Why we are back on Kickstarter

[Simultaneously published on our MEDIUM ESPRO Press project on Kickstarter, update 2, http://goo.gl/50z7a]

Hello from the International Housewares Show in Chicago! Thanks so much to everyone that has supported us thus far in our latest Kickstarter campaign! It’s off to a great start and we could not be more excited that YOU are so excited. We love that Kickstarter is giving all of you who loves coffee and innovation the best chance to get in at the ground level, before our product hits the market!

We have noticed a variety of discussions on blogs – particularly in the coffee community that ESPRO has been active in for 8-9 years – asking a simple question: Why does a seemingly mature company need Kickstarter? 

While I can imagine the answer being different for each company, I do think it is important for each of you that care about supporting grass roots innovation to understand our reasons for coming back and – genuinely – asking for your support again. 

Here are our five reasons for being back in Kickstarter. 

1. We are up against some very large companies with very large marketing machines – you’re voice is leveling the playing field for us against some enormous, highly established companies. 

To get a product to market requires access to large numbers of people that can buy it. The reality is that despite the dot com revolution, the vast majority of home and kitchenware products are purchased in stores. Kitchen stores. Coffee shops. Department stores. Big box stores. You walk in. You see something. You buy it on the spot. You go home. You use it. 

To get access to those shelves is a battle. The buyers want proof that you are established. They want to see that the product works. They want low risk, and high margins. Taking a chance on a small upstart is risky. And, on top of that, large established players already own that shelf space so those products need to be displaced to make room for new ones on the shelf. 

The big players don’t let go of shelf space without a fight! 

Why? First, shelf space is power. When you see big brands all over the place you conclude – often without any research – that everybody cannot be wrong! They must be the best! This is a documented phenomenon called “social proof” (ref. “The Psychology of Persuasion” – Cialdini). We are all human, and without research we conclude similarly: the thing I am seeing available everywhere IS the best. 

Second, more shelf-space leads to greater volume, which reduces price for everyone (and makes it EVEN HARDER for folks like us to compete with the next great idea, no matter how good it is). According to Sur la Table’s website, Bodum has sold 60 million Chambords since 1974. That’s quite a head start, and they are just one of hundreds of press style products in the market! 

Your voice is allowing us to demonstrate that consumers want this innovation, that we can deliver, and that the shelf space we are given will be worth it. Kickstarter is today’s “as seen on TV.” Kickstarter success is important “social proof”. 

2. Launching a consumer product like ours is enormously expensive. 

I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing what we do. In fact, I would encourage (and offer to help) anyone that has a great product idea to figure out how to bring it to market! Doing so is the hardest work you will ever undertake. And perhaps the most fulfilling! 

BUT… it is REALLY expensive to do. Let’s put some of the post-design-launch costs in perspective… 

Tooling. For new ideas, factories ask all innovators to pay tooling costs, and almost always require payment up front. That means if any aspect of the design doesn’t work in production, or needs to be changed, the extra cost is on you. The bill? The equivalent cost of about 1-5 Mercedes cars, depending on the size and complexity of product you are bringing to market. 

Inventory. 2-3 more Mercedes. Factories take time from when you order to when the product is delivered. Retailers take time to pay their bills. We manufacturers are expected to ship no matter what, which means we need to hold inventory on hand at all time. 

Marketing. 1-4 Mercedes… per year. What for? Update the website. Build videos. Create packaging. Attend tradeshows (where all costs are insane… milk: $30-$40/gallon… water: $20-$40/10-gallons… REALLY!). Get some PR help. AND, if you attend the trade shows like the Housewares Show, you will see that most established companies have budgets of $500k+ per year. And that's before advertising! 

Bottom line: none of us owns a Mercedes. BUT, at times it feels like we own a fleet! When I say launching a consumer product is expensive, I mean it! 

 3. Our distribution is still limited. 

Many of you have seen our business’s manifesto (and if you haven’t,here’s the link!). In short, it says that if coffee and tea farmers in the far reaches of the world are putting blood, sweat and tears into bringing high quality farmed coffee beans to market, we owe it to them to put at least as much care into serving their coffee and appreciating it as they put into farming it. 

To execute that means we need to get shelf space. We need to find retailers. We need to find you. We need to tell our story. We need you to tell our story too! Again, some perspective. We have heard that companies like La Cafetiere, a competitor to Bodum, have over 6000 distribution locations in North America. We have a tiny fraction of that. 

The solution is to continually build our retailer network. To do that, we need you! 

4. Many of you would not even know about us if we did not use Kickstarter. 

I am forever astonished with the data from our website. Just before Christmas, we had a huge spike in hits to the Espro.ca site… investigation showed that a Knitting and Crocheting blog conversation had started about the Espro Press. 

Knitting and Crocheting?! 

What did we learn? The vast majority of the coffee-drinking public do not have any idea who we are, what we are doing, or why they should care. 

How are we trying to fix that? We are using any and every method at our disposal to get the word out about the ESPRO Press and the ESPRO story! Kickstarter is an incredible ecosystem of people that respect innovation and it allows people to identify and support products that they believe in! When Kickstarter backers talk, people discover companies, products and stories they have never heard of, like ESPRO 

5. The way that consumer innovation is tested in the market is changing 

Last year Time Magazine’s Josh Ozersky wrote an article based on his experience with the ESPRO Press that speculated that Kickstarter could change the way consumer food products are brought to market. We believe that he is right! Lowering the barriers to bringing a product to consumers means more ideas get tried, sooner, faster. Getting direct, rapid feedback from the consumer to designers means that the products that make it to market are better when they get there, and get better faster once they hit the market. All of that is better for you, the consumer! 

 ------ 

So, yes, we have at least 5 reasons we decided to reenter Kickstarter! 

We are a small, entrepreneurial company that chose to sidestep taking outside investors. Why? At the core, when companies take money from investors, the investors get the power. When companies take money from the consumers, the consumers keep the power.  

We are in Kickstarter because we believe that coffee matters. Farmers matter. Conversations around the table matter. Innovation matters. And we want your voice – as coffee lovers and innovation lovers – to remain the most dominant and important voice in our little company! 

Thanks for your support! 

- Bruce  

Bruce Constantine