The Big New Idea: Crowdfunding

blog-13-aaA couple of weeks ago, over at Copper Boom Studio, we launched a Crowdfunder campaign to raise some money for our expansion.

Now, I’ve never done a Crowdfunder myself before. I’ve worked with a couple of clients on similar things, but I’ve never done one myself.

I started thinking about it when I was figuring out financing the growth of Copper Boom. We’ve taken on a big studio space and we’re aiming to grow the business quite quickly in order to keep up with demand. It seemed important and exciting to involve clients of the business and create some brilliant benefits for being early supporters of the business.

So I created packages for VIP membership to Copper Boom, allowing for annual discounts, support and more. There are a few different levels for different business needs, and of course some smaller packages for smaller businesses and family and friends who want to offer support.

Why Crowdfunder?

The most popular platform is Kickstarter, but Crowdfunder is based in the UK (which I like) and has more general business projects, rather than focusing on funding an end product. I also chose to keep whatever we raise, rather than having to reach a target in order to get any of the money people pledge.

Setting a target

So I set a target for £15,000. It’s ambitious, especially considering I’ve never done this before. But the theme of Copper Boom has become go big or go home, so I figured we might as well aim to raise enough to buy equipment and props to last us a really long time. While £5,000 would get us a really long way in terms of lighting and set build, £15,000 would allow us to get way more specialised with the props and set-ups we create. It also means I can invest time training the team on creating amazing copy and marketing content.

My intention is that by expanding our capacity we will also extend our quality because the team will be more specialised. We’ll be able to get super mega lenses for working on jewellery, and we’ll be able to build sets so that we can photograph bigger pieces.

Creating pledges

I decided to offer VIP year-long packages as pledges, giving discounts, first refusal, my Planning With Purpose course, and lots more. The idea is that pledgers will be on our radar at the studio, and we’ll give them the VIP treatment when they book in work with us. We’ll create mini style guides, boxes of props and backgrounds, and tone of voice documents for every VIP backer.

I’ve also put together helpful PDF guides on conversion rates, photography and writing skills (love these so much!) to offer our expertise to small businesses, not just bigger companies.

And of course there are some BRILLIANT Gilmore Girls enamel pins and a gorgeous investor certificate for every single person who supports us in this launch period. Because seriously, I’m grateful for every single penny right now.

Progress

We’re currently nowhere near our target. That’s okay, because we get to keep whatever we make, but I’m also thinking about ways to spread the word in the last remaining weeks. I’m thinking about showing the value of what we do. I’m thinking about sharing more and more on social media (so prepare to be inundated!) and asking people to spread the word.

We’ve had 25 backers so far. I love every single one of them. If you haven’t already backed us, I’d be honoured and humbled if you’d consider it. Each pledge makes a big difference to us: £5 gives us more mountboard colours for backgrounds, £100 means we can get another desk to work and shoot on, £300 means I can get the team another laptop so we can stop borrowing ancient and heavy personal laptops, £1,500 would allow us to get shelving and storage for EVERYTHING, making us more efficient (and less messy).

How you can help

Honestly, I’m nervous. I’m excited, of course, but right now, cashflow (as many of you know) is challenging as I balance work coming in with being able to grow and afford rent for the first time.

So. Every single share, pledge, investment, comment, click, positive thought (and did I mention pledge?) makes a HUGE difference to getting this thing firmly off the ground and supporting small businesses.

Is there a pledge you’d like to see?

Let me know. If we can offer support in a different way, I’d love to hear about it!

Jx

The Big New Idea: the need for courage and clarity

courage and clarityHi, my name is Jenny, and I’m mostly tired and not entirely sure what I’m doing.

Not necessarily what you’d expect to hear from a business mentor and coach, right? Being mostly tired and uncertain may not sound like what you want from a person whose job it is to help you run your business better.

I have turned these truths – that I’m tired, and that that might not be my best ever marketing message – over in my mind many times in the last few weeks. I thought maybe I’d just have an unintentional break from blogging while I’m in the difficult, murky work of setting up Copper Boom Studio (LIMITED!!), and then re-emerge when it’s all shiny and functional and awesome.

