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[E4C3] How to Raise Over $700K on Kickstarter & Provide Solar Light to People In Need – WakaWaka

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Camille Van Gestel - WakaWakaWe’ve got an exciting interview with green entrepreneur Camille Van Gestel of WakaWaka, a company that makes the world’s most efficient solar lights and mobile solar chargers.

WakaWaka, which means “shine bright” in Swahili, is a social enterprise that is bringing light to desperate people in times of darkness. For every solar light or mobile solar charger purchased, they give one to a family in need somewhere in the world. In places like Haiti, Syria, and the Philippines. They partner with organizations like the IRC – the International Rescue Committee – to make sure WakaWaka units reach the families who need it the most as soon as possible.

Camille is going to share with us his incredible story of how WakaWaka raised over $700K on Kickstarter in 1 month, ranked themselves as one of the top 5 Kickstarter campaigns of all time, and provided light to over 60K Haitians impacted by the 2010 earthquake – all in one campaign.

During this interview, Camille will:

  • Unveil WakaWaka’s disruptive for-profit business model that allows them to bring solar lights at a low cost to those at the base of the pyramid who need it the most.
  • Share with you powerful & actionable pre-launch strategies that made their crowdfunding campaign a massive success.
  • Reveal little known secrets to getting your project ranked high in the Kickstarter system, so you can capitalize on the thousands of people in the Kickstarter community who are actively looking for cool things to fund.
  • Explain how they leveraged “stretch goals” to engage their early backers to evangelize their campaign, boost their Kickstarter rankings, and vastly multiply their original funding goal.
  • Reveal how much of a workload you are really signing up for when you launch a Kickstarter campaign.
  • And tell you a story about why a blind headman in Africa would want a Waka Waka solar light for his family.

Buy One Give One – Help Philippine Victims of Typhoon Haiyan with Life-Saving Solar Light

When we think of poverty, it’s easy to equate it with lack of food, water, medicine, money, but we don’t realize that for 1.5 billion people – which is a quarter of humanity – that light is, in fact, a luxury. When the sun goes down for these people, the day is over.

Can you imagine what means in a crisis situation? In places where there is no security? It’s really dangerous at night, folks, especially for women and children. Going out to get water, firewood, or simply to go to the bathroom – in the dark – can be a life or death matter.

According to Bob Kitchen, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), “WakaWaka’s are among the most valued aid tools we distribute in the Philippines”.”

And here’s what Kofi Annan had to say about WakaWaka: “The Solar for Philippines campaign brings light into darkness in a sustainable and energy efficient way.”

If you want a stylish, efficient solar charger that you know is going to help someone in need, mosey on over to www.SolarforPhilippines.org and get one now.

WakaWaka Solar For Philippines

Mentioned in this Podcast

  • The International Rescue Committee
  • Solar for Philippines
  • WakaWaka’s Kickstarter Campaign – check out their stretch goals!
  • Tom Corley of Richhabits.net
  • TOMS Shoes
  • inDinero

 Where to find Waka Waka

  • WakaWaka’s Website
  • WakaWaka on Facebook
  • WakaWaka on Twitter
  • Get WakaWaka


Lorna: So Camille, thank you so much for joining us. Would you tell me more about your company and how you got involved in this venture?

Camille: Thanks for having me and my pleasure to tell a little bit more about WakaWaka. This started in 2010 prior to the World Cup Soccer in South Africa where we won the competition to green the World Cup Soccer. So basically, to offset the entire carbon footprint of the World Cup which was quite significant.

Several million tons of carbon went up in the air as a result of a few games of soccer. So we introduced a nationwide scheme with LED lights, to change incandescent lights to LED lights. While we were driving from one project to another from an office building to a restaurant to all kinds of basically rich people’s structures, we were passing townships where people are living with no access to lights.

Even though the South African government had promised that the World Cup would be good for them, the poorer part of the population which other people would call like the base of the pyramid, there we were with our good intentions and those people didn’t fit in our program. A seed was planted there that we really should make an effort and see if we can come up with a solution to be able to provide light for them as well who are not connected to the grid at all.

Come half a year later, I was in Hong Kong because I did a lot of production work in China and I usually step over in Hong Kong just to acclimatize a little bit. Hong Kong is a fun place to in. I’m sure that you know that.

