LIVSN Designs of Fayetteville a few weeks ago wrapped up the launch of its new EcoTrek Trail pants, a launch that took the form of a 30-day campaign on the crowdfunding platform called Kickstarter.
It is the third time the company has used that platform to launch a product since it was founded in 2018.
“So, essentially, Kickstarter is a pre-order … You have to put up more than an idea. You have to put up a working prototype,” founder and CEO Andrew Gibbs-Dabney told Arkansas Business. “And then you say, ‘Hey, if we get to this amount of money that we set, we’re going to produce these. We’re going to take your money and we’re going to produce them. And then we’re going to ship you the products once they’re done.’”
If the funding goal set by those offering the product isn’t reached, then the people who pre-ordered the product aren’t charged. “But, luckily, we’ve been funded every time,” Gibbs-Dabney said.
The Kickstarter campaign for its EcoTrek Trail pants closed at $514,624, hugely above its goal of $10,000. LIVSN expects to deliver the pants to Kickstarter backers in September.
That product can still be ordered through Indiegogo, another crowdfunding platform that doesn’t restrict users to a 30-day campaign. LIVSN products can also be found at Pack Rat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville, The Woodsman Co. in Fort Smith, Ozark Outdoor Supply in Little Rock and Buffalo Outdoor Center in Ponca.
The company’s previous Kickstarter campaigns were Hi-Wool Fleece & Flex Canvas Pants, which closed at $78,579, and Flex Canvas Pants V2, which closed at $106,364. The goals were $30,000 and $10,000, respectively.
A Different Approach
Gibbs-Dabney’s advice for others interested in using Kickstarter the way LIVSN has is to share their project way ahead of launching a campaign.
“Share what you’re working on, your goals. Share the story with people, which directly ties into the next piece of advice, which is to spend as much time on your marketing and audience building before you launch as you do on your product development,” he said. “I think a lot of people still have this bold idea of if I build it, they will come and get this viral product or project, and that’s not the way it works.”
Gibbs-Dabney’s Kickstarter story began with his company’s first campaign for two products — canvas pants and fleece tops — but customers didn’t respond as well to the latter. “We really expected and planned for the fleece to be the bigger seller. What happened was we ended up vastly outselling the fleece with pants,” he said. “And that trend continued, which is part of the reason why we ended up shelving, temporarily, the fleece and other outerwear and concentrating on pants, because the market said, ‘Hey, you know, you’ve got something we like here.’ And so we decided to focus on that. Being a startup and having limited resources, it helps to keep the focus of attention narrow.”
The EcoTrek Trail pants are another example of how the company has responded to customers. It wanted a more versatile pair of pants that could be worn in wet conditions but were also lightweight for hot weather and stretchy for high-impact activities, Gibbs-Dabney said.
An outdoors enthusiast himself, he started the company with three priorities in mind: longevity, versatility and sustainability.
Gibbs-Dabney said he aims to make outdoor clothing that lasts a long time, is appropriate for a wide range of activities and is “more aesthetically casual than technical wear that you typically see out there, with the whole idea being that you can wear the same clothing in so many different areas of your life.”
Such an approach means “not really having to own such a large wardrobe and deal with so much stuff and clutter and extra clothing around.”
As for sustainability, the company’s canvas pants are made in part from recycled polyester that comes from plastic bottles, and 70% of the synthetic nylon material used to make the EcoTrek Trail pants comes from recycled ocean buoys.
Gibbs-Dabney is one of just three people employed by LIVSN; it outsources some functions. Next year, he expects to hire more workers.
The company is also supported by a small group of mostly local angel investors, and it received an investment after participating in a TechStars accelerator in Austin, Texas.
Gibbs-Dabney declined to disclose how much capital the company has raised so far, but he said it expects to raise another round of financing within the next 12 months.
Prior to founding LIVSN, he spent five years with clothing company Fayettechill of Fayetteville. There, Gibbs-Dabney worked his way up from a part-time employee to CEO. He left Fayettechill to join a technology startup that he said quickly failed, then he founded LIVSN.