Crowdfunding Down Under - magazines & grants

Kerryann Hayes and Amy Heague co-founded Australian women's adventure magazine Travel Play Live in 2014. Amy was the editor for a local regional magazine. She organised a cycle trip around Cambodia to create awareness of human trafficking and Kerryann was one of 20 Australian women who joined in.  

They turned to crowdfunding to the fund the first issue of their print magazine. Now (Oct 2017) they have just launched their second crowdfunder, this time to fund four Adventure Grants for Australian Women (applications open Jan 2018).

You can support their crowdfunder at this link, open until 7 December 2017. 

Kerryann spoke to me about how they plan their crowdfunders and what they hope to achieve with the adventure grants.

The interview answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Kerryann Hayes, co-founder of Travel Play Live

Kerryann Hayes, co-founder of Travel Play Live

We realised that adventure offered so much to what we call, 'everyday women,' not just the adventure types. We wanted to become the voice of women's adventure in Australia because there was nothing like that at the time. Every magazine was more about fitness, wellness, green-smoothie things. They weren’t telling stories of real women doing amazing things. We also wanted to represent normal women doing amazing things with their bodies, rather than women as bodies. 

We're passionate about a couple of things: women's adventure in Australia, representing women the right way and telling amazing stories of what's actually happening out there. 

So you started this idea with a website back in 2014.

Yep. We started an online magazine but it felt like a lot of work for something that you can't feel and touch. We were trying to get offline and get outside, it just didn't make sense not to be a print magazine.

You decided to run a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money for your first print issue. Why did you decide to do it that way?

We actually did it in a couple of ways. 

We put together our mission statement. That was really important - to be really clear on who we are and what we are doing. We had five pillars behind the magazine - adventure, empower, inspire, dream and change. We then presented that to local people in our area, who we thought might make investors.

We did get investors, they weren't people with lots of money, though. Just people who believed in the idea.  We needed probably A$50,000 to get it off the ground, so we decided to do a crowdfunding campaign.

How did you go about building your audience in that first year before the crowdfunder?

We had created a Facebook page and Instagram page @travelplaylivemagazine and newsletter database. We started locally with the people that we knew. Pretty much within the first day, I think we had 500 to 1000 people. We told everybody about our idea.

Now looking back, four years down the track, it was such a baby of an idea but it had passion behind it. There wasn't anyone who said, "I don't think that's a good idea." Although there were people who said, "I wouldn't go into publishing right now." That was one thing that we got a lot of. 

We did a 30-day giveaway campaign. I just got on the phone and rang all sorts of women's groups around the country - running, trail-running, adventure racing groups, Coastrek. They all got onboard behind the idea as well, so that created small local followings. That was probably the thing that created the bulk of our followers.

We did the Oxfam Trailwalker and we were lucky enough to be interviewed at the finish line. We were just there at the right time. We had the Travel Play Live t-shirts on, we always branded ourselves really well. That day, we got another jump in followers. Some are still with us now and they say, "Oh, I remember seeing you then on TV."

Then we kept people up to date with our real story. Our Facebook page is still quite personal to Amy and myself, and the people we're connected to. We always told the story behind our business. I wouldn't have a clue who are the people behind various popular magazines that we get partnered with, but I think a lot of people know us as Travel Play Live Magazine.

We sponsored grassroots women's events, like the local bodyboarding event where I live in Foster. We sponsored a very small number of women but some of them are Australian champions, because the community is so small. We paid minimal sponsorship but got great photos and stories.

We also sponsored one of the first women's mountain biking events in the country. Again, that one wasn't a financial sponsorship, more a collaboration. We got to tell their story and gave the participants magazines. We didn't really have any money so we had to find ways to be valuable to other people, to actually be a partner with them. 

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Why did you choose the Australian crowdfunding platform Pozible?

We knew nothing about crowdfunding, it was really an experiment for us. It worked really well. We got showcased on the front page of Pozible and we gained supporters who liked the way we represented the idea. Then, because we managed to raise our money, we got invited to a part of a mentorship program.

How did you come up with a figure of A$7,500?

