Dissecting the DNA of a Stellar Brand

DissectingaStellarBrand-Main

If you’ve been around for a hot minute, then you’ve likely heard me preach that good branding is more than skin-deep. It’s more than a good name. Much more than a pretty logo. Truly standout brands are built from the inside out, infusing every facet of the company’s marketing with a strategic focus on the customer.

 

DissectingaStellarBrand-Main

 

I host an intensive, 8-week brand incubator that teaches creative, product-based entrepreneurs how to drill into the very core of their brand to discover what makes their product collection unique, and then we dip that freshly minted core into layer after layer of strategy in every facet of brand development. To borrow a line from Willy Wonka: It’s the branding equivalent of creating an Everlasting Gobstopper.

 

Many of us think of a “brand” as the visible aesthetics of a product or company. It’s the iceberg that we see protruding above the water level. But if we dive beneath the surface, we can quickly see that the mass of the iceberg sits beneath the water, sight unseen. This large mass is where the real strategy comes in; the piece that peeks above the water is simply the visible indication of all the goodness you can’t initially see.

 

Brand development- when done right- is strategic, methodical, and deceptively simple. I thought it would be fun to dissect a solidly-built brand to understand how it’s crafted a focused dialogue that has deep resonance with their target customers. One of my favorite examples of branding done right is Juniper Ridge.

 

Juniper Ridge was founded in 1998 in Oakland, CA. They’re creators of liquid soap, perfumes, incense, smudge sticks, and more. The brand is inspired by the great outdoors, and I lovingly refer to Juniper Ridge as “the ultimate hipster bath + body brand.” They’ve grown an audience of 64,000+ Instagram followers, and the products can be found in hundreds of stores across the U.S.

 

But why is Juniper Ridge so successful? I think they do five critical things and they do them exceptionally well. Let’s dissect this brand together…

 

JuniperRidge

 

 

1. Juniper Ridge has niched-down to target a very specific customer.

 

The company has no interest in being all things to all people. Their demographic is fairly young. Largely male. Adventurers. Campers. Hikers. Lovers of the outdoors. They don’t mind getting dirty, and they likely drink whiskey. They probably like motorcycles and chances are good that they prefer vintage models. It’s a thin slice of the population… and that’s the point. They’re not worried about your grandmother, or Beverly Hills princesses, or teenagers. Juniper Ridge knows precisely who they’re pursuing, and they pursue them with both focus and passion.

 

If your ideal customer sketch looks something like this >> women, aged 30-60 who need time away to take care of themselves >> then we need to talk. That’s not going to cut it. Though it seems completely counter-intuitive, the trick is to go narrow, not wide. As you narrow your audience, you make yourself more irresistible to that audience. And you need to crawl into the heads of this specific audience to understand what makes them tick on an intimate level.

 

 

2. Juniper Ridge has positioned that customer as the hero of their brand.

 

There’s a key mental pivot that successful brands must make. It goes something like this…

 

your brand >> the sage mentor
your product >> the tool
your customer >> the hero

 

Simple, eh? But the results of truly making this mental shift are profound. The aim of every brand is to feature their customer as the hero of the story. Your brand is helping them step into a more fulfilling version of themselves, and your product is the means by which they accomplish that evolution.

 

So what do Juniper Ridge customers want? A life that’s brimming with adventures and great stories. Look carefully at how they create their products. Analyze the visual and written stories that they craft around those products. Scrutinize the packaging. Peek at how the brand gives back to specific philanthropic efforts. Peep their social media and watch how the stories play out there. Discover how they invite customers to take part in the product creation. Without a doubt, Juniper Ridge customers are the heroes of the brand!

 

 

3. Juniper Ridge has created unique, meaningful differentiation around their products.

 

Bath and body companies are a dime a dozen these days. But Juniper Ridge isn’t your average b+b brand. From their site:

 

We formulate Wilderness Perfume by distilling and extracting fragrance from wildflowers, plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, and tree trimmings that we harvest on the trail. All Juniper Ridge products are 100% Wildcrafted and produced using old perfume-making techniques including distillation, tincturing, infusion and enfleurage.

