NatWest Back Her Business: How I crowdfunded £9,652

NatWest Back Her Business: How I crowdfunded £9,652 to launch my business by Gemma Thirsk
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It’s a sunny afternoon in April, I’m working away on a client website and The Lion King is on in the background. I’m singing along to ‘I Just Can’t Wait to Be King’ while tinkering away with some home page elements and my computer makes a BING noise. I have an email from Anna at Natwest Back Her Business / Crowdfunder.

I open the email and I have to read it three times before I fully understand what it says.

“Hi Gemma,

I’m delighted to share with you some exciting news from the Bring it 2020 competition.

Your project has been awarded the following prize money: £5,000.

The judges were really impressed with all aspects of your idea, project and campaign. Congratulations!”

My Crowdfunder UK campaign had ended 4 days earlier at £4,652. This one truly bloody wonderful, world-tilting, email more than doubled the total to £9,652 and changed the course of my business completely.

Now, almost 5 months on, I can say that a NatWest Back Her Business crowdfunder project has been one of the most impactful things I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

It’s also something that I get asked about on a regular basis. What is crowdfunding? Could I do it? How did you plan for it? How hard was it?

So, I thought I’d come here and write about my whole experience of crowdfunding and gaining extra support and funds from NatWest Back Her Business in as much detail as I can. I’ve added a table of contents below so if you already know a bit here and there, you can skip to the bits you’re most interested in.

Just a quick disclaimer before we go on: I am not affiliated with Natwest Back Her Business or Crowdfunder UK in any way, and this post shouldn’t be taken as financial advice – I can’t give you that! What I will give you is my first-hand experience of going through the process from start to finish. Everyone’s experience of crowdfunding will be different but hopefully, sharing my story will be useful to anyone who, like I once was, is standing at the bottom of the mountain looking up, and absolutely shitting their pants.
Disclaimer #2: I link out to a fair few resources in this blog. Know that none of these are affiliate links and I’m not gaining anything here. I’m just linking out things that I have tried, tested and liked!
Dear me, Stop doubting, keep going. Believe in yourself. You've got this. Love, me xx - A quote to remember you can handle anything, especially funding your business through Back Her Business.
I was really nervous before getting started with my project! But the whole process was really fun and worthwhile.

What is Crowdfunding?

Simply put, crowdfunding means to raise funds for your project or business, typically in small amounts, from a whole bunch of different people. The UK Crowdfunding Association describes it as:

Crowdfunding is a way of raising finance by asking a large number of people each for a small amount of money. Traditionally, financing a business, project or venture involved asking a few people for large sums of money. Crowdfunding switches this idea around, using the internet to talk to thousands – if not millions – of potential funders. 

UK Crowdfunding Association

Usually when crowdfunding, you offer some kind of reward or product in return for a pledge on your project. This reward could be early access to a product, a discount, tickets to an event or anything really.

What are the pros and cons of Crowdfunding?

For starters, crowdfunding is usually more accessible than most other types of financing for business. You don’t need to employ anyone to put together a ridiculously fancy business plan with charts and graphs and force your way in front of 5 dragons just to end up getting absolutely grilled. All you need is a crowdfunding platform, in this case, Crowdfunder UK, and some time.

Aside from the dosh, there are lots of other benefits to crowdfunding (although, I won’t lie, the money does come in pretty handy).

The pros of crowdfunding:

  • Opportunity to raise unlimited funds to launch or grow your business
  • You only pay fees based on the amount of funds you raise so there’s no upfront costs
  • Shouting about your project online means you can get noticed in a big way, there’s even the potential to pick up local or national press coverage
  • You can get valuable feedback from experts and potential customers on your business or idea before you launch
  • If you choose to crowdfund with NatWest Back Her Business, there’s a whole community of like-minded women who you can connect, network and even collaborate with
  • Your backers become your first, and most loyal, customers

The cons of crowdfunding:

  • It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do, it takes a lot of planning and work before, during and after your project. Although, this planning and work is, of course, beneficial to your business!
  • If you choose an ‘all or nothing‘ project and you don’t reach your target, you won’t be able to keep the funds you raise and your backers will receive their money back (this doesn’t apply to ‘flexible funding’ or ‘keep what you raise’ projects)

So, now we’ve got that down, let’s move on to what NatWest Back Her Business is and what on Earth that has to do with crowdfunding and your business.

