How to have a successful Crowdfunding Campaign: A session with Dawn Dickson
Today we sat down with Dawn Dickson of POPCOM to discuss the elements of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Dawn is the beauty and brains behind POPCOM – a platform that produces software for vending machines. She has run a few crowdfunding campaigns with massive success, she is the first black woman to raise $1million through crowdfunding and has raised $2million in total.
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Highlights from the conversation have been edited and condensed for clarity
What is POPCOM all about?
POPCOM is an automated retail technology company – so we are a software company that makes software for vending machines in the software industry and we also have a hardware proprietary solution as well. But primarily, we are a software platform that utilizes facial detection, machine learning and blockchain tech to allow vending machines collect customer data.
What about ‘flatoutofheels’?
‘Ofheels’ are ballet flats for women when our feet hurt after wearing heels for hours. This was my reason for starting POPCOM because we have vending machines with our shoes in them which led me to the vending business and in turn led me into creating technology to improve the vending business.’
According to research, a dollar circulates in the Asian community for around 30days, in the Jewish community for 20days, in the white community for 17days, but in the Black community just 6 hours! Why do you think this is the case?
In the united states, there’s been a lot of work from the top level to dismantle the black community and effectively reduce the power of the black dollar by shutting down our stores, banks, etc. This is something that was done heavily in the 60s and 70s, and the reason is to tear apart the black community and cause the black community to have to go out and purchase the things we need which haven’t always been the case. This is a global issue where there’s been this false narrative that if it’s not white then it’s not right and this has been programmed into our community for centuries. I believe now that we have more opportunities it’s important for those of us who can, to level the playing field. Don’t get me wrong, it’s okay to shop with businesses of other races or ethnicity but we should also make an effort to do business with people who look like us.
When was the first time you heard about crowdfunding?
Back in 2015 was the first time I heard about it but then there was a lot of uncertainty about it, platforms had to be put in place to raise equity from a crowd. But fast forward to now and there are several platforms that help founders to get access to capital by reaching out to their communities.
As someone that has had massive success when it comes to crowdfunding, how long does it take you to prepare for a campaign?
About six months, it’s not a fast process neither is it an inexpensive process. It takes about three to six months to prepare properly if your campaign is to be successful. You have to prepare for marketing, create a buzz, educate people about your business and get people interested in your campaign. You can’t just launch a crowdfunding campaign without proper preparation and expect to be successful with it.
How did you market your campaign?
Primarily through social media and my personal network which I have built over several years; I have been building my email list for at least five years now. I send out monthly and sometimes quarterly updates to my lists about what I’m working on just to keep them engaged. We also use Facebook and Instagram ads to market our campaign through advertising.
How important do you think a video is for a campaign?
It is super important to have multiple types of communication; video, facts, FAQs, and Q&A, etc. This is necessary because people learn in different ways, some people are very visual and need to see things while others want to read things and so on. Also, we are in this ‘instant gratification’ era where you have about one minute or less to get your point across, so we make a lot of small one-minute videos we put on social media while we put longer videos on youtube. We make it a point of duty to constantly put out content on our social media throughout the year not just when raising money. This is to ensure that people feel more comfortable with regards to investing in our campaign because we have a body of work they can look at.
What would you say to people who still have doubts about crowdfunding?
They should look at my track record; I have been able to raise over $1.5million through crowdfunding. I remember when I was about to start my campaign, some people told me not to do it but I thrive off challenges. You cannot doubt the power of crowdfunding, it works.
What advice would you give someone who is about to crowdfund?
Start by creating a data room in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.), where you organize your due diligence documents for review; company documentation, articles of incorporation, employment agreement, contracts, financial statements, bank statements and so on. Then start to build your community; become active on social media, position yourself as an expert in your field by writing articles, speaking on panels, doing interviews etc. People feel more comfortable when they see you online. Brag on yourself, show your accolades and build yourself. People are investing in you so build yourself and show them you are more than capable to execute that idea.
We have heard a lot of stories of black women having their ideas stolen. How important is protecting your intellectual property?
Obviously, it is important but patents or copyright is not really effective in most cases. The most important thing is establishing your brand and yourself as to why you are the best to do it and bringing your product to market the fastest. For instance, there are different types of cola but you only get to hear about Pepsi and Coke because they’ve established their brand as the best out there, so focus on your brand and on making your company stand out. Truly no one can steal your idea because no one can do it like you, they can only do it their way.
Why do you think a platform like Buildher is necessary?
Buildher is necessary because it gives black women the opportunity to engage their community. For instance, when raising capital through banks or venture capital, you are reaching out to people who don’t know you but platforms like Buildher will allow you to leverage people that do know you.
What is one major thing you’ve learned from your crowdfunding campaigns?
I understood the importance of transparency. People love to see the success but also love to see what you did wrong, it makes you relatable and shows that you are learning and are coachable. People understand no one is perfect so painting a picture of perfection will breed mistrust between you and potential backers.