Yannan Li, I am very proud of her this week. She epitomises the type of student and the type of campaign that I wanted to support when we started Crowdfund Campus back in October 2014.  Let me tell you why.


Her First Workshop

Yannan came to her first workshop on campaign creation (which we run every Wednesday on Skype for those interested by the way – book here – https://crowdfundcampus.com/workshops) with an idea for a Tea Rooms in the lovely town of Royal Leamington Spa. For those that don’t know Leamington Spa, it is already teeming with tea and coffee shops. But Yannan’s idea was unique in one way – her products. Opening a tea shop was going to require a large amount of preparation and commitment, and from a crowdfunding point of view, she was going to have to pre-sell an awful lot of tea, coffee and desserts in order to raise the funds necessary to cover premises, fitting, rent, rate, bills and wages to name just a few things to get started. More importantly, how did she know people would buy her unique teas and desserts?

So Yannan went away from her first workshop with me, a little… flustered. In a little under an hour, she received a barrage of information about how to create a campaign but more importantly a number of questions to consider about how she was going be ‘crowdfund ready’ i.e. how much was the premises going to cost? how long was she going to commit to this? Did she have other funding sources she wanted to match fund? When would she be able to deliver her rewards? Etc ….


What next?

I’ll be honest, at this point, I didn’t expect her to come back. We launch about 1 in 5 of the campaigns that start the creation process on our platform. It’s part of the reason we have such a high success rate (70%) because we give these students and graduates a healthy dose of reality and questioning before we click the launch button. It is a part of the ‘value add’ to our University partners.


Fast Forward 2 months

On March 14th Yannan’s name pops up on my calendar, she’s booked in her second workshop on campaign marketing, but the campaign now had a different name… ‘Teamisu’.


In the Interim

So rather than delve straight into the workshop, I needed to find out what has happened in the last 2 months. Yannan had done 3 things vital to any entrepreneur at this stage of her business.

1) Focus

Rather than take on a whole tea shop with an array of teas, coffees and desserts, she had decided to focus on one product – her concoction of tea and tiramisu ….’Teamisu’. It comes in 4 flavours and is still #FundingOnCampus. Pre-order here: https://crowdfundcampus.com/campaigns/teamisu

2) Found first customer/partner

Yannan approached ‘Warwick Retail’ who I think have the monopoly of retail and culinary outlets on Warwick campus. They had asked her whether she could prove demand and set her a challenge; prove that students want to buy these products and they would consider stocking them. It’s amazing that Warwick Retail are open to such propositions and a tribute to the University’s approach to Enterprise. Universities have massive potential to be ‘playgrounds’ for new ideas (sometimes they just need to loosen up a little bit).

3) Prepared a market test

Yannan arranged to have a market stall on the Piazza at the University of Warwick on the 27th April, and this is where the crowdfunding campaign comes back into play. Having ran a crepe stall at markets and festivals for a year, I know its much easier to keep a queue, than start one. But by pre-selling desserts through Crowdfund Campus for collection on the day, Yannan is starting her queue. The combination of successful crowdfunding campaign and successful market stall (I am sure it will be) can give her the confidence that the market wants her products, and she can take that evidence back to pitch to Warwick Retail. Genius.


Back to the campaign

So now Yannan’s campaign looked very different. What started out as a Tea Room in Leamington, was now a market test of ‘Teamisu’ on campus. She de-risked her proposition for her and future wholesale customers, she conducted a market test that proves her customers want her product and more importantly, that they are willing to pay a price for her product that contains a profit margin. And it is this type of test that uses crowdfunding to prove desirability, feasibility and viability of a new product, that I am constantly talking about, and is our driving ethos behind Crowdfund Campus. It is not about how much money you raise, it’s about conducting a replicable test that could be scaled to become a business.

At the time of writing, her campaign is overfunding with 9 days to go, 115 Teamisu’s have been pre-ordered from 34 backers, and I still need to place my order.

I guess now the only remaining proof is in the pudding :)


Thanks as well to Yannan

In the day to day challenges and frustrations of running a business, you can easily forget why you started it. But I’m so happy Yannan persevered, and I have this story to tell. Thank you Yannan for inspiring me, and reminding me why I started Crowdfund Campus.

I’ll be seeing you on the 27th for some ‘Teamisu’.