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Commercial Entrepreneur Entrepreneur Fashion & Apparel Part-time Mother

PoshShop, the marketplace for pre-owned authentic luxury goods is making it safer to shop for original items online

It was actually tailored to my late grandfather” this was my response to a colleague commenting on my grey wool suite, one of my all the time favorite pieces of wardrobe during cold winter days, today I could hardly find something as thick, well-tailored and a perfect fit anywhere.

Using pre-owned items as part of our wardrobe is not a totally foreign concept to Egyptians, items are often carried on by family members and occassionally gifted to close friends, special pieces of wardrobe carries stories, authenticity and meaning  beyond its monetary value.

It’s not very different for shoppers for luxury items, often quite expensive and very occassionally used, the market for pre-owned luxury good has been nothing but expanding and with its expansion comes the risk of falling a prey for counterfeited items. Stories of high-value purchases of seemingly original items that turns out to be copies gets plenty of people to hold back from purchasing pre-owned originals.

The risk is realized by Daria Ilina, her over a decade of experience in the luxury fashion industry and the experience of her friends falling a prey to counterfeited items has inspired her to start Posh Shop to be the destination to buy and sell pre-owned authentic luxury goods.

The black market is so profitable so sellers of fake products, sometimes purchase original receipts of boutiques, dust bags and packaging from people who have original items in order to manufacture the high copy with corresponding serial numbers, model number, color and sell it with boutique invoice. In this case the only chance to spot the fake is to inspect the item itself.” Said Daria

The verification process of these luxury items doesn’t go far from Sherlock Holmes investigations. Unless you follow a pre-defined process of testing several variables, you’d fall victim to fake copies even if you own similar items from the same brand. For this, verification can only be handled by professionals. The shop uses a verification consulting services that requires a quarterly visit and more than two dozen photos taken on a very specific manner – the angle, the lighting, the focus all affects the verification process.

And as she settles down with her Egyptian family, Daria sees the business through the goggles of sustainability.

 

“We are sustainable.  We are doing our small part to be environmentally responsible. Giving opportunity to re-sell what it is already manufactured, extending the lifecycle of luxury goods, we reduce polluting effect from fashion production. Which greatly affects Oceans’ flora and fauna.   Another issue, when people re-sell their unwanted designer items to somebody who will treasure them again they feel good knowing that they are part of the social responsibility program and making the good things not just for cash in return.” Says Daria Ilina, Founder of Post Shop

 

 

The Posh Shop has also created a luxury selling and exchange community, through which members can consistently update their items without the need to purchase each individual item. Daria’s passion for style also allows for member’s personal styling needs to be met with notifications of availability of suitable items.

To learn more about The Posh Shop and what kind of items are currently available visit their website www.poshshop-eg.com and join them on Facebook and Instagram

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Electronics & Hardware Entrepreneur Executive Management Marketing Startup Stories Technology Entrepreneur

Step-by-Step Guide on launching your Crowdfunding Campaign – especially if you are a hardware startup

Crowdfunding campaigns are one of the best ways to validate your products, especially if you are a hardware startup. For the followers of the Lean Startup Methodology – which should be everyone building a startup – you know you should be iterating the launch of your product while receiving feedback from your customers.

Crowdfunding provides the ideal medium to achieve this dynamic, yet sometimes it could be the kiss of death to a new startup if the process is not managed properly. And what’s better than other people’s experience, failures and successes to learn from while pursuing your own journey?

Inspired by the panel discussion on Hardware Startups Crowdfunding by FabLab Egypt; this article will introduce you to the storie and lessons learnt by hardware entrepreneurs who used Crowdfunding as a medium to develop their products and build growing businesses based on the initial success or failure of their Crowdfunding Campaign.

If there is enough interest, we’ll publish a follow-on article with Checklist and Score Card that will help you score your campaign and suggest ways to increase the potential of success based on the input shared by the entrepreneurs. Feel free to comment below is something like this would be helpful to you.