What is NatWest Back Her Business?

An advert from NatWest and Crowdfunder for Back Her Business

In 2019, Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest, conducted a bit (a lot) of research into the gender gap in entrepreneurship in the UK, called ‘The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship‘.

Women do not lack ability or ambition. Yet only 1 in 3 UK
entrepreneurs is female: a gender gap equivalent to ~1.1 million
missing businesses

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship

This review covers, in great detail, the barriers that women face when starting and scaling business, and the way in which these barriers are holding back the UK. If you haven’t read it yet then please do because it’s an eye-opening and informative read that gives plenty of pointers on how to make a difference to the gender gap.

I actually stumbled across the Alison Rose Review while first gathering my ideas for my own business (before I’d even heard of NatWest Back Her Business) and I regularly come back to it when looking for ways I can help support female entrepreneurship. It’s definitely one to bookmark!

Here are some of stats from the review:

  • Only 1 in 3 UK entrepreneurs is female: a gender gap equivalent to ~1.1 million missing businesses
  • At almost every stage, women are less likely to pursue entrepreneurship than men
  • Up to £250 billion of new value could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as UK men

So, what this got to do with Crowdfunder UK?

The review highlights the most prominent opportunities to help more women succeed as entrepreneurs – one of which being increasing funding directed towards female entrepreneurs. I’m sure you’re nodding right about now, why else are we all here talking about crowdfunding together?

Start-up funding is the #1 barrier mentioned by women non-entrepreneurs: women launch businesses with 53% less capital on average than men, are less aware of funding options and less likely to take on debt. Only 1% of all venture funding goes to businesses founded by all-female teams, inhibiting scale up.

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship

So, NatWest created something called Back Her Business, and teamed up with Crowdfunder UK to deliver it. The aim is to help and encourage more women to start or fund their own businesses.

To take part, self-identifying women post their business idea on the Crowdfunder UK platform, set a target, shout about their projects and raise their funds. Once the initial target is met, NatWest will match fund up to 50% of it, up to a total £5,000 – 5 WHOLE GRAND! In fact, they’ve pledged to give away £1 million in grants to successful projects each year. How incredible is that? Thank you NatWest!

NatWest Back Her Business Crowdfunder criteria – am I eligible to take part?

At the time of writing, the eligibility criteria for to run a NatWest Back Her Business Crowdfunder is as follows:

As the project owner, you must identify as female and you must live in the UK.

The project must be UK based, a new venture, and majority (50-100%) owned or controlled by women.

If you’re not quite sure if this is you, you can read the full eligibility criteria here.

That’s the basics of crowdfunding and what the programme actually is covered, so let’s move onto how to start planning your project, and I’ll tell you a bit about what I did to raise funds.

Planning a NatWest Back Her Business Crowdfunder Project

As mentioned earlier on, a lot of work goes into creating and running a successful crowdfunding project. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it for one second! You just have to be prepared.

To give you an idea of how much time I spent planning and running my project, I first applied for Back Her Business in December 2019. I found out I had been accepted onto the programme in January 2020 and that’s when I started planning. My project, Empowering Women in Business, launched on March 6th 2020 and ran until April 3rd 2020. I spent a fair amount of time afterwards sending out thank yous, delivering the rewards and publishing updates about my project on social media and in the press.

You could take even more time to plan if you wanted to, the more prepared you are the better, but do remember that plans can change.

In my case, the plan changed dramatically midway through as the COVID panic set in pretty much as I launched and the UK went into lockdown. I even considered giving up, but I didn’t. I adjusted my rewards so there were lower-cost options and changed my approach to asking people for support. Times are still uncertain I know, but don’t be put off. You can still succeed. The way in which people have come together to support small business is inspiring, and this is your chance to be a part of that!

So, what do you need to do to get started?

Create a crowdfunding Checklist

List-lovers rejoice! Jot down everything you think you’re going to need to do before you launch your campaign.

I’d recommend using an online tool like Trello to do this. You can make notes on the go, work alone or as part of a team, edit items, add labels and images, and you can access it from anywhere on any smart device.

