Kickstarter: Lessons We’ve Learned

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for your patience.  We’ve finally shipped the last of our pre-orders of “GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine.” We’re rolling out into retail stores across the US and Canada. We’re up and running. Our team is expanding. We’re moving a million miles an hour, and now we are taking a moment to pause and reflect on this wild ride.

While everyone here at GoldieBlox is over-the-moon thrilled with what we’ve accomplished and, more importantly, where we’re headed, we know that with growing comes lessons and with lessons comes a little pain.

We’ve learned a lot in a fairly short amount of time and, since sharing and making learning fun is core to our mission, we figured you deserve to hear some behind-the-scenes stories of how everything unfolded.

Let’s take it back to the beginning.

As you all know, we reached our goal on Kickstarter back in October (hurray!)  What you may not know is that two weeks after our Kickstarter campaign ended, we went viral.  How do you know when you’ve gone viral?  When your video spikes from 9,000 views to over 1 million views overnight.  Luckily, we’d created a website (www.goldieblox.com) to let all the people who had missed our Kickstarter window continue to pre-order the toy. I had an email alert on my phone that would buzz every time we made a sale.  We were getting a handful of orders a day, high-fiving each time.  That is, until we went viral.  My phone started buzzing so quickly I had to shut it off. I didn’t know what was going on, I thought my phone was malfunctioning. Turns out, we pre-sold over 20,000 toys in addition to our Kickstarter orders in about a week.  While we were so excited to have so many girls to share GoldieBlox with, we were freaking out. At this point in time, GoldieBlox, Inc. consisted of two people: myself, and my very first hire, Lindsey (aka “Rainmaker”). We were inundated with hundreds of emails from various requests like changing addresses to cable news channels inviting me to speak on their shows to stores around the world who wanted to carry the toy. And while Lindsey and I were on a marathon burning the midnight oil, it became increasingly difficult for us respond to everyone.

On Thanksgiving weekend, I drove down to Santa Barbara to spend the holiday with my family.  They were worried about me because they’d never seen me more stressed.  All I wanted to do was respond to each email, one by one. Luckily, my family decided to help out.  So instead of “pass the turkey, Uncle Mort,” we spent our entire holiday responding to emails.  I even ended up hiring my sister, Stephanie, to take on customer service full-time. She dropped everything, packed her bags, and moved up to the Bay Area to help me.  I love working with my sister.

But even after hiring my sister, our mighty team of three was not enough to figure out all the logistics.  This is when I begged my husband, Beau, to lend a hand.  Let’s just say while I’m the messy, disorganized type, he’s the guy who knows how to run a ship.  The thing is, he’d never done anything like this before.  So we all had to learn from scratch.

Ultimately, we hired a fulfillment company to help us ship all of the toys.  Like most fulfillment companies, they specialized in wholesale orders, but lacked the knowledge of shipping individual orders.  This ended up in a catastrophe.  Our worst fears came true when retail stores started getting their toys before some of our earliest customers: you guys.

When we found this out, I had a panic attack.  We rushed over to the warehouse to pack the boxes ourselves in an effort to speed up the shipping process. (I still have packing tape in my hair.) For those of you who were affected by this, I am truly so sorry. It was not our intent and it was a hard lesson learned.

Now that you sort of get the idea of how everything came about, know how we spent our Thanksgiving, and that we have an Uncle Mort – we wanted to share with you our takeaway points.

Communicate Consistently, Honestly, and Openly.

We’ve learned that you guys, our biggest supporters, deserve to hear from us more.  It would have been helpful for us to give you a weekly behind-the-scenes look into our world while providing you with honest insights into our progress: the good, the bad and the ugly.  We’re committed to getting better at this. We are now updating on FacebookTwitterYouTube and our blog constantly, so please subscribe to stay in the loop.

Shipping is a beast. (Like Creature from the Black Lagoon, scary.)

We’ve learned that shipping internationally is way harder than we thought.  We even had to remove the option from our website until we can become a great fulfillment partner.  This doesn’t mean we’re giving up. We just need to beef up on a few things before we attempt to tackle it again. We’re starting with Buffy on DVD and plan to go from there.

Kickstarter is tricky.

The Kickstarter platform also caused some issues.  The process of sending out surveys to collect your addresses proved incredibly difficult to manage. We hear they’ve upgraded their tools since our campaign. Unfortunately, we were stuck with an incredibly complicated system that made it a huge challenge to collect everyone’s data.  In fact, we’re still catching up on this!  If you have not received your toy yet, it is because we don’t have your address. Please email Stephanie (my sister) at service@goldieblox.com.

This is our passion.

We put our heart and soul into this initial toy production.  We learned how logistics work using ugly crayon drawings. This Kickstarter project carried that passion over to all of you backers, making it an unforgettable experience.  It took a while, but we’ve still got our soul. There’s nothing like the first time.

The world is ready.

