My Posse April 04 2014
I started CocoLoco Chocolates in February 1998 with five products, my Christmas card mailing list, and lofty aspirations of one day owning a store and a factory. I was quickly doused with reality, learning that the candy business is extremely competitive, people are very brand-loyal, and I was going to have to step it up and be extraordinary if I intended to succeed.
Turns out that I am at least somewhat extraordinary, and modest success has come my way. I now have 30 products -- all my own, original creations -- and a mailing list of bona fide customers that far exceeds three sheets of address labels. But the dream of a store and a factory remain elusive.
Two years ago, an illness and injury set me back a bit, and the downtime gave me a chance to think about the trajectory of CocoLoco and to make better long-range plans for achieving my goals. Once complete, I committed myself to Phase 1: a period of re-development followed by a re-launch with a website. After a move from Chicago to New England, I was ready.
My bank account, however, wasn’t. I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting until I did have the money, and agonized over what to do and how to raise the money I needed. A thought struck: This is what kickstarter.com was created for! And I took inspiration from their model and hatched a plan to do my own, private kickstarter to get the money I needed. I wrote and re-wrote the email I planned to send to a short list of my most devoted, loyal customers, in which I laid out my plans and requested financial support. And then agonized for days over sending it.
I have a hard time asking for help. I am very independent and take a lot of pride in doing things myself. Also, in this case, I wasn’t sure that I could take it if my request met with silence. For me, that would be a sign that CocoLoco Chocolates was a dream best left unfilled, and I did. Not. Want. To. Hear. That. But in a moment of courage and folly, I sent the email. And the response was immediate and overwhelming. Every single person replied with heart-felt best wishes, and all but two sent money. I couldn’t believe it.
This group of financial backers I dubbed my “Kickstarter Posse,” and they quickly stepped up and became like a Board of Directors comprised entirely of Fairy Godmothers and Godfathers. Which, to my mind, is just what a Board should be -- people with generosity and making magic happen as their bottom line. My Posse members have been cheerleaders and champions, advisors and advocates, hand-holders and head bangers, and just generally the greatest group of people I could have ever surrounded myself with. And now that our “project” together is complete, I don’t want to let my Posse go. The risk I took in asking and the support I received in reply feels like validation in the extreme. And I like it. I like them. I know they think of themselves as firestarters whose job is done, but I’d like them to stick around for awhile!