By the end of 2013, Bassam Jalgha’s first bootstrapped Kickstarter campaign (Roadie Tuner: the ultimate guitarist tool) attracted 2,002 backers who pledged $178,613, four years later, his company, Band Industries, attracted 4,741 backers who pledged $502,931 to its second Crowdfunding campaign (Roadie 2 and Roadie Bass Automatic Instrument Tuners), Bassam joined the panel live from China as he is working on delivering the product before the holidays.

Amr El Gabry is the Founder of VoxEra – The First Voice Roaming Killer, its Kickstarter Campaign recently attracted 633 backers who pledged $75,551 and in the process of launching their product.

Mahmoud Said of Happiana had less luck with his SunBank – The World’s Smartest Solar Charger Campaign on indieGogo despite successfully raising $3,000, the target for manufacturing the product had been $15,000 and you can’t go flexible with manufacturing, though, it seems the campaign has had a positive impact as his company recently completed a second pivot and was able to raise a seedfunding round to continue their operation.

Amr Saleh’s 1Sheeld: Replace your Arduino shields with your smartphone! campaign had been one of the inspirers of the Hardware Startup movement in Egypt, attracting 1,480 backers who pledged $85,210 and successfully delivering on their promise, Amr’s Integreight is getting ready to launch a second campaign soon.

Below are some of the top tips shared by the founders

Marketing Funnel and Conversion

The core component for the success of the campaign is proper design to the marketing funnel and a combination of persistence and intelligence in designing conversion points, as digital marketing practices mature, the process for online conversion becomes widely known yet the need for specialized professionals to run the campaign persists.

According to the founders the main tools they used for their funnel and conversion is:

  • Landing Page with Signup Form – attracting traffic from different online social channels to the landing page
  • Digital Advertising especially Facebook Ads (Using Leads Forms for Signups)
  • Providing a “taste” and “small committment” before campaign launch to get engaement and buy-in
  • Media, Events & PR

Prior to its campaign launch, Bassam’s Band Industries launched a Free App targetting the same niche, providing a taste for their upcoming product and attracting 10,000 leads, plenty of whom will then contribute to the Crowdfunding campaign later.

Bank Industres also hired an advertising agency that was able to generate $60,000 worth of revenues for a budget of $15,000 relying on Facebook Leads Forms, the cost of acquisition for a lead had been $0.2 and the conversion late was expected to be 7%. Bassam stresses on the fact that digital marketing is more about data than marketing, once you know what to measure and the ratios you’ll be able to make the right calculations and investments.

But the journey was not the same for Amr El Gably who fired his marketing team after the first few days of the campaign. They spent $2000 and acquired only 500 leads, only resulting in 50 purchases. VoxEra also used a smart pre-campaign $1 committment guranteeing super early bird prices, for which 100% of those who paid the $1 ended up contributing to the campaign.

Using Advertising Agency or Not

Amr has then moved between marketing agencies, investing $1500 for a return of $1500 with Gadget Floor, then $2500 with Funded Today which pulled back from the campaign for poor projected performance and another $2500 with PR Media Now  which didn’t also proceed in delivering results. Founders stressed that the reviews for Marketing Agencies could be very positive and also very negative sometimes, achieving the chemistry with an agency had been a challenge for Amr.

Influencers and Affiliate Marketing

El Gably’s quest for results relying on agencies came to a disappointment, bringing matters back to his own hands, Amr reached out to influencers, offering a local travel blogger a 10% profit share and using an Affiliate marketing module, results started showing. For $100 boosted post by the blogger resulted in $5000 direct revenues to the campaign.

Momentum through Media Appearances

Media didn’t end up working well for VoxEra’s campaign as well. Amr stresses that timing for media appearances is critical, a duration of 7-10 days between media appearances have not scored well with the audience, these apperances should be schedule in a short span of time, communicating momentum and urgency to convince hesitating audience to commit. People wait to see what happens after each interview, whey they wait a few days, they lose interest.