Here is the checklist that NatWest Back Her Business and Crowdfunder provide in the project planning guidance:

NatWest Back Her Business Project Planning Checklist
The checklist NatWest Back Her Business Crowdfunder provide in the project planning guidance
The list reads:-
  • Build your team and assign roles
  • Identify project’s key points of
  • interest
  • Start drawing network map
  • Ask your team to help expand
  • network map
  • Bullet point key messages (What, Why, Who and How)
  • Estimate audience size
  • Set a realistic target
  • Choose project title
  • Add a project image
  • Flesh out story with subheadings
  • Add a variety of images
  • Discuss possible rewards with team
  • Refine reward list and add to your
  • project page
  • Prepare social media accounts
  • Plan video
  • Shoot and edit video
  • Start marketing plan
  • Agree actions with team
  • Warm up your Crowd
  • Plan launch
  • Make a list of first 10 supporters
  • Go live
  • Keep reviewing your plan
  • Get funded

I’d probably add ‘decide how much you actually want to raise‘ to this too… as it’s not always as straightforward as it seems. Remember, if you want to go for the additional funds from NatWest Back Her Business, you’ll need to meet your target, so make sure it’s achievable!

Create a project calendar

After you’ve made your checklist, it will come in handy to map out a calendar of all of the important dates in the run-up to, and during, your project. If you’re using Trello and you’ve added due dates to your to-dos, you can easily switch to the calendar view and see everything in order (do you see why I recommended it now?!) Include everything you can think of that might be useful to know. My birthday happened to fall mid-project so I noted this down and made sure I did a huge social push around then!

Who’s part of your crowd?

It’s important to remember that the target audience for your business and the likely audience of your crowdfunding project will differ, sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot. For me, it was a pretty big difference.

In my business, I work with female entrepreneurs who want to create an attractive and cohesive brand identity to connect with dream clients.

My project, however, had two levels to its audience – yours may have more!

The first level was mostly made up of my friends, family, ex-bosses and colleagues, friends of friends, past teachers, small business peers and so on. It was a much wider audience who did not share the usual characteristics I had identified previously. BUT they did all have one thing in common, they wanted to see me succeed and be a part of that success! Make sure you don’t neglect these people when you’re deciding what to offer as a reward, they’re your biggest cheerleaders ❤️

The second level was then quite similar to my general business audience, and once my project had generated some interest, I began to seek out these people online and ask for their support, offering rewards that would interest them.

How to map out your crowd

I started by making a list of everybody and anybody that I knew and thought might want to support my business venture. I put everybody’s names into a spreadsheet under different headings. Friends/Family, Work Contacts, General Contacts and so on.

Top tip: Really do add everyone you can think of here. Some of my biggest pledges came from the most unexpected places.

An image of the spreadsheet I used to map out who exactly would be in my crowd and how I would contact them during my NatWest Back Her Business project.
The spreadsheet I created to map out my crowd – simple but effective!

I added how I planned to contact each person and columns to show if I had done this, if I needed to remind them, whether or not they had pledged and roughly how much they might pledge. Once they had pledged, I updated this to the real amount and had a total running at the bottom. This was really useful so I could see what I was on track to raise if I could get everyone involved (or who I needed to prod a little bit for help).

I also went through this list and highlighted those who were ‘influencers’ in my crowd – the people who were likely to not only pledge but could generate some additional interest. Influencers may have a large following or access to contacts who could be interested in your project. No, not actual social media influencers (unless you know any of course!) but those fabulous people you know who are influential in their own circles or just know a lot of people.

This spreadsheet was my bible throughout the project so I kept it up to date and checked back regularly to see who I needed to get to in touch with, and/or thank afterwards.

How to define your business audience

After you’ve got your list of cheerleaders and you’ve got a few early pledges from these people. You can start to drum up some interest with the people you might not know as well, your potential customers after your business has launched.

As a brand stylist, I talk about identifying your business’s target audience A LOT. It’s not only important when you’re planning a crowdfunding project but when you are building a brand altogether.

When defining your business audience, think about who your ideal customers are. The people that will really get behind your message with you. This is also the time to think about who you actually want to work with too. There’s no point attracting people who just aren’t your cup of tea!

Jot down your audience’s age, gender, location and what they do for a living. What do they enjoy? Do they dislike anything or have any pet peeves? What are their problems? How can you solve them? Why do they relate to and engage with your business?

This step is crucial because it will help you figure out where your people hang out on/offline and how to grab their attention. If you want to read more about defining and communicating with your audience, download this FREE Brand Clarity eBook.

