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How Kickstarter Has Changed Classic Shaving

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[Sharpologist note: this article was written by Gareth Everard of Rockwell Razors] Rockwell Razors was launched by my co­-founder and I while we were still in university, studying things that had nothing to do with shaving. I can definitely say that without Kickstarter as a crowdfunding platform, Rockwell never would have existed. However, Rockwell is just one part of a movement in classic shaving towards accepting the concept of pre-­orders and crowdfunding.

In 2014, Henri et Victoria launched a campaign that was an important spark in the revolution in quality synthetic shave brushes. Since then, the business has expanded to a line of soaps that, by all accounts, perform and smell fantastic. Thomas Clipper is a UK-­based outfit that has launched not only a product, but a brand (and quite a classy one at that) that carries razors, ancient ­wood crafted brushes, and much more. They’ve launched all of their products through one of their three Kickstarter campaigns over the last two years.

Launching a company is hard, especially when investing in new products (which you’re not yet certain people will want) is involved. This is where crowdfunding comes in. If a maker can effectively communicate what it is that they want to create, and can illustrate they’ve made reasonable progress in bringing the product to fruition on their own, then crowdfunding in a phenomenal way for potential customers to indicate they think this product should exist. Backers can then support the project by essentially pre-­purchasing a part of the initial run, and the creator gets instant feedback from the community on their product­ in­ development. The benefits to backers include getting in on the initial production run (typically at a discount or with extra bonus products) and supporting a creator, while the creator gets the benefits of financial support on the always ­challenging early stages of product manufacturing.

However, where crowdfunding (rightfully) gets criticized is when projects fail to deliver a quality product, or creators fall significantly behind on the production schedules they initially indicate to backers. I’ve had my own share of production challenges, and trust me: it is no fun for both backers and creators alike when things don’t go as planned. Fortunately, I was able to ultimately deliver a Rockwell 6S in Stainless Steel that people seem to quite like, but there have  been some other shaving­-related Kickstarter campaigns that have left backers without the products they pledged for.

Ultimately, I understand that supporting Kickstarter campaigns isn’t for everyone ­ there is some waiting and risk involved that doesn’t suit some folks. However, I’ve been thrilled to see the classic shaving community become more comfortable with Kickstarter over time, as I think this familiarity will only serve to introduce more interesting products to our little corner of the world. Even right now, Rockwell is leveraging crowdfunding to gauge demand for a lower ­priced, chromed version of the Rockwell 6S (LINK) in several different colors, including my personal favorite: gunmetal.

What do you think? Do you like the innovations crowdfunding has unlocked or are you uncomfortable with the model? Leave a comment below! And if you ever want to chat crowdfunding, feel free to get in touch through the contact form on the Rockwell site or message me on Kickstarter!

Related posts:
Launching a Wet Shaving Company: Lesson #1
WSN Podcast, Stpries of the Shave, Rockwell Reality

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6 thoughts on “How Kickstarter Has Changed Classic Shaving”

  1. I have no problem with a startup company using Kickstarter to help finance a new venture. However, when a company raises 500-700% more than was needed , I do have a problem. In my opinion, the risk, for the most part, should lie with the owners of the business who stand to profit from it – not with the general public. Further, as said above, once a company is in existence I don’t think it is appropriate to finance their continued operations via Kickstarter.
    Kickstarter was not meant to be a bank for continuous operations but as a means for a new company to launch its first product.

  2. I took a chance on Rockwell and it paid off. The 6S is my daily driver when it comes to shaving (sorry, good old faithful Merkur!). Best thing is the different blade heads; on a regular day I use #3. If it’s been more than a few days and my beard is super thick I do a first pass with #6 followed by a #1. Back to Kickstarter – if you guys hadn’t stood by your customers and had instead bailed after the initial heads were defective, it would have been a very different story.

    1. I’m thrilled to hear you’re enjoying your razor! And i definitely agree, the decision to send out free replacements was a pivotal point for Rockwell.

  3. I am in line with many of your comments, but I would like to add where my problems with Kickstarter and other crowd-funded projects are, which you did not address; this is the reason I do not generally support them and am willing to pay after launch.
    Crowd funding has been a place for established companies to get their R&D money. They are transferring the risk of creating, developing, and marketing a new product on to the consumer, which I do not support. Do not misunderstand, I am not talking about a startup, where this might be their only way to get monies, but a company that already has a source of income, no matter how small.
    Fitbit began through kickstarter, which is great, as did Pebble. But then they went back to kickstarter for launching a new product, which isn’t. Publishers and musicians with books and music already on the market use kickstarter to fund their next project. But they are asking for the money up front with no guarantee that the product will ever be delivered. And then there’s video games such as Shenmue III which is a blatant transfer of risk.
    I don’t think kickstarter and other places like that are bad, but I do not like to see it used by companies that have begun making money as a result of its use. Yes, bringing a product to market is expensive. But that is a cost of doing business. And when your product comes out, there’s incentive for it to be great so you can charge a premium and recoup those costs. Leaning on customers for your R&D though, is not a fair way of doing business. In my opinion.

    1. Brian Fiori (AKA T he Dean)

      I agree 100%. When an established company uses one of these crowdfunding sites to launch a new product, I see it as a cheap marketing ploy. And, to me, it says “we don’t believe in this product enough to use our own money to launch it.” But for a startup, I think they serve a real purpose. Sometimes things get out of hand, though. The level of absurdity some of these campaigns can reach is demonstrated by the Egg Salad recipe which raised over $50K.
      But I don’t think Kickstarter really “Changed Classic Shaving” in the least. I think the title is a bit misleading. The only really original successful launch I’ve seen is the OneBlade. But as far as I know, you still have to drag the thing across your face with a blade. I haven’t tried the Rockwell, so I can’t say if it’s exceptional in any way, but I don’t consider making traditional shaving tools with different materials a major innovation. And, having multiple shaving heads is a great idea, but let’s face it, it had already been done. Maybe not in the exact same way, but where’s the major innovation that “Changed Classic Shaving”?

  4. Kickstarter allows projects to begin. Seeing them through is another matter. Rockwell surviving is a testament to the persistence and talent of their founders. I don’t own a Rockwell razor but Gareth and his partners have made their bones and deserve kudos for their effort and talents. My hat is off to them.

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