Support System

Media outlets are growing less interested in idea-stage crowdfunding projects, giving the large number of projects that doesn’t deliver and accordingly affects the credibility of the media outlet, verification by testing the product is becoming essential to securing media coverage for your campaign. This was the case for Mahmoud, after trying sevearl routes, running out of funds while results are not  showing. That’s when his Fab Lab Membership kicked in to provide the supportive community, network, knowledge and insights he needed to move further. Mahmoud strongly recommends entrepreneurs to assemble a support system before launching.

You’ll never get it all right on your own just sitting there with your laptop. Opeaning up and reaching out to the community of peers, mentors and fellow makers is essential for success.

Sniping the right Events

Integreight’s geeks don’t like to leave it for chance, the team studied 70 Crowdfunding case studies before launching their own Crowdfunding campaigns, accumulating a repository of know-how fo what to do and not to do, which tools to use, when. It all came together when the team has chosen to participate at TechCrunch Disruptin Berlin prior to their campaign launch and was able to get the TC coverage and generating momentum from there.

The Not To Do List

Despite that his campaign was not a success, the first experience of launching a Crowdfunding campaign had been invaluable to Mahmoud’s business. Since then he syndicated a “Not To Do List” listing everything they have done that didn’t work. Another reason why such community meetings are invaluable is the cross-sharing of the not-to-do lists among founders and making it available to the next generation of founders.

Providing on your promises, while efficiently handling negativity online

Another challenge these campaigns face is the effective handling of negative comments from audiences and backers who often lack the understanding of the process, challenges and flexibility required while working with startups. As an Application release gets slightly delayed, and one of the backers resorts to negativity and bad mouthing which could be a source of stress and possible mis-handling of the situation.

Keeping your cool, demonstrating the situation and terms of engagement with options to proceed often turns down attention-seeking negativity-seekers. In this case, someone initially posting negative comments turned down the offer to get a refund and showed flexibility in accepting the terms.

To keep its backers updated, VoxEra even decided to take it further and hire staff to make direct phone calls to 633 backers. When people receive a personalized phone call, it feels better and more trusting and engaging for them while you are working on fulfilling their expectations.

How to Protect your idea

Founders seemed to agree that it’s almost impossible to fully protect your idea, in some cases during the campaign on one platform, other groups post the same product on another crowdfunding platform. Or larger companies often copycat the products and launch it before the end of the campaign.

Some ways to gurantee your own success if to focus on:

  • Branding & Community: If you have managed to make the brand stand out and build a supportive community around it
  • Scientific Research: If you baed your product on documented scientific research
  • Software Algorithms: If you have developed hard-to-re-engineer algorithms

Several options exist for getting a provesional patent, providing a protection for 12 month and starting only at a few hundred dollars, PatentWizard.com was mentioned as an option, though it was debated that using local legal advisors might be more engaging and cost effective.

 

Customer Discovery and Communication

Mahmoud’s experience with his first Crowdfunding campaign have taught him to listen carefully to the customers and design the offering and communication based on their needs and expectations. “Never compete on price, find a niche segment and serve them with a specific product” says Mahmoud. As a result of listening, Mahmoud decided to focus on 2 different customer segments and needs other than what was initially anticipated.

Choosing timing for Launch and Certification

It might seem promising to launch a campaign – from the scratch – but it’s highly advised by the founders never to launch a campaign before having a minimum of a prototype you can sell. Taking the risk of launching before producing a working prototype might destroy the whole process and affect you negatively.

It’s also vital to know that you’ll need to certify your product before assembly, receiving a certificate requires that your product complies with specific requirements, you have to take these factors into consideration before manufacturing not to end up repeating the process, make sure that the manufacturing partner you choose has a lab facility that can test the product for compliance with certificate requirements before manufacturing.

Pricing Considerations

4X of the cost of production should be the minimum pricing for hardware products, there are too many unforseen source of waste, re-design, cost of campaign .etc that needs to be factors in the pricing to avoid loss before making revenues.