Spread the word

Now you’ve got a rough plan in place, you can start to spread the word about your project. Mention it in passing to your crowd. Announce what you’ll be doing across your socials. I created my website and added the project details to my landing page too.

People rarely want to give their money away on the spot, they want to get to know you and what you’re doing a little bit first. Getting the word out early means you can start to increase brand awareness and help people understand your story.

Call in the favours!

As small business owners, we don’t always have the budget we’d like to – obvs, that’s why we need to raise some funds!

This definitely applied to me, I wanted my project to look professional but I didn’t have any money. The planning stage is a great time to call in some favours and ask your pals to help you out.

I would never advise you to ask anyone to work for free, we’ve all got to eat. But, maybe you helped your hobby photographer friend Rachel move house last year? It might be time to ask Rachel for her help! Or you could even offer some kind of service or product swap.

I appeared in some short adverts in return for help with my project video from a filmmaker friend. Another friend helped me with my copy and I paid someone to send out a press release for me. I firmly believe in asking for help when you need it. Especially, if you know someone who’s an expert in what it is you’re trying to achieve.

Just remember that no one has to help you, if they’re too busy or it’s not for them – that’s ok. Always be polite!

Creating your NatWest Back Her Business Crowdfunder project

As with any project, I love to do a bit of research and gather some inspo before going ahead. Before you start creating yours, have a look at what other people are doing. Analyse what has made their project a success and how you could put your own together.

Here are some of my favourite NatWest Back Her Business projects to get you started:
No Fuss Crowdfunder Project
Help My Hair Routine!
The Anti Diet Riot Bus Back Her Business Project
Build The Anti Diet Riot Bus to tour the UK!
Brarista Crowdfunder Project
What Is Your Bra Size? – Brarista

And if crowdfunding taught me anything, it was how to plug myself! So here’s a link to my own project too 😉

Empowering Women in Business Crowdfunder

Gather your ideas and notes and then it’s time to start putting your project together!

Deciding on your funding method

There are two options for funding your project with Crowdfunder UK. All or Nothing and Keep What You Raise. They pretty much do what they say on the tin.

All or Nothing means that if you don’t reach your target, your project won’t be funded, so no money will be taken from your backers. This one is super motivating for you and the people behind you!

Keep What You Raise is flexible. Whatever you raise, you’ll keep. This is a great option for ongoing projects as any contribution can go towards growing your business.

I chose to go for Keep What You Raise as I didn’t have a specific ‘thing’ I needed to buy or fund. E.g. raising money to fit out a shop or studio with equipment, 30% of your target is unlikely to cover the cost of getting you into the premises. My plan was to give away as many Brimful of Branding packages as I could. The more I raised, the more women I could support, meaning Keep What You Raise worked perfectly for me.

Setting a target

You may already have a number in mind for your crowdfunding target – or you may not.

I knew that my target should be a balance between what I needed to get my business going and deliver the rewards, as well as what was an achievable amount in the duration I had chosen… exactly 4 weeks.

My financial goals for the project were:

  • Cover the cost of giving away at least 2 Brimful of Branding packages to women in business, including being able to pay the freelancers helping me provide the packages
  • Have enough leftover funds to reinvest back into marketing my business once the project was over

The NatWest Back Her Business creating your project guidance mentions that the average pledge on a crowdfunding project is £50, and 1/20 people who view a project make a pledge. So, I kept that in mind while looking back over my crowd spreadsheet and working out what would be a reachable target.

After considering all the factors, £4,000 seemed like a good target. Business changing funding, but achievable as long as I put the work in and asked for help from the right people. Deciding on a target was empowering!

I decided I’d give away a full branding package for every £2,000 raised. I would do this by offering entries into a competition as some of the rewards. If my target was reached, I would stretch it to £6,000 (and another package to give away).

A screenshot from my Empowering Women in Business project, 30% (£1,230) was raised on the first day of the project launching
A screenshot from my Empowering Women in Business project, 30% was raised on the first day of the project launching

Things to keep in mind when you’re setting a crowdfunding target:

When setting your own target you should think about the above points, as well as the funding options available to you. My options were slightly different. I was entered into the Bring It 2020 competition, a one-off initiative from the beginning of the decade funded by Back Her Business. Now, when you go ahead with Back Her Business NatWest will fund up to 50% of your target, as long as you reach it, up to £5,000.

