Pittsburgh’s Calamityware Turns to Crowdfunding to Produce Amusing Mugs

By Megan Sullivan

3 min read

One of the best aspects of crowdfunding is that talented people with quirky ideas can fulfill their creative dreams. This is especially true for Don Moyer, the founder and designer for Calamityware, producer of Asian-inspired porcelain plates, fabric and now tea mugs that call to mind formal tea ceremonies with a whimsical flair.

Moyer used Kickstarter to fund the creation of Things-Could-Be-Worse Mugs, porcelain mugs with designs matching his already successful line of dinner plates. With a little over 3,100 total backers, Things-Could-Be-Worse Mugs was funded by nearly 200% in the first three weeks of the campaign.

How Did Calamityware Do It?

Calamityware already had a reputation for quality products. One area where small businesses shine is attention to detail, and Moyer may be a textbook example of that detail. Here he is describing the move from one manufacturing method to another for his company’s plates.

The company also takes advantage of social media. With over 2,500 likes on their Facebook page and more than 1,400 followers on Flickr, it’s obvious that fans of the company love Moyer’s designs. Additionally, Moyer used his own unique charm and sense of fun to win over new fans. By not taking himself or the perception of his products too seriously, Moyer found an underserved niche: people who like a formal look with hidden nods to aliens, UFOs and lizards.

Lesson Learned: You can develop a following that will support you across multiple projects by staying personable and true to your mission. It even allowed Calamityware to survive a snag in May 2014 that affected fulfillment of another successful Kickstarter campaign. Moyer’s enthusiasm helped ensure loyalty, so the complication apparently had no effect on people’s enthusiasm for his current project.

Moyer also takes pride in sourcing quality porcelain and vetting the creation process by requesting prototypes and samples. This commitment to excellence also translates into committed fans who appreciate knowing they’ll be getting a quality product.

What’s Next for Calamityware?

Fulfillment, fulfillment, fulfillment. Most of the campaign’s reward levels involved receiving new mugs, so Calamityware will need to jump straight into production once the campaign has finished. Moyer continues to sell his previously backed products through his website while concurrently providing project updates via his Facebook page. It appears that Moyer is also continuing to explore other mediums to display and sell his products, including paper and fabric.

Lesson Learned: It’s possible for product-based businesses to get fully funded through crowdfunding, including manufacturing and distribution. For small businesses that want to take advantage of crowdfunding for their own goods, some key takeaways are:

  1. Leverage your social platforms. While Moyer’s platforms are not necessarily overrun with fans and followers, his fans are engaged, keeping track of his new designs and updates to his products. That comes from diligent and regular attention to social media.
  2. Find a unique niche. Moyer’s designs are unique and speak to a specific type of consumer who doesn’t mind a bit of irreverence at the dinner table. By keeping all of the language and correspondence regarding his designs and the campaign light and airy, he is further reinforcing the idea that his designs are meant to be enjoyed.
  3. Learn from previous campaign snafus. As Calamityware found out last spring, it is possible for unforeseen circumstances to cause delays and therefore impact the fulfillment of campaign rewards and delivery of product to customers. Obviously, this didn’t scare the company away from the platform completely, but it most definitely effected their preparation for the next campaign.
  4. Give some to get some. Calamityware’s founder Don Moyer has backed 74 campaigns on Kickstarter and only created 10. Obviously, he sees the value in the platform and understands the benefit in reciprocating. The projects Moyer has backed run the gamut from films to fun socks to kitchen spices.

When using Kickstarter or any crowdfunding platform, it’s important to remember that the platform is, at its heart, a social community. That means sharing and supporting other entrepreneurs and creators isn’t only welcome, it’s expected. Don’t lose sight of your ability to help someone else realize their dreams, while you’re attempting to realize your own.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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