Lorna: It is, I grew up there. (Laughs)

Camille: So I was on a great roof of terrace overlooking Victoria Harbor, meeting an old friend who was a founder of a technology firm called Intovation. They have a technology which handles the power management of small solar devices. At that time, we’re speaking the end of 2010, they were the global market leader for solar cellphone technologies. Basically, 90% of all the solar cellphones in the world have their technology inside and they were looking at different shadings.

A few weeks before, they were in a bar with a beer, thinking of creative ideas where to put their technology in and they thought it would be kind of cool to put it in a solar LED light. And how fun would it be if the light would actually fit in a bottle, because, well, they were drinking a beer.

I heard the idea while I was there and it blew my mind. It was nothing more than that. It was an inspiration. It was an idea, they have no idea how to design it or how market it. I called a close friend of mine, Maurits Groen, which translates to green by the way, from the Netherlands with whom I was doing the program in South Africa. I told him about the idea and he has brought Al Gore to the Netherlands on several occasions so I asked him, if we’re going to do this, would you present this idea to Al Gore and see whether he might want to be an ambassador for this product.

I figured if he would stand behind it, then we have a marketing machine that’s unbeatable. And he said, yes, I will propose that to him. By saying so, he basically said, I will open up my entire network which is quite huge because he’s the most sustainable entrepreneur in the Netherlands. He’s the number 3 on the Dutch Sustainable top most influential. So I was extremely excited that he wanted to participate.

I called another friend, Kim [4:00 Intro file] to see whether our product idea would be eligible for current credits which still had a value at that time. He said, yes, that’s possible. So right there and then, during that phone call with the beer still on my hand, we basically formed the project team and decided were going to do this. Nine months later, we had the first prototype in our hands. A snowball started rolling from there which has gotten bigger and bigger over the past few months. It’s turned into a roller coaster which we can only just hang on to because it’s going so incredibly fast but it’s really a dream come true. It’s thrilled to be able to do this.

I’m 40 years old and finally I have found my passion.

Lorna: So that’s fantastic. Basically your business idea started in a bar.

Camille: Yes.

Lorna: Did you write your business plan on a cocktail napkin? (Laughs)

Camille: If it would have been a very simple business idea then that would have been possible, yeah.

Lorna: So Camille, can you tell us how your business actually addresses the world’s most pressing concerns.

Camille: What a lot of people don’t know is that light or electricity is not something that comes easy for a lot of people in the world. There’s about 1.5 billion people or close to a quarter of humanity that do not have access to electricity. So when the sun sets, basically life ends for those people. At 6o’clock in the evening it’s pitch black. They cannot do anything until the sun rises again in the morning. So they are dependent on highly toxic, very expensive kerosene lamps, candles, fires. It’s one of the world’s forgotten horrors, to be honest.

During the course of this interview, literally, hundreds of people will burn as a result of accidents with these kerosene lamps. It’s 16,000 people per day who are severely burned for life. And not only that, kerosene cost families up to 20% of their income. Sometimes I ask people could you imagine what your life would be like if you wouldn’t have to sacrifice 20% of your income for just one light bulb in your house.

It’s difficult for people to grasp. But it’s reality for hundreds of millions of people in the world. So we are trying to do something about that. With what is currently the most efficient solar lights in the world and we’ve called it “WAKAWAKA”, which translates to “Shine bright” in Swahili.

Lorna: So how exactly do you use your for profit business model to solve these problems.

Camille: What we’re trying to do is we’ve created a product which is also attractive to Western consumers. So we are selling these products also in Europe and in the United States, in Australia and in other Western markets. What we’re doing with this is we’re trying to cover as much of our overhead as possible, that is the first thing that we’re doing so we can keep our profit margins as low as possible for off grid markets where our impact really matters.

On top of the regular margin that we really need to make on our sales in the States and in Europe, we charge a premium which is going to the WakaWaka Foundation. That can vary between $2 and $10 per unit that we are selling. Those dollars are used for either crisis aid or for foundations who do not have another way of raising funds to buy light. Through that way, we are making light more affordable for those living at the base of the pyramid who really could not afford anything.

We are talking to micro finance organizations as well. So what we are doing is we are buying from the funds that we are raising through our western sales, we purchase additional lights which we put in front of a micro finance organization and we are asking them, please hand these out to your customer base. Ask them to pay a dollar a week or whatever you think is feasible.

By the time you have recovered the cost price of the lamp, all we ask is that you buy a new one and you keep doing this. So it becomes a rolling fund.

Lorna: So, tell me how that works. You partner with a micro finance organization, you provide these WakaWaka solar lights and how do their clients actually use lights and generate an income from them?

