, of hey I have this video already, and needing an alternative for myself inspired this product.

So FinalWipe can be used either wet or dry. It is a reusable antimicrobial cloth that can be used to replace paper towels, paper napkins, and even toilet paper when used with number one or with a bidet. Or you can add in our sanitizing solution and it becomes a sanitizing wipe. And so we have an at home version and then also a travel version, because when I went to Target and I had to wipe my cart down a million times I was freaking out. Okay, we're going to fix this.

James McKinney: That's awesome. Having come off a great Kickstarter campaign, which was again your first Kickstarter campaign was to launch your business and your product. I think that's where most people frame the idea of a Kickstarter campaign. Again, you have a built in client base at this point. You have actually a retail distribution channel as well for FinalStraw. So when I think oh having a second product, I don't think Kickstarter. So can you explain what your thought process was about leveraging Kickstarter for this second product?

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. It was really about testing the market, because I'm like this is something that I would love. Are other people interested? Is this solving a problem? Because when I am working on creating something new for Final, the two questions are is this going to reduce waste, and are people going to use it? Because you have to have both. And so this is just a test. It was like hey, we put the campaign together in 10 days. It was very quick. It was also like very fun. We're all stuck in quarantine, why not just go pedal to the frickin' metal and go for it? And I'm really happy with the results. I think in comparison to FinalStraw, it didn't do nearly the same amount, but it's such a different product and it's such a different market. And if we're, you know we had 4,000 backers. If those 4,000 people stop using paper towels that is an enormous win. That's hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, millions of trees over the lifetime, and so for me that's enough.

James McKinney: Yeah. And again, just for the audience, go to Kickstarter, Google FinalWipe, you'll see it. Not Google, sorry. Go to Kickstarter, search FinalWipe. You'll see the product. I think it ends tomorrow at 6:50 Central time so I think that's 5:50 in the morning Pacific time. Become a backer. But when she says it didn't do nearly as well as FinalStraw, it still you must have sold $250,000 or something like that.

Emma Rose Cohen: It's great.

James McKinney: It's done an incredible thing. But again, if you want to support it, support Emma for being here, make sure you get on that. Now, there's a difference between the two campaigns though. You n ow have the experience, you've gone through the first one. What are some things you did differently with FinalWipe specifically that you did not do with Kickstarter, and vice versa? What did you not do with Kickstarter that you're doing with FinalWipe?

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. It was funny because obviously I said I'd put three months into FinalStraw and then 10 days into FinalWipe. So it was such a different experience but because I knew what needed to happen. We focused on building out a funny video, putting together the campaign page, and you could really just hone in on activating the audience and doing it in such a compressed amount of time, that was very different. What I think would have been more helpful is more time obviously, and setting the 10 days was a little wild, but we wanted to come out the day before April Fool's and so it pushed us to really go that far.

It's tough because we also did a BuzzFeed video with FinalWipe that just did not explode the way the FinalStraw one did, and so you just never know. You never know what people are going to love. I think I would have predicted this, that we'd have these kind of results because this sort of product is the story of it is very different than the straw. Where the straw was just mainstream media, if you use a plastic straw you hate sea turtles, and this is so different.

The big thing that I would do differently is fulfillment because that was where we just had so many issues. With the FinalWipe, we're building it as we go. So I think my team would say have a finalized product before you launch, because I'm like, "Oh, we can do this or that," and backers obviously want to know what they're getting, and I'm figuring it out as I go. It's definitely beneficial to anticipate what kind of questions people are going to ask. For us a big one is around like what's in the sanitizing solution, and we were still figuring out what the active ingredient is, doing all this research into the EPA's approved list, and looking for the most non toxic cleaning supplies. Yeah, I think my team would definitely be like, "Could you just nail down a couple of those details before you launch next time?" Sorry guys.

James McKinney: I love it. Say yes, then figure it out.

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah, exactly.

James McKinney: All right. So let's run through some questions here for the sake of time here. Did you do your video internally or did you hire someone for it?

Emma Rose Cohen: So for the first video we brought on a production agency, but I wrote the script and created the concept. The second video we did entirely internally. Once you've worked with an actual production agency you realize how much less you actually need. And so I will, for the next few years, be doing all of our videos ourselves. You find a good videographer, a good sound person, some good actors. The thing is though that's my specialty. I love the marketing and there creative aspect, and that's really where I shine. If that is your specialty and that's where you shine versus on the product end, you don't need to hire a big agency. Advertising in general is really starting to gear away from these high production sort of things. If you look at just ads now it's a lot of user generated content, and just kind of more relatable stuff because brands are realizing people just want to feel like they could be the person in that commercial.

