How to Make $2.5MM in 36 Hours Not Trading Stocks


A newsletter about branding, startups, and mission-driven companies aiming to make the world a better place.

👋 Welcome to For The Love, so happy to have you all here! 

Today we’ll be discussing:

  • How a Kickstarter campaign blew past their $25k goal by millions…for a pillow fort.

  • A roundup of new launches this week, including a new skincare brand that took a minimal approach to product *and* naming.

  • A Valentine’s Day ad so over the top, I can hardly…bear it.

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💣 For The Love of Startups

Kickstarter has allowed many beloved projects to get off the ground — from the Veronica Mars movie to...this

It’s a burrito with a face...for throwing at people.

Not every campaign lives up to that kind of once in a generation brilliance. 

Only 38.4% of projects on the platform are successful. For those not familiar with Kickstarter, only projects that hit their target dollar amount get funded.

So what differentiates those 195,809 successful projects, from the rest?

For some, like Veronica Mars, it’s a huge existing community of fans around the product category (they had over 90k backers). 

For others, it’s friends and family that deserve to have burritos thrown at them. 

This FORT, which I found from a Twitter thread by founder, Conor Lewis, didn’t have either, yet he raised over $2.6 million.

In fact, his goal was just 25k, making it one of Kickstarter’s most funded.

The Fort is a set of modular, magnetized foam blocks that give “kids a space to build and destroy, giving back your couch cushions and sanity.”

While he clearly understood and spoke to the pain points of parents, especially during the pandemic, Conor didn’t just depend on the strength of his messaging. 

He used math.

Crowdfunding math, to be specific.

First, he figured out what it would cost to get one container of product from China, and how many units he would need to sell to generate that amount of money.

That’s how he knew he needed to raise at least 25k. 

Next, he explained, “it came down to how many email addresses do I need to get in order to sell $25,000 on the first day on Kickstarter? Or even across the whole campaign...The goal is that within the first 36 hours, you fund your campaign fully it helps the Kickstarter algorithm and it gives you exposure.” 

He researched e-commerce conversion rates and settled on 3-4%. Conor told me:

“I basically decided I needed 8000 email addresses that convert at about 3-4%...So that helped me determine what I needed to do. And so that's where I started.”

So, how did he get the 8,000 email addresses? The first step was the tried and tested approach — Facebook ads. 

He worked with Kickoff Labs to set up a landing page designed for viral marketing campaigns, to direct the Facebook ads to, and built the campaign around a contest. Conor explained:

“The back end [of the website] was really what was interesting in that I could create a contest for people to share and potentially win a free product. And so I created this contest, with a leaderboard that people could see their number on and got Facebook ads running to this landing page saying, ‘if you sign up here, you'll get not only notified when we launch with a major discount, but we will also enter you into this contest.’”

So on top of using a discount to incentivize people to enter their email addresses, it also motivated them to get others to sign up, with the hope of winning free product.

“I set up all this infrastructure before I ever ran an ad. And I started running some Facebook ads, with photos of our product and kids playing with it.” 

Not only had he set up the infrastructure, but he gave himself time. He started running these ads four months before the Kickstarter campaign.

And even before that, Conor was learning about his customers, and what they liked, to optimize ad targeting. 

He explained:

“The reason that it caught fire was not necessarily because of my ad running ability or anything like that. It was mostly because I knew, going into running these ads, that the people who I wanted were basically hanging out in these Facebook groups based around this product called The Nugget, which is this kid's couch product.”

I will save a deep dive into the popularity of the Nugget for another day, but needless to say, there are a variety of Facebook groups, some with tens of thousands of members, devoted to this children’s toy. 

“I was in those groups silently, just because I wanted to see what was going on. So I studied them really closely…It was really important that I knew what those customers really liked, so I could target them. Like, they really like Montessori.” 

So he used that information to effectively target his ads to likely customers.

Social listening is not a new concept by any means, and a lot of marketers do it. But Conor didn’t stop there — he then created his own Facebook group to learn from. It’s now up to 14k members. He told me:

“Then you have to build early advocates of your product. And the way that I built those early advocates was once they sign up to the email list, I would literally reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, can you join our private Facebook group?’ I noticed that The Nugget Facebook group was not owned by The Nugget, the company, and I thought it was an amazing opportunity for me to own my own channel here.”

On top of learning insights about his future customers — some were wary of magnets in toys, for instance — the Facebook group also allowed him to nurture and educate his customer base. 

Education was particularly important because he was going to ask them to pay for his product without ever having seen it, used it, or even seen someone else use it.

Also, a fair amount of them were not familiar with Kickstarter, so it gave him the opportunity to teach them how to use it, which he did through video tutorials (a number of times).

While Conor admits the Facebook group is a lot of effort to manage, it accelerated the growth of their email list.

“Mostly, that was viral sharing, and we got really lucky we had the right product and the right fit with the market. What we did do was nurture the virality of it and nurture our private community, which would then go out and share with people.” 

Once they felt they had established their presence on Facebook, they expanded to Instagram where they leveraged Stories. 

“We would do Story sharing campaigns where we gave away some part of our product, or an accessory, in exchange for sharing. And that worked pretty well to raise our follower count on Instagram, and got us in touch with a lot of influencers really quickly.” 

All this effort got them more email addresses than the 8k they needed for the Kickstarter launch, many more in fact.

They sent out their Kickstarter launch announcement to 78k people. 

Instead of the $25k they originally set as their goal, they generated $2.2 million in their first 12 hours. 

So by all accounts, a success, but that’s just the beginning of the story.

Now Conor is figuring out how to keep the momentum going, and how to assure concerned customers that he’ll be able to keep up with demand. 

“I genuinely thought we could do 750 to 1 million the first day, based on our email list. I did not necessarily think we would do 2.2. So in that instance, it was amazing. And it has been totally overwhelming and exciting. But at the same time, the scaling of the company is as much work as I thought it would be.” 

Kickstarter has a number of benefits — there’s discovery on the platform, the potential for virality if you have early success, and the opportunity to bring early adopters into the building process, giving them an opportunity to be invested in the brand (both figuratively and literally).

But the downside is, Kickstarter does take a cut, totaling 7-10%.

Conor reflected:

“In retrospect, I could have not done Kickstarter and launched on Shopify with a pre-order and made twice as much money. But I think taking that cut has enabled me to make connections...with new factories, with some new potential business people. I don't think I would have gotten that same exposure if it was just on Shopify, because people look for new innovative things on Kickstarter.” 

🔥 For The Love of Newness

The co-founders of The Art of Shaving launched the least Google-able skincare brand of all time — Ingredients. It’s also plant-based and toxin-free.

Ace of Air is a new line of skincare and supplements that ships in a “Boomerang Box” — send back your empties and they’ll reuse them. 

Please Repeat is a new DTC jewelry brand that claims “Extra is never a bad thing.”

Canopy, a wellness-focused humidifier, teamed up with Open Spaces on a collection of signature home scents. 

🔍 For The Love of the Details

Call me old fashioned, but when did teddy bears get so…adult?

That poor little guy is bear-ly out of the box and became today years old when he learned that naked, dripping wax torso candles were a thing.

Also, he’s a bear made out of rose petals — and there are rose petals all over the floor, the tub, and on the bed…

Is that what happened to the last bear someone sent this psychopath?

Thank God no one sent her a puppy!

Thank you for being part of For The Love! 

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Written by Aja Singer, a brand and creative strategy consultant interested in all things startup, mission-driven, and community. Born in Canada. Based in Brooklyn. You can also find me on Instagram and Twitter.