 

A hundred years ago, all perfumes were made this way. Today we’re the only ones who handle every step of the process ourselves, from beginning to end. These formulas vary from year to year and harvest to harvest, based on rainfall, temperature, exact harvesting location, and season. The exact formula depends on what we find in the wind, a conversation with the living, wild ecology.

 

We’re building a new fragrance grammar of the American West. Every Juniper Ridge product has a harvest number stamped on it. Look up your product’s harvest number on our site to see photos of the plants and our fragrance extraction techniques.

 

No, seriously. These cats take what can best be described as a 70’s creeper van (the kind you warn your daughters not to park next to in darkened parking lots) and they take the staff on camping trips, where Juniper Ridge collects plant materials and distills that material on-site in the van as they sit around the campfire.

 

And then they craft richly textured stories of the adventure for each trip, carefully stamping each product with a number that traces it back to that story. So their customers can interact with the site to relive the epic adventure that birthed their products.  They go so far as to epoxy the bottom half of their “Field Perfume” bottles and roll them around in the soil of their harvesting locations.

 

A bit quirky? Absolutely. But this is pretty brilliant stuff.

 

 

JR-1

 

 

4. Juniper Ridge has evolved into masterful band of storytellers who create a unique brand experience.

 

The brand crafts powerful stories, both in words and in pictures. For example, consider this snapshot of how the team winds down the day on one of their harvest trips…

 

Running the still takes about two hours, at which point we’ve already started the campfire again and are grilling up some burgers. Somebody busts out our old friend, the whiskey flask, and the jokes parade in kind. The plants we gathered today didn’t yield enough oil to make an actual product, but that’s okay with Hall, who’s getting philosophical as he digs into his burger. “I think everyone needs to be part of something bigger than themselves,” he says. “Religion does that for some folks. For me, wilderness is my church, and the trail is my ritual.” Damn straight, Hall. Pass the whiskey.

 

And images from those trips often show Hall (Juniper Ridge’s founder) crawling along the ground collecting plant material and inhaling it so deeply that you could swear he’s huffing it. Don’t believe me? I respectfully sumit this as Exhibit A:

 

JR-2

 

The tales are rich and vivid. Infused with personality. And the images capture the nuance and vibe of the experience. Note the gritty nature of that photograph. Behold the beanie. Pay attention to the dirty nails and the wild earth behind him. Every drop of this is intentional.

 

 

5. Juniper Ridge has raised the bar to present a quality, consistent brand aesthetic.

 

Finally, Juniper Ridge stays true to the aesthetic they’ve developed for the brand. The logo, fonts, and color palettes are thoughtfully designed and consistently used. Even the tape that seals the shipping boxes is branded, strategically reflecting these key elements and creating a visual tag of sorts.

 

The packaging design is also true to their core: glass (rather than plastic) is used whenever possible. Much of the secondary packaging is bio-degradable. Until the company scaled up to its current mondo-sized iteration, the bottle tops were embellished with fallen limbs to harken back to their “interacting with nature” core.

 

JR-5

 

And the product photography? Swoon. Crisp. Well-styled. Beautifully executed. The selected props reflect the lifestyle that Juniper Ridge customers are interested in pursuing. You’ll see wood, rocks, moss, candles, campfires, pine sprigs, and hiking boots used as props. Each inclusion is deeply intentional, and no detail is too small. Above all, this story must be conistent in order to build trust. And trust is the currency of the modern economy.

 

JR-6

 

Well played, Juniper Ridge. Well played. May I humbly suggest hopping on their mailing list and perhaps making a purchase for yourself so you can see how the company carries that unique experience all the way through to product delivery?

 

You, too, can take a page from that same playbook. To be clear: I’m not suggesting that you create the ultimate, outdoor-inspired, hipster bath and body brand.  Nor am I advising that you begin distilling essential oils in a van in the woods or start rolling your products around in the dirt. That’s been done (and done well), but you can absolutely put your company through those same paces to discover what makes your products unique, who you truly want to sell to, and how to communicate your brand’s full value in a compelling way to those people. That’s’ what brand development is all about!