All points to consider:
  • The amount you need to launch your business
  • How much it will cost to deliver the rewards
  • What you think you can raise from your crowd
  • How much additional funding you want to access (e.g. NatWest Back Her Business)
  • The duration of your project (projects typically get most pledges at the beginning and end of the project)
  • Platform and payment fees you will need to pay at the end of your project

…and remember, you can always stretch your target when you reach it!

What to give as a crowdfunding project reward?

When people visit your crowdfunding project, they can simply donate, or choose a reward to purchase. Which makes rewards a brilliant way to promote your project and encourage people to get involved.

It is really, really, really important to go back to your crowd members at this point and pay attention to what they might want from you. Offer rewards with tonnes of value, and if it’s available elsewhere, make it cheaper.

Things you can offer as a reward:

  • Products, especially early access or limited edition
  • Services, particularly something you don’t offer elsewhere
  • Tickets to exclusive events and/or experiences
  • Sponsorship to attract businesses or larger organisations
  • Membership to a special club
  • Thank yous (cards, plaques, web pages), handwritten messages leave a warm feeling with your customers
  • Vouchers offered at a discounted price

The key is to pack your rewards with as much value as you can and show your audience why they should get involved!

Here are some fantastic resources for creating rewards:

NatWest’s 7 top tips for crowdfunding rewards

Rachel Dobbs: Designing great crowdfunding rewards

Crowdfunder: Giving rewards – The perfect way to say ‘thank you’

Creating your page

If I told you how many hours I spent putting my crowdfunding project page together, you wouldn’t believe me. I made notes on notes and then wrote it out, and rewrote it. And I absolutely don’t regret it!

Getting the anatomy of your page on point is crucial to get the right information across in a way that engages your readers.

A screenshot of my Back Her Business project, showing how each part makes up your page
A screenshot of my NatWest Back Her Business Crowdfunder project, showing how each part makes up your page

Headline

Your headline should be clear and easy to remember. In many cases, it’s the only part of your project people will see before they decide to click through and read more. I went for ‘Empowering Women in Business‘ – a short and snappy line that demonstrates exactly what I intended to do with the funds.

Description

Your description should concisely demonstrate the key aims behind your project. Here’s a snippet from the NatWest Back Her Business Crowdfunder creating your project guidance:

I jotted down my ideas for each of these questions and then referred back to my crowd to have a think about the personality and voice my project needed to have. Whether you’re a one-girl-band or a team-based operation, your brand will have it’s own personality.

Choose the language that best communicates with your audience and phrases they’ll connect with most. For example, my brand, That’s Her Business, is chatty, friendly and informal.

Is your brand youthful or mature? Analytic or imaginative? Innovative or timeless? Modern or vintage? Do you intend to come across as a supportive friend or a straightforward executive?

Writing for your brand is a skill in itself, and something you will use many times over in business. Whether it’s writing exceptional website content or the way you talk when providing your fabulous customer service.

Brand personality and voice is something I cover in both the Free Brand Clarity eBook and Brand Clarity Bundle if you’d like to learn a little bit more about how to make the most of your own!

Subheadings

Make sure you add subheadings to your description so it’s scannable. When it comes to content, people don’t stay engaged for long. You want to make sure that everything you put into your project is as easy to take in as possible!

Photographs

A few months before I embarked on my crowdfunding journey, I had a personal branding photoshoot with Cassandra Lane Photography for my website. Cassandra is one of our freelancers at That’s Her Business and takes beautiful photos. Here’s one of the photos she took for me:

Personal branding photography by Cassandra Lane
Gemma Thirsk, founder of That’s Her Business by Cassandra Lane Photography

And yes, that’s exactly what I did when my crowdfunding project reached its target!

But, you don’t need to be a professional photographer to take engaging photos for your project. Cassandra’s top tip for taking photos with your own camera or phone is to make sure your lens is clean!

Make sure your visuals are high quality, bright and portray your brand. Show off your products and throw in some team photos too. You could even make up some infographics in your brand’s colours and fonts to make your content easy to digest.

Video

Arguably one of the most important parts of your page is your video, as it’s the first thing your audience sees when they click through! If the reader is on mobile, they’ll probably have to click ‘read more’ to see your description, but your video will be right there straight away.

If you’re feeling camera shy, I get it. I am absolutely terrified of speaking in public or on camera. This complete irrational feeling comes over me, like I might puke, or die, if I even open my mouth in a situation where other people are looking to me for information. I did not want to make a video.

