Editor’s Note: Blather is a Happy Jacks listener and has been involved in a Kickstarter. I asked him to share his experiences to give us an alternate view.
Let me start by saying that I was very surprised by how fast my email about Kickstarters was read on Happy Jacks RPG Podcast. Maybe it is because right now, Kickstarters are a hot topic among the gaming crowd. I wanted to wait until after the response from the email to write this post, and I was not surprised at many of the comments. Stu asked me if I would be interested about writing a guest post from the perspective of someone who is part of a KS project that was funded. So here it goes:
It had taken close to three months emailing back and forth to finally meet Ed Fortae (owner of Troll Forged Miniatures) face to face. After a short conversation about mold making and casting methods, we both came to a solid understanding: Ed would spend most of his time in the shop building the molds. I would test them. Once approved, that mold would go into production.
I started helping out one day a week, though it soon became apparent that one day a week would not be enough. So we started talking options. Going to a bank and asking for a loan under the current economic conditions was right out. Ed had talked with a banker but, that did not lead very far. Neither of us had enough start-up cash to get into a shop space either. Another was taking funds offered by another company. But with concerns about outside influence, that option was nixed.
Though Ed knew the he alone couldn’t keep pace with the orders, he was fearful about bringing me in to help, due to the added cost to payroll. Additionally, I was already employed, and my job was by most standards a good one. But I was ready for a change and eventually working full-time with Troll Forged was something I wanted to do, not just as an employee but as a future partner.
So, the Assimilation Alien Host Kickstarter was born.
These are Ed’s vision for his first full figure line. As most KS projects go it was business as usual. When he asked me how I thought it would do, I smiled and said “Just be ready for the hockey stick”. The project went up. Initial funding rolled in quick and we funded in about a week.
After that however things changed. Most KS projects have a plateau somewhere in the middle. Then they either level out or get the hockey stick, skyrocket during the last two to three days or nose dive into the abyss. Ed’s never did level out and for the most part is was a steady upward line on the chart. Then the hockey stick came during the last ten hours of the closing day.
The KS project blew up during the last week, not to mention during the last ten hours of the closing day. More miniatures were added, more concept art was ordered and the work ahead piled high. Des Hanley, http://bloodofkittens.com/art/category/des-hanley/, was drawing up a storm, cranking out drawings even while sick. Ian Mountain, http://www.mountainminiatures.co.uk/, was brought in to take on some non-alien miniatures. Des, if I remember correctly would also be working on the dreadnought. Ed on most of the aliens in the line and myself taking over the line of custom miniature bases.
After the project closed we had a long discussion of where the funds needed to go. With increased interest in what we were doing, a few other companies and miniature sculptors approached us for our service. The immediate need for more casting equipment was very apparent. So two more casting machines were procured. After that we needed to increase the quantities of materials we were going to be used. This along with other supplies to set up the new machines were added to the purchase list. So the quantities we purchase in a single order were upped to meet production needs. A small portion of the money was set aside for future investment in moving into a shop space. There was of course the money paid to our concept artist and to a second sculptor. As we are now forming the company we have taken on the services of an accountant. There are still funds left and we are holding onto those tightly.
Ed was both ecstatic that there was that much interest in his work and worried about production. If you are going to start a project let me just say this:
1) Be ready for it to flop, some do. It is your responsibility as the project manager to get people involved. This is not a trip down to the strip club where people make it rain on you.
2) Be ready for it to fund, just fund. Some projects are good ideas and they get the money to succeed. Be glade yours did. However…….
3) Be ready for it to BLOW THE FUCK UP! If you are one of the lucky few whose project over funds be ready for it, scramble or call it. If you call it let people know why. No more stretch goals means nothing else is being added to the project. You are done and going to ride it out. Scramble to add stretch goals because you did not plan for this much interest.
4) Be ready to talk your ass off. Engage with your backers, because if you do not, you may just be kissing that project good-bye. Take a look at the comments section of ours and other successful KS projects. As well as the unsuccessful ones.
5) Listen to the Funding the Dream Pod Cast! http://www.buzzsprout.com/4646
6) If you have a large tribe of people who know your work, MOBILIZE THEM!
Our estimated shipping range is April through May of 2013. Currently; only five months away. I am working to finish the line of custom bases when I get home after casting at “The Forge”. I remind Ed everyday that he is to set time aside to work on the miniatures for the KS and he does. Being a family man with two kids makes it hard for him but, he knows it needs to be done. After all we have 399 people backing us.
Our time investment is five days a week, eight hours a day. With this being a home-based business we are limited to times when the family is out of the house. With one of the machines being stored here at my home, I will be wiring it up to start casting here at the house. As I have no other obligations I will be putting in as much time as I can. Ed, for his part will be setting time aside each week to do the sculpting. With possibly a few hours on the weekend.
From my perspective what we did in many ways is what Kickstarter is set up to do. Ed and I are building a company; we had a product idea, needed funding and went to one of several possible solutions. My former employer was a fortune 500 company; to me the term “backer” translates into shareholder. I know that is not the intention of Kickstarter, that is just how I see those people who were willing to put up their hard earned cash and expect something in return.
I will be honest, right now all I do is test molds and produce the product, and it is a LOT of product. If you are a Red Box backer, know that we have been casting as fast as we can. I know that Ed is getting the final masters finished and their molds are being tested and completed. Also, I know that Tre has been sending out orders that can be filled with what we have sent him.
Managing the crazy ride that a successful KS can be is a lot of stress. I do not know about Tre, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This one may be late but I will be dammed if this happens again. Unless it is an act of “GOD“.
I just want to speak to Jib for a second before I close this up. Yes, it has funded the day job. However, Troll Forged Minis is not dependent on just this one project. Yes, Assimilation Alien Host was the project that brought me on board and then some. Much like I told my parents when they heard about me doing this I tell you, thanks for the warning and voice of reason.
The TFM concept as a company is to facilitate the production of miniatures here in the US. Those miniatures come from independent artists who wish to contract smaller production runs that larger casting companies would not touch. Not many of the big boys will touch a run of 100 minis. We will. You would be surprised at how many sculptors want their stuff made. We also provide the store front for the sale of the miniatures if they do not have one.
Just to give you an idea of how much our production has increased: a second casting machine is on the way and will be at “The Forge” shortly. We are already in discussion whether to hire on a second full timer or just another part-timer. The Kickstarter did not just start my new day job, it kick started the whole damn business.
Are we busy? Yes, busy as fucking hell! That my fellow douche bags is a good problem to have.
And Stu, love the music let me know when that KS of yours goes up, you got my email and my money.
Now get out there and roll some dice!