 

Want a sage hand to guide you through that process?

A cheerleading squad to keep you motivated?

A structured system to ensure that you do it right?

That’s what Brick House Branding is all about… and I’d be honored to help you raise the bar on your brand development. Enrollment closes tomorrow for the very last semester of 2017. Reserve your seat now, and we’ll spend September and October working side-by-side to discover how to make your brand matter to the people you want most.

 

I’d be honored to help! If you have a question about how Brick House Branding works or whether or not it’s right for you, then reach out and say “hello.” My team would be happy to answer your queries and clarify how BHB works.

 

P.S. All images courtesy of Juniper Ridge, who retains the copyright.

 

Studying good branding? Start here…

good branding

Can I be honest for a moment?

 

There’s a lot of really mediocre branding out there. 

 

I’ve spent some time meditating on why that is and I think it boils down to two essential things:

 

1. Many of us sort of fell backwards into our business, which means we skipped some of the critical work of brand development: thinking critically about our target audience, understanding where we fall within the marketplace, cultivating meaningful differentiation.

 

2. Resources are limited and we’re cobbling together our brand development on a shoestring budget.

 

Does that feel familiar? I imagine that it might. One of the most important things I think that we can do as brand owners is to immerse ourselves in the study of extraordinary branding. It widens our scope, helps us step into a new mindset, and raises our personal bar. All good things…

 

If you’re in search of creative brands who are hitting it out of the park, then I’d like to introduce you to 36 of my personal favorites. These brands- many of whom are small + mighty with artisan roots- offer fertile ground for inspiration. I’m drawn to them for four primary reasons:

  • They know who they are as brands.
  • They have a deep understanding of their target audience.
  • They’re not afraid to let their personalities shine.
  • They bring the heat when it comes to presentation, putting their best foot forward with stellar graphic design + outstanding photography.

 

I encourage you to carefully study brands both inside and outside your product category. Instead of looking exclusively at brands which share an aesthetic that resonates with you, explore new brands and see if you can ascertain, simply by looking at their websites:

 

Who is this brand trying to attract?

 

Dig deeper: what clues (text, images, packaging, price, product design) lead you to that conclusion?

 

How do all of the pieces mentioned in question #2 come together to create a cohesive whole? Does anything feel out of step?

 

What can you learn by watching these brands in action?

 

 

APOTHECARY

Laurel Whole Plant Organics

May Lindstrom

Juniper Ridge

S.W. Basics

Madame Scodioli

Tata Harper

 

 

PAPER + GIFT

Rifle Paper Co.

Emily McDowell

Lovelane Designs

Freaker USA

Cards Against Humanity

Poopourri

 

 

JEWELRY

Betsy & Iya

31 Bits

The Giving Keys

Upper Metal Class

The Brave Collection

Figs & Ginger

 

 

FOOD + SPIRITS

Wondermade

Big Spoon Roasters

Sugarfina

Jeni’s Ice Cream

Fat Toad Farm

Bittermilk

 

 

HOUSEWARES

The Wooden Palate

American Heirloom

Hedley & Bennett

Farmhouse Pottery

Coral & Tusk

Byrd & Belle

 

 

 APPAREL + ACCESSORIES

Shinola

Primary

So Worth Loving

Thinx

Johnny Cupcakes

Heart of Gold Apparel

 

 

I’d love to hear from you! Which brands resonated deeply with you? What stood out for you about them? I hope you’ll drop a comment below so we can chat about it.

 

If you’d like to build a stronger, smart brand in 2017, then I also hope that you’ll consider joining me in the spring semester of Brick House Branding. This 8-week brand development incubator dissects awesome brands and then helps you build your own, brick by brick, with me working right alongside you to cheer you on and ensure that you’re on the right track. Enrollment is closing in just a few days, but there’s still time to grab a seat… I’d welcome an opportunity to work with you!