That was really, really hard because we had no clue. We just didn't know what people would do, if they knew us well enough, if they would like the idea. But I think we raised nearly that much in two days! 

Then we went, "Let's keep pushing." We probably should have done it over a shorter period of time. We did it over 60 days because we thought of the longer, the better but that's not the case.

Pozible is an all-or-nothing crowdfunder. Did you have a plan in case you didn’t quite make your number?

We had a little bit of investment money. We did say that if we got close to our figure, we'd always put the last bit of money in ourselves because it didn't make sense not to. But we actually got A$5,000 more than we'd hoped for.

You didn’t do the normal campaign video, instead you created an online mini-mag, using ISSUU (a platform for digital magazines). 

We didn't have any video. We settled for just being as authentic as possible.  

In Australia adventure was very much a male domain. If there were women in it, then it was men telling the stories, usually a women doing amazing things but not something that an everyday person could relate to. We didn't define adventure in any way that alienated people.

We told stories of moms who had breast cancer and three kids and decided to run an ultra-marathon. We told stories that actually got to the heart of adventure and how powerful it was for change.

Rewards were kept simple, the magazine - either a single issue or a year’s subscription - with the add-ons being a thank-you in the launch issue and a special edition T-shirt. The most popular levels were a year’s subscription plus thank-you for A$67, or the subscription plus thank-you and T-shirt for A$100. 

They raised A$12,479 from 101 backers

THANKYOU for seeing that there is a real need and desire among women to expand their horizons and push their boundaries. - Supporter Jen Saunders
Love the mini Mag! Excited to see a Mag dedicated to women who wish to explore this amazing world and engage their adventurous spirit! - Supporter Marika Edstein
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There’s just two of us, we work full time and get paid very minimal wage.

Now you are about to do it again, to raise the money for four adventure grants. What is the story behind that? 

The crowdfunder will launch on 29 October 2017. (Now open, until 7 December 2017. At this link.) We wanted to be the voice of women's adventure in Australia. When we started, there was no other businesses like ours in the country. I followed what was going on overseas - REI, Sea to Summit, all the women's groups.

I also followed Dave Cornthwaite and his 'Say Yes' campaign. We had the idea of not only being a magazine but doing community events and so on.

Then within a year of launching the magazine, we were contacted by Emma Walker, who runs She Went Wild. They did the first Women's Adventure Expo in Australia. We partnered with them, we bought all the speakers and our contributors. We went on from there, becoming the voice of women's adventure, we were driving the industry in Australia.

We're still pretty much a very small independent magazine. There's just two of us, we work full time and get paid very minimal wage. We're lucky we got great husbands, and a fantastic team of contributors and supporters.

her adventure wasn’t deemed epic enough

The adventure grant come about after Samantha Gash, one of our ambassadors for our Women's Adventure Summit, was telling us how she was refused funding [from the Australian Geographic Nancy-Bird Walton Sponsorship] because her adventure wasn't deemed epic enough. I also spoken to Alyssa Azar, who was our youngest Australian woman to climb Everest. She'd also got refused the same year.

It was a A$5000 grant. It wasn’t given out that year. The money was held for the next year, and the next woman who actually received it was Lisa Blair, who set out to be the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica, solo, non-stop and unassisted.

I understand where Australian Geographic pitch themselves but it's difficult for a woman to break new ground in some of this stuff. There are some amazing women doing incredible things, just trying to get out there. So we went, "Well, that's who we are." We want to have a foundation behind Travel Play Live but we're not there yet. So what we can do is help women create change via their adventures.

I was lucky enough to have an events company that I work with give A$5000 just get the adventure off the grant. We also partnered with the first women's film festival that went around Australia. Her company donated another A$5000.

Then we teased the idea in the community and got such a great response that we've decided to crowdfund. We spoke about it to our community and at the film festivals and at the adventure summit.

We want to support doing all sorts of things so we've created four grants for Australian women:

  • Expeditions for Change - around science, conservation, social or environmental causes

  •  Adventure Film & Photography - for female photographers, documentary makers or filmmakers

  • Young Adventurers - young women under 18, funding may also be used to participate in skills training or to compete at a national or international level in outdoor pursuits.

