Crowd financing isn’t all about nifty gadgets and incredible success stories. These campaigns make for some great reading, but they only represent a tiny fraction of the crowdfunding campaign pool. The thing is, innovative schemes and aspirational achievements are what it takes to capture the imagination of the crowdfunding community (OK, OK, and the people who write about it), so they’re the campaigns we see the most of.
Today’s story is a little different. It’s got all the traditional elements of a successful campaign (a fantastic idea, an engaged community, a video with all the feels) and two crucial differences. A) it’s got a message that resonates and B) it’s got Sharon Kim.
Without a doubt, Sharon is one of the most impressive campaigners we’ve met here at The Crowdfunding Formula. She took arguably the worst experience of her life – her mother’s cancer battle – and created a tool with the power to transform other people’s experience of the disease. “You’d think by now someone would have created something like this,” She said when we caught up with her. “But they haven’t. There’s nothing on the market to help cancer patients and their families effectively monitor their illness.”
And that’s exactly what Sharon’s CanPlan aims to do. “When my mom was sick, it was difficult keeping track of the number of medications, appointment notes, symptoms, and side effects on a day-to-day basis.” Sharon explains, “So I grabbed an empty journal and started recording everything that was going on. I wanted to create a visual documentation of what my mom’s cancer was like from one day to the next. Cancer is an unpredictable illness and having a tracking method gave me back a feeling of control. It allowed me to take action, develop a treatment plan that best suited my mom’s needs, and meant that I recognized when her systems were getting worse and had time to prepare myself for the inevitable.”
Purposefully low-tech (“Writing is cathartic” Sharon explains, “And part of the process.”), CanPlan is a well-designed journal which aims to allow others to chart their progress battling the disease. Crucially, this life-changing tool includes inspirational messages, support, and information designed to help those facing a cancer battle. “CanPlan is more than just a planner, it’s a roadmap to recovery, an empowering tool that gives control back to the individual.”
But marketing a product this innovative wasn’t without its difficulties. “It’s hard to get access to cancer patients because of the obvious – disclosure, liability, privacy issues.” Sharon says, “And organizations wouldn’t give me feedback on the product either, which is why I turned to crowd financing.”
“I firmly believe in the power of a community. Crowdfunding is my primary funding method and, while there are certainly stressful parts of this process, the returns are worth it. Crowd financing takes away the burden of loans and absurd interest rates, allows you to have full ownership over your product, and ultimately gets you more than just funds: you get a loyal group of people who believe in your project and are rooting for your success.”
So, how do you track down that loyal group of followers? “Social media was very important.” Sharon stresses, “So much so that I offered a free CanPlan to anyone who shared the campaign. When your campaign is newsworthy, and the pitch is effective, social media spreads the word like wildfire. Because we were targeting Baby Boomers, Facebook was the most effective platform for CanPlan, but I was always aware that Instagram has enormous sway with millennials.”
“Twitter was also quite helpful.” She adds, “You can shoot out quick and easy updates and spark conversation. This strategy worked really well to connect me with other businesses in the cancer industry and allowed me to engage in meaningful conversations with them.”
“Most importantly, I am so much thankful to Narek, for his guidance throughout my Kickstarter project. I can honestly say that he has been a huge contribution to my campaign’s success. This was my very first campaign and thanks to his tips/suggestions, I was able to save so much time and effort on things that actually brought in conversions. I was able to raise close to $14K with a $0 marketing budget and no outside services thanks to his help.”
Beyond Sharon’s need to help people and relentlessly positive attitude, the thing that really sets her apart from other campaigners is her take on crowdfunding. “Crowd financing epitomizes our society. Like YouTube, Uber and Elance, it gives normal people control over how they earn and access information. It’s given everyday people a voice, a platform from which to be heard, and a community ready to rally to their cause. I’m a little tadpole in a very large pond, but I have the support of people willing to echo my message. I have a voice. Ultimately, crowdfunding gives each and every one of us the power to make profound changes in the world.”