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  • Gilbert Kruidenier

Something to feel (very) good about

We didn’t set ourselves a goal beyond “let’s not lose money” when we started this side-project that became a major project and then took on a life of its own. It was good enough for us to do something good for the Change Community and making money off it felt wrong somehow.

Instead we discussed how much money and time we wanted to invest in this ‘funny little experiment’ and to say we completely underestimated how much time it would take, would still be the understatement of the year. We can’t say we weren’t warned. We were. Multiple times. But some things you just have to experience to truly understand them and experience we did! Do we regret any of it? Absolutely not!

The whole experience of working out loud in production, getting support and feedback, meeting people all across Australia (Sorry, NT, TAS and WA) and shipping something we created to all corners of the world are rewards in and of themselves. And then some. Imagine being told a few times that something you did, really works and looks great. And now imagine that 275 times. Yeah, pretty good, hmm?! Then imagine 1,000+ likes and 50,000+ views. Okay, maybe sit down a bit now.

Because we can only say thank you in so many ways, so many times, we wanted our final post on the Chameleon Cards to provide some insight into what it takes to produce a tool like this. You know, for when you have a moment of insanity and decide you want to do something similar…

This table has the high level detail of major income and cost items:

The Balance Sheet explained

· Card Sales: we launched with a price of $29,99 and were told by basically everyone that this was way too cheap. We boosted the price to $39.99 and sales were not affected at all, with some people saying they would have paid $49,99 or even $75!

· Give-aways and gifts: Obviously I couldn’t sell them to my mum (or could I?) and then there were some people that we wanted to gift them to. We paid for that ourselves, to keep things clear and organised.

· Reships, loss and non-payment: We had a glue issue, some dodgy South American Customs practices (according to Australia Post) and a few people who were so excited and distracted by the cards that they never actually got around to paying for the box. All good, we thoroughly enjoyed people’s amazed response when we told them we operated on a trust-system. Take them home, pay when you think of it. And you know what? 46 out of 48 did! Totally worth it and who knows, those 2 boxes might still get paid one day, if not in cash, then probably in good karma.

· Design and multimedia FLIMPstudios: If someone tells me one.more.time how good they look, I’ll have a fit! No, seriously, a good design(er) is worth every dollar because who wants to buy ugly things? No one, that’s right. All the iterations, additional imagery, last-minute typo hunts and content edits would have easily cost $20,000 or more if we had to pay someone and that would have killed the project.

· Content creation: Someone described the cards as a book-in-a-box and that’s how it felt when I was pulling it together. I never much doubted it was good stuff, after all, 7,000+ article views can’t be wrong, but a 3-page article and 75 pages of content are not exactly the same. As with the design, if we had to pay someone to write all that and then reduce and re-edit it about 50 times, $20,000 is probably still a low figure.

· Production of 300 Boxes: We worked with Skoop, a local printer and while there were definitely some issues (glue, boxes, delays) they kept up their good cheer and customer service until we got a good outcome. Our second batch needed to be smaller and they gave us as good a price as we could get. For 250 boxes, you’d pay $4,250, for 50 about $1,750.

· Postage: OMG, if I never have to go to that post-office again it will be too soon! 31 trips over a period of 3 months. We also made a few mistakes with the rates and then halfway through the rates went up. We just absorbed it as readjusting the prices was just too hard and some people were already commenting that postage was expensive. Yeah, we know, Australia is far away from everything, even New Zealand. But when you consider that you want to fly a box of 400gr of paper halfway across the world to have it on your desk in a week and a bit, is 15 EUR or 15 USD really that much? One more tip: buy your padded envelopes in bulk, it really saves about 50% per 100.

· Travel and stay at events: This one would have totally drained the funds if we hadn’t set ourselves the goal of ‘doing something for the community’. The ACT event was the delivery of a promise and the travel for the Sydney event got sponsored. The other four we had to pay ourselves because the budget could only cover venue and food/drinks. We still think we got a good deal. Without the events, we would have reached a much smaller audience and would not have had the opportunity to meet the people who have been cheering us on from the early days. Totally worth it, but if you think of doing something like this, maybe put it in your budget when you’re thinking about pricing.

Proof of payment

Peter and I were very careful to keep all costs completely transparent and documented. We really felt like we were given money to do good and wanted to maximise the sum total in any way possible. We felt very trusted by our customers and wanted to make sure that we could look everyone straight in the eye when we said that we had truly made no money and given away all the profits to charity. The image below is from this week’s transaction. You can also call either Donna or Glenn Stolzenberg, the hardworking people behind the National Homeless Collective, to inquire if they have indeed received the money. And while you’re at it, maybe ask if there’s anything YOU can do to help women in need.

Some final thoughts

1. If you ever think of doing something similar, do it with a friend. Preferably a friend who is good with words or graphics design. If you have a friend who can do both, make sure to stay friends. Marry them if possible.

2. Think about your pricing and then back yourself. We could have gone as high as $49.99 (or more) and would still have sold out. We’re happy with the result all the same, but it would have been more for the charity. You might not get rich, but your network and social capital will grow considerably.

3. So many people loved the idea of doing good by buying something useful for themselves. We made doing good easy and more than a few thanked us for that convenience.

4. If going to the post office is not your hobby, maybe outsource the shipping bit to someone who loves making new friends and standing in line.

One more thank you to all the wonderful buyers and supporters, we did a good thing together, you can feel especially good about yourself today!

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