Camille: This is the interesting part. There is a difference between a theory and practice. In theory, the model is brilliant. Now we are talking to micro finance organizations and basically, we are saying to them, “here we have 10,000 lights, free of charge. Ask your customers to pay at whatever time period they think is feasible.

The only thing that we ask is that you use those funds plus some profit from your overhead to keep on buying lights with us.

They are not used to these kind of disruptive models. We have introduced these to a number of very large micro finance organizations but we haven’t struck a deal yet. So we have persuade them basically of the way these works. Because it’s really too much out there. They’ve never done anything like this before.

Lorna: Do you think there’s a market for village entrepreneurs to charge a small fee to use your solar light and charger to recharge cellphones like for some of the other villagers.

Camille: It’s a huge market. You have no idea. There are actually a new business in Africa it’s called, Mobile Phone Charger. You would get on your bike. You would collect batteries from people who own mobile phones and to my great surprise, actually, out of the 1.5 billion without electricity 600 million of them, so more than a third own a mobile phone.
They need a battery for their phone. They need a battery which is on the way from their house to the charging station in the next village. And they need another battery for the way back, from the village back to their house. They are paying anywhere between $0.20 and $0.50 per charge. We have examples from Haiti where people are spending up to 30%, I cannot imagine these. People are spending up to 30% of their income on charging their phones. Not on the minutes but charging.

Lorna: How do they traditionally pay for the power to charge their phones? Is it by paying the local energy company?

Camille: Remember, they are not connected to the grid.

Lorna: Right, right, how do they do it? So they pay these mobile charging vendors a very high fee to charge their phones, so to clarify, these individuals who are not part of the grid they are paying these mobile phone charging vendors an exorbitant fee just to charge their phone?

Camille: That is correct.

Lorna: Okay, wow. Interesting. So in addition to working with microfinance organizations, do you also give away lights to local non-profits? Do you give money? How else do you support organizations that are fighting against energy poverty?

Camille: We give away products. We give it away free of charge but preferably not for free. Which means, if you give something totally for free, it has no perceived value. That has been a huge problem because people are not using the light or they would sell it for a dollar or two dollars. What we are asking, basically, is a service. Any kind of service in return so that could be some kind of community service, cleaning up stuff, following education program. It could be all kinds of things.

In Haiti there’s an example of a community with about a thousand people who are receiving a light free of charge and we are asking them, it’s not totally free of charge in this case, so we are asking them for voluntary contribution of $2 which is going to be used for a community solar light. So they have their own individual lights and then on top of that, they are helping to fund a community solar light for the local there because that’s a very dangerous spot to be there at night.

So we are asking for something in return. And even though we are just startup, we’ve managed to donate in excess of over $500,000 worth of products in the last 5 months actually.

Lorna: Wow, that’s fantastic. So what regions of the world do you operate in?

Camille: We have received interests for WakaWaka from over 90 countries from around the world. Literally, from Canada to Vanuatu. I had to look up Vanuatu on a map. You probably know where it is but I didn’t.

Lorna: I’ve always wanted to go Vanuatu. That sounds so exciting to me.

Camille: Let me know when you’re there and bring a WakaWaka with you because there’s 150,000 people there living off grid.

Lorna: (Laughs) Fantastic! I’ll take you up on it one day.

Camille: Yeah.

We’re active in countries like South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zambia, Uganda, Rwanda, Indonesia, India and the United States. (Laughs) And then the Netherlands of course as well.

A lot of these countries are currently building the market with test orders and we’re seeing an increase in the months very rapidly. We only entered the market a few months ago, a little bit over half a year ago. It’s all very fresh for everybody but we’re seeing an incredibly rapid growth. It’s really amazing to see what can happen in a very short time.

Lorna: Well it must be so fulfilling to be an entrepreneur and to know that you have such a global impact. What do you most loved about your business.

Camille: That it’s changing lives. And not just changing lives, it’s actually, (and this is very humbling) it’s actually saving lives. A lot of people can say that about what they do but we heard a story two or three weeks ago what were trying to find out exactly who this is and what’s her name is. But let me just tell you the story.

It was in Cameroon. She received a WakaWaka light. It only has one button on it so it’s very easy to operate. And the day after, she was giving birth to, I think it was a little boy, and maternal health is the biggest problem in Africa.