  • Women Adventurers over 50 pushing the boundaries of expectations

We want to do adventure the way girls do it

We try to be different compared to other grants. It's not just about the adventure. It's about the way a lot of women tend to do adventure and about the social and cultural reasons behind their adventures.  

We decided to offer a day of workshops for everyone who applies for the grants, so they can learn how to use social media properly, how to create video on their iPhones, how to write a sponsorship proposal. We’ve had girls say "I'd love to mentor those groups." And then we’ll have an awards ceremony.

We want to do adventure the way girls do it. We want a social occasion, educating ourselves and each other. The idea is gaining more and more momentum. We haven't launched yet and we've sort of raised half of the money so we're pretty stoked so far.

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Are you hoping that this round of crowdfunding will raise the money for future years as well?

To be honest, we haven't gone that far. With what we’ve created, we believe that we'll be able to do something more. Maybe not at the same level again but I do believe we'll be able to offer one grant, if not the four.

The way we've structured this crowdfunding campaign is not only a community. We've created a lot of interest from brands in the women's adventure space as well. I'm hoping there are brands who will look at partnering with us. 

We not just a women's adventure magazine. We've got an online community, we work with expos, we ran the first women's adventure summit, we've done these grant, we've got a mentorship program. We are hoping that brands will want to be part of that.

You are using Pozible again?

For us, being a small team, it's just easier because we know the platform. We don't really have time to investigate other ideas. 

We have thought how can we make it better. We'll add video, we have a plan to create hype through the month. We've tried to get as many people endorsing the program as we can. I’ve reach out to all the women that we know in the adventure space in Australia who are doing something different.

I've got an app developer, I've got an events team, women in TV, social media influencers, women in film, key speakers, previous adventurers and athletes. There's about 20 girls on our list, we're creating what we call 'The Australian Women's Adventure Coalition.' We're trying to be the body that helps drive this forward so it doesn't become a sell-out.

If I have to, I will contact every connection that I’ve got in Australia

How much are you going to try and raise with this crowdfunder?

We've got A$10k already but we're not counting that in because we know there are expenses in these campaigns. We have to offer rewards, some of those will have a cost to us. We also have to create the event behind the grant and do the publicity - those sort of things all cost. We want to use our two key sponsors for that stuff. Plus a percentage of our magazine subscriptions will go to the grant as well.

We're going to go for A$20,000. We've already spoken to individual women who love what we do, but we've also spoken to small businesses who want their name out there, and to bigger business and brands. We've created rewards specifically for those people. For example, small women's groups can get social media posts and blog posts about them shared through our network to help them build their following.

Then we offer a package where they can get their name and logo on our t-shirt that we're creating, plus stuff in the magazine and social media. And there's an advertising package that they can get that's purely about how we support women's adventure in Australia. 

Then we've have a partnership proposal that says, "If you want a little bit more than this, we're happy to talk." We haven't got anybody yet to provide gear for the grants, but we know there'll be somebody out there. It has to be a cash plus gear because we have to value what we do and can't give it all the way. 

Australia mist.jpg

If I understand this correctly, you've kind of pre-sold some of your rewards. So you know that you've got a group of people who will jump in at your different levels. 

Yeah. And then from our previous crowdfunding experience, I believe we've got a lot of women who will put in A$20 or A$50. 

It's still possible it may not work but we'll see. Everything we've done might not have worked, but we just keep going.

What have you done differently with this crowdfunder compared to the last one?

We're going to do a shorter campaign, just 30 days. We will create a lot more hype and access the community that we've already got. Even if we don't know people very well, I'll still get on the phone, remind them who we are. If I have to, I will contact every connection that I've got in Australia to say, "This is what we're doing. We really need your help.” I've built some really good connections in this business.

If people don't know who we are, I always send them out a copy of the magazine so they can see who we are, what we do and who we're involved with. It's really about reaching out to the community, not just on social media but personally. 

You can support their crowdfunder at this link, open until 7 December 2017.