But then I realised that it didn’t feel right.

So many of my favourite writers and people do it differently. They share while they’re going through The Hard Stuff, rather than just looking back at it when they feel sane again. Elizabeth Gilbert continues to do it so elegantly and evocatively. Glennon Melton Doyle warriors on through difficult times. Brene Brown talks about this as an important step in Rising Strong.

So I knew I had to write about my progress, even though I don’t feel clear or enthusiastic. I had to share this messiness, in order to be as authentic as I believe myself to be.

Since I last wrote (over a month ago), here’s what’s happened:

  • Copper Boom became a limited company (yay!)
  • I got a loan to grow the business by moving into premises and adding people to the business (yay!)
  • The process of commercial lease and lawyer and long waits began (yay, and also bleurgh)

I’ve been, in turn, wildly excited and amazed at what I’m building, and then completely overwhelmed by what I need to achieve.

There have been tears, and moments when I’ve said, “I just can’t,” and, “I don’t know what to do” over and over again. I’ve shouted at my partner, as he tries to help me figure out what to do next, “Everything is important. There’s nothing that I can de-prioritise.” Yep. Glamorous moments.

These moments are when I ask (myself? some mysterious higher power?) for courage and clarity. For glimmers of hope, and for the way ahead. Because sometimes that’s all I can do. The weird thing is, once I sit and ask for clarity on something, it usually comes. Not because I sit there puzzling over it like a Sudoku, but because I stop thinking about it and follow my instincts instead.

After the “everything is important” conversation, I stomped out, walked around, had tea, and then realised that Ryan was right. In fact, he had given me the key to my mountain of work, my paralysis. He had used the phrase “Mission Critical”.

So I wrote up another version of my epic list. I labelled things Mission Critical, Very Important, Important and Less Important. (Because everything’s still important, y’know?)

It helped. It helped me see that having everything on the first day we move into our new premises (and I don’t yet know exactly when that will be) isn’t actually essential. We can survive without all the furniture for a week or so. We can borrow a vacuum cleaner from home if we need to, at the beginning. This clarity helps. Let’s keep it to absolute essentials: sign the lease, have a limited bank account, make a box of kitchen / bathroom essentials. Do the rest later. Keep the short term truly short term.

And, as we’re not even sure when the lease will be signed just yet, there’s no point buying furniture and booking it to be delivered. I can move quickly on that tomorrow or next week, when I have more information.

Which reminds me of something my mum says: “Where you have clarity, make decisions.”

Even today, this Tuesday, I have said I’m struggling. I have hoped, out loud, for some good news, because there are so many requests and questions. I have questioned whether this studio, this business is something I really want to do. Please understand. I am doing this. It is happening. But I want to show you that I, too, like all of us, question things even when I know that they’re good and will be worthwhile. It is always messy. There is always doubt. Even the best business plans require change and adapting to fit the reality. Because no one in the history of the world has followed an exact business plan. Predicting the future is still elusive.

This is courage. To continue, even when I’m not sure of every step on my path. To pivot in a direction I didn’t expect to take, knowing that it’s essential to do so, not a problem.

Do I feel like I’m failing? Yes. Am I actually failing? No.

I actually feel like I’m developing experience, resilience, and empathy that’s going to help me mentor clients and support others in the future. It’s already helping. My existing clients (who have had more patience and understanding for me than I could ever have expected) have already said that they know I get it, because I’m going through it. (“It” being the challenge of business, of decision making, of juggling conflicting priorities all the live long day, of desperately wanting a conversation that isn’t about money.)

So I have hope that this is the essential middle. That this is part of the purpose of Copper Boom – to teach me how to get through this building phase.

Two phrases spring to mind:

This too shall pass

and

The only way out is through

I will keep going. I don’t yet know what I’m going to do once I post this, but I know that one small step after another will get me through.