 

Thinking about hiring a designer through Fiverr or 99designs? Please think again…

Fiverr or 99designs

Fiverr or 99designs

 

When I first started my business, I was a severely resource-constrained single mother, which is a gentle way of communicating to you that I was horrifically broke. Launching a brand is an expensive endeavor, and I often hear from my clients that they’re feeling the financial squeeze that frequently becomes the hallmark of the first few years of the entrepreneurial journey. While I’m all for bootstrapping and pinching pennies where possible, I’ve learned that the graphic design that represents your brand is not an area that’s well-served by cutting financial corners.

 

Many of the brands that I work alongside are consumer packaged goods. Think: beauty products, candles, gourmet foods, etc. The graphic design that surrounds all of our brands- regardless of product category- plays a significant role in both the efficacy of our marketing efforts and the determination of value that consumers attach to our products. That perception is critical for every brand (I’m looking at you stationers, jewelers, ceramicists, apparel designers…), but it’s especially important for these packaged goods.

 

As they shop online or in-stores, consumers have no way of ascertaining how delicious that granola will taste, how restorative that eye cream will be, or how strongly that candle will smell. They actually take all of their cues from the packaging design. Design influences the kinds of fans the product will attract, in what stores it will be sold, and how much you can charge for it. These are critical facets of your brand, and they shouldn’t be left to chance. But that’s precisely what you do when you hire designers through 99designs or Fiverr.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Pause that thought for a moment…

 

Fiverr is a platform where you can hire anyone to do almost anything starting at just $5. It’s ripe with peeps in search of design work. 99designs is a bit different: it’s a graphic design marketplace where you can post a project, host a contest, and attach a pot of money as the prize. Designers submit work, you pick the winner, and they score the sum of money you offered as bounty. The higher that sum, the more interest your project will illicit and (theoretically), the more submissions you’ll have.

 

DANGER, WILL ROBINSON…

 

Lucky Break clients often share that they’re planning to pursue design through these platforms and- when they do- I immediately flip the switch on my blinking neon “danger” sign and caution them against proceeding in that fashion. Here’s why…

 

(more…)

A peek inside a cosmetics manufacturing facility

cosmetics manufacturing

I love it when the Universe does me a solid.

 

My oldest daughter is studying Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Butler University in Indianapolis (Go Bulldogs!) and I recently flew up for a long weekend visit. She called a few days before my arrival to bemoan that her business class had tacked on an unexpected, mandatory field trip that she’d need to attend on Friday afternoon, which necessitated that we change our plans. But guess what, friends? That field trip was a trek to Gilchrist & Soames, a cosmetics manufacturing facility that is one of the largest hotel amenity manufacturers in the United States! Which proves – once and for all – that Jesus is real and he loves me.

 

I sweet-talked myself onto that tour and I wanted to share a peek inside a large-scale cosmetic manufacturing facility with you, gentle readers. But I know that what you *really* want to see if big machines and fancy labs, no? Alright… on with it then!

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

This manufacturing facility opened in 2015 in Plainfield, Indiana. It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from Indianapolis. The building spans 250,000 square feet and more than 100 people are employed through G&S at this location. They run two 10-hour shifts per day and reserve Fridays for overtime as needed. This singular facility houses the research + development arm, design, compounding, filling, marketing, and distribution.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

Gilchrist & Soames manufactures several lines of bodycare products under its own brand name, but they’re also a major force in the hotel amenity business worldwide. If you’ve cracked open a tiny bottle of shampoo in a hotel in the U.S., then you’ve probably used their products without even knowing it. Though the company does offer a retail website for direct-to-consumer sales, the vast majority of their business is B2B in the hospitality industry. They also handle some private label work for smaller bath + body brands.