A lot of women die while giving birth to kids and she actually was bleeding to death at that time. She was able to find the emergency beacon on the light. If you press it for 2-3 seconds an SOS light starts blinking. I don’t know how far away but far enough beyond the reach of her voice. Somebody saw the light blinking and they came to help her and rescued her and the baby. So I thought, that was a pretty amazing story. It gave me shivers all down my spine that for the first time we really heard a concrete story about the impact that we’re making.

These stories must be out there many, many more. But normally we don’t hear that. You cannot imagine how it makes you feel if you know that this is the impact that you’re making.

Lorna: Absolutely! I think one of the things that is really powerful is to connect with the human story behind the endeavor that you are engaged in. We can look at statistics, for example, kerosene fires are the number one cause of slum fires in India for example. But to hear like an individual’s experience and how it really changed that person’s life is a powerful way of really connecting with the people you are serving and also being able to connect with those customers that you have and to help them know that every purchase that they make of a WakaWaka light can have an impact on someone else far, far away in a very powerful and life changing way.

Camille: Can I share a story about a blind village headman?

Lorna: Absolutely! I love stories. Tell me.

Camille: This I found crazy. Up north in Nigeria, a blind village headman was enthusiastic receiving WakaWaka light or solar light. They were WakaWaka’s but solar light in his village. I asked our local partner there, how come a blind person cares?

Lorna: (Laughs)

Camille: The problem was, it’s not always a very happy life living at the base of the pyramid. It’s rough. It’s tough and every day is a constant struggle for survival. And, all of a sudden, he could hear laughter and joy around him because people had an evening. They were able to stretch their day by three hours. So normally, they would have to go to bed. They had kerosene lamps and torches but all of those are extremely expensive so they use those for a limited time only.

And all of a sudden, people are talking to each other, kids were studying, women were doing chores in the evening. They were more productive during the day. It changed the whole village’s way of life and that’s why he was so incredibly excited about that. I thought it’s a pretty cool story, to be honest.

Lorna: That’s beautiful because, we would wonder why would a blind person need a solar light. But then, when you think about the additional hours of activity and family life that that light actually enables, people can enjoy dinner longer. They can do more important chores that they need to get done during the day. Studying is hugely important so I think that’s wonderful to hear.

Camille: So we heard that story, we approached Andrea Boccelli whom I’m sure you know.

Lorna: I don’t actually, tell me. (Laughs)

Camille: He’s one of the most world’s famous opera singers from Italy but he can’t see either. He has been discovered by Pavarotti some time ago and we have asked him whether he would be willing to come to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands to do a charity concert and raise funds to be able to donate lights to a village in Africa. And basically, he said yes.

Lorna: That is so exciting. I love how you are getting high caliber people behind your business. And that brings me also to the next question which is; okay you’ve got some powerful players in the sustainability sector, got an access to those individuals which is hugely important to help you grow your business but how do you market your business when it comes to actually reaching your target customers. What marketing channels do you find work best for you?

Camille: That’s a very interesting question because we don’t have a [18:29] budget. We actually have close to zero marketing dollars and that has been the case for the last two years, actually. We’ve decided that we do not want to sell out our company to corporate investors who are mostly interested in shareholder value. We look for people who are interested in shareholder impact. We’re not making it easier for ourselves but to answer your question, we tell stories and we use social media for this.

Twitter, Facebook and we are fortunate enough that in the Netherlands, Morris, my partner has a vast network in Dutch media and in the Dutch corporate scene so we’ve been able to build quite a name for ourselves within a certain scene in the Netherlands.

It’s quite safe to say that within the sustainability branch in the Netherlands, there are few people who haven’t heard of WakaWaka yet. And now we’re doing the same in the United States also and we’re trying to use other people’s networks so we’re trying to tap into, for example, disaster preppers who are preparing for the next natural disaster and we’re getting their ears.

We’re getting their platforms also to talk about WakaWaka being an amazing product first of all which is interesting for them. But also having a significant social component which makes it an interesting story to talk about, actually.

I think this is also why we ran such a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Lorna: Yeah, I’m really curious, all these power networking that you’re doing, do you find it to be much more effective in growing your customer base or was it much more effective in helping you raise, tell me how much in total you guys raise during crowdfunding, both in the European side and the US side.

Camille: Let me start by saying that last year, we did our first ever Kickstarter campaign. That was December 2011 and we raised altogether, with our Dutch campaign combined, we raised $140,000 in about two months’ time. About $50,000 on Kickstarter and another $80,000-$90,000 in the Netherlands, parallel.

