My Crowdfunding Journey

My crowdfunding journey

Sally Marks describes her crowdfunding journey

Sally hails from Somerset in England, UK.

She has developed a rewards board that motivates young children to accomplish certain tasks by rewarding positive behaviour.

Her product is called TOTSUP.

She agreed to be interviewed to let others know about TOTSUP, and how it can help parents.

Sally originally came up with the idea for TOTSUP ten years ago while teaching a child with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

The teaching method at the time was aimed at rewarding positive behaviour, but Sally could not find a rewards board to sufficiently engage this child.

So she came up with a rewards chart based on a journey, which worked very well.

Many years later Sally got the board out again for her own son, to help with potty training and other aspects of his development.

Friends constantly asked her how she ‘did it’: how she got such positive results.

About eighteen months ago she decided to further develop her rewards board.

Sally looked around for support by going on courses and linking up with engineers, educational psychologists and early year educators. She also got parental feedback to help develop a working prototype.

After a lot of testing, the final product was developed and brought to life with Sally‘s graphic design skills.

During the research and development phase, Sally used a 2D model but later found that children liked the more tangible 3D aspect of TOTSUP as it made the overall experience more engaging.

A company in Bristol then developed a 3D product from Sally‘s 2D designs. There were four major revisions until everyone was satisfied with the end result.

Totsup school bus



In the video, Sally unboxes her rewards board, and demonstrates the size and functionality of her product.

In essence, each TOTSUP character begins its life at the bus stop.

When the child earns a reward, the character is moved from the bus stop onto the bus.

There is also a set of stickers that allows the bus to be personalised for each child.

Many parents have used the TOTSUP board to help with potty training, night time routines, early waking, fussy eating, trying new foods, meal time manners and other issues.

An educational psychologist was also enlisted to discuss the theory behind a rewards chart and how necessary it is to use it consistently to achieve successful results.

As it was developed in the UK, TOTSUP has been awarded the ‘Made in Britain’ status.

Unboxing Totsup

The Crowdfunding Journey

Sally first came across crowdfunding at a ‘School for Startups’ course which mentioned crowdfunding as a way forward.

After looking at several sites, Sally felt that a rewards based crowdfunding platform would be best suited for her product.

She then followed and backed crowdfunding campaigns to get an idea of how things worked.

Sally eventually chose as the platform of choice, largely because it is UK based.

She decided to use crowdfunding for her product some 12 months before the launch date of her campaign. During that period she put various things in place, and gradually started building up her crowd and social media presence.

Sally identified two specific aspects that she needed funding for: packaging, and help to develop a mobile app.

The target for the campaign was set at £6 000 (pounds sterling).

A great graphic showing the distribution of funds was placed on the campaign page for supporters to get an idea of how their money will be spent.

At the time of this interview, the TOTSUP campaign had nearly reached the halfway mark with about another two weeks to go.

Sally was asked about the challenges she faced while setting up and managing her campaign.

She mentioned that actually going live was a huge challenge for her: “a really big deal’.

In her view, the biggest issues were finding the time to phone and speak to her friends and close supporters, and setting time aside to do everything else that was required before launch.

Another challenge was the realisation that most people do not know what crowdfunding is all about and part of her planning had to include educating her crowd about how it works.

A Launch Lunch

A launch event – a lunch – was organised a few days before the campaign was due to start. It was attended by ten people who were closely associated with the project.

This informal and fun event proved highly successful as the group were key supporters in the first two days of going live, giving the campaign the momentum it needed.

Totsup launch lunch

Gaining extra publicity in the form of press coverage proved more of a challenge, but in the end, her persistence resulted in local newspaper articles and a radio interview.

It was fairly easy to come up with rewards for the crowdfunding campaign as most were related to the product itself. New rewards are planned for release at a later stage in the campaign to generate more interest.

To test out the campaign rewards, Sally sent out free samples to get feedback and testimonials on TOTSUP.

Many who trialled the product actually bought it when the campaign went live.

Sally found the whole crowdfunding experience an exciting one, but at the same time, it proved to be a roller coaster ride. The added pressure came from the fact that she chose a fixed funding option. This means that if she does not reach her target she does not receive any of the funds.

What advice would Sally pass on to others?

When asked what advice she would pass on to others wishing to run a crowdfunding campaign, she explained that the support of her friends and family ended up being the most important factor.

Involving and engaging them early on was essential; she had not realised how important their support would be in the first few days of the campaign.

Email proved to be the most effective tool for Sally to get people to pledge to her campaign. She sent out emails on day one and day three. Each email broadcast resulted in a surge of support.

During the second half of the campaign Sally plans to focus on social media opportunities.

Note: This article was written while the campaign was still live.

View the TOTSUP crowdfunding campaign

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