Super vision. Check. Super plans. Check. Super funded. Check. This is the story of a Chicago designer with the plan to take over the world.
Matt Marrocco and Ryan Stegman
Meet Matt Marrocco, unassuming product designer who raised more than $300,000 in 2012 from people who want to learn to draw. Matt launched the “I DRAW ____” series first with the successful book “I DRAW CARS” and then in his second product he donned a cape, mask and ignited the world of crowd funding with the book “I DRAW COMICS Sketchbook & Reference Guide”. Matt used Kickstarter, a platform for raising money for projects. Tefchlife caught up with Matt right after his amazing project was successfully funded. He was changing into his super hero costume , but we both averted our eyes after all we are both professionals.
Techlife: Hours ago you just closed a successful round of funding for your book project “I DRAW COMICS.” The goal was $10,000 and due to the help of more than 6,400 people ended up raising more than $245,000 on Kickstarter. How do you feel?
Matt Marrocco: Honestly, a little overwhelmed. If I hadn’t done a Kickstarter already I think I’d be freaking out. It’s a lot to manage – keeping in communication with all of the pledgers, solving the myriad unique shipping and logistics issues and making sure everyone is happy. All that aside from the most important goal – successfully delivering on your promise and shipping product.
TL: Let’s rewind a bit; the project launched August 19, 2012 and ran for just 30 days. How far in advance did the planning for “I DRAW COMICS” start?
MM: Conversations with Ryan (Stegman) and my manufacturer began late last year, I believe. I was still handling some issues with the I DRAW CARS stuff that needed a lot of attention; once that was all ironed out I was able to focus on a new creative endeavor.
TL: Previously you successfully launched ”I DRAW CARS” on Kickstarter as your first project. It ran for 30 days raising more than $55,000 from more than 1,400 people. What made you choose Kickstarter?
MM: Kickstarter seemed new and exciting – crowd funding in general is still in it’s nascent stages and has HUGE potential. I think when I saw how successful the Lunatik watch project by MNML was, I just wanted to do that. I wanted to make a thing that people wanted and deliver it to them. Period. To go through the entire process from the very front end ideation phase, to then physically fulfilling orders at the end of the Kickstarter was an incredibly educational experience. And yes, fun.
TL: How is “I DRAW CARS” doing outside of Kickstarter?
MM: Great! We’re always being picked up in more and more schools, and always fulfilling orders. My wife has become our marketing/sales/fulfillment department full-time! So I guess she’s going to be busier with the “COMICS” book now. Maybe she’ll need an intern?
TL: Did you ever consider a traditional publisher when you first started or is the goal to build your own publishing empire?
MM: I never had visions of starting a publishing empire – I just wanted to see what it takes to get a book made and ship it. It has been a great education going through that process, but I don’t know whether that means I want to be a publishing house. We’ll see.
TL: Have you been contacted by publishers now?
MM: We have, yes. It’s something we have to think about – no plans yet. We will be sending samples to many of them once we have product in hand.
TL: How did “I DRAW CARS” do as “I DRAW COMICS” campaign began gaining momentum?
MM: Well naturally with more exposure, the other products under the “I DRAW” umbrella have had a decent uptick in sales. There are also many pledgers who have added a “CARS” book to their “COMICS” pledge – something we encouraged from the beginning.
TL: Have you had an celebrity backers for either project?
MM: One notable celebrity for the Comics project was author Joe Hill. My wife and I were peeked when he took notice and pledged. I think she cried a little. Many well-known artists and designers have pledged for both – hard to name all of them.
TL: What was the biggest difference outside of sheer numbers between the two campaigns?
MM: We’ve had a lot less shipping-related questions this time around and I’m not sure if I just worded things better in the campaign, or if it is because there are more American pledgers. We’ll see when I get the surveys back.
Also, in spite of our big numbers, there was very little blog coverage this time around. A lot of the blogs I follow are design-related, and think they maybe thought comics just don’t speak to their audience? In any case, there were a few highly reputable comic blogs that posted it, and any other attention was mostly from twitter and the Kickstarter platform.
TL: The transparency of raising $300,000 in 2012 must have family and friends asking questions. What’s the most interesting?
MM: HA – my family is happy for us, of course. People seem to think I’m going to all of sudden quit my job and just start selling books 24/7. Although that is an attractive proposition, my first love is still product design. Publishing, sales and branding are hobbies – they do, however, pay me more than my design job.
TL: While you are making a profit (I hope), what costs are you seeing?
MM: There are costs associated with everything – from running a website, to planning logistics, to order product. I would say the biggest cost is time. My wife and I spend an ENORMOUS amount of time discussing projects, product details, timeline, cost, etc. When I’m not at work, I’m working with her on this brand so any time I get to relax and not think about anything is welcome. I think we need a vacation.
TL: Do you see opportunities to streamline the process?
MM: I think getting on board with a publisher could be a step in that direction. Someone to handle a lot of logistical issues we deal with on a daily basis would be nice. As well, there are other projects in the pipeline that we’d love to get started. They require a certain amount of attention, so until we get into the swing of the new product addition we’ll have to hold off on development.
TL: Did you make any mistakes? If so, what were they?
MM: One big mistake is thinking I can just do everything. There are some things better left to professionals, so when I can I try to hire those people to do those things.
TL: What advice would you provide to anyone thinking of using Kickstarter?
MM: 3 things:
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
KEEP YOUR VIDEO SHORT.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
TL: How did you conceive the the concept of working with an automobile artist and a comic artist for each project?
MM: Hiring a pro to work with me seemed the best way to make the whole thing legit. For instance, I can draw a car and a figure(kinda), but I’m not the person to be telling people how to do these things. When you have a professional (and in Ryan’s case, a WELL KNOWN professional) working with you, it adds an air of validity to the project that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
TL: What’s next for the “I DRAW” brand? Will you continue to use Kickstarter?
MM: We’ve got lots of exciting ideas in the pipeline – stay tuned. Kickstarter is a great place to generate funds, but also to simply get the word out! Many projects don’t’ really need the funds, they just want the social bump that having a kickstarter gets you. I’ll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.
Here’s the video Matt made for the project: