We got bored with typical jigsaw puzzles so we launched a kickstarter to make our own. Offbeat images, indy artists, and cool themes: Bone Owl Puzzles. AMA

Jason Tanner
Sep 7, 2017

Kickstarter Link

Hey there!

My name's Jason Tanner and I quit my job back in 2014 to become a full time entrepreneur. I've worked on a few things in the past but Bone Owl Puzzles is currenty consuming all my time these days. 

My wife and I started working on Bone Owl Puzzles about 7 months ago and recently launched on kickstarter to promote the brand, build excitement and fund the first production run.

Our goal with this project is to revitalize jigsaw puzzles by working with exciting indy artists and focusing on offbeat themes that get very little love from the bigger companies.

We pay our artists up front and in full to produce the images from scratch. This means the artists get fairly paid and the images we get to use are fresh and exciting. 

Other than puzzles and art, I'm passionate about business, self improvement, homebrewing, board/video games, bbq, home theater, and pretty much everything you'd call "geeky". 







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Conversation (78)

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As a homebrewer, what is your favorite style to brew.? I did a California Common that was excellent and has been my go-to beer ever since. 

Sep 7, 7:14PM EDT0

Cal Common is one of my favorites, for sure. 

I brew a WIDE variety of styles (ales and lagers both) and usually my favorite is the one I haven't had in a while, haha. 

Right now I have a Czech Pilsner going along with a random "too much left over hops so lets use it" pale ale. Just kegged a clone of an awesome Ontario beer called Pompous Ass (the brewery gave me a recipe to run with awesome enough and it's pretty close). 

Check out reddit.com/r/homebrewing for probably the best community online for homebrewers. I learned like 99% of what I know through them - a FANTASTIC bunch of folks :)

Last edited @ Sep 7, 9:31PM EDT.
Sep 7, 9:31PM EDT0

I will check it out. Thanks for the heads up.

Sep 8, 7:56PM EDT0

Will you be considering doing work contracts with indy artists for the long term?

Sep 7, 9:31AM EDT0

We're just getting started so nothing is set in stone but our goal above all else is to find cool artists, pay them fairly for amazing work, and turn that into awesome puzzles. 

There's always the option to do an artist series of 10 puzzles or whatever (for example) but right now everything has been a one-off contract. 

Sep 7, 10:38AM EDT0

Do you also work with Graphic designers and animation artist?

Sep 7, 7:26PM EDT0

What part of the population do you think are the best candidates for funding a crowdfunding campaign?

Sep 7, 2:45AM EDT0

Not sure what you mean?

Anyone can fund a crowdfunding campaign. You don't even need an account. 

Every project appeals to a different group. That's the wonderful thing about crowfunding campaigns - there's something for everyone. 

Sep 7, 10:37AM EDT0

Where are most of your donors from?

Sep 7, 7:25PM EDT0

Which social media site did you get the highest response from?

Sep 6, 4:24PM EDT0

Facebook and twitter, by far. 

Here's an interesting stat: our artists have a combined social following of roughly 500k followers on instagram, each artist posted about our project on Instagram, and our stats show that almost NONE of of our backers came from Instagram (I just checked - it was 2.95% of our backers came from Insta).

Instagram is a really, really hard place to drive traffic from given that there's no directly clickable links except in your profile. You can run ads but we didn't find this very effective either. 

Facebook and twitter are still the kings of traffic, at least in our experience with this project. 

Last edited @ Sep 7, 10:35AM EDT.
Sep 7, 10:35AM EDT0

Have you placed ads on Facebook and are they expensive?

Sep 7, 4:04PM EDT0

Can you give me 5 reasons as to why you choose crowdfunding to launch your product?

Sep 6, 4:19PM EDT0

The one biggest reason in my opinion is that it's a fairly risk free way to test the market. 

Risk free for the backers because they only pay (on kickstarter) if the funding goal is met. They only pay when the company gets the funds they requested to do the thing they promised. 

Risk free for the business because they can raise the funds needed to do their thing knowing that there is demand for what they are doing.

It used to be that if you wanted to start a business you spent thousands to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars building a business, getting production done, and if nobody wants what you offer well you've just ruined yourself. With crowdfunding you can show off a minimum viable product for a modest start-up sum and if people want it you move onto the next step and make it a reality with qualified market demand. 

It's win-win for everyone, in my opinion.

That being said, there is still some trust required that the business will do what they say they can do but IMHO it's a pretty shitty move to raise funds and not know for CERTAIN you can deliver. There have been some spectacular failures in the this regard but I would think they are very, very largely the exception. 

Sep 7, 10:32AM EDT0

How long have you had your Crowdfunding going on?

Sep 7, 5:44PM EDT0

Do you have facebook or twitter that I can follow?

Sep 6, 2:33PM EDT0
Sep 7, 10:25AM EDT0

Which one has given you the best marketing?

Sep 7, 9:53PM EDT0

Does it cost me anything to start a crowdfunding campaign?

