How R&D Saved Jaymes White’s Kickstarter Campaign

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Jun 06
[A version of this article first appeared in Ottawa Business Journal]

Jaymes White is Ottawa’s answer to Grigori Rasputin or the Amazing Kreskin—mentalists who used their talents either to gain political influence or please an audience. Mentalism is a combination of magic and psychology and, unless you’ve seen a show, you won’t understand how powerful the power of suggestion can be when used by skilled practioners on human beings. It’s scary and fun.

“It was 33 days of incredible stress,” says Jaymes White

Jaymes has been practicing his art since he was seven so he’s put in far more than (Malcolm Gladwell’s) minimum number of hours required to master any craft (which is 10,000). He’s performed many shows and completed a TV series (Mind Games on Rogers Television) but his goal, for a very long time, has been to launch a Canada-wide tour.

Now that is expensive. So how do you go about funding what became known as the Paradox Tour, with its first two (sold-out) shows held at Centerpointe Theatre Thursday June 12th and freaky Friday the 13th? Another show is happening August 16th at the Shenkman Arts Centre.

When Jaymes and his loyal acolyte Saad Rashid (think Batman and Robin except Robin in this case is the taller of the two) came to see me I suggested they consider a kickstarter campaign for two reasons—a) to raise the $8,500 they needed to launch Paradox and b) to pre-sell tickets. Every artist is, by definition, an entrepreneur, and the first three things every entrepreneur needs to do are—SELL, SELL, SELL.

Paradox was launched in the performance art category on kickstarter. It’s a tough one—it has a success rate of only 5-13%, which is their lowest, yet the team led by Jaymes, Saad and Vanessa Peral, exceeded their fundraising goal. Even Jaymes’ stagehands (Brian Babcock, Tyler Skinner, Paul Langlois and Corey Rozon) constantly solicited people to the cause. (Full disclosure: I am a backer of Jaymes’ kickstarter campaign).

Both Jaymes and Saad believe that a key to their eventual success was R&D or as they call it “Rob and Duplicate”. They looked at dozens of other successful kickstarter campaigns and noticed—

1. They had a catchy video;
2. They added something that differentiates their campaigns from others;
3. They simplified, simplified, simplified their message;
4. They all had eye popping graphics (for example, the Paradox campaign created their own “frightening” headings);

Even their graphics frighten

5. They stick to a budget—most people support a kickstarter campaign because they like it and want to feel like they are part of something special not because they expect much of a financial return so rewards should be cool, easy to deliver but not expensive;
6. They expect to go through at least 20 iterations before a campaign is launched;
7. They line up sponsors and backers before launch so the campaign gets off to fast start;
8. They push every day for more backers/funds;
9. They have an unreasonable belief in the campaign’s success even on days when things don’t appear to be going according to plan.

Their campaign raised $9,891 or 16.3% more than their goal of $8,500 from 160 backers. It was the 52nd highest grossing campaign in kickstarter’s performance art category with the 32nd highest number of backers. It is almost certainly better for them to have raised nearly $10k from 160 people rather than to have raised $10k from, say, four corporate sponsors since their goal was to not only to launch a show but to sell out while expanding Jaymes’ fan base. Having said this, both Jaymes and Saad realize that many of their backers were already Paradox fans so, to an extent, the question of how to broaden the Jaymes White fan base still remains.

All that Jaymes required to be approved by kickstarter was an Ontario business registration number (which costs $70 and can be obtained online) and with that registration, anyone can open a bank account, the other kickstarter requirement. Kickstarter takes 5% of funds raised by successful campaigns (it’s all or nothing, if the goal isn’t reached or exceeded, the campaign fails and backers are not charged) while Amazon takes 3 to 5% for handling money transactions and hosting the service. The rest goes into the campaign’s bank account.

“It was 33 days of incredible stress while the campaign ran,” Jaymes says, “but the best thing was the incredible feeling our team got when we met then exceeded our target a few days before the end. It felt like we were on top of the world but it was humbling too—to receive all those good wishes and love. Now we have to live up to those expectations and deliver.”

I asked Saad again about mistakes and he went back to the question about rewards, “We budgeted $1,000 for rewards but it ended up costing us $2,000. The DVDs (of Jaymes’ TV series) were supposed to cost $5 each but ended up costing $10 and we had to go back to people and ask if we could substitute, say, a Paradox wrist band for a card wallet.”

“In the end,” Jaymes says, “we didn’t have to go to a bank and borrow any money, which they probably would have said no to anyway. We created 4 jobs for our stage team and 2 more in marketing and sales. We spent $2,000 on a marketing campaign with JACKPINE Digital who did a ton of work for us. We did an “ask me anything” campaign on reddit, which got 43 people involved that put us on top of the reddit page for the day. And we held “coffee with a mentalist” on Sparks Street, which attracted 70 people.”

From talking to the group, I could see that they truly understand the difference between marketing and sales. Marketing builds the brand which builds trust. But sales are done 1-on-1 in the trenches where that trust is converted to cash.

Dr Bruce M Firestone, Ottawa Senators founder; ROYAL LePAGE Performance Realty broker. Follow him on Twitter @ProfBruce

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.