This year we decided to do a campaign for a month to make it a bit more urgent for people to participate and in one month time on Kickstarter we raised $420,000 and at the same time in the Netherlands another $280,000 so altogether $700,000 in less than a month.

Lorna: That is phenomenal.

Camille: Yeah. It blew our minds also. Actually, we’re in the top 0.5 most funded Kickstarter projects ever. Not being from the States, we’re really pretty excited about all that.

Lorna: Yeah, that is so compelling. I’d love to understand what your secret sauce was. What were your keys to success on becoming the top 5 best funded Kickstarter campaigns.

Camille: What we learned from last year is that preparation is everything. If last year basically we launched our campaign and while it was online we started wondering so, and now what? How do we generate traffic to our Kickstarter campaign? When you do that, you are already six weeks behind the game. So this year, we started six weeks in advance tweeting to all kinds of influentials, to bloggers, to journalists, asking if they would care to talk about us on 12.12.12 when we launch our campaign.

We actually made a launch teaser movie in which we announced that for every WakaWaka power that we would pre sell during the Kickstarter campaign, that’s our model that can also charge mobile phones, we would donate a WakaWaka light without phone charge capability but still super-efficient solar lamp. We would donate a WakaWaka light to Haiti for the victims of the earthquake.

On January 12, 2013, this year, it was actually 3 years ago since the earthquake and that was the day our campaign ended. The funny thing was, we only found out about that halfway through the campaign.

Lorna: You only found that the campaign ended halfway? I’m sorry I didn’t understand that.

Camille: Oh sorry, halfway through the campaign we found out that the day our campaign ended it was, (you wouldn’t call that a celebration but) it was the anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. That was the day our campaign ended. On the day we were able to announce that we raised enough funds to generate 12,000 lights to Haiti for 12,000 families lighting up the lives of some 60,000 people.

Lorna: Okay, that’s a fantastic campaign. That’s really impactful, what you guys did. Would you say then, because I understand too that a lot of people think, Okay, I’m going to do crowdfunding so I’m going to start putting a page together and boom I’m going to raise all these money. And that’s definitely not the case. Since this is the second time you guys did it, you guys started off first with doing outreach for six week period of time to bloggers essentially. So you guys did research and compile a list of bloggers who you then contacted to ask them to promote and publicize this campaign that you have to donate lights to Haiti, is that correct?

Camille: Yeah, that is correct.

On top of that, we reached out to journalists but we reached out to all kinds of people who we thought would hear our story and who had a lot of followers. We would ask them to retweet us. We did a lot of Facebook promotions so we really, really used our social media to reach to as many as possible.

You just also need to be a little bit lucky. Somewhere during the campaign we had an article on Mashable and we were trending topic on Mashable for about 8 or 9 hours. That was our best day during the campaign. We were shared more, than articles about Obama at that moment through Mashable. That was pretty awesome actually.

We got an article in the German magazine called Spiegel which is in Germany everybody knows Spiegel, All of a sudden we were getting a few hundred backers from Germany within two days time.

Lorna: So how did you build these relationships? Did you hire a PR consultant to help you guys with this or did you just do some Google research to try to identify the kinds of folks that would really get behind a social enterprise and solar light campaign charitable project. How do you identify the people that you would then cultivate as influencers to promote your crowdfunding campaign?

Camille: We did ask for some help but to remind you again, we have close to zero marketing dollars so there’s really not much for us to spend in preparation of the campaign. So we asked two guys [21:24] and Tjebbe to help us in the preparation. They helped us out for about 4 weeks, something like that. They worked day and night in preparation of the campaign putting together all kinds of press releases and messages which we could launch during the campaign on Facebook.

They were doing the Tweets. They understand the social media language and these guys, they just got out fresh out of school. One of them, [Chebe] they still had to graduate.

Lorna: (Laughs)

Camille: You could imagine that for them this was also just fun. They were in the end of their studies to do this for two weeks to work their ass of for some time and then see what happens. Come the start of the campaign, I asked them to stick around for a little while and I could see the interaction that they had with backers. We were getting so much traction and we wanted to communicate with all our backers personally. It was my face actually on the Kickstarter campaign.

I’m not able to speak with everybody during the day on a personal note so I asked them actually to talk to our backers on my behalf. I saw that every day they were around, we could see the impact of what they were doing virtually in funding dollars so I asked them to stick around until the end of the campaign. By that time, we raised some funds so I was actually able to offer them a salary and they are working for us now.

Lorna: So what types of people did you try to reach out to, to get to promote your crowdfunding campaign?