Sep 6, 1:56PM EDT0

Not directly, no. The platform is "free". 

Realistically however there are things that cost money that you may or may not decide to engage in, like :

- Paying a graphic designer for various visual assets

- Video production if you aren't doing it yourself

- Getting samples / prototypes made 

- Running paid advertising

- Paying for press release distribution

- Paying for crowdfunding assistance sites (most of them are garbage though I don't recommend them in general)

- Website development and hosting fees

- Email list subscription with something like mailchimp

There's also the platform's fee - usually some percentage of the total. I think between the processor and the platform Kickstarter takes something like 7%, which is hefty but it is what it is. 

Basically you can pay as much or as little as you need to for a campaign but if you are taking it seriously and starting a real business you'll have at least some form of start-up costs and need to pick and choose what you spend your money on to make your campaign a success. 

Sep 7, 10:24AM EDT0

Did they offer you a quote for the features you mentioned and how expensive was it?

Sep 7, 9:02PM EDT0

How much research did you do in regard to crowdfunding before you settled on this particular site?

Sep 6, 1:08PM EDT0

I'm going to be honest - very little. 

I've used Kickstarter in the past and really like their site in general. We DID look at a few others like Indiegogo but I felt better about using Kickstarter so that's what we went with.

We did however do a ton of research regarding the finer details of the kickstarter platform before launching. 

Sep 7, 10:08AM EDT0

How do the funds reach you? To a personal account or does Crowdfunding recieve them and then get them to you? Are there any fees involved?

Sep 7, 9:17PM EDT0

What advice would you give to anyone else looking to create their first crowdfunding project?

Sep 6, 12:48PM EDT0

Know your audience and reach out to them well in advance. 

It's 100% (98%?) on you to bring visitors to your crowdfunding campaign.

The news media also won't be rushing to you - you need to go to them and pitch the stories. Do the press releases. Tell your followers to come back you. 

Everything is very hands on - if you expect to just launch and watch the backers roll in you will be setting yourself up for tears. 

Sep 7, 10:06AM EDT0

What country is your targeted audience for the crowdfunding and sales right now?

Sep 7, 9:20PM EDT0

Can you share a link to your facebook, twitter, website please?

Sep 6, 7:15AM EDT0
Last edited @ Sep 6, 10:59AM EDT.
Sep 6, 10:55AM EDT0

Thanks man!! Best of luck with your idea!

Sep 7, 6:49PM EDT0

Are jigsaws still in demand?

Sep 6, 6:56AM EDT0


Actually, they are on the rise in a big way right now around the world. I know our factory is busier than it has been in years and all the industry stats point to a serious revival. 

Personally I think as we see technology embed itself further into our lives we'll start to see a lot of "old" and "low tech" forms of enteretainment coming back as a sort of counter balance. 

Don't get me wrong, I love video games and technology as much as anyone but there's really something to be said about putting the phone away, turning off the tv, and spending a few hours with friends and family working on a relaxing project like a puzzle together. 

I know in our own friend group we've seen puzzles come back in a huge way - we're having regular monthly puzzle nights with craft beer and wine and it's a ton of laughs and really feels like a more intimate, special experience than playing a video game together or watching tv. 

Probably why board games have never been more popular as well. 

Sep 6, 11:04AM EDT0

Do you do puzzles for children as well?

Sep 7, 8:18PM EDT0

Is the population you are targeting to donate the same as the target group you want to buy your line?

Sep 6, 3:30AM EDT0

I mean, hopefully!? Haha. 

The biggest hurdle we've faced in trying to promote the brand is that jigsaw puzzles don't have much of a huge, centralized following online like many other activities. There are of course some facebook groups, reddit groups, etc... but they are typically rather small, comparitively. We've also tried focusing on art groups/lovers as well as the followers of our artists. 

Basically we're doing out best to put this on the radar of people we think will find it exciting and we're getting awesome feedback from those we do reach but like everything there's always room for improvement :)

Sep 6, 8:48AM EDT0

The idea seems to be targeted for a younger, hipster generation, how will you keep them interested?

Sep 7, 7:38PM EDT0

Where will you manufacture your products?

Sep 6, 3:11AM EDT0

Everything will be made in the USA at one of the world's top jigsaw puzzle factories.

Sep 6, 8:58AM EDT0

Are the puzzles toxic free, safe around childrena and pets?

Sep 7, 8:27PM EDT0

How long do you think it would take for this crowdfunding campaign to attain the goals you have?

Sep 6, 1:30AM EDT0

Right now we're sitting at 96% funded so we should hit our goal in the next day or so :)

Sep 6, 8:59AM EDT0

That is great!!! Where do you see yourself going to next, once you have fully funded this project?

Sep 7, 5:56PM EDT0

What important lesson have you learnt from using crowdfunding so far?

Sep 6, 12:44AM EDT0

The #1 biggest take-away for us is that you can't rely on kickstarter to bring any significant amount of traffic to your campaign organically. You get some but it's not enough to support most campaigns.