If you’re feeling that way, remember that nothing bad will come from making a video. In fact, I firmly believe that ignoring my fear and making a video anyway had the biggest impact on my project. I’ve even been able to rejig it to create a shorter advert for the business in general.

Here’s my video:

That’s Her Business Crowdfunder Interview with Gemma Thirsk – Empowering Women in Business

I roped in my friend Joel, Woolgather Films, to help me make this simple interview-style video (he did a fantastic job of editing out my nerves). The point was to get across everything that went into the description of my project, in an easy to understand format.

You could create a pretty similar video by propping up your phone and pulling it together with an app. Adobe Spark is a brilliant free option! Write yourself a script and time yourself reading it out, a great video length is 2-3 minutes. The best thing about a video is that it can always be trimmed down and edited or shots can be retaken – try not to feel the pressure.

I used Vimeo to upload my video to and then pasted the link into my project. Vimeo has a free option and is really easy to use, you can even add closed captions if you want to.

Previewing your page

Once you’ve put everything together, you can preview your page online. You can even send your preview link to a select few trustworthy people to ask their opinion before you go live. Make sure you don’t share this link with anyone who shouldn’t know the details of your project before launch and that you receive constructive feedback. Because who really cares if your auntie’s dog’s cousin likes green or not? Not you!

Running a crowdfunding project

Once you know your crowd and your project is looking fabulous, it’s time to start thinking about launching. Woop woop! I put a marketing plan in place before launching, it included when and how I would contact people, my social media plan and everything else like press releases and website updates. I used an excel spreadsheet like a calendar but you could easily just add this stuff to your new Trello board checklist.

Start from the middle and work your way out

You’ll want to line up a few pledges before you launch and the people closest to you are likely to pledge first. The better they know you, the earlier they’ll pledge.

I asked my partner, parents, partner’s family and best friends to help me out on the first day so my project would look worthwhile to outsiders and people stumbling across me, it worked really well.

You could even add another a column to your crowd spreadsheet to demonstrate when you’ll contact each person. Put a number in the column for which day/week into your project you want to speak to them and then filter the column in ascending order. Voila, you’ll have an ordered list of who you should contact first!

Emailing potential backers

Email is a vital tool in your kit for marketing your project. Crowdfunder UK say that around 40% of pledging on crowdfunding projects is driven by
email.

For my email communication, I carefully tailored each message to the recipient. I referred back to the list I made of each member of my crowd and thought about the reason why each person might want to support me.

Below is an example of an email I sent to someone who I knew fairly well and felt may want to support my business. They are also a female entrepreneur, so I added a note about the competition I ran to give away Brimful of Branding packages to women in business.

An example of one of the emails I sent out as part of NatWest Back Her Business project
An example of one of the emails I sent out as part of NatWest Back Her Business Crowdfunder project

Social media marketing

The first thing to think about with social media is where your potential backers might be hanging around. Refer back to your the work you did to define your audience and decide where they might be. Facebook is a good general place to start, Instagram is great for visuals and LinkedIn is where businesses will be.

Try to post once a day on each platform you choose. Trello is an excellent place to plan your social media too. I’ve included my social media Trello board in the Brand Clarity Bundle if you’d like to copy a ready-made template that works.

One thing that worked really well for me was to create a Facebook event and post all of my project updates in there. Each person that expresses interest will receive a notification whenever you post, it’s a really easy way to grab attention.

Stories That Sell

Something I’ve discovered since taking part in NatWest Back Her Business is Nikki Clark’s Stories That Sell. I so wish I’d known about this incredible product when running my project. It’s fantastic!

Nikki teaches us that people don’t give money away for products, services—or even crowdfunding rewards. People buy into people and their stories ❤️

She’s put together a handy board of easy to implement stories that you can copy and paste when you’d like to post on social media. Stories That Sell takes away a lot of the ‘staring at a blank page’ moments you have when trying to come up with social media content, and it really works. I’ve been using it for almost two months now and I’m obsessed.

Nikki’s Stories That Sell is mainly for service-based businesses but if your business is product-based, The Product Boss have a similar option too.

Social media scheduling

Running a crowdfunding project is hard work and there’s a lot to do. When you can, scheduling your content can take a lot of work off your plate. Project updates are probably best to go out with real-time totals, but general call-to-actions can be scheduled. Make sure you make life as easy as possible!

