By Guest Blogger Alex Larsen, Co-Founder Larsen Toy Labs
We have started to follow Alex Larsen and his sister Courtney Larsen Keller. You will enjoy his blog. Check out his company at www.Kickstarter.com or www.larsentoylab.com. Maybe you can help him with some crowd-funding.
I still remember the look on my mom’s face when she came downstairs one Christmas morning and I was already busy building my new Lego set that I eagerly unwrapped minutes beforehand. She seriously acted like I was stealing one of her presents. I couldn’t understand how watching me open my present (it was actually from Santa which added to my confusion) was somehow as important to her as opening her own gifts. What was the big deal? I asked for the set months ago and had been dreaming about it.
It wasn’t until I actually started shopping for people before I realized the joy and satisfaction of being on the giving end of a ‘home run’ gift: the shirt or jacket that gets worn constantly throughout the year; the golf club that leads to their best round ever; or the pair of shoes that you gave just months before the brand became immensely popular. After starting our family toy company we tried to put in words what made the perfect gift so… perfect. Sure, a little luck is involved, but we realized that the Story behind the product or shopping experience was often incredibly important. Do these phrases sound familiar?
“It was pouring rain and I had almost given up, then I found it!”
“My friend makes these amazing cookies every year with her sister”
“The company donates to my favorite charity”
“All of their stuff is made with recycled materials”
“I saw them on Oprah!”
So – since the story is an important part of the equation – what are people going to talk about when they give one of our block sets to a niece or nephew for Christmas? Herein lies the biggest hurdle for start-ups that can’t plan on being one of Oprah’s favorite things or spend a lot (if any) on marketing. But, through a new phenomenon called Crowd Funding, we discovered that start-ups actually do have an advantage and should use it to its full potential. Whether the idea started as a sketch on the back of a napkin, a series of dinner conversations, or some other ‘a-ha’ moment; they are all scenarios that people can easily relate to and have probably had at some point. The idea for Larsen Toy Lab WASN’T formed at a board meeting with teams of marketers, financiers, operations, public relations, and executives. It was formed over dinner, talking about how we hated that there weren’t more American made toys on the shelves at toy stores – and that the balance of technology to physical toys was getting out of whack. We talked about how we could each use our different skills to contribute, and which friends we could reach out to for help (added bonus if those friends had kids that we could test our ideas on).
What’s Crowd Funding? Technically it’s a ‘platform for creative projects to get funded’. For Larsen Toy Lab and many others, it’s a way to level the playing field. It’s for passionate people that have unique stories about how and why they decided to dedicate so much time, energy, and money into their idea. The feeling of vulnerability and authenticity that comes across naturally during a Crowd Funding campaign would be impossible to recreate with any marketing strategy by a big company. Crowd Funding provides an opportunity for transparency and connectivity that people (including myself) are starting to crave from companies that they support. This type of transparency allows you pick out the bits and pieces about the company that you relate to – and most importantly – relate to the person you are giving the present to.
What’s the ultimate reward for supporting somebody’s campaign? You get to watch them open the present. You get to witness their success and take even take partial credit for it. Every time you see their product on the shelf, or see that their Facebook page got to a million ‘likes’, or overhear strangers talking about them – you get the satisfaction of knowing that you gave the perfect gift.
Co-Founder, Larsen Toy Lab
Support our Crowd Funding campaign here: http://kck.st/TDR9Nq