There's obviously benefits to each, and I wouldn't be able to produce the commercials if I hadn't done the one that we worked with an agency for, because I just had no idea what I was doing. But I did the one, took the notes, and then was like I could do this myself.

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James McKinney: How do you reemerge with a second Kickstarter campaign if the first one didn't bring the results you had hoped? Do you acknowledge the first campaign or try to ignore it completely?

Emma Rose Cohen: I think you can acknowledge it. People want to see vulnerability and if you say like, "Hey, I messed this up. This is what went wrong and here's how I'm fixing it," you're going to gain a lot more trust than just trying to sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn't happen. I always recommend people collect as much data as possible. Why did the Kickstarter fail? What went wrong? What can you really point to with quantitative data to say like, "Oh, well my color scheme turned people off because my target demographic is actually males between 34 and 48 and I'm everything is light pink, and they're not going to click on that."

So just try and get as much data as possible and then use that to inform the pivot. The worst thing people can do is pivot without that kind of knowledge base, and then you just go in a totally different direction and it doesn't work again. It's like well yeah, it didn't work, you didn't learn from the last time.

James McKinney: Yeah. Oh, that's awesome. I love it. Absolutely gold. One question from Alexandra, will you be using Kickstarter to launch all of your future products?

Emma Rose Cohen: So it's so funny because after FinalStraw I was like I'm never doing Kickstarter again. Everyone on my team can quote me on that. When this whole shift happened, I just was like well, I don't know if FinalWipe is something that people are going to really love, so why not use this platform to test it? I don't plan on launching all of our products on Kickstarter. I think that it's a really good platform for testing, but there's also other ways to test. What we were doing with some of our other products, because we've got two new products launching with FinalWipe.

James McKinney: Oh, we actually get to see it, exciting!

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. This is FinalSpork and then we also have FinalFork. So what's really cool about these guys is that you can only get them if you back the Kickstarter. So we'll have exclusive access to Kickstarter backers to get the first FinalFork and FinalSpork. So if you want to see that again, they are pretty slick.

James McKinney: I'm such a gadget guy. I'm geeking out over those. I mentioned while we were waiting to go live, I acknowledge I'm not the best environmentalist by any means, but that looks fantastic. Oh, I love those things.

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. Look, it doesn't matter what your reason is to adopt reusables, and that's why we make everything so design forward and sexy and fun. Because it doesn't have to just be the crunchy granola sort of like tree hugging mentality. It can be like hey, this is actually better, this feels better. I can't eat with plastic because I hate it. It doesn't feel good. It doesn't make my food taste good. I want a really good experience when I eat.

The reason we're launching these with the Kickstarter is that as I said with backer kit, you've got people going through the funnel and so they have to end up going through the survey, so you can add any add-ons and that's how we're launching these products.

James McKinney: That is awesome. Those look very, very sharp. Oh man, I love them.

Emma Rose Cohen: They are so cool.

James McKinney: I'm just letting you know that MyButt Lane is a big hit, just for reference.

Emma Rose Cohen: No filter.

James McKinney: Someone called in Ninja fork, so that's great. Again, there are a few people that are loving that fork so that is awesome.

Emma Rose Cohen: So cool. If you think about what's out there on the market right now, there's like these kind of chunky bamboo reusables that come in this like weird cloth thing, and then there's camping forks that are all flimsy. Like this is a frickin' solid… it's so cool.

James McKinney: That's awesome. And again if they go to the Kickstarter now for FinalWipe, once it completes they will be able to get the FinalFork?

Emma Rose Cohen: Correct, and you can back it for just $1. You don't have to buy FinalWipe. We're giving exclusive access to Kickstarter backers, so once we send out the survey after the campaign closes, you get that first access to FinalFork and FinalSpork.

James McKinney: Oh my gosh, I love it. Absolutely love it. Someone had asked how much money did you put in the FinalStraw campaign prior to launch?

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah, that's a great question. So we raised $30,000 from friends and family, and about $15,000 of it went to prototyping, and then about $3,000 went to production because we printed out 200 FinalStraw prototypes. That's actually something I didn't mention. We sent out those 200 prototypes to influencers and people on that list that I collected, reporters, all these people so people could get it in their hands and touch it. I think that worked to our benefit and to our detriment because it was made from medical tubing and like dentist rubber bands. So there was a lot of excitement around the actual utility of it, but I think people also didn't understand the difference between a prototype and a production model. The rest of the budget went towards ad spend, content creation, the video. It was kind of half and half with content creation and prototyping.