Ultimately, we’ve learned that the world is ready for this idea.  Engineering toys for girls are here to stay. We’re working hard on our product development, making improvements to the first toy, getting the next ones ready to ship, and dreaming up new adventures for Goldie.  The good news is that we are now up and running.  There’s so much in store for our company and more importantly, for your girls. The future is bright.

Thank you for sticking with us.

Love,

Debbie

13 thoughts on “Kickstarter: Lessons We’ve Learned

  1. Well done and as I’m in Ireland I understand forgoing the international shipping as it was charging me 3x the price of the goldieblox! I am delighted to say that I have friends coming next week and I ordered one to them, can’t wait to let my 3 year old tomboy princess (being the only girl at soccer here took issue to the coach telling all the kids they were doing a Spider-Man stretch put her hands on her hips and informed him she would be doing a princess stretch!) have it. I think you may need to find an international distributor when her friends get wind of it. All the best!

  2. You all did an amazing job and should be proud of yourselves. You thought of a need, research and developed a product, marketed and sold it with fantastic success. And you are absolutely correct regarding the gender imbalance in science and engineering. We do need more women engineers. And young girls and women do need more tools to introduce them to science and engineering and do need more mentors and role models like yourself. There are some naysayers who say that your product is unfair to boys. To them I say that there are plenty of tools out there for boys already that don’t appeal to most girls. And to them I say that my own son loves GoldieBlox.
    “I” am so proud of you. And even when I had a shipping snafu, Lindsey even called me personally to talk about it. I am sure you are inundated with calls and emails and that some of them may not be overwhelmingly positive. Rest assured. You are all bright, energetic passionate people and are all amazing! Both of my children, boy and girl, love their GoldieBlox. I can’t wait for new additions (and more female or even gender neutral characters). I wish you the best of success! Good for you!

  3. I actually paid the huge sum required to ship GoldieBlox to my granddaughter in London, and from what her parents report, it was worth every penny. Could you perhaps find a UK/EU distributor, such as amazon.co.uk and amazon.fr, etc.?

  4. You have done amazing! After a few fights with the postal service I got my package and it is awesome, just waiting for my niece to grow up a little so I can play with here (she’s only 1.5yrs atm), thanks for your awesome work and supporting women in engineering!

  5. I think for a first timer with an extremely small team, y’all did amazing.

    One suggestion: DD has already lost her Benjamin Cranklin figurine. Perhaps you should keep spare parts on hand or on your website for times like these?

    Thanks for your hard work and innovation. Starting my EnviroE program in Sept ;)

  6. I think it is terrific that you are sharing the inner workings and realities of making a startup real. We love your product and I know my niece will too when she opens her GoldieBlox Christmas present later this year. I also appreciate that despite all of the mania you describe above, you took the time to share your story with my education blog (http://onedublin.org/2013/03/25/goldieblox-founder-debbie-sterlings-social-mission-to-inspire-female-engineers/) – it was inspiring speaking with you. Your story is as valuable to the kids you are inspiring as the product. All the best, James Morehead – OneDublin.org.

  7. My husband just showed me your website, I’d be really keen to be able to buy a GoldieBox in England for my 3 year old and, from reading the above, it sounds like you have plenty of interest on this side of the pond. Congratulations on a brilliant idea.

  8. As an Educator and tomboy myself, I totally support the “More than just a princess” concept for girls. This is so cool!! I wish you all the best of luck and hope that these toys go far. Girls need more than just dolls and dress up to play with because we ARE more than just princesses :)

    Xx

  9. Sat with my granddaughter, Autumn, playing with the toy last night. While playing, she commented ‘I want to make this work just like what you do, Papa.’ My heart swelled; I’m a Senior Satellite Systems Engineer.
    Ordered the second toy and the extra pieces this morning (for Christmas).

    One question: When are you going public? I have never found a company I more strongly want to invest in. (and yes, I was there for the Kickstarter, she got her copy just before her 6th birthday)

  10. Thank you for recapping your experience getting Goldie Blox off the ground. You are an inspiration to women everywhere- not just little girls. It’s a very cool thing to be alive in the time period where the makers movement has meshed with the internet to make real change happen! Can’t wait for my 4 yr old daughter to receive Goldie Blox for Christmas. She loves all of your YouTube videos. I get teary every time we watch the Rube Goldberg/Beastie Boys one. It hits you on so many levels! Keep up the great work.

  11. Hi, I just discovered your product on a web surf. This is awesome! I am all about kids and them learning tech and mechanics. I volunteer down here in Monterey with an R.O.V. building organization for competition that introduces kids to the world of robotics. I am always pleased to see when girls shoe up for the events because I totally agree with your mission. My wife who has worked with teens at the aquarium here is getting her masters in youth development and I showed her this site too. We dont have kids and only one niece who is already out of college. However,We have many friends with girls and we will surely tel them about your company!
    I left this message here because I wanted to comment and could not find out where else to do that.
    Brian M

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