It was going to be the ultimate test of Patricia van den Akker’s role as a business adviser, trainer, coach and mentor, who declares on her website: “I am passionate about seeing people grow and develop, turning dreams into wonderful businesses or careers.” Could she turn her idea – a book, funded by a Kickstarter campaign, about starting a business – into a reality? Imagine the schadenfreude if the campaign did not meet its target – or worse; it succeeded and she failed to deliver.
Van den Akker runs an online business school for craftspeople, The Design Trust, working with business owners, university graduates and craft networks, and specialises in advising on business planning, marketing, busi-ness modelling, selling, social media, costing and pricing and other aspects of building a business. When we speak, she has just spent time with eight new makers from Scotland, taking them around galleries during London Craft Week. It was an initiative organised by Emergents, XpoNorth’s Craft, Fashion and Textiles Network.
“The idea [of a book] had been bub-bling for a while,” said van den Akker. “Then for last year’s XpoNorth, I had been asked by Emergents to do some work on crowd funding, interviewing people in the craft sector who had used it successfully, which resulted on an e-book, and I thought: ‘Hm, I’ve got this idea for a book and I’ve gained all this knowledge about crowd funding; perhaps I can combine the two.’
“The idea behind Dream Plan Do is, ﬁrst to think bigger and more strategically by setting big annual goals,” said van den Akker, “thought-provoking exercises and questions to uncover your real motivations and aspirations, and work on different aspects of your business each month. Then there is the ‘Plan’; how you will get from where you are now to where you want to be. And then the ‘Do’; doing the right things at the right time of the year with 12 consecutive monthly themes that build on each other.”
The concept – comprising the book, a wall planner and a club “for creative professionals from across the world who want to join an online community of like-minded people who are working on their creative business through-out 2017” – was conceived over the summer and the funding campaign was launched on Kickstarter in early October. “I knew, being a year-based book, that it would have to go out in December – therefore I knew that meant doing the campaign in October, which didn’t give me a lot of time!”
Van den Akker wrote the ﬁrst three chapters of the book and had proto-types printed. In early September, she commissioned a short ﬁlm for her Kickstarter page, worked on a marketing campaign and wrote the rest of the book during September and October. When the Kickstarter campaign went live, van den Akker thought to herself: “What have I done? Me and my big mouth.” One in four Kickstarter campaigns fail, and if you don’t reach 30% to 40% of your target – van den Akker had set hers at £12,000 – within the ﬁrst few days you become that statistic.
But, by the end of November, she had sold had sold 650 books and raised more than £27,000. Buyers were located all over the world; Europe, America, Australia, Japan, India, Pakistan, Dubai and Brazil. Since the end of the campaign, after setting up a website, she has sold another 600, and despite it being based on 2017 orders still trickle in. A Facebook group has been established, creating a new global business network for craftspeople.
Van den Akker is now working on the 2018 edition and is looking at spin-off ideas. She has also been approached by publishers. “Yes, I did think: ‘Me and my big mouth’, but it has meant that a lot of people have said: ‘You really know what you are talking about because you actually have done it’. And now I’m seeing people develop their own businesses because of it, and that’s wonderful.”
XpoNorth 2017: The Birth of a Book: Dream Plan Do, 12.30pm, Wednesday 8 June – Studio 2, Eden Court, Inverness.