Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Wharton Magazine blog.
By Matthew Brodsky, Editor, Wharton Magazine
Stephanie Hessler WG’89 wants to help you celebrate the women in your life. But first, she wants you to help her.
That’s the essence of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, right? Friends, family members, classmates, their acquaintances and strangers believe in your creative vision so much that they want to see it become a reality—and in the process, you ensure that they’ll benefit from that vision once realized.
For Hessler, a Concord, Massachusetts-based artist and personal development consultant, the particular vision is a line of cards and prints called “Everyday Greetings for Extraordinary Girlfriends.” Decorated with hand-drawn, colorful imagery, the collection offers cards for the everyday, for birthdays, for “busy moms,” holidays and “Namaste”-themed greetings.
“Women have very special friendships. It involves communication and support of one another,” Hessler says. “These cards are a way to memorialize in a way those friendships.”
Speaking of friendships, it was Hessler’s friend MaryAnne who prodded her into relying on Kickstarter to launch the Everyday Greetings for Extraordinary Girlfriends line. To be accurate, it’s actually a relaunch. Hessler had started doing the line years ago, but other projects took precedence. She is a single, working mom with two boys and an entrepreneur, which means “you are the person responsible for the results in your life,” she says.
And the results that she was having drew her focus elsewhere—for instance, to a “cityscapes” line of cards for which there has been a lot of demand. She typically markets her card lines at the National Stationary Show, which is where several commercial accounts, such as the National Park Service, purchased the cityscapes cards.
But then there was her friend MaryAnne, a classmate from undergrad and a Harvard Business School grad (though we won’t hold that against her—Hessler doesn’t.)
“She kept pushing me to do this campaign,” Hessler remembers. The argument was that crowdfunding would allow Hessler to reach a broader market, people who may never even have come across her artwork, including Wharton alumni.
Hessler is not ashamed to admit that the HBS grad was right; the Kickstarter hit its goal of $7,500 raised in 28 hours. Oversubscription is of course a good thing for any business seeking funding, and Hessler’s campaign continues. Backers have pledged more than $11,000 so far [Note: The campaign is now complete; Hessler raised a total of $12,381.]. Hessler practically beams through the telephone when she thinks of the power, provided by Kickstarter, to share her cards with more women who want to celebrate the other women in their lives—and men with special women in their lives too.
The process has been a bit humbling—a foray into technology and approaches that Hessler hadn’t been comfortable with before. That would include social media—and if Hessler does another Kickstarter, she would recruit additional assistance for social media, she says. At first, the whole concept of crowdfunding took a little getting used to. It’s an idea, she says, that may be a tad alien to her generation.
“It’s about participation,” she says, and asserting to that broader funding community the importance of supporting her vision, at any level they feel comfortable—monetarily and by sharing awareness of the campaign.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition—her campaign. On one hand, she is accessing the latest technological platform for funding an entrepreneurial pursuit, all to promote and preserve a very classic form of communication.
“Receiving a handwritten card in today’s world is such a gift … particularly from a very special friend who cares about you,” she says.