 

The company was founded in London in 1975, though the U.S. operations have been bought and sold several times. In September of 2015, the company was acquired by Sysco Guest Supply, a subsidiary of Sysco.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

The Plainfield manufacturing facility is responsible for more than 3,000 unique SKUs. The facility manufactures an average of more than 350,000 bottles + tubes per day in a GMP-compliant facility (huzzah!). As you can imagine, I was like a kid-in-a-candy-shop as we wound through their filling area, led by the production manager. We donned googles and hair nets as we breezed past whirring machines and vibrating tables.

 

 

I was impressed by the hourly counts of products and the dry erase boards that tracked everything that was happening on the filling room floor in near-real time. Putting everything there in black + white helps the company understand where they are in the production cycle, quickly identifying any problems that are slowing their roll, and celebrating teams that are pulling especially hard. Everything is carefully counted and tracked. Daily production meetings help keep everyone on the same page.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

The smallest batch Gilchrist & Soames runs is 150 pounds and the largest batch they can run in 8,000 pounds(!). The average fill size is 1/10 of a pound (remember: we’re talking about amenities here) and the average batch size is 2,500 pounds. They routinely execute fills of 100,000+ pieces and smaller runs often mean changing the fill lines 3-4 times in a single shift, making them much less efficient.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

The warehouse was a thing of beauty. The uber-tall ceilings allow for flexible storage that can be reconfigured with relative ease as the company grows. Yellow tape on the floors outlined safe paths for walking as a half-dozen forklifts skirted around the facility, carrying pallets to and fro. Everything is bar coded for easier tracking. Think for a moment about the logistics of managing the raw materials, custom packaging, and finished products for 3,000 unique products. That necessitates a carefully orchestrated production theater.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

Raw materials receive bar codes as they’re received, finished pallets receive bar codes once their packed, and things are constantly scanned as they move about all 250,000 square feet.  Fork lifts scoot down aisles that are just a few inches wider than the fork lifts are themselves, and each fork lift “buckles” into a main line that runs down the aisle, keeping in on track and avoiding collisions.

 

I’ve never before been excited by a forklift until I saw this one. No, seriously… watch this thing pull out a pallet, spin it around, and put it back, in the narrowest of aisles. *swoon*

 

 

 

G&S maintains an R+D lab for new product development and for continued testing of each raw material into their facility and each finished product coming out of their facility. They perform accelerated aging tests (aka “challenge testing”) to confirm the stability of each product and that testing is twelve-weeks in duration. Even the bar soaps that are delivered to Gilchrist & Soames from a third party are carefully tested.

 

Cosmetics manufacturing

 

Many thanks to Gilchrist & Soames, who have gracious partnered with Butler University to sponsor this semester’s business class. They’ve sent representatives from their marketing and accounting departments to speak to students throughout the last few months. They’re offering support and hosting tours and doing a myriad of other things to support the next generation of business leaders and I’m deeply grateful.

 

I hope you enjoyed this peek inside a large-scale manufacturing facility. Also, childhood flashback: remember that segment of Mr. Rogers where his large, framed picture would turn into a video screen that showed you how something was made in a factory? That’s sort of how it felt to be in Gilchrist & Soames. Though I’ve been a bath and body manufacturers for 14 years now, my artisan process is so removed from this type of manufacturing that it made for a fascinating experience. Watching how they managed such complex logistics was particularly interesting and my hat is off to them for such a brilliant implementation of technology!

 

Three Innovative Funding Sources for Creative Brands

Innovative Funding Sources for Creative Brands

Funding Options for Creative Brands

 

Raise your hand if you need dollah, dollah bills to invest in your business?

 

Yea, I thought so.

 

One of the advantages of engaging in daily conversations with makers + products designers is that I’m able to keep a finger firmly on the pulse of the daily struggles that we all face as creative entrepreneurs. If there’s one struggle that I hear more often than any other, it’s that we have a long to-do list of things we need: graphic design, product photography, professionally executed packaging, well-designed websites, trade show appearances, business classes, and more. And we typically have less cash in the bank than we need to tackle that to-do list. I feel you, friend.

