Announcing a new Kickstarter
We're launching a new product on the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter this spring. When it launches it will be our third campaign on Kickstarter.
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This might all go wrong...
This podcast is for you if you love real shaving. But it’s also for you if you’re interested in starting your own business, especially if you’re thinking of doing it in a socially responsible way.
Over the next few weeks we’re going to be talking mostly about our new Kickstarter. But it’s our third crowdfunding adventure so we’re also going to be making reference to our first and second Kickstarters - both baptisms of fire.
It’s worth saying that we're slightly terrified of making this podcast because it might go wrong. It might be a record of a failed attempt to make something.
The reason we’re taking the plunge and letting you in on our process, for better or worse, comes from a chat I had this week in Milan at the Impact Hub. The hub is an incubator and co-working space for businesses with a social mission. I was being shown around by Stefania when she told me about a regular event they hold. It’s called screw up night (well... they actually call it something rather less PG...) entrepreneurs come in and explain in detail how they screwed something up.
So, if the Kickstarter reaches its goal, consider this a ‘how to’ guide. And if it doesn’t we’ll still keep podcasting as long as you keep listening, as a sort of public service. A live unfolding screw up night. Obviously we hope it ends up being the former rather than the latter. But whatever happens, you’ve got front row seats.
In summary this podcast is a document of Thomas Clipper’s third, and hopefully extremely successful, Kickstarter campaign. We’re going to push ourselves even harder. But it might all collapse next week, or in three weeks. You’ll have to wait and see… and so will we.
What didn't happen.
For this first episode I’m going to give you an insight into the product that we’ve decided to make for the new Kickstarter. But in the spirit of openness, let’s start with what we didn’t make.
After shipping our second Kickstarter we were exhausted. Because it had been many times more successful than we’d anticipated, the fulfilment was much more complex than we’d expected. That meant everything from pleading with our soapmaker to double production overnight, to personally driving more treated wood over from the Boughton estate and unloading a colossal order on Richard our brilliant wood turner. I say colossal - a couple hundred units wouldn’t make a massive industrial producer blink. But our bowls and brushes are made individually by hand, by one chap, who’d just had a baby. So it was rather more complicated.
After all that we knew we had more work to do, so we asked our Kickstarter backers what they wanted us to make next. The response rate was ridiculous: nearly half of our email list took the time to fill out the quite in depth survey. We’d a hunch it might turn out like this though as after our first Kickstarter we did the same thing.
The difference this time was that there was no clear path for us: the customers wanted a bit of everything. The front runners in terms of votes were an Italian leather washbag, a stainless steel razor stand, a cologne and a moisturising after-shave balm. So we set about developing all four.
Let’s start with what we’re not making: or at least, what we’re not making this time. The razor stand was the first product we had to rule out. We spoke to Nigel, our metalworking friend. He’s the chap who makes all of our razor handles and shares a lot of our values. He employs people in the local area rather than shipping the work somewhere cheaper, he recycles almost every shred of machined metal and he’s happy to prototype for us until we’ve arrived at something that works.
But the reality was that if we were creating a razor stand to the quality we wanted, it would be almost the same cost as our razors. That seemed a bit difficult to swallow. Our brand isn’t about being the cheapest product out there, but we think good value is important so we shelved the stand to focus on the other three options
Next came an investment in the cologne and post shave balm. For both we worked with an organic partner in the UK. Antonio and I are big believers in the organic movement, and we believe that where possible everything we make should be organic or at least all natural. But getting a fragrance that worked for us and keeping it natural has been a real slog. We’ve gone through half a dozen iterations and tested them with various groups of willing guinea pigs and the feedback just wasn’t great. More than that, Tony and I couldn’t get excited about any of the fragrances. So we’ve gone back to the drawing board on that too.
Finally the post shave balm. I hesitate to call this a product that ‘didn’t make it’ because we really are very close. Where we’ve got to is a very lightly frankincense scented moisturiser which contains the same active ingredient that we use in our pre-shave oil. That means it prevents razor rash, which is obviously brilliant. The problem right now is balancing the oiliness with the efficacy of the moisturiser. To put it simply, the more oily the balm is the better it seems to feel on the face, but the worse it feels in your hands. Which is no good: you don’t want to leave the bathroom with a brilliant face, but horrid oily hands. We’re really close now, but it’s going to take a few more goes to get to a position where we’re proud enough of it to share with our customers.
So, the observant amongst you will have already used the process of elimination to get to the bottom of our new product: we’re making an Italian leather wash bag.
Now there’s a lot of great leather being made in Britain right now, and I think we’ve got some exceptional tanneries and craftsmen and women in the UK: we’ve met many.
The reason we went with an Italian workshop and tannery is quite simply that the quality of the product is unsurpassed. There’s a reason that Italian leather is world famous for use in luxury products: us Brits are historically good at rough and ready leather, leather for saddles and shoes, but the Italians know how to make a hide smooth and beautiful better than anyone else. Or, at least, anyone we’ve found.
On top of that, chance has played a roll. Through the kindness of a good friend we’ve managed to find an amazing partner near Florence with a similar attitude to sourcing and design. He’s been exceptionally useful in our product development and was the person who introduced us to our tannery partners. I hope to get a microphone in front of him some time soon so he can tell you a bit of his story.
Under the Tuscan sun (nearly)
So there we are: we’ve set out to make the best wash bag on the planet.
Which is why over the past six months you might have noticed that the Thomas Clipper Instagram feed had a fair number of Italian shots. We’ve been in Milan, Bologna and Florence making contacts and finding the right tannery and workshop to move forward with.
At this stage, we’re nearly half a year into the process, but we’ve yet to see a single prototype or shake hands with the tannery workers.
That all changes next week.
We’ll be visiting our sourcing partners for the first time in person in Tuscany. After a long search we think they’re the people that are going to be able to give us the best quality leather in the world. We might be wrong, and if we are you’ll hear it all unfold on Friday next week. It could well cut our podcast down to a two episode flop...
So subscribe on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, and we’ll be back next week.
Until then, thanks for listening. You can reach us with any questions, comments or just to tell us you’re listening @thomasclipper on Twitter or by searching Thomas Clipper on Facebook. Or you can email Antonio and I at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next Friday...