I Gave Myself 15 Minutes to Be Upset

When I received the notification from Kickstarter that my crowd funding project didn’t meet their guidelines, I put my head down and cried.

Yes, I admit it. I very unprofessionally cried. For 15 solid minutes.

I need funding for my new project, the Stikitty Base. It’s a product that completes my Stikitty System and it’s something that I know millions of cat owners around the world need and will love. After being rejected by the banks, the angels, and now Kickstarter, though, I thought I was out of options.

Every successful mompreneur I’ve ever met is tenacious. She has to be. I had to be, too.

Every successful mompreneur I've ever met is tenacious. She has to be.

Every successful mompreneur I’ve ever met is tenacious. She has to be.

After wallowing for as long as I would let myself, I wiped away my tears and started to get mad. I couldn’t be the only project to be rejected and they didn’t give me an explanation. Maybe they just don’t like pet products, I thought. So I Googled, “why did Kickstarter reject my project.” I found a really cool biomedical company that was creating a product that could help millions of patients. Their project was rejected by Kickstarter and then ended raising over $50,000 on Indiegogo.  The more I looked, the more “rejected” projects I found. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason–all of what looked like really innovative projects and companies were from different industries, had different funding needs, and were from different parts of the country.

Feeling much better about my new pet product, I did much more research on crowdfunding platforms this time. I realized there were many more options than I thought. I chose Indiegogo because the platform gave me a lot more flexibility in terms of how and whether I would receive funding.

I have been live for four days now! http://igg.me/at/stikitty

It’s been fun and hard and exhausting. I’m getting hundreds of referrals and even more site visits so I know people are interested and following the campaign. We’ll see if that translates into funding! Wish me luck…

The Path that Led Me to Crowdfunding

I have this idea for a base for my award-winning product, the Stikitty.

The Stikitty is a cat litter mat fashioned after a cleanroom tacky mat. These mats sit outside cleanrooms and workers step on them to ensure all of the dirt and gunk from their shoes are removed before they enter the sanitary environment. Not long ago I accidentally spilled kitty litter on one and realized it gripped cat litter like nothing I’d ever seen.

A product idea was born! Knowing how much cat litter mess bothered me, I researched to determine if there would be a market for my sticky cat litter mat. As it turns out, the majority of cat owners report that cat litter tracking is the number one headache of owning a cat. Further research showed that many cat owners were not happy with the current cat litter mat options.

Cookie with the Stikitty

Cookie with the Stikitty

Encouraged, I had the Stikitty manufactured and packaged and it is now selling via retail pet shops, online merchandisers like SkyMall and Amazon.com, and my own Web site. My customers and potential customers tell me they like the way my product works, they’re just not thrilled with the way it looks.

So I went back to the drawing board and designed a base into which the Stikitty could slide. This base would be made of a waterproof material that is safe for cats and appealing to their humans. I’m choosing animal prints as those are very hot in the pet industry today!

Stikitty System: One of the World's Most Innovative Cat Litter Mat Systems

Stikitty System: One of the World’s Most Innovative Cat Litter Mat Systems

With the Base and the Stikitty (now acting as a Refill for the Base), I’m creating one of the world’s most innovative cat litter mat systems.

But to do so, I need funding. Having been rejected for more traditional funding–multiple times–I decided to check out crowd funding. This is where everyday individuals donate small amounts of money to help entrepreneurs launch their initiatives.

I had heard of Kickstarter before so I went to them first. I filed my patent application, filled out the online forms, and hit submit to have my project approved.

It was rejected.

“How much rejection can a person take,” I wondered.

(Sneak preview of my campaign as described in the next post:http://igg.me/at/stikitty/x/3229527)

Funding: Plan B

I allowed myself some time to be dejected after being rejected for a bank loan.

High Risk, Small Business--Yep That's Me!

High Risk, Small Business–Yep That’s Me!

My dream of creating a stylish base to extend the performance and looks of my popular product, the Stikitty, wouldn’t die though. I had heard of crowd funding at that time, but my eyes were set on angel financing.According to many experts, angel financing is perfect for high risk, small business entities that need funding but are too small for the venture capitalists and too risky for the banks. Yep, that sounded like me!

So what are angel investors? Think Shark Tank, but for the real world. These are typically wealthy individuals who like to invest in small companies, but are first and foremost business people. They’ll take a chance on you but want a return for their money–typically in the form of a percentage ownership, and they often want a return of 5-10 times their investment within 5 to 7 years.

In Austin, TX, where my company is headquartered we have several networks of angel investors. The advantage of a network is that entrepreneurs can pitch to several investors at one time.Before approaching any of the networks, I did my homework–literally. I took Kim Lavine’s Academy Course on “How to Raise Angel Financing.” I dusted off and refreshed my business plan, perfected my pitch sheet, and prepared my pitch presentation. Then I practiced, practiced, practiced.

The network I chose to pitch to had several phases of the funding process. I made it past the video pitch. Then the screening pitch and even the general pitch. My cat litter mat, the Stikitty, and I even made it to the final pitch phase with three other hopeful entrepreneurs.

I admit I felt a little ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong; I had a great story. The Stikitty was doing well with online sales and had been picked up by three of the top 6 US pet distributors and was in retail stores throughout the US. I had generated just over $50,000 in retail sales for 2012. And, I had a new idea that could be patent-protected.

However, I was up against three technology entrepreneurs; two had already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in earlier rounds of funding and were asking for millions of dollars to continue their businesses. In a tech town like Austin, it’s hard to find an investor that gets excited about a cat litter mat over the latest tech gizmo or mobile app.

In the end, the angel network chose two of the tech entrepreneurs. They invited me to come back, though, when I generated more than $100,000 in sales and needed “real money.”

Did I have it in me for a Plan C?

Where Does a Mompreneur Go When She Needs Funding?

What's a Mompreneur to Do When She Has a Great Idea and No Way to Fund It?

What’s a Mompreneur to Do When She Has a Great Idea and No Way to Fund It?

What’s a mompreneur to do when she has a great idea and no way to fund it?

If you’re like me, I started at the bank and asked for a SBA loan. I had just come off a good run in SkyMall where my Stikitty sold over 700 units. I made enough money to buy more inventory, but didn’t have enough to do any additional advertising.

And, I had a great idea for a new product. Something that would extend the performance and the appeal of the Stikitty. Better yet, it was something I could patent.

But I needed money.

I had tapped out my own funds, and those of my friends and family, with the launch of the Stikitty.

So I went to my business bank and applied for a small business loan, to be backed by the Small Business Administration. (Side note for mompreneurs: the SBA doesn’t actually loan money to entrepreneurs. They offer protection to the bank in case the entrepreneur defaults on the loan. It’s a way to make it less risky for banks to take a chance on entrepreneurs).

My banker was fantastic. He did everything he could to help me get the loan. Unfortunately, what he couldn’t do was create cash flow for me. Before banks will give you a loan, they want to see that you have enough cash flow to pay back the loan. Of course, if I’d had cash flow, I wouldn’t have needed the loan!

My sales from SkyMall were great, but I hadn’t started another run with them yet as I was building back up my inventory. Despite my proven potential, I didn’t have immediate cash flow.

Rejected, I went to Plan B.