From Kickstarter to Product Launch

"It never goes the way you expect." How many times have you experienced that phrase? My life is certainly littered with that maxim. But once again, I chose irrational exuberance as I watched Slinger Bag bring in over $700,000 on Kickstarter and I dreamed about the possibilities for my little tennis innovation called the Packhopper. Surely I can raise at least $50,000, right??

For anyone not familiar with Kickstarter (or Indiegogo), it's an online platform for fundraising to launch new products or projects. With just an idea (and a prototype) you can try to raise money to help get your idea off the ground. If you reach your goal during a set period (my campaign ran for 45 days) you get to keep the money pledged. In return, those who pledge money to your project get rewards that often include the final product when it's produced.

As my story unfolded, I was incredibly thankful that someone talked me into lowering my Kickstarter goal to $5,000. I was still hoping to raise $50,000 so I felt a bit grieved to barely limp over the finish line with a final tally of $5,376. But I had crossed that line which meant it was time to go full bore and get a finished product to my backers. (You can see my Kickstarter campaign HERE.)

The first item of business was to get a new prototype created. One of my biggest concerns with the first prototype was the functionality of the extendable legs. They needed to work with much more ease and stability so we went back to the drawing board and came up with a whole new approach. But as was the case with the first prototype, the new design was extremely custom and I was nervous about the tooling costs involved in manufacturing it at scale.

Turns out, my fears were warranted. After completing the second prototype with the new extendable legs and shopping it around to manufacturers, I discovered that tooling would cost over $100,000! That price was a non-starter for this start-up entrepreneur.

I made the tough decision to kill one of the big design innovations I loved about the Packhopper, the built-in legs. But what at first I believed to be a painful disappointment has actually turned into a much better solution. Even though the legs functioned much better in the second prototype, they still weren't terribly stable and they added significant weight to the bag.

As I experimented with alternatives, I landed on a design modification that added four wheels to a small folding stool. This meant the Packhopper would now have all the functionality of the popular wheeled ball carts, plus the ability to pick up tennis balls. As an accessory, it could also be left behind to save on weight, something that could not be done with built-in legs.

It took more than a year, with several major setbacks (not to mention homeschooling two kids through the coronavirus pandemic) but I was finally able to send out Packhoppers to all the Kickstarter backers. Now, it's finally available to all of you out there working on your tennis game. And from what I hear, tennis is even more popular because of coronavirus!

Here's the original Kickstarter/Indiegogo video:
(or if that doesn't work, click here: