People who live in cold climates need outerwear to protect them from often harsh elements. Jamil Khan lives in Canada and has experienced his share of frigid winters. That was the driving force behind his idea to found North Aware, an apparel company that came out last year with the Smart Parka – the first winter coat to include built-in gloves, a removable liner, length extension and separate pockets for your hat, glasses, and technology.
“People who live in cold weather understand a good coat is a necessity, not a luxury,” Jamil Khan explains. “You need to know your winter coat will protect you.”
Taking his idea from concept to reality, however, was challenging to say the least. The first hurdle he had to cross was to secure start up capital, and for this reason, he turned to Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding platform.
“Our product was really well-suited for the platform,” Khan says. “The Kickstarter community is very supportive of new products.”
North Aware’s Kickstarter campaign, which was launched in January of 2016 and ran until late March, raised over $3.25 million, more money than any other crowdfunding campaign in Canadian history, in fact. With an original goal of generating $30,000 in start up capital, it’s safe to say the results of the campaign exceeded Khan and North Aware’s wildest expectations.
However, North Aware’s story is far from typical and the vast majority of Kickstarter campaigns fail to reach their initial funding goals. While Khan was genuinely amazed by the positive response, he is quick to acknowledge a host of factors that contributed to the campaign’s success.
“Prior to launching our campaign, we advertised on different platforms to build momentum,” Khan said. After building a base of interested subscribers, the North Aware team contacted them to promote the campaign launch. Once the campaign launched, word spread rapidly, with people sharing it with their friends and social networks at an unprecedented rate.
“We reached our goal on the second day. It felt great, but it was a mixture of joy and responsibility. We immediately got busy taking the campaign to the next level,” he explains. “We really didn’t have time to celebrate.”
The campaign continued to raise funds at record breaking speed, but there were some pitfalls along the way.
Launching a successful Kickstarter campaign is “a learning process, all along the way,” Khan adds. “Whatever you do, the first time you will do it wrong. Don’t be afraid of mistakes.”
Khan says that the majority of backers pledged their support in the last ten days, with the bulk of supporters hailing from Toronto and New York.
“If you look at our photos and videos on the site, they’re all set in metropolitan areas,” Khan says, a marketing decision he explained was intentional. Additionally, all of the photography and videography used as part of the Kickstarter campaign was professional in nature, another conscious choice.
“With Kickstarter, it’s really important how you present photos and videos. Do it professionally. Spend time on how you display your products.”.
Obviously pleased by the overwhelming success of North Aware’s campaign, Khan would “absolutely recommend Kickstarter for people starting out” trying to market a new product.
“Kickstarter is great for publicity. You can start playing with the big boys right away,” he says, which isn’t necessarily true of other funding sources.
Khan’s advice to those considering a Kickstarter campaign is “to create a really good product people need and want,” and then “get the word out anyway you can, as quickly as you can. If you have 100 ways to get the word out, you do all of them.”