I’ve agonized over the budget. A good understanding the real cost of having or doing a thing started young for me. My first job wasn’t babysitting, It was keeping books for Mom at the wholesale grocery business that my parents took over from her parents, and I’ve had more than one micro business over the years. I didn’t expect to redo this budget so many times.
That this budget is higher than I expected makes me nervous. If people think it’s padded in the wrong way, they won’t want to support it, and if it isn’t padded to some extent, in the right way, we don’t have any buffer to deal with the expected wave of inflation over the span of a long term project, or with the UNexpected, whatever that may turn out to be. Advice to include every little expense shows up over and over. There are no budget do overs. We just get the one shot at funding.
I thought the cost at the (lowest) Goal level would be about a third of what it is. Most of that is because I shifted some fairly big expenses down to the lower levels based on some reading about successful Kickstarter features. I hope that works out to have been good advice. It smooths out the progression of the budget across the goals, but it puts some expenses before they are technically needed, which is totally irrelevant if everything gets funded.
The budget is higher at than I expected at the (highest) Super Stretch level too. That’s mostly about shifting my project mantra toward “If I’m going to work this hard, I need to spend the money to do it well and make it matter.” I have more redundancy built in than I need to meet the minimums for this project if everything goes right, but, sometimes redundancy is the reason you made your goal when things didn’t go right. I also hope to get additional footage that is good enough quality to do a follow on project. I’m not very specific about what that is very often, because I haven’t decided for sure yet. I will be trying to do things in a way that leaves doors open to a variety of potentials, so yes, I’ll be ecstatic if my top goal funds, and at the same time, personally disappointed If I don’t exceed the goals I’ve promised for this project in a way that allows me to have the data to pursue a second one.
In other ways, the budget is exactly what I expected. I want the budget to be solid, on target and justified every step of the way. I’ve trimmed, then remembered something else and those dollars go right back into the plan. I’m afraid to trim too much. There’s no saying “Oops I need more” and I want successful completion of the project. But I’m done now. It will take something big to make me edit again before I put those numbers out there. One thing that will help with that decision is that many of the costs are pretty equally exchangeable. As I shuffle through all of the potential scenarios, choosing one way of doing things has about the same final cost as choosing another. That’s a really useful feature. It gives us some freedom to make changes without jeopardizing the project.
39% of Kickstarter projects fund. That’s down a little bit from earlier years, but still sounds pretty good. 5.5% of launched Kickstarter projects reach the range of funding we need to complete this project at the highest level. That sounds scary, super scary. I’ve put a lot of time into this. It’s super duper scary, but many projects just cost less, some because they have much of their cost already taken care of from being an extra project running inside an established company. Others only pay a portion of overhead because production is outsourced.
The first thing I’ll be hoping to do is reach 20% of goal. 78% of projects that reach 20% funding will be fully funded in the end. So, here it is, a write up of what is included in the budget items and, just to be extra thorough, what will happen if we reach the magic land of being over budget.
What’s in the Budget at Every Level
Cycle Clothing (kit) and Gear for 2 people. Our number is based on last year’s costs adjusted up to project level mileage and down because we don’t need as much specialty clothing on the recumbents. This also includes clothing or gear that we didn’t need last year (like cold weather kit) but will need for the project.
Maintenance: Repair, Lubricant, Tools, Tires, Chains, Cassettes, and other wear parts. We allowed last year’s expenses adjusted to project level, new equipment and increased trail mileage.
Automobile Mileage at the current deductible allowance (.56).
Tech Support, Web Services for Downloadable Rewards and other Technical Advice. Full disclosure: My tech guy is my son, overqualified and working for a fraction of his regular rate.
An allowance for Emergencies, error or a change in inflation/conditions/the unexpected.
Kickstarter Fees and Processing Fees
Tax Liability for those expenses that cannot be paid or prepaid in 2022
What’s in the Budget at Goal Level
Photo Equipment: Multiple GoPros per bike, Mounting Gear for Everything, Sound Equipment and Buffers, Power Supplies and batteries, Media Storage Drives, Motion Dampening, Memory Cards, On Bike Gear Storage.
Recumbent Bikes with shock absorbing and endurance features to provide ergonomic and cross training type relief.
Software and Computer Tech
All those things listed as being in every level.
What’s in the Budget at Stretch Level
Stretch level doubles goal level time and production and a few costs, but not all because much of the equipment bought at goal level works for both. I’m adding in the endurance bikes here to smooth out the jumps in expenses, and potentially a 360 degree camera. of course all those expenses from above are included.
We had a mid-level here where we were started doing full rides on both trails, but monthly instead of weekly. It was a bridge level where we bumped up to the 100 mile rides that I really want to do, but Russ maintained his regular employment. Having this level smoothed the progression in levels further and seemed like a great compromise goal at the onset, one that seemed to balance production and cost pressures, a logical sweet spot, maybe even the most likely to fund. The problem is, that when I wrote out the hourly requirements for this level, we didn’t have enough hours available to make it work. This level was actually a logical trap that would fail. If all we were doing was riding, it would be tempting to try. Most people who would consider riding a century could do two per month without quitting their job, but riding is only part of running the project. We also have to run the funding project, record video and maintain equipment, keep supporters updated (write the the Blog/stream) and have 4 kinds of rewards to produce. This level was reluctantly canceled to avoid the heartache of failure.