I used Later during my project, and Buffer also have some really great tools.

If you do schedule content, check back each day to reply to comments on your posts and thank people for sharing – engagement is key on socials!

Your website

Keep your website up to date with how you are getting on crowdfunding and make sure it directs everyone to your project! During my project my website took the form of a simple landing page hosting the widget Crowdfunder UK provide. The widget shows a real-time total and button that clicks through to the project. You can see how to add this widget to your website here.

Press coverage – where to find it?

Journalists need stories and you need coverage! Take the time to figure out where your project’s story will be best suited and put together a press release. Don’t forget to search Twitter for the hashtag #journorequest too, where journalists put out requests for interviews and comments.

The pandemic scuppered my plans of getting into the press when I had planned to, but I did manage to get a release out once I had reached my target and began to give away branding packages and web design to female entrepreneurs. I had some amazing results from it!

Working with Ellen, The Little Seed Group, I sent out a release to media outlets in York and Manchester and the coverage was brilliant. I ended up with articles in Manchester Evening News, Yorkshire Post, York Press and a few more outlets.

Gemma Thirsk, 25, offers business support to start-ups after contest win
My feature in the York Press, read it here

If you’d prefer to write your press release yourself but you’re not quite sure where to start, taking part in some training could work well for you.

Maxine Gordon, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with a couple of times now, offers a brilliant PR workshop on her website. I’ve taken part it the What’s The Story workshop and I learned loads, including how to turn your shameless business plug into a real-life interesting story that journalists, and readers, want to hear about!

Another place to look for media contacts is Charlotte Fall’s Lightbulb – Entrepreneur and Press Hangout group. I’m yet to receive any coverage from this group as I’ve only been in it for a month or so and I haven’t seen anything I’d be a good fit for, but I have seen off-chance pitches turn into national coverage so I’m sticking around!

Put your phone down and get out in the world

Some of my bigger pledges actually came from just walking up to people I kinda sorta know and mentioning my project to them. I dropped it into coversation with people I didn’t know at all and a couple of my Uber drivers even heard all about my project too!

Don’t forget about the more traditional marketing opportunities too – flyers, posters, business cards. Anything you can do to help spread awareness of what you’re doing is worth trying. You never who is waiting to hear about a project and rewards like yours.

Project updates

Don’t neglect the people who have already pledged. Show your backers that you value them and you’re really thankful for their support. Show new people visiting your project that you’re active and working hard to reach your target.

Backers who feel involved in your success will be much more likely to spread the word for you too, you can always ask them to share again. Just try not to get too spammy with your emails, 1 or 2 week will work well.

Have a look at the updates I sent out to my amazing backers here.

Reaching your target and beyond

CELEBRATE! I mean it, when you’ve finished your successful crowdfunding project, celebrate properly. You absolutely deserve to after making your way through all that planning and marketing!

I celebrated during lockdown with a few quiet gin and tonics with my partner and his family (we were all living together at the time). It was so lovely to finally take a proper break and think about what I had managed to do.

Once everything had begun to sink in, I started to think about how I would follow up on my project. This was when I sent out my press releases and started delivering the rewards.

With the additional funds from NatWest Back Her Business, I managed to give away more Brimful of Branding packages and web design than I could have dreamed of and it was a really rewarding time to be working with people with no cost to them and supporting small female-led business. Handwritten thank you cards felt like the perfect way to thank my backers for allowing me the opportunity.

A picture I posted on Instagram of the thank you cards I sent out after my Back Her Business crowdfunder.

I have achieved many things since deciding to go ahead with a NatWest Back Her Business crowdfunder and I owe so much of that success to the people that decided to believe in me.

Don’t forget to say thanks to the people who help and support you, and just take in the moment really. This is the start of your business journey. You. Are. Amazing.

Wrapping Up

So that’s it. That’s exactly how I ran my crowdfunding project and raised £9,652 in 4 weeks with NatWest Back Her Business. I hope you have taken away some useful tips from this blog – do let me know in the comments if there’s anything else you’d love to know more about!

My blog and Insta are kept up to date with business news, useful tips on branding and content for female entrepreneurs or you can sign up to my newsletter here.

I wish you all the best with your crowdfunding journey, you’re going to SMASH IT. Please let me know how you get on – Gem Xx

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