The above are a few variables mentioned by the founders in their panel discussion. It’s not hard to build a step-by-step process to launch your own campaign then:

  1. Study market needs to verify the existence of a niche for your product idea
  2. Prototype the product and produce a working prototype
  3. Be open and engage a community of peers, mentors and potential segment
  4. Develop smart digital marketing strategy incorproating landing page, facebook ads and videos if possible
  5. Develop killer content for your digital strategy consisting of high quality video, Email Drip Campaign .etc
  6. Integrate Influencer Marketing – even relying on local influencers in your community with niche audience
  7. Snipe your event engagements for maximum exposure to the right media outlets
  8. Price your product at least 4X of the anticipated cost of production
  9. Schedule your media engagements all around the same week
  10. Listen very carefully to all feed back, be ready for pivots and delays
  11. Invest in communicate clearly and confidently while preparing the delivery of your product
  12. Don’t stop at celebrating or mourning the campaign, build a company, get funding from somewhere else and come back stronger.

As part of The Growth Manifesto, I have built a number of score cards to benchmark the startup/company performance and growth potential based on researched variables. If it’d be of interest to the community, I’d be glad to invest the time to design a specific tool for Hardware Startup Crowdfunding, comments below if this would be helpful to you.


DISLAIMER: Information shared is based on the insights shared during the panel discussion, if you’d like to revise any segment, please, feel free to contact us.

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Entrepreneur Global Stories

Kolikoo.com: An Egyptian Entrepreneur Going Global

While some people lead their entire lives with boxes of doubt depriving their ideas of sufficient room to grow, others simply refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer. A well thought of idea is worth nurturing, and all it takes is the proper soil to grow. And that’s why Egyptian entrepreneur Ibrahim Khalil, co-founder and CEO of Kolikoo.com, was persistent enough to locate the proper soils for his project to prosper, even if it meant taking it overseas.

With a rich e-commerce experience in Souq.com, Ibrahim was well equipped to take his knowledge to a younger market where both, consumers and business owners are in need for what he has to offer.

Eastern Europe E-commerce Market

According to the Eastern Europe B2C Ecommerce report released in 2013, the e-commerce market in Eastern Europe has witnessed an average growth rate of 35.7% over the year 2012, which ranks it the strongest growing e-commerce market in Europe. The report also announced that the annual growth of e-commerce sales in Eastern Europe outpaced Western Europe by 13 percentage points in 2012.

“There is a lot of potential in the Eastern European e-commerce market. First of all, only 27 million of 162 million inhabitants are shopping online – a percentage bound to increase once internet penetration is picking up pace. As demand will rise across this region, logistic services will improve, enabling retailers to serve also the less urbanized areas”, says Wijnand Jongen, Chair Statistical Board Ecommerce Europe.

A Project with Potential

Kolikoo.com is the first social e-commerce network in Bosnia & Herzegovina, a place where businesses and individuals can offer their products for sale in a social interface, combining web shop and social network business models into one business model.

Although Khalil, and co-founder Amir Ahmetovic, have been working on Kolikoo.com since 2012, it had an impressive boost as the winner of the Balkan Venture Forum which took place in Sarajevo on May 16th, 2014, and was considered as one of the most promising startups in the region, which qualified the team to participate in the European Venture Summit in Dusseldorf in December 2014.

Future Plans

According to the 2013 Eastern Europe B2C Ecommerce report, a double digit growth rate above 20% in Eastern Europe was expected for 2013, though this growth rate is estimated to reach a climax by 2017.

Meanwhile, Khalil plans on scaling out within the next 5 years through Europe, with Turkey, Czech and Italy being on top of the expansion list. He is also currently in the process of securing his first round of investments for expanding.

It is worthy to mention that Turkey has topped the 5 emerging countries in % growth, according to the 2013 Eastern Europe B2C Ecommerce report, with a 75% growth rate.

With an Egyptian e-commerce market that’s currently flooded with activity, it brings us pride to see an Egyptian entrepreneur penetrate a new fresh market with knowledge and experience obtained on Egyptian lands.