Take a look behind the scenes of SO Awesome’s start up process.
Hi, this is Marie-Claire writing, I’m the owner of SO Awesome. My boys Silas and Owen, now four years old, were the inspiration for our “Wallet Cards”. They were only 8 months old when I noticed their budding love affair with anything paper and in a card form.
Here's a picture of them at two years old with their first gift card collection.
I developed new durable, gorgeous card sets for them to play and work with. But the boys were the real pushing force. I call them “our” cards because we built them together. The cards they were first in love with (as we discovered) were made of toxic plastics. We sourced a printable plastic that was non-toxic, durable and made in the USA.
The cards are secretly educational and full of exciting details to explore and appreciate. It was accidental that this became a business really. I originally wanted to just make them for my boys, but it developed quickly into something that many, many children might also enjoy. I took the next step and decided to produce them on a mass scale.
I design, organize layouts, perform fulfillment, do sales, provide customer service, and am a Momma to Owen and Silas. I get tremendous amount of help from Victor, from my parents and from Bailee, Alexandria, Nickey and Marlee too.
How did I do it? How did WE do it?
To fund the creation and production of the first run of cards, our Alphabet deck, I started a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter is all-or-nothing funding for creative projects (and campaigns run on limited timelines). My husband Victor, a seasoned Backer, suggested that I give it a try. He gave me tips on positioning, rewards, timing and helped to film our pitch video as well.
Because I was new to Kickstarter, I treated each campaign like a full time job (well, as full time as I could while parenting my twins). I made it my goal to email at least 15 people a night with personal messages about my new campaign. I shared the projects on Facebook, with homeschool and parenting groups, on design forums, with Montessori teachers and of course with friends and family.
I sent regular updates on Kickstarter throughout both campaigns to keep the excitement going. I let everything know where I was in the process, gave them sneak peeks of the artwork, pictures of us on press, at the post office and even of things happening with our family.
I was successfully funded after 30 days, and after receiving funding I produced the Alphabet deck and sold out to thousands of eager families within the first year.
I reprinted them and have them for sale in our store.
Then I created a second Kickstarter for four additional sets of cards, Color & Shape, Numbers, GO! and the My Wallet set.
It was also successfully funded for that campaign, produced the cards and have them for sale here in our store as well.
I built an email list from our Backers, and from families who ordered cards on our web store. I sent out notices to Backers from the first campaign about the new, second campaign. I also offered our initial backers a special reward if they backed our second campaign. This was a very smart move, I had about 50% conversion. I believe that this move really helped to push us over our goal.
After being funded for each of the campaigns, I held fulfillment “parties” with friends, families and hired assistants. I used stamps.com for mailing through the USPS and filled bins and bins with custom orders. Both campaigns combined were nearly 1000 custom mailings.
Shortly after the Kickstarter campaign, I received funding from Start Garden, a seeding group here in Grand Rapids Michigan. I applied for two different funds (one for start up and one to produce our iOS app) and received them both.
On the business side of things, there was much to do. I had never done any of this before, so I spent a lot of time researching on the internet at night after the boys went to bed. I learned as I went along.
I hired a lawyer, filed with the state of Michigan, got an EIN, an accountant team, and set up bank accounts for the business. I created a logo, business cards and started a business website. I also set up an Amazon Payments account (required for Kickstarter) an online store (with a paypal account to manage the payments) and of course set up accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, then later Instagram, and Google + for sharing our ideas our family and products online.
As far as the design and project management side of things, (the part I really enjoy), I researched and tested dozens of printable plastic samples, hired a printer, ran print tests, ran durability tests, fired a printer, hired a new printer, commissioned illustrators, created layouts in Indesign, created a two hundred tiny illustrations in Illustrator, recolored in Photoshop and about a thousand other tiny tasks.
It was very important that each cards were harmonious with the Montessori method, and with how small children learn letters, sounds, colors, shapes and numbers. I consulted with mothers, homeschooling parents, teachers and of course, my mom, Lisa Camp.
Our cards are now coveted by children (for their visual appeal), approved by educators (for their educational content) and wildly appreciated by parents (for their durability and captivation-factor). Our cards can be found in tiny palms, in classrooms, in carseats, diaper bags, retail shops and in homes all over the world.
We've also made the choice to donate our decks to literacy-based nonprofit organizations and schools each year. We've donated more that 300 decks now, and we intend on offering an increasing amount each year.
There’s much still left to do of course, so much to build and make, but it’s been quite an undertaking so far! We’re now into our third year of business (we started in August 2012) and it’s only getting better.
We just launched this new website, with our new (filmed by John Hanson), and a new blog, which you’re reading as we speak.
Currently I’m working on hiring a Product Representative to take on managing relationships with retailers. I’m also developing retail displays, printed catalogs and various printed promotional materials. I’m entertaining the idea of showing at Playtime New York as well, which means designing our first trade-show booth experience.
I’m also ramping up for a third Kickstarter Campaign, and am really excited to announce the new decks and new illustrators. We’re also launching some companion pieces to our decks that we think will really become invaluable to families.
When people ask me how I got started, I usually say, “By accident!” But the transition from a stay-at-home mom to small business owner quickly became a very intentional process, especially when legal and financial matters had come into play. There are steps I had to take, people I had to meet with and new types of deadlines to hit. The process was challenging, incredible, complicated and there’s still more to come!
Thank you for tuning in.