See behind the scenes updates by liking Riut on Facebook Armed with a revolutionary design, a rough plan how to execute and enough savings to do it I thought the main challenges were behind me. It turns out there was a bigger one up ahead: how to find the right people to work on this project with me.
You can search forever looking through agencies' websites, speaking to people on the phone and hoping you'll bump into your dream business partners by chance - but forever just isn't in the time plan when you're trying to start a company, or any project for that matter.
I make rucksacks for urban travel. The design of the RiutBag - the next generation of rucksack - is different to other rucksacks so I've required these business partners along the way: textile prototyping experts, public relations team, film producers and a product photographer. I found each in different ways:
1) Prototyping company: I found very few companies online who specialise in my kind of design. I contacted those I did find. We telephoned, I got a feel for their approach, we arranged a time to meet. I travelled to see them, met up and made my decision based on their proposals. My current company, D2M Innovation, stood out well above the others at each stage and has been an astounding business partner. They work with my company philosophy in mind and have taken the time to get to know me and my working habits.
2) Public relations team: Given my success finding the prototyping company via an online search, I tried again. I contacted over 10 agencies this time. We spoke on the phone but never met. The agencies' fees were sky high; far too much for my startup Kickstarter budget. A large amount of research had led to a dead end.
I set up sights elsewhere and started looking at individual freelancers who specialise in my area. I contacted eight. Only five got back to me but their rates were within my budget. One person stood out. She understood my product, was enthusiastic, intelligent and communicated with openly via Twitter. We were about to start working together when disaster struck: she won a piece of work she'd bid for the month before. Another dead end.
Her only advice, when I asked for her recommendation, was to try peopleperhour.com. Sigh. She might as well have said "why don't you trying Google?". I left it for a while and tried a few more agencies. With no sign of promise, I gave up for the day and returned in the morning.
Peopleperhour.com eh? Let's have a look. I followed the instructions, wrote my brief online and stated how much I was willing to pay. Within 24 hours 15 qualified freelancers and agencies had sent me professional proposals. I read them, spoke to them on the phone, shortlisted (with the help of the website) and made my choice.
I'd recommend this website to anyone interested in finding a freelancer or agency for a specific and finite task. It was quick, easy to use and payment runs through the website. You get 10% off your first project if you use this link.
3) Film producers: I needed someone to film my prototype and me for a Kickstarter video. This one came about the old fashioned way. We met at a pop up art gallery in Brighton. I had helped to fund the pop up gallery on Kickstarter. My reward? A unique piece of work with an illustrator. We met, we worked together on the illustration and it acts as my inspiration for Riut when I'm feeling low.
The illustrator and her partner have filmed, edited and produced the Kickstarter video for me. Somethings just happen that way.
4) Photographer: Where do you start? Had I known about peopleperhour at the time I might have gone that way. But at this stage, I didn't have a clue. I searched on individual photographers' website for what felt like weeks to no avail. The next day, I noticed a new follower on Twitter. Jasper White photographer. I looked at his website, loved the work. We chatted, met up the next day and he's just finishing the first prototype photos ready for the Kickstarter launch. Very smooth!
It's a real learning curve to choose who to work with. You have to assess each person and team as you find them, use all of your judgement and common sense to make sure you make the right decisions. You'll never know what would have happened had it ended a different way. But from the moment you say "yes" you've got to make it work. That's it.
If you're making decisions about freelancers, you may find them through many routes. If you're spending too much time, however, and coming up against too many brick walls, give peopleperhour.com a go and remember to use my 10% off discount link.
RiutBag is launching on Kickstarter at the end of October 2014. Never backed anything on Kickstarter before? Watch my 2 min video to get a feel for how it works. Like Riut on Facebook or sign up to hear about it when it goes live.