James McKinney: That's awesome. Someone had asked, and again we have I'm curious where this person is, but we have people in Kenya that are watching the Startup Story LIVE, so pretty amazing. Someone had asked or said this is in fact Wayne Jen, hopefully I pronounced it right, says, "This is fantastic. I'm running marketing for an eco friendly meal delivery service that makes allergy friendly African cuisine. Can we chat about partnerships?"

Emma Rose Cohen: Anyone who wants to get in contact from this, just go to final.co is our website, and if you just submit an inquiry our customer service team will either get in to me or someone else on the team that can help answer your question. We'd love to help and support you guys in any of the businesses that you're working on. I have a couple articles that I send out in terms of Kickstarter advice, so really happy to help in anyway, and especially around sustainability ideas I get real fired up.

James McKinney: That's awesome. And you guys should follow her on Instagram. It's a real treat. Let's see what else we've got here. Did you patent the product… we're just going through audience questions now, did you patent the product before launching Kickstarter? And I'm going to say answer the question for both products because I don't know if they're asking about FinalStraw or FinalWipe.

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. So IP is a whole world and super interesting. We submitted a provisional patent on FinalStraw before launching the Kickstarter. A provisional patent is relatively inexpensive and that was part of our budget of the $30,000. It's about $1,500 and it basically is a foot in the line in terms of like I came up with this idea, here's my spotted line. I don't have all of the details figured out, but here's generally what I'm going to do. So once you get, move from prototype phase to design for manufacturing you're going to want to submit both a utility and a design patent. So the utility covers the function of the product so three segmented fork with connecting piece, all of that. And then the design patent really covers the shape and the curve and all of those sort of things.

So once we made the money from the campaign, we submitted both utility and design patents on the straw, so that was April or I think we got those in May 2018, and we also fast tracked them because the knockoffs were just going off. So that was another, that whole thing was like $20,000 maybe more just in the US. We now have an entire international patent portfolio, but it's so expensive. It's just so expensive. But, so then we got the patent issued in November of 2018 and then started working on the take downs. Even today you can find FinalStraw knockoffs online. Granted, there are very few and because my patent protection team is really good at what they do, but it's constant. You never stop, it's just whacking moles, you know?

James McKinney: Yeah. Was that a disappointing find for you, this whole knockoff market and the cost of legal and all that? Was that again as a startup founder, legal tends to be that thing that we don't want to address right away because it's so stinking expensive. So when you had said that you didn't even file the provisional until after the campaign when you had the money. I thought man, that's got to be hard to defend then.

Emma Rose Cohen: We filed the provisional before the campaign.

James McKinney: Oh, got it, okay.

Emma Rose Cohen: You really want to file it… you have to file your provisional before public disclosure in order to get patent exclusivity worldwide. So the provisional is a must before you go live, before you start putting images online, get a provisional patent. Sorry if I said that in a weird way, it wasn't clear. The utility and design patent that come after, and that's where the real money starts showing up those are necessary for enforcement. So you cannot enforce… if you ever see patent pending, it doesn't really mean anything. It just means that they cannot enforce on their idea yet. It has to be patented, the patent has to be issued. And yes, we are patenting. We have patented the FinalWipe travel container.

James McKinney: And the tabs, okay. Man, questions just poured in all the sudden. It's not all IP related, I promise.

Emma Rose Cohen: I love IP. One of my favorites.

James McKinney: I hate talking all things legal because it just means there's a bill somewhere in there.

Emma Rose Cohen: Oh yah.

James McKinney: I have to clarify when I'm messaging an attorney, "Can we chat without charging me?"

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. I mean I'm sending all my lawyers kids to really good schools. You're welcome.

James McKinney: So one of the questions how long do you recommend making a campaign for? One month doesn't seem very long but two months feels like a really long time.

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. So FinalStraw was 30 days and it whizzed by which is why we did FinalWipe as 45. 45 feels great because it's kind of in between. You obviously don't want it to go on so long that people don't feel like the need to back now, so 45. Split the difference.

James McKinney: Someone asked about prototyping. How did you come up with a workable design prototype? I have ideas but I'm stuck on how to get a working prototype made.

Emma Rose Cohen: You know luckily FinalStraw is relatively simple product. It's a tent pole you can suck out of in a case. The first thing we did is find someone who can mock something up in CAD, which is the 3D development software. So we basically put together drawings and said, "Hey, this is the little box we want. Can you mock this up?" So then you find a local print shop, they can 3D print it for you. I actually bought a 3D printer on Amazon for like $150 and it worked really well. We've since upgraded to a nicer printer but you'd be surprised how well those things work.