You really live and die on Kickstarter by the amount of traffic you can generate through your own efforts. Getting picked up in blogs, news stories, etc... is absolutely huge (and something we've admittedly struggled with). Having an existing following (newsletter, facebook, twitter, etc...) is similarly important. 

The old phrase may be "if you build it, they will come" but that's not the case with crowdfunding projects at all.

Last edited @ Sep 6, 2:08PM EDT.
Sep 6, 9:26AM EDT0

Can the same puzzle be ordered more than once and or do you offer unique puzzles to clients who request them, like an art collector?

Sep 7, 6:25PM EDT0

What are the drawbacks, if any, on using crowdfunding platforms?

Sep 5, 11:51PM EDT0

It takes a LOT of time and effort to setup in advance and a LOT of time and energy to run during the campaign.

Some of the best projects you see on kickstarter were 6-9-12 months in the making (or more!) before they went live. And most of them admit they could have realistically used twice that amount of time. 

Building a business from the ground up is hard enough. But with crowdfunding you are almost building a separate "mini business" to launch the main business with. 

Sep 6, 9:38AM EDT0

Do you have a limit to the size of your puzzles?

Sep 7, 6:44PM EDT0

Is crowdfunding just about money or are there other benefits?

Sep 5, 11:32PM EDT0

Obviously the financial support helps make certain things possible that might not be possible otherwise (like funding a production run, for example) but it also forces you to do a lot of things that are easy to 'put off' in a normal startup.

With crowdfunding, you need to look relatively polished out of the gate. This means very nice looking photos, good video, figuring out your copy, building up an audience, media reach-out, doing a proper "launch event", figuring out shipping logistics ahead of time, understanding your costs very well, interacting with potential customers all the time, anticipating questions and having the answers ahead of time, and being very public about everything. There's a lot of value in "putting yourself out there" in a very public way that most people aren't used to. 

I'd argue it's far easier to launch a company in the shadows and "play around" with a lot of things slowly over time, figuring things out as you go and any mistakes go largely unnoticed. With crowdfunding you jump up on the table and shout "here we are check us out!" and everything needs to be as perfect as you can make it immediately and you are immediately accountable for everything. 

I've launched a few companies in the past and I'd say I learned a ton of new things by going through the process of doing a crowdfunding campaign. It's a unique beast and a really fun challenge.

Sep 6, 9:51AM EDT0

Do you ship worldwide?

Sep 7, 6:03PM EDT0

Are the artists that draw the designs friends of yours or do you source them worldwide? 

Sep 5, 8:21PM EDT0

All the artists we reached out to were strangers to us before this project.

Some of them we "knew of" before we started but we had never formally communicated with them before. 

Reaching out and working with all these awesome artists for the first time has easily been the most rewarding and fun experience of this project :) 

Our current round of artists are from the USA, Canada and France. 

Last edited @ Sep 6, 2:09PM EDT.
Sep 6, 9:56AM EDT0

How do you find them?

Sep 7, 4:52PM EDT0

What do you feel the biggest benefits of Crowdfunding are?

Sep 5, 8:13PM EDT0

- The funding (of course)

- Formalizing and heavily investing time and effort into all aspects of your business processes. I feel this is a huge benefit, personally. 

- Putting yourself "out there" in a very public way. Most people aren't used to this and it's a very unique challenge to step up to the plate to meet. 

- Getting on the radar of new potential customers who get excited about what you are trying to deliver. 

Last edited @ Sep 6, 10:03AM EDT.
Sep 6, 10:03AM EDT0

Have you tried to offer your product to mental health facilities, nursing homes and hospitals? I am a nurse and know that we use puzzles alot to help patients deal with pain, emotions and grief.

Sep 7, 3:21PM EDT0

What would be your back-up plans if your crowdfunding campaign would have failed?

Sep 5, 8:08PM EDT0

This is a hard one to answers because there are just so many variables. I could likely write an essay on the possibilities, haha. We didn't have much of a back-up plan because the back-up plan would be based on the results of the first plan. No use wasting energy fixing a problem we don't yet have.

However, some options that other project creators have taken and we may have considered include things like:

- Relaunch the kickstarter again in a few months or try a different platform or try to build up more of a pre-launch audience,

- Reach out to wholesalers and ask if the product created is something they'd consider picking up, which would build a solid case (or not) for debt financing.

- Bring in an investor

- Find another supplier, possibly overseas, with smaller MOQs, risk a quality hit, build up slowly over time

- Abandon the project entirely if the feedback wasn't good 

There's a million ways to handle failure. The biggest factor is simply figuring out why it failed and how badly and what options make sense given the data you have. Sometimes it means pivoting, sometimes it means a strategy change, sometimes it means walking away and sometimes it just means trying again later. 

Last edited @ Sep 6, 10:16AM EDT.
Sep 6, 10:16AM EDT0

Those are great back-up plans, but I don't think you will need them, you seem to be on to something really cool. How could you better reach a younger generations, that for the most part, do very little away from their computers?

Sep 7, 2:38PM EDT0
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