How We Raised $1.2MM+ To Create The First Reusable Cotton Swab
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, I’m Isabel co-founder of LastSwab. LastSwab is the world's first reusable cotton swab.
We just reached 1 million euros on our crowdfunding campaign and are overly excited about the huge support.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
We are three independent designers that together wanted to create designs that help our planet. I am more specifically a co-designer and have always been very interested in waste reduction and sustainable design solutions. Everything that I have done throughout the years has in some way tapped into these interests.
The idea for LastSwab came to us when we were researching which single-use items were the most harmful for our planet and the cotton swab was surprisingly quite high on this list. We found that one of the biggest issues was that people didn’t discard them properly, mainly because they are so small. If flushed down the toilet they often don’t get caught by filtration systems and are dumped directly into the ocean, and later end up in the stomachs of sea creatures. We felt that by solving this problem, we would create an impact on marine life as well as single-use pollution.
We find it valuable to validate our ideas through crowdfunding platforms. We work with the community to change and improve our ideas and outreach.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
We prototype a lot. The product, the packaging, the content. Everything is made and edited hundreds of times while constantly being tested. We try to get our designs in our hands even though most of our work is on a computer. It’s really important for us not to sit on our ideas and think we know best. We are not afraid to change things along the way, to the very end.
We have the same mentality throughout the company. When working with manufacturers, marketing, sales. It's all about having people involved through the process and constantly improving for the better.
Describe the process of launching the business.
It’s been quite natural for us launching the business. We slowly got closer and closer to a great product to launch, when we made our pre-launch website we were positively surprised by the huge support. And by then we had thrown everything else we were working on aside and only focused on LastSwab.
There are thousands of platforms and outsource opportunities that can make your life easier, but you need to understand the task first.
We’ve done some different projects in the past that made it possible for us not to be in a financial need. We only needed to get our start production costs covered, and we did that on Kickstarter in 22 minutes after launching.
Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been great platforms to start up on because of their reach and their setup. We did a bit on our pre-launching and collected 40.000 email subscribers, so the biggest boost was when we launched.
The biggest lesson learned crowdfunding is not just about reaching your financial goal, it's a platform that can validate a product or save you from going the wrong way. The customers even ended up naming all our colors. One difficulty we didn’t have in mind was all the copies that immersed immediately after launch, we struggled with that during and after the campaign.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We have had a lot of success with updating and retaining our customers through Instagram and newsletters. These two platforms have been great for us, so as soon as you know, focus there.
A real breakthrough has been collaborative marketing. When we have partnered up with other companies, that are also making a difference for the world. We have done a blast-for-blast setup and shared each other's products in our network. This has attracted the perfect customer groups!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Short term: Get LastSwab up and running. Long term, create a range of LastItems, so we can reduce single-use items and create a better sustainable world.
We have some different goals in margins and sales, but our overall goal is to not lose money one single day. If we have a low day, or our ROAS is off we need to fix it at the moment. And we are now 4 months with not one day in minus.
We are working on some very interesting distributors and stores. So that will definitely become a big part of our sales.
Today we are still only us three founders working together with some independent individuals like Helen, who is our PR guru. We do our best to make a simple as possible setup, so we can keep it this way. But we have a range of new products we are making ready.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Crowdfunding is awesome, but it makes you vulnerable to copies. We were copied after a few days, first just with pictures, then the actual product. We have had complaints from customers thinking they bought LastSwab but bought a copy. If we had known what we know today, we would have been more prepared to handle this part of the business. That said we would do everything again.
The world seems to be coming together right now to change our bad habits and live a more sustainable life. I wouldn’t call it a trend but more a shift of perspective that I think is here to stay. Everybody should have this focus in their work in some way.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use ZenDesk for customer support, and it has been good.
We use Shopify for our website, there is nothing better for the price. There are great integration solutions.
We use SkedSocial for social media planning. It works great.
We use Upwork and Freelancer for any task that makes sense from code, editing pictures, creating lists, finding bloggers, etc. Just be very clear what you want ;)
We use MailChimp for Newsletters, they are the best.
We draw EVERYTHING in Illustrator Adobe (2D) and Fusion 360 (3D) - just amazing tools for designing and creating.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I would say these two books have inspired me to be where I am today;
The 4-hour workweek by Tim Ferriss - For working smart and not overworking
The universe has your back by Gabrielle Bernstein - For finding a clear direction in your life and leaning into it.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
- Test your ideas as much as possible. Prototype hundreds of versions, get feedback, change it and test it again. It’s really important not to sit on your ideas and think you know best. And don’t be afraid to change things along the way.
- Preparation. You cannot prepare for everything, but preparing for as much as possible will save your ass. We collected emails before our launch, and this became a huge factor for our success in the beginning.
- Understand every single corner in your business and then systemize and automate as much as possible. As soon as a task can be automated it should not be in your daily activities. There are thousands of platforms and outsource opportunities that can make your life easier, but you need to understand the task first.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not looking to hire anyone to our tiny team. We love to work with independent entrepreneurs, so if you create or do something you love, your probably great at it. Anything great we would love to see :)
Where can we go to learn more?
LastObject has provided an update on their business!
12 months ago, we followed up with LastObject to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Over 2 years ago, we followed up with LastObject to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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