 

For too long, securing funding for your business growth meant sitting through snooze-fest classes for drafting elaborate business plans, schmoozing with your local banker, laying your personal finances bare, and spending weeks-to-months jumping through hoops and praying for a loan. The times are a’changing, and I’m thrilled to say that those days are officially behind us. The maker revival and entrepreneurial renaissance have ushered in a variety of non-traditional funding options, and they’ve arrived none too soon.

 

Deciding to take on debt for your business is a deeply personal choice, and I’m keenly aware that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But the reality is that we can’t DIY everything about our brand while simultaneously steering its strategic path. While I’m certain that you look dashing in a leotard and red patent leather boots, you’re not Wonder Woman and neither am I. We’re not Jills-of-all-trades, and there are a finite number of hours in the day. Which means we need help. And that help usually has a price tag attached.

 

At some point, each of us will eventually need to hire staff, delegate specific tasks to the professionals, and invest in our business. Ideally, you have a trust fund from a wealthy grandmother or a cushy day job that’s enabled you to stockpile money for a few years as you transition to full-time entrepreneurship. Wait… no? Then we’ll just have to get a wee bit more creative. Here’s a quick snapshot of three innovative funding sources you can tag in to help grow your brand!

 

KIVA ZIP

 

You might be familiar with Kiva as the microlending agency that serves people in developing countries around the world. And while that’s the backstory of this non-profit organization, there’s been a significant evolution in Kiva’s model of which you might not be aware. Since 2005, Kiva has been on a mission to alleviate poverty through microloans. A farmer in Peru or a shopkeeper in Uganda could apply for a loan to improve their home, send a child to school, or grow their business. Their story is profiled on the Kiva site and peeps like you and I can each pitch in $25 until the loan is fully funded. Over time, the recipient pays the loan back, and the funders receive the initial amount without interest.

 

A few years ago, Kiva launched a separate “Zip” crowdfunding program which is designed to support American entrepreneurs. Now businesses like yours and mine can apply to receive loans between $25-$10,000. The process begins with a simple online application which collects information about you, your business, and your plans for the moolah.

 

Once approved, Kiva asks you to make a loan of at least $25 to another entrepreneur. You then appeal to your own community (private fundraising), asking them to fund a portion of the loan, $25 at a time. You have 15 days to secure a certain percentage of the loan through your own channels. Once you’ve crossed that threshold, Kiva posts the loan on its larger platform (public fundraising), effectively opening it up worldwide to lenders. You then have 30 days on the public platform in which to raise the balance.

 

PROS
Kiva’s process often taken 30-60 days from initial application to eventual disbursement. But if you move quickly through that initial fundraising stage, then it’s often quicker than a traditional bank loan. And funds are typically available 48 hours after successfully funding the loan, so the cash is in your hot little hands pretty quickly.

 

Did I mention that the loans are at 0% interest? My hand to God’s… I would never deceive you! Interest-free loans are a thing of rare wonder and beauty, but Kiva Zip makes that happen. And there are no hidden fees. They leverage a network of millions of everyday lenders and corporate sponsors to offset program expenses. A $10,000 loan paid back over 36 months would carry a payment of just $278 a month… pretty damn reasonable.

 

The loans aren’t based on your personal credit history, and the debt doesn’t appear on your personal credit record. Kiva does use, however, publicly-available information about you and your business to verify your identity and determine creditworthiness.

 

CONS
You’re going to have to gather the chutzpah to ask people you know for money. There’s absolutely no shame in that game, but some people get squeamish about money chats. Heads up: as an entrepreneur, you have a lot of “money chats” ahead of you, so the sooner you can overcome this inner hurdle, the better off you’ll be. Thankfully, this is low-pressure asking: simply post on social media that you’re fundraising and link to your private page at Kiva. No need to arm wrestle your peeps into submission. And Kiva has a full suite of email template and helpful resources to help you fundraise more quickly and with ease.

 

Loans which aren’t fully funded within the time allocation are moot. Your backers won’t be charged, and you won’t be collecting a check, so it’s a wash in the end. Partial loan disbursements aren’t possible, so you’ll need to raise the full amount of your goal to enjoy any benefit from the loan.

