Guest post by: William Choukeir
On Wednesday 14 Sep. 2016, 3 entrepreneurs are launching out of Lebanon a global crowdfunding campaign (i.e. Kickstarter). The campaign is for Maku—an apparel brand—that’s on par with top global brands. William shares advice on creating something people want. He also shares their strategy on reaching a global market with Lebanon as launching grounds, and with the support of the local ecosystem. Show your support by pledging your pair of Makus on Kickstarter today!
From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been taking things apart and making things (like my own own toys, remote-controlled helicopters, meditation chairs, and clothing). When I face a problem, it’s quite
possible that I’ll get disappointed with what’s available in the market, and build something himself.
It’s that passion that drove me to make my first Makus, back in 2009. I thought that going barefoot would solve my knee pain. It didn’t, but something unexpected happened. Back then, I had made myself sandals to run in but ended up wearing them more than all my other shoes.
I wore them almost everyday until they broke. That’s when I decided to buy something similar. This was very frustrating because what I found either felt like cardboard or was bulky or unrefined. So I made my 2nd pair, improving the design and durability.
If I were to recommend something to anyone bringing a new product to the market, it’s to put your product out there into the world as soon as possible. Of course, there are exceptions. Putting it out to market is one of the best ways to gauge whether the world really wants what you’re doing or not. And you don’t need to go massively public if that’s not to your benefit. Keeping it confined to small circles is perfectly fine.
I made the 1st version for two friends, and the three of us were testing them in the wild. Version two solved all problems that popped up in version one. This same story repeats 37 times!
At some point I had made a pair of sandals for my partner Hanane, and we’d wear them almost everywhere. People were regularly coming up to us on the street asking us where we got them from. It was obvious that there was something special about these sandals.
We began accepting orders, and had people buying them across 4 continents. That started a long process of “get real-world feedback, improve, repeat.” With every upgrade, we wanted the best materials so the sandals would be even more comfortable and durable.
5 years and 37 tries later, we finally had it ight. So right in fact, that as soon as we sold 50 pairs, a hundred more lined up. With each pair taking us 4 hours to make by hand, we knew we had to find a better way to bring Makus to the world.
And this brings us to today. Manufacturing a physical product requires a large initial investment. There are minimums for production runs, shipping charges, duties, fulfillment, R&D, quality and durability tests, and so on. And that’s why we’re here today preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign (i.e. Kickstarter.com), on Wednesday 14 Sep. 2016. Raising our minimum funding goal will help us deliver the unmatched quality, comfort, and design of Maku sandals to the world. What was once limited to a closed circle can become accessible to anyone.
It’s at this point that my two co-foudners (David El Achkar and Hanane Kai) and I faced a challenge common to businesses launching from Lebanon. How do we reach a global market with Lebanon as a launching pad? So far we’ve been getting a lot of support from the local ecosystem. That has been invaluable and can we still use all the support we can get. We know that with the support of the local ecosystem, we can have a powerful launch from Lebanon.
We also know that the US market is a perfect fit for our brand, particularly the West coast. We now need to bridge the gap between the local market, and the US market. Here’s our strategy.
Crowdfunding campaigns that reach 50% or more of their goal on the 1st day, benefit from a lot of free extra traffic:
- From within crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter & Indiegogo, those projects are much more likely to appear on top when people search within specific categories
- Crowdfunding platforms are also more likely to feature those select projects on their homepage, newsletter, and various categories
- Most large media outlets want to cover success-stories-in-the-making. That’s why the majority of campaigns that raise most of their funding goal from the 1st day, get a lot of interest from the media. This drives additional traffic and social proof.
So our strategy depends on the support of the strong local ecosystem to reach at least 50% of our fundraising goal on day one. Once that happens, the campaign becomes a lot more likely to show up on the global map, and particularly within influential circles in the the West Coast.
We love our Makus, our early adopters love their Makus, and with the support of the local ecosystem, we make Maku a lebanese brand that’s on par with top global brands.
Thank you so much for sharing this journey with us!
You can reach William at firstname.lastname@example.org