The founders of gaming apparel company SclObo knew fundraising the regular way didn’t fit what they were trying to do. After all, SclObo is anything but normal. Jonathan Augustus (Cultural Literature & the Arts ’19) and Niko Richardson (MBA ’17) received their education from the University of Washington system and also happen to be cousins. They created SclObo as a fun way to enjoy things they both liked: art, gaming, clothing, and storytelling. The Kickstarter platform represented a way to share those passions more directly with a “community of people who really like your product.”
We spoke with them after they successfully completed a $10,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign at the end of 2018. The fundraising goal represented a milestone for the company as it worked its way through the Jones + Foster Accelerator as part of the 2018 cohort. It also left the company with a nice jump in funding from a year ago, when SclObo (out of UW-Bothell) received the $10,000 second place prize at the 2018 UW Business Plan Competition.
What was the last few hours of the Kickstarter like?
Niko: The last few hours were crazy. We had initially got over our goal, then a couple people backed out last minute. We thought, oh my gosh, how are we going to go below? Thankfully we ended up on top.
Why do the Kickstarter?
Niko: We did the Kickstarter because we wanted the means to raise money without having to find a large investment. We’re not a high-tech company, or a pharmaceutical company that needs a humongous investment. We’re a clothing brand. For us, bootstrapping is the best way to go. We wanted to find a way to raise money without having to make a commitment to a loan at this early-stage, or without giving up equity. On top of that, Kickstarter is a place to build a community of people who like your product, so we really liked the marketing aspect of that. With our Kickstarter, people really focused in on the message. It’s a big thing to watch that video or read the text on who we are.
What was the advice you received from some of your mentors in the Jones + Foster Accelerator about this?
Niko: We were told preparation would be key. We needed to build a lot of hype going into it and make sure we had a clear, defined message. We also needed a schedule for communicating with our backers on the site and on social media. The most important thing we heard was to make sure we understood our market. Our Accelerator mentors Dan Sedlacek and Mallory Monahan from Uphill Designs (J+F Accelerator ’14) were big proponents of that. They were critical in helping us craft a message that really did touch with our customers and the people that backed us.
You’re reaching the end of the Accelerator program. How does it feel now versus when you started it?
Jonathan: It feels a little surreal still. I was talking about that with Niko the other day. As someone who is not a business major, or had a lot of prior experience with business, to have come this far and be able to communicate in these business settings is incredible. In 30 days, we raised ten times the amount we raised in our first pre-sale. We feel humble and grateful. The growth in both myself and the team has made it a crazy experience. Going in, I had no idea what to expect. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come.
Niko: It has been amazing. We’ve brought on additional team members, people who see the dream and believe the dream, and help transition SclObo into something we can monetize. We celebrated in our last meeting about the Kickstarter, but we also were ready to ask and answer the questions about what is next. When we did the UW Business Plan Competition (now named the Dempsey Startup Competition), everything was in-house. Now, we have a full-fledged art team, we’re doing a comic book, and we hedged that our biggest bet, our intellectual property, would win and people would enjoy that versus us putting Mario on a shirt and going the licensing route. Over the last several months, that’s been the biggest thing, people falling in love with our characters. We’re more than a t-shirt company, we have our stories, our artwork, and people are loving it.
What can we expect from SclObo in 2019?
Niko: We’re going really heavy into the convention scene in 2019. We got into Emerald City Comic Con, and are trying to get in Sakura-Con and some other conventions across the nation. We want people to understand who we are. We will also deliver a new season of stories and merchandise every quarter which lead into our anthologies that combine everything together. But with these conventions, we really want to just become a household name with nerds.
We also got our first major endorsee, NFL player Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints. He reached to us and told us he really likes our gear.