 

You won’t qualify for a loan if you’re currently in foreclosure, bankruptcy, or the subject of any liens. While Kiva doesn’t check your personal credit record, those precarious situations are searchable through public records and Kiva can’t extend a loan to you if they apply.

 

EXAMPLES
There are handfuls of Lucky Break clients who have successfully raised between $5,000-10,000 through the Kiva Zip program, including Zandra Beauty, Todos Organics, Outlaw Soaps, and Etta + Billie.

 

Have more questions? Kiva has answers.

 

PAYPAL WORKING CAPITAL

 

PayPal has developed one of the most accessible funding platforms on the planet. Their “Working Capital” service was launched in 2013, providing lightning-fast small business loans with heaps of flexibility. Here’s how it works…

 

You complete a quick online application and PayPal makes a decision in 90-seconds-or-less. Your borrowing power is tied to the sales from your business which are routed through PayPal as a payment processor, so the lender has instant access to a snapshot of your company’s revenue history. An offer is made, and you can elect to tap all or a specific portion of the available loan amount. Fees are charged based on the speed at which you choose to repay the loan… the quicker you pay it back, the lower the fees.

 

For instance: Let’s say that your PayPal sales over the last 12 months totaled $150,000. You would easily qualify for a $20,000 loan. You could earmark 30% of your daily sales to loan repayment and pay just $1,221 over the life of the loan. If you choose to set aside 20% of your daily sales to loan payback, then fees jump to $1,907. A 10% daily payback rate jacks those fees up to $4,393. The total payback amount for that $20,000 loan would be between $21,221 and $24,393.

 

You can tap as much as 18% of the total amount of sales you’ve processed through PayPal over the last 12 months, to a maximum of $97,000. And payments are automatic, too. If you tell PayPal that you’ll pay the loan back at 10% and you make $150 in sales tomorrow, then PayPal will deduct 10% (or $15) as a loan payment. No sales tomorrow? That’s a $0 loan payment. Have a ridiculously good day with $1,000 in sales? $150 of that slides over to PayPal.

 

Assuming you made sales of $365,000 last year and you take the full $65,700 (18%) loan with a payback rate of 20% of your sales, then there would be an $8,857 fee associated with the loan. Assuming your sales were flat over the next twelve months (no growth), then that 20% payback rate works out to an approximate 13.48% annual interest rate. That’s more attractive than many credit cards, less attractive than some others. Swing by the PayPal Working Capital FAQ to get the 411 on their program.

 

PROS
Approvals are shockingly quick… by the time you can saunter into the kitchen for another cup of hot tea, the decision has been made, and a final answer is displayed on your screen. Funds are instantly available in your PayPal account and- at your request- they can transfer over to your bank account for full availability within 48 hours.

 

I appreciate that payments expand or shrink in correlation to sales. Suffering from the Summer Retail Draught? No worries… since your revenue is lower, your payments are, too. And because payments are automatic, the system is pretty seamless. Three cheers for having one less thing to think about during a busy week!

 

The loan doesn’t depend on (nor impact) your personal credit score. Many users appreciate the autonomy which surrounds this kind of lending.

 

CONS
You must be a PayPal Business or Premier member for at least three months to qualify. You also need to process at least $20,000 in sales annual (Premier account) or $15,000 annually (Business account). Anemic PayPal sales? You may qualify for several relatively comparable options (keep reading!).

 

You can only have one “loan” at a time. Borrowed $15k and now you need an additional $5 grand? You’ll need to pay that first $15k back before you can have another bite of the apple.
Is there such a thing as a borrowing process that’s too easy? If not, then PayPal has likely invented it. With loans this quick and painless, it’s easy to borrow impulsively without crunching the numbers and understanding how the setting aside of a fixed percentage of daily sales will impact your cash flow.