Camille: We formulated some target groups even though basically everybody with a mobile phone is a target. But we specifically reached to environmentalist, people who want to do good in the world. We reached out to NGOs and we reached out also to the prepper community.

Lorna: I’m sorry, to which community?

Camille: We would call them the prepper community. People who are preparing for natural disasters. There are people who you would call “preppers”, disaster preppers. But if you use that kind of language you’re talking to about 40 million people a year in the United States who at some point or time during the year have to deal with blackouts.

Forty million people in the States deal with blackout on a regular basis. It’s unbelievable. So if you talk about blackouts, national disasters, about no electricity around, about charging your mobile phone, you’re talking to a lot of people actually.

Lorna: So if we look at the whole population of people who donated money or contributed money to your crowdfunding campaign, of all those people, what percentage of those people where individuals that you already had a relationship with, like through your power networking activities, through your business network versus people who just discovered and learned about WakaWaka through the course of your promotion and social media marketing.

Camille: That’s an interesting question. I spoke to a crowdfunding consultant last year and they said, typically your average crowdfunding program reaches or gets funding from your personal network. Normally, a project owner would know 60% of his funders. I think in the case of Kickstarter, we know less than five percent, really. So we hardly know anybody. They all found us, one way or another through media, through the Kickstarter website itself, through social media. That’s the way how they found us. And also, if you do well on Kickstarter, you end up high in the rankings. Kickstarter also puts you up in most popular, for example. Then there’s little trick I would like to share with your listeners.

If you have a product for Kickstarter, in this case, which would be eligible for more than one category, you may want to consider switching categories during the campaign. If you switch your category during the campaign the Kickstarter system will recognize as a new project and will plug you again higher up in rankings which will bring more traffic to your site.

Lorna: Hhhmmm… That’s a really juicy tip right there. Thank you so much Camille for sharing that.

Camille: My pleasure.

Lorna: Wow, I’m so impressed with the success of your campaign and how many more people you were able to reach just through all your preparation, promotion that you did before you guys launched. One question before I move on to the list of key elements that made your Kickstarter campaign successful, before I do that I want to ask you, did you get a sense that there are people on the Kickstarter platform actively looking for projects to fund?

Camille: Yes! Thousands.

Lorna: So just by being placed highly in the popular campaigns on Kickstarter means you have access to people that are just looking, that have extra money that they want to donate and contribute to a great cause. That are looking for just something cool to give their money to?

Camille: That’s absolutely so. That’s why we chose Kickstarter because it’s the largest crowdfunding platform in the world and it has a very large natural flow of traffic. I would say that if not half, then at least a substantial part of our backers are coming from the Kickstarter community. I really would not be surprised if would have found us through the Kickstarter network, not through any media or anything.

If you would look at the profiles of those people, you can see a lot of differences. Some people only back one project, that would be our project and there are quite a lot of people who have backed 5, 10, 20 up to 40 or 80 different projects.

Sometimes with just one dollar for the heck of it and others really because they’re nuts for cool stuff and being the first one to get something.

Lorna: That’s fascinating. Okay. I think one of the things when an organization is trying to make a decision as to what crowdfunding to use, I think one of the drawbacks for Kickstarter from what I understand is if you do not fund 100% of your project all the money goes back to the donors, whereas for some other platforms, like Indigogo, you get to take whatever amount of money you r aise even if you don’t meet your goal. So I think that what makes a lot of organizations hesitant to get on Kickstarter. Because if your goal is $100,000 and you’ve raised $80,000 it still would be great to get that $80,000.

Camille: Correct. That’s why you should be very considerate about how high you set your goal. Because we set our goal at $50,000 and I don’t want to sound too arrogant but the preparations that we made for those six weeks, they were substantial and we had a backer based from the year before already. Eight hundred people backed up us the year before. So, it was a pretty safe bet that we would hit that $50,000.

How far over we would go over that $50,000 we have no idea. I was hoping we would double it, maybe triple it to $150,000 maybe $200,000 that would have been an excellent result based on the efforts that we put in already. But if we would have set our goal at let’s say, $150,000 first of all what it would do is, Kickstarter backers would say, why do they need $150,000? Why do they come to Kickstarter to raise so much money? What are they going to do with that? So you really need to have a good story and you need to be confident that you can actually reach that $150,000.