Before I sign off, it feels important to say, if I’ve let you down recently, I’m truly sorry. If you’re waiting for me to get back to you about something, please accept my sincere apologies, and nudge me if I can still help. I will, at the very least, let you know when I’ll be able to respond properly.

Courage and clarity, my friends, courage and clarity.

Until soon

Jenny x

 

The Big New Idea: over a month in

BIG NEW IDEA 14 8So, just over a month ago, Copper Boom Studio went live. We had a brilliant first month. I’ve been kind of blown away. Thank you to everyone who has supported, shared, and booked in with us. You’re amazing.

I’ve been thinking about how to update. About how to be honest about the struggles, as well as grateful about the progress. And, somewhere, optimistic about the future.

So let me start by saying this: it’s been really busy. Busier than I anticipated. There have been 12 hour days, weekends worked instead of played, and late, exhausted nights. Partly because I’m also running Christmas Support throughout August, and partly because so much of Copper Boom still hinges on me personally.

There’s a huge learning curve, which also adds to the tiredness and challenges. It’s hard learning new things! In the last six weeks, we’ve taken photos of balloons, mirrors, textiles, tea and much more. Things I’ve never had to style or shoot or plan before. We’ve been learning about how much time we need, the sorts of props and equipment we need. We’ve been working on lighting options and layouts. It’s all come up.

Plus, I’m training my assistant and other freelancers to write. This is a longer process than I remember! And it requires plenty of editing and teaching time from me.

It’s also been incredibly rewarding. I’m so proud of the photographs we’ve taken and the things we’ve written. I’m amazed that the business has broken even straight away. I love working with a team, and I’m excited about so much potential for the future.

But.

I’m thinking about balance. I’m thinking about why Copper Boom felt important to me. I’m thinking about going bigger or keeping things small.

It wasn’t my aim to create a second full time job for myself. Which is kind of where we’re at so far.

So I’m already working on the plan from here.

Some things aren’t working, and there are some things that need improving. There are things that are working great, and I don’t want to stop that from going forward.

Here are some examples:

  • Some products (or their set ups) take much longer than others (e.g. mirrors, balloons). We need a second pricing level for more complex products.
  • Booking full days of photography is much more reliable for my margins (paying photographers and stylist), but it doesn’t allow for accessibility of just sending in one product. I want to build in more full days, but make sure we’re always open to tiny businesses and start ups.
  • Lots of people have booked in photography with us, and then added copywriting and/or upload later. I want to make it easier to book in the full package at first.
  • We’ve been booking into photography days, but that doesn’t give us much margin for error if we do need more time to get a shot right. I’m going to shift to booking into a week (unless booking a full day) so that we can be more efficient.

And then there are big questions, which I hadn’t imagined considering yet:

  • When can we move into premises? Is that the right decision? What does the financial commitment of that do to the business?
  • Who do I need in the business? I currently have a full time assistant, plus freelance photographer, stylist and additional assistant. But it already feels like I need more in order to move back to my mentoring and main focus.
  • How can I get cash injected into the business to set up the next phase? Currently considering bank loans, crowd funding and potentially family support.
  • Is now the right time to build the business further? How long could I maintain at the current levels?
  • Is it right to build it bigger in general? Is that what I want? Will the effort and dedication and commitment and risk be worth it?
  • What about the other services I want to introduce? Marketing, social media, blog writing… Where do they fit in?

So. Lots to think about, right? I feel like, finally, after seven years, I understand in my own life what it’s like to deal with being over-capacity so quickly. And what it’s like to have to depend on other people.

I hope, as ever, that it’s helpful to read about my experiences, my thought processes, my outlook. And it feels important to say that mentoring, retreats and workshops are still the biggest part of my personal plan.

I’ve just got to figure out this thing first…

Jx

PS Would you be interested in investing in Copper Boom through a crowd funding campaign? How do you feel about the studio in general? Are you planning to use it? Would you be interested in our marketing and blog writing services? Feedback is so valuable to me while I contemplate all these questions.

optin-cup

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