I’ve come to learn recently that I’m never more vulnerable than when I’m trying to sell something.
I put my heart and sole into my business. As a solo-preneur (I hate that term, but it’s probably the closest thing to what I am), efficiency is everything if you want to have any time at all with your family. Developing the best apparel possible, for the consumer, the manufacturer, the planet and our charity parnter has taken it’s toll on my time.
When you put your everything into something and you believe in it so much - the sale process is like bearing your sole to the world, and hoping for acceptance. Negative comments hurt, and positive ones make you brim with pride. Nothing beats the feeling you get when your product or idea is validated by customers who not only back you financially, but also shout from the rooftops to try and help you out.
That's the phase I'm in right now - my project is currently live on Kickstarter and just today has passed the minimum funding target. Again I'm solo, and this is my first attempt at Crowdfunding. The support i've had is great, but the pace is frenetic, and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the necessary PR work, social media etc on my own. Thankfully I have a very committed group of backers who share my vision for creating a better future for our kids through the production of greener consumer products. They have been key to my success so far. But still- there is very little time, and I just can’t get the coverage I desire without outside help.
I decided to enlist the services of a crowdfunding marketing specialist to help spread the word. Every day I get messages from different business pitching their wild successes, and advising how they can help me make millions. I picked one - buried in the middle of the day, while juggling kids swimming lessons, dentist appointments etc while trying to manage all of the marketing, and my wife is overseas for work. I just chose one that looked decent. I made a good deal, and got a money back guarantee. The guy had his profile picture up on the website under the 'about us' tab, along with 3 other team members. They all looked professional and friendly. What could possibly go wrong?! I was dealing with the head-honcho. The grand poobah. The king of the crowdfunding jungle. 'Richard Wright' from crowdedhub.com - Harvard educated even - and with several projects under his belt in the millions, I was in good hands.
I don't know what it was, but late at night, as I was climbing into bed, something made me get back out again. All of a sudden, I had to check this guy out. I realised that I did something I never normally do - I put money towards something with absolutely no due diligence. I'm a trusting (and trustworthy) guy. I'm giving a serious chunk of the funds raised for this project to charity. I'm trying to make the world a better place. I'm also desperate to make this a success, and seriously time-poor.
My first port of call was LinkedIn - couldn't find any of the staff, nor the grand chief anywhere there. That was pretty much the deathnell, but I persisted anyway in the hope that something solid would turn up.
I contacted several of the businesses he claimed to have helped. None of them had ever heard of him.
I contacted him, and he was very upset that I would question his integrity and that of his team. Despite this, he couldn't provide any detail about how he was going to market my campaign, and would not disclose details of any businesses he had helped. Reluctantly, he eventually produced an email address from one of his 'clients' after I had made a formal complaint on Paypal. It was a gmail address (most likely one he created specifically for this reason), and the 'business' said he was amazing. Surprise, surprise. The smell of rat was becoming overpowering - particularly when this dude wouldn't tell me his business name, or give any details about the campaign 'Richard' helped him with.
THE DEAD GUY
Soon after, I received a follow-up email from an awesome person. It was someone from one of the compainies I contacted that were listed on his website as success stories of his. They'd earlier advised that they didn't know the guy from a bar of soap - NOW they were telling me the picture of 'Richard' was actually stolen from an online Obituary! Kudos to them for doing a little more digging on my behalf. Epic bad karma for 'Richard' who was using a picture of a dead guy as himself. By this stage, after dozens of emails between 'Richard' and I, I was already convinced it was a scam. This was just icing on the cake - it was actually pretty funny - and the final gust of wind to blow down his house of cards.
What I've learnt
I've learnt that I'm super vulenrable right now because I'm time poor, and particularly because I'm trying to sell my idea to the world and I want it so badly to work. I know that the scumbags of the earth prey on the vulnerable, but had never really experienced it in this context before.
My advice is - when you're in this space yourself - look before you leap. This mistake was made by me trying to save time, and it has actually cost me a lot more time to try and clean up the mess. Connect with the people involved. Get on Skype, and see their face. Ask for the buisness credentials - they should have a fixed address. They should have testimonials from real people. They should have raving fans, shouting their praises from the rooftops (as should you) who would be more than willing to discuss their campaigns. They should be verified on Paypal. They should be able to send you links they've posted on blogs etc for other campaigns.They should have a LinkedIn profile (with many connections), and be happy to connect with you. They should write you a decent proposal before they take your money. They should be able to do so many things that crowdedhub.com just couldn't.
I'll notch this one up to experience, and be grateful I didn't lose too much dough. Karma is a bitch - I feel sorry for 'Richard'
Come check out my campaign if you work out, or ride a bike.