If our funding were to exceed the lower 2 levels, but fall short of Super Stretch level, we might be able to revisit this level in combination with partial employment. This is a more complicated than the average weekend century though. Both in setting up the cameras and the fact that it’s not a loop. The end point is a 100+ miles from the start
Super Stretch Level Budget Items
This is it. The whole enchilada. This is where we video all of both trails in both directions every week for a year and capture the changing seasons with the best natural audio we can get. We will upload a video from every week to Youtube and anyone with a screen and a connection can have hours of unique trail video every week for whatever purpose they choose: exercise, escape, meditation, wellness, biophilia, entertainment. At this top level of the project, where my heart is, things get real. Russ takes a leave of absence and a leap of faith to support this endeavour.
Weekly overnight lodging in Anniston and related travel expenses at standard deductible rates. Support and gear by automobile backup could be possible, but that is not less expensive, not low impact and it doesn’t provide backup video from a second bike, so we’ll only do it in the beginning as we are getting up to speed, or if some unknown makes it necessary.
Safety equipment like Fall Detection will become important. We will ride together for safety, and to get back up video for each other in case of equipment failures, but we’ll ride at a distance from each other so that we don’t film each other. Fall detection will be the link that lets the person in front know that the person in back needs help and might not be unconscious. It’s how we’ll make traveling far enough apart to create back up video safe.
Storage expenses in Anniston One pair of bikes will stay in Anniston. We’ll ride to Anniston on, say the recumbents, then ride back on the endurance bikes. This will make for the greatest distribution of variety (in filming perspective and body dynamics and ergonomics).
At super stretch level we want the best barometric elevation data we can get. That’s primarily to keep the door open for a follow on project. GPS triangulates location very well, but GPS elevation has a larger level of error. If I can correlate the video and good elevation data, a number of other projects might be possible, and they would become a great deal more economical once the video and data already exist. Some devices that measure barometric elevation also offer fall detection, so it is likely that we would choose one device for both features. One possible thing that could be done with good elevation data in a future project would be to match exercise bike resistance to changes in elevation on the trail.
Overnight Lodging has been figured at 2 nights per week, but we may be able to get an efficiency/studio apartment, an over the garage room for rent, or something similar at the same cost. If we have a base of operations in Anniston some expenses can be combined and work flow becomes much easier with a place to leave battery chargers and other equipment, wash gear, store bikes and so on. We also get the ease of always having it available when the weather changes. Last minute changes to a hotel room can be costly and knocking down unknowns and frustrations reduces stress makes success easier.
The last big expense is that I have to pay Russ. He’ll have to take a leave of absence. It’s a big risk for him, which makes it a big risk for our entire household. I thought a lot about the appropriate salary for him, not just what I’d like for him to have. I considered what he makes now, I considered average for his job title, and average per capita for our zip code. I’ve settled on a Dan Price minimum wage, (which is less than the averages I was considering, but easy to support). I decided on Dan Price’s 70K minimum wage because it supports his proposition that every worker deserves to earn enough to have a decent life. I believe that, and we can make that work. It’s not hard to defend, and it puts Dan Price’s business model in front of anyone who reads this and clicks on the link. That could carry his ideas to new people
The Silver Linings
This is the beginning of the project as far as Kickstarter goes, but it is far from the beginning for me, for us. Being far from the beginning is actually our first silver lining. I’ve done a lot of research We’ve had some time to look back in hindsight. I’ve been able to confirm that some of my thinking was right, and change what I learned was wrong. I know from business school that most ventures fail due to under funding. The silver lining is that we are much better prepared to succeed with less pain now that we would have been if I’d been able to start my project sooner.
What if We Get Funding Above Goal or There is Money Left Over?
The best problem to have, right? The rewards that require extra hours to produce are limited to amounts we can manage, so the best of all levels of support will be welcome. Here is another place where I’m thankful for some of my reading. It’s not that I expect to need this section, it’s that I want to be prepared for whatever happens. I read two different types of articles about “extra” funding, or funding that surpasses the goals. This can happen at any level because the project could exceed a lower goal while not making it through the next goal.
One piece I read was from someone who wrote in to an ethics column, I think, on what to do with leftover project money. I wish I had bookmarked it so I could find it to reference properly, but I was in investigative mode, not project mode when I read it. Here is what I remember. The person running a Kickstarter project asked if a certain use would be appropriate for leftover funds. I thought the answer was obvious. The columnist did too, sort of. The response was that the person’s idea was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but since it had not been stated beforehand, it might irritate some supporters. I don’t want to irritate supporters, I thrive on my Etsy reviews that say “exactly as described”, and I want to carry that level of satisfaction through to this adventure. In honor of learning from my reading, here is a list of things that I / we will consider doing with any generous funding we receive over and above our goals. Beginning with the obvious, they are listed in order of greatest likelihood.
- Cover unexpected costs and overages.
- Review the project for potential improvements beginning with any upgrades in equipment that would make the project, or future carry on projects, better (like 3D cameras, some type of mount that I didn’t know about before, or some feature or equipment we hadn’t thought of before that makes the product better or more able to convert to a more technologically ambitious 2nd project).
- Look for things that will make the project move more smoothly.
- Look for things that will improve deliverables (for example, a telephoto lense to make my photographic rewards better).
- Reduce risk with things like additional safety equipment or health care coverage for the riders. No, sadly, the riders don’t already have that.
- Film one or several rides in a different location. Whether that is another rail trail, a trek around an island (like Kauai,The Big Island or Yakushima) that could provide Blue Mind benefits or something like the End to End would depend on just how much was left over, if there were amazing travel deals in a particular location, travel conditions and Coronavirus status when that happens.
- Pay or Profit for Karen. I’m not opposed to getting paid for my work, I’m just willing to delay my re-entry into the formal job market if it makes the difference between getting the project funded and not getting it funded.
All those things are covered in blog posts like this one from Kickstarter, so spelling them out might not have actually been necessary. But, I’m big on transparency, happy supporters and learning from my reading.