Love Lust List Supplier Rebekah J Murray is an expert at reinvention and perseverance. Rebekah has recently decided to branch out from her photography work launching Virginia Dare Dress Co, designing beautiful dresses for ladies who want to look good and feel confident in feminine designs. I’m fascinated by the fact Rebekah is funding her new venture through crowdsourcing so I was intrigued to find out all about it.

Tell us a little bit about your new venture. When did you decide to make the switch from photography to fashion?

I’ve been a wedding photographer for almost 10 years, and at the time had started working towards becoming more of a fashion photographer, and was researching lookbook shoots and making pitches and just learning a bit more about that industry. I was also traveling a lot and the more I tried to 1) pack lighter 2) look decently put together while away, found that dresses were a lifesaver option for both. I like more classic shapes from the 1940s and 50s, (fitted waists + full skirts, that classic feminine shape) but I dislike​ pieces that screamed​ retro or vintage, so I just felt a little lost trying to find what I was looking for. I was also wanting to branch out even from photography work and add something else, and it was somehow a perfect storm of everything at once when the idea for this company resurfaced.​ I just dove in with a crazy big plan and started learning everything I could until it became more of a possibility. Even though fashion design / manufacturing is very different from photography and weddings, I think it’s just the foundation goal that’s the same – wanting to make life more beautiful, and including as many people in that as I can.​

Why did you use crowdfunding? Why did this present different different options to using a traditional loan option?

​I wanted to test the idea of the Virginia Dare Dress Co and make sure people liked it.​​..and to be honest it seemed a lot less intimidating than starting with a business loan straight away. Because of using crowdfunding I’ve had months of people learning about the efforts to start by using it, and then a whole team of friends and supporters who in a very real way are doing this with me. It makes a business feel like there’s a swell of people helping it along and that gives a lot of needed encouragement for the difficulties of starting something new. ​

What did Ki​ckstart​er​ offer that other crowdfunding doesn’t?

​It’s been the most successful as an option, so has the biggest following. Crowdfunding as an idea is still pretty foreign to most people, and I think especially in the fashion areas, so I wanted to at least use what I considered to be the leading authority on it. Also there’s a big group of supporters who just love using Kickstarter (myself included!) and they will browse current projects and support them, so you can get a lot of funding through the following that Kickstarter already has. The risk of Kickstarter is if you don’t get 100% of the goal — in my case $30,000 — I don’t get anything! Other options for crowdfunding don’t have this ultimatum, and Indiegogo is I believe the second most popular. (But they have a smaller following of their own, so that’s a drawback.) Both options have a fee for using their service – 8-10% of the total money raised – but that’s only if your project is successfully funded.
I read an interesting stat that traditionally women’s startups require less capital than those set up by males. Do you think crowdsourcing is a better option for women because of this?

​Interesting thought! I think crowdfunding can be a great course for women because you have the opportunity to invest in a personal level in people and your idea, and then throughout the process keep connecting with your story and communicate about the company on a very personal, human level. I’ve just researched this now that you brought it up — and turns out women-run campaigns are more successful than men on Kickstarter!
How did you decide how many funds to request?
A lot of educated guesswork! And then loads of research. I worked through all the costs needed for fabric production, customs/duty, freight, etc, and how many dresses I wanted to produce with the first run, and worked out my amount from there. They recommend making your goal for the smallest amount needed to be successful, and that’s good advice since about 50% of Kickstarters don’t get all the funding they need!

Are there any pitfalls to crowdfunding?

It’s loads more work than you’d expect, so budget time appropriately. I tried a campaign in September and it didn’t make it all the way to my goal (made $44,000 of a $60,000 goal) so I had to take a month afterwards to rework, and I’ve just relaunched with some changes. It’s worked out really well though having the extra planning time, so I’m grateful it happened actually! Some pitfalls I’ve seen is actually when companies take off far more than they expected to, and then they don’t have systems in place to handle it, and then fulfilling their promises become difficult to accomplish.

Not being realistic with timelines etc is I’m sure the biggest problem, because if you make all your backers unhappy with you from the process taking too long, they’re hard to win back over. Having an idea and telling your story is one thing, but if you’re trying to launch a company there’s another side to stay focused on as well, and it’s rarely as fun or carefree as the other. 😉

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of crowdfunding their next project?

Take advantage of any possible mentors. Your strengths are focused in certain areas, and you need people who have opposite strengths (or at least are observant) to see where you’re weak in. Optimism isn’t always helpful to business, and can be really harmful actually. You want the brutal honest truths about the work you need to do, and then you can genuinely enjoy success on the other side of it. You have to care more about the project than your pride, and it’s honestly a very humbling experience! Don’t be afraid to try something new even if it feels dreadfully uncomfortable at times. I guarantee you won’t feel ready or prepared enough when you start, but it can be amazing fun all the same. Start investing in people, and love them well. Your ideas won’t get very far without them, and learning how to make a difference in people’s lives is just as important as learning the industry you want to make a difference in.

Do you ship to the UK? Where can people find your work?

​Yes! ​Just until December 5th. There are shipping options to the UK and EU, and the pre-orders are available at my Kickstarter page.