 

EXAMPLES
I know a good bit about this program because I’ve used it myself. Lucky Break took a $46,000 loan in June, and we’ve repaid $39,000 of that in just four months. As a user, I find the platform to be deliciously simple to understand and I appreciate that I can log in at any time for a clear explanation of current loan stats.

 

KICKSTARTER

 

Since its launch in 2009, Kickstarter has collected more than $2 billion (billion, with a b!) to fund 100,000 creative projects. The crowdfunding platform invites makers and product designers of all stripes to showcase products in development. Those projects are pitched to interested “backers” who might throw anywhere from $1-10,000 towards a single project. Brand owners create a rewards system in appreciation of the support. Those rewards range from simple social media shout-outs to early access to the products they’ve helped fund and innovative experiences reserved exclusively for backers.

 

PROS
Kickstarter is a public-facing platform, so it has the potential to spread news of your brand far and wide. This is easily the biggest benefit of the platform: the exposure brings with it significant opportunities. Campaigns sometimes go viral and are often featured in blogs, newspapers, and magazines. Unlock the secret to getting featured by Kickstarter staff, and you’re well on your way to not only raising dollars but growing an email list and attracting the attention of editors as well.

 

You can raise serious bank on Kickstarter if you play your cards right. I’ve seen campaigns raise as little as $2,500 and as much as many-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars.  It’s wise to think of Kickstarter along the lines of a pre-sales platform rather than a lending platform, but the amount you can raise is essentially limited only by time, your imagination, and your ability to produce all those rewards.

 

CONS
Kickstarter fundraising totals may look impressive, but the campaign totals can be deceiving. Kickstarter claims 5% of each pledge in fees, in addition to 3% and $.20 per pledge in credit card processing fees. So that’s an 8%+ haircut right off the top! You’ll also need to produce and ship those tangible rewards, and those costs add up quite quickly.

 

The platform is dense with projects and you’ll need to do lots of outreach to rally the troops. Prepare for a media blitz with proactive pitching to editors and plenty of messaging to your own community. Frequent newsletter reminders, social media blasts, and FB ads are typically needed to help projects gain traction. If you haven’t yet amassed a significant number of email subscribers or social media followers, then getting that project seen is likely an uphill battle.

 

You’ll need strong product imagery, a well-designed video, and solid storytelling chops to cut through the noise and capture attention. Many brands spend months putting together their campaigns and the best campaigns represent significant investments of strategic thought… and often dollars, too.

 

Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” platform. You’ll set a goal for the amount of money needed, and you’ll have a limited amount of time in which to raise those funds. Projects which aren’t fully funded by the deadline receive none of their pledged funding, so time is of the essence, and smart fundraising targets are a must.
Makers should be planning to either launch their brand on Kickstarter or significantly expand their current product offerings. Projects along the lines of “We need money for rent/ to hire someone/ to attend a conference” tend to go nowhere fast.

 

EXAMPLES
The projects which traditionally perform best on Kickstarter are tech gadgets, games, creative projects such as films, and problem-solving products like this multi-purpose cooler. My personal favorite Kickstart campaign of all time? Organic kid’s clothes from Lucky Break client The Smallest Tribe. Kathryn raised $10,575 in 2015!

 

NEED MORE FUNDING OPTIONS?

You’re spoilt for choice, my friend!

 

• Along the lines of PayPal’s Working Capital program, Square and Shopify have recently launched funding programs. Think: instant funding based on your sales history and automatic paybacks that flex with your gross revenue.

 

Kabbage is another option worth exploring. They provide quickly-dispersed lines of credit that range between $2,000-to $100,000. But beware: Fees range between 1.5%-12% per month, which is pretty rich for my blood!

 

Indiegogo is similar in nature to Kickstarter, with a similar pricing structure as well. The predominant difference is that Indiegogo isn’t all-or-nothing. If your campaign is at 72% of your fundraising goal on the day it expires, you still earn that 72%.

 

Have you found an innovative funding source for your business? Have a positive or negative experience to share about one of the funding source mentioned in this article? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts below… I’d love to hear them!