There are only very, very few projects that sets the bar so high and go over it. If you set your goal relatively low, you’re pretty sure of reaching your target so you know you’re going to get funded. As a side effect, it makes you look sympathetic because you have a modest goal. You go over it 100%, 200%, 300% which makes you a very successful project which puts you high up on the rankings. So there’s a lot of benefits for not putting up your expectations and your ambitions too high on Kickstarter.

Lorna: Do you think donations start to slow down once people see that the goal is being reached or has been reached? Or do they just not care because your project is so cool?

Camille: They do care. Actually, what you see if a project comes to an end and it hasn’t reached its goal yet but it’s near to it you would see backers who are more willing to back that project to help them out, to make sure that it’s funded. However, if you reach your goal too early, you will miss out on those backers who are on the Kickstarter project to help out small entrepreneurs and startups. However, there are solutions for that. Once we reach our first goal of $50,000 we introduce what you would call a “stretch goal”. A second goal. So then we said, “At the pace we’re going now in a couple of days, we may hit $100,000, what we said is if we hit $100,000 everybody’s going to get 25% battery capacity free of charge.

Also, the backers that we already had would get a bonus if we would reach our next goal. So we were actually stimulating our early adapters to go out and help us to reach the second goal of 100,000 so they would get the extra benefit as well, namely, 25% extra battery capacity free of charge.

Once we hit the $100,000 marker, we come up with another one. We say, if we hit our next goal, I think it was $200,000 or $150,000 then everybody is going to get a waterproof pouch because we received some complaints that it wasn’t waterproof or not water resistant enough because it has a USB port. So we figured, we introduce a waterproof pouch to make everybody happy.

You can put it out in the rain, it’s transparent so it still charges. You can use it out on the boat, on the beach etc. And again that motivated everybody that had helped us up to $100,000 to go out and talk to their friends to say, “Listen if you back this project, it’s cool stuff and once we reach $150,000 I’m going to get this free of charge water pouch.” So it was stimulating people to keep talking about us.

Lorna: That is brilliant! You can actually introduce additional goals on top of your initial goals. Let’s say you set a number and you find that you’re reaching your goal very quickly and you don’t want your campaign to end because you think you might be able to raise more funds, you introduce stretch goals and additional benefits and that’s what keeps the buzz going?

Camille: Yes. So we anticipate thinking about stretch goals. We anticipated that but we didn’t think we would hit it so fast. We were surprised by the speed at which we were reaching our stretch goals. Every time, we really had to think hard and fast to come up with some stretch goals because people are anxious and they are impatient.

Lorna: So every time you introduce a stretch goal, then your goal number changes and the percent funded bar or quantity changes as well so it looks like you haven’t reached your goal yet, is that how it works?

Camille: No. You only communicate that basically in your text body. So the actual goal, it remains to be $50,000. When you reach $100,000 it says, 200% funded. If you reach $150,000 it says 300% funded. And actually, people look at those projects also because, like attracts like. If something is going on, people come over and want to have a peek. What is going on there? What is so successful? Why did I miss? So it’s very interesting to set your standards or your targets not too high in order to be able to get to that 100%, 200% 300% funded because it will attract more traffic to your site also.

Lorna: Okay, so, if we were going to dial us back and look at the list of key elements as to what major Kickstarter campaign successful, what would you tell somebody else to do so they could model the same success that you guys had?

Camille: A couple of things: Prepare and make it personal, personal, personal. Those are by far the most important things. How you prepare and how you make it personal. There’s a lot of things to say about that but prepare the launch of your Kickstarter campaign carefully. Think about who you want to reach to. Who is interested to talk about you? Ask them to participate in advance and tell them why you are doing what you are doing.

During the campaign that you talk to your backers. They’re not just your average customers. These are people who put a lot of faith in you because they’re buying something and they just have to wait and see whether they’re actually going to get it half a year from now.

They don’t take sh*t from nobody. They want to be treated sincerely because they are making your business successful. They are giving you the opportunity to build molds, pay for your product development, to start your company. So they are not just backers, they are basically founding fathers in a way. And they should be treated as such, with a lot of respect and personal attention.

To my big surprise, we got a lot of complements from backers. They are complimenting us about our personal approach which basically told us that not a lot of Kickstarter program owners are actually doing that. You really need to be on the ball.

If somebody asks you a question, you answer them not two days later but try to do that within two hours regardless of time differences. That is why we had two people on answering questions from Kickstarter. We thank also every new backer personally. Everyday somebody would send out a thank you note saying “Hey Lorna, thank you so much for backing us. By the way if you have a Twitter or Facebook account, here’s a link to our campaign. It would be great if you could support us.” And people appreciate that.