Then with the tube, it was just a metal piece of tube. We went to a lathe shop, had them cut it and grind it so the segments fit in, and just used medical tubing. So you get creative. If you need CADs or something that you need printed out, there's people out there you can get it done for relatively inexpensive. It really just depends on the type of product that you're trying to make.

James McKinney: Awesome. Do you have any tips on preventing knockoffs if you don't have the money to do all of that IP work up front?

Emma Rose Cohen: I don't know.

James McKinney: Don't launch a Kickstarter?

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah, don't launch a Kickstarter. Honestly, the thing is that these companies are just watching to see what the next hot trendy product is. 99.99% of products don't get knocked off, but I can pretty much guarantee you any product that raises over $1 million on Kickstarter that is relatively easy to manufacture gets knocked off, so you just go into it knowing. The easier things to enforce on are copyright and trademark. So you trademark everything, copyright all of your photos, and then you can much easier enforce on those versus patent enforcement is much more complicated.

James McKinney: Awesome. Okay there's been a couple questions, even from the beginning, centered around video and video content. I haven't brought it to the table but I'm not going to avoid it because it just keeps getting asked. Do you have a formula around great video elements that must be in the video and get good action from viewers? Basically conversion, what video elements do you like to see that are seeing great conversion? What are you seeing in videos?

Emma Rose Cohen: So when I write a script, in my mind I'm obviously chuckling at my jokes but it doesn't matter I think I'm hilarious. Other people need to as well. So I'll either do like a reading or even shoot part of it and shoot more scenes than I think I need, and then have people watch it. For us, obviously our branding is about being funny and so if my friends aren't laughing out loud to the jokes I cut them, and I've been so married to a joke. I'm like, "it's so funny, don't you get it?" and they're like, "No." I'm like, "But you should." So I think it really just boils down to what is your brand voice, and your brand voice should hopefully be your voice and how you see the world, and how you want to tell your story. Make it as authentic as possible because that's what people are going to connect to. So my formula is, is it funny, does it tell the story, does it show what the product does, and is it going to create people to want to ask more questions or want to dive deeper into it. Because ultimately you don't want to just put up a video that, "Oh, that was interesting." How are you getting them to take that next action? And that's by kind of inspiring thoughts, inspiring questions, and encouraging them to find out more.

James McKinney: That's awesome. It's funny you mention tone and voice, correct me if I'm wrong but I do feel like the video in FinalWipe does have a different tone from you than the FinalStraw video I saw. I mean not the funny one. The mermaid one is hilarious as was what you have for FinalStraw, but I do feel like the video from you does have a different tone to it.

Emma Rose Cohen: You know it's different times and you evolve as a company. Your voice evolves and the story you're trying to tell will change. So that's okay. You don't have to keep telling the same story over and over. You can let it change as you want, but still keeping that kind of thread because you want people to be able to identify, oh this is Final by the branding or the messaging, and so that there is some level of consistency throughout.

James McKinney: All right, we've got one more question and it says, "I run an only fans page. Is there a possibility to promote my services on Kickstarter or is it only for promoting products?" So I guess the question is can you do services on Kickstarter or is it just products?

Emma Rose Cohen: It's just products.

James McKinney: I think Indiegogo you can do services.

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah, I'm not sure. I know Kickstarter is a product. It doesn't have to be… it can be software, but it is a product.

James McKinney: And this is my own personal question because final.co is an amazing URL. Did you have to pay for that URL? Or was it out there?

Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah.

James McKinney: Okay.

Emma Rose Cohen: Unfortunately I haven't gotten a free URL yet, but final.com, ugh I almost got it and then someone else bought it, and now they want like a half million. So yeah, oh well. I want the "m", that "m" is so good.

James McKinney: The "m" is so good. And Emma, you are so good, so thank you so very much for joining us for Startup Story LIVE.

Emma Rose Cohen: Thank you so much for having me, James, and I'm such a huge fan as well. You bring together all these amazing people and ask deep, probing questions that help people create their businesses and it's so powerful, so thank you.

James McKinney: Once you've had a few moments to process all the value Emma brought us in this week's episode, please hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and share with me your thoughts on this episode. Remember, entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs so visit thestartupstory.co/VIP to join other likeminded entrepreneurs that want to see your business succeed. And now for my personal ask.

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If you like this podcast and are thinking of creating your own, consider talking to my producer Danny Ozment. He helps thought leaders, influencers, executives, and authors create, launch, and produce podcasts that grow their business and make a real impact in this world. You can contact him today at emeraldcitypro.com/startupstory.

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June 16 2020
Startup Story LIVE: Emma Rose Cohen

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