Welcome to On Small Business’s series spotlighting interesting crowdfunding campaigns, where we feature a new company or individual attempting to raise money through these new online portals.
Who: Hamilton Perkins, 30, a financial planner for Merrill Lynch.
What: The Hamilton Perkins Collection, a line of duffel bags and backpacks made of recycled plastic bottles and vinyl from old billboards.
Where: Norfolk, Va.
Raised: $14,329 of a $10,000 goal (as of July 14). The campaign began June 30 and ends July 30.
What’s the pitch?
Hamilton Perkins was preparing to travel to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Madrid and Athens with classmates in his executive MBA program when he came across a problem: He couldn’t find the right carry-on bag.
They were either too flimsy, too impractical or too mainstream.
So he decided to create his own.
Perkins began setting up focus groups with family members and friends to get their ideas about what they wanted in a bag. He also searched Twitter for ideas and combed through hundreds of one-star luggage reviews on Amazon.com to get a sense of common customer complaints. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, owns The Washington Post.)
“No one is as serious or as truthful about something until they’re mad about a purchase,” Perkins said. “Customer reviews are a world of their own. They contain so much information.”
Eventually, a theme emerged in his research: “The main things we kept coming up with were duffel bag and backpack, backpack and duffel bag,” Perkins said. “That, and people wanted something that was unique.”
He decided to combine those three things and designed a bag that doubles as both duffel and backpack. (Picture a traditional duffel bag with backpack straps on the bottom. The bag has a three-way zipper so its contents can be accessed from either the top of the bag or its side, and all straps can be zipped away when not in use.)
Perkins researched different types of material, too, and teamed up with Thread International, a company that makes fabric using recycled materials, for his first prototype. The fabric on the outside of the bag is made of recycled plastic bottles, while the inside of each bag is created from repurposed vinyl from old billboards. A factory in Oregon makes each bag.
“Personally, I think the days of everyone buying the same cookie-cutter product are over,” Perkins said. “People want things that are unique and special.”
Perkins has already invested more than $25,000 of his savings into the one-man company and says he was looking for a way to get the word out about his bag.
He set a $10,000 goal on Kickstarter and was surprised when the money began rolling in right away. Within a week, he’d met his goal.
“You really don’t know what’s going to happen on a site like that,” he said. “This could have done great or it could have bombed.”
Luckily for Perkins, it was the former. About halfway through his campaign, he has raised nearly $15,000 from 100 backers. A $95 pledge gets donors a duffel bag, while $295 gets them the company’s convertible backpack.
Perkins said it will take until December to manufacture his first batch of 1,000 bags for Kickstarter backers. From there, he plans to add four more colors to his line-up and eventually look into creating other products.
“There are a lot of interesting things going on with technology and fabrics, so we could look into integrating conductive fabric into our products or making it possible for them to communicate with smartphones and other devices,” he said. “Bags are just a starting point.”
More in this series:
Editor’s note: Our coverage in this series does not constitute an endorsement. For more information about crowdfunding, please check out this SEC Fact Sheet.