Lorna: So you had a six week campaign ramp up period with your two interns that were helping you guys out. How much were they working during that six week period of time just to get an idea of the workload they are signing up for.

Camille: 10-12 hours per day.

Lorna: Okay, five days a week?

Camille: Seven days a week. They were really working their ass off, really. I had them for four weeks, I believe.

Lorna: Okay wow. That’s good to know. During the actual crowdfunding campaign itself, how long was that period of time?

Camille: The same. And two more people joined, making the same amount of hours.

Lorna: Okay so you had four people working for four weeks, seven days a week, 10-12 hours a day.

Camille: Yes! It’s really hard work.

Lorna: Yeah, I’ve heard that from a number of people. Okay great. We are coming to the end of our hour and I’d love to wrap up with a final question. Not about crowdfunding but about this whole process of launching this business. I would love to ask you, what the biggest time consuming, energy draining or expensive mistake you made in your business and what advice you would give others so that they can avoid making that mistake?

Camille: Interesting question. One of the most time consuming things I’ve done is I’ve tried to talk to all the different distributors, organizations, individuals who have approached us and who have shown interest in WakaWaka around the world. We have literally received hundreds and hundreds of enquiries and I wanted to talk to all of them which is theoretically, even impossible for a few people.

What I should have done instead was make a profile of the kind of people and organization that we want to work with, also formulate target countries, target segments and focus with regards to where we want to start. It’s impossible to deal with the whole world at once when you’re starting up a new company.

I was over enthusiastic and I thought, hey, this is a major success overnight so let’s talk to everybody. And that in result, delayed the rollout of the product by several months. Actually now, I’m working together with a branch professional who has been a sales director for a major lighting company in the south of the Netherlands, world famous. And we are very fortunate to work with him. His name is Anthony and he’s really helping us focus our sales efforts around the world.

Lorna: So this new product that you guys created using the funds from your crowdfunding campaign, can you tell us a little bit about it how it might be different from your previous product and where we can go buy it online or offline?

Camille: The WakaWaka power, it’s the world’s most compact solar power station. It will charge your iPhone within two hours. It’s actually faster than charging your phone on grid. It really is. You can try this. You put this device out in the sun for a day, on a sunny day and it will charge the battery completely. Within one day you have power for your smartphone plus excess for at least one or two nights of light. This is the new WakaWaka power which charges your mobile phone.

The difference with our previous lights is that the previous WakaWaka lights didn’t have a USB charger. You would be able to buy it online through Amazon.com or through waka-waka.com and there are numerous other online resellers in the United States that are carrying it. Since this week, we are also in Frys. Perhaps you know Frys, a very large electronics chain. Not so many stores but they have about 34-35 stores mostly on the west coast. These are huge stores getting like 30,000 people on a Saturday and so it’s the first time that WakaWaka is available in bricks and mortar.

We hope by the end of this year, it will be available nationwide in the United States and in the Netherlands.

Lorna: Fantastic, well thank you so much for your time Camille. I really enjoyed your stories and your crowdfunding tips. How can our listeners stay in touch with WakaWaka best?

Camille: What we would like very much is for people to follow us on Facebook and on Twitter. But not just follow but participate. We post all kinds of info, not just about WakaWaka but about solar tech in general, about getting rid of energy poverty during our lifetime. And we really look forward to interacting with people to get ideas, to connect and to build opportunities through Facebook and through Twitter. That will be the most ideal way.

Lorna: Can you tell us the URLs for your Facebook and Twitter?

Camille: They are not too complex, facebook.com/wakawakalight and it’s the same for Twitter, @wakawakalight If you look up wakawakalight on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll find us or you can connect through our website waka-waka.com

Lorna: Fantastic. Thank you so much Camille and you have a beautiful rest of your day.

Camille: Thank you so much Lorna for the opportunity and I wish you a great life in your adventures around the world.

Lorna: Thank you.

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Lorna Li

Chief Evolutionary Officer at Entrepreneurs for a Change
Lorna Li is a business coach, entrepreneur and Amazon rainforest crusader, with a passion for green business, social enterprise, and indigenous wisdom. She helps changemaking entrepreneurs harness the power of the Internet to reach more people and make a bigger impact, while designing the lifestyle of their dreams. She is an Internet marketing consultant to changemakers, and works with innovative tech startups, sustainable brands, social enterprises & B-Corporations on SEO, SEM & Social Media marketing.
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