In July 2016, Tropicfeel founders Lucas de Gispert and Alberto Espinos went on a 25-day trip through Thailand. After 100 hours of hiking, they realized their shoes couldn’t keep up with their wanderlust.
That trip and those worn-out shoes fuelled a desire to create a shoe that matched their lifestyle. And so, Tropicfeel was born. The two friends spent a year and a half designing a versatile shoe that combined the functionality of a hiking shoe, the comfort of a sneaker, the water-resistance of a water shoe, and the easy-to-wear practicality of a flip-flop.
To turn their great-on-paper design into reality, they enlisted the help of operations guru (and now Chief Operating Officer) Javier Turull. Together, the three created a savvy crowdfunding campaign to manufacture their products.
We spoke to Tropicfeel’s COO about building a brand, creating a successful crowdfunding campaign (and the lessons they learned along the way), and where he sees Tropicfeel in five years.
Easyship: Hi Javier! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about Tropicfeel. To kick things off, why don’t you tell us about the purpose behind the brand?
Javier: Our idea was to make travelers' lives easier. Normally, when you’re packing for a one-month trip, you will carry three or four pairs of shoes in a 70-liter backpack. As travelers, we need to work with a limited amount of space and have to be efficient. That’s why we needed to have a 4-in-1 solution to footwear.
We wanted to create a shoe that combined the functionality of a water and hiking shoe, with the comfort of a sneaker. That’s how we launched our first shoe. We also wanted to help people understand that when we travel, we leave a footprint behind us; we need to decrease this or find another way to give back to the world.
Giving back is really important to us as a brand. We give 1% of our revenues to national park conservation. Once a year we also do a crowdfunding campaign that will give us the financial resources to create a documentary that gives voice to a real problem in the world. This year, we have chosen the avocado crises - the deforestation of forests with avocado trees in Haiti and the Dominican Republic - and we will launch the documentary very soon, stay tuned!
Easyship: Wow, thats's amazing, why are you guys so focused on changing the way people travel?
Javier: Well, Tropicfeel is a brand built by travelers, so you can say it's in our DNA. Travel allows you to learn about new cultures and open your mind, but travelers also leave a footprint; so we want to change the way people travel by offering products that will both facilitate their journey and that will inspire them to be more socially responsible.
Easyship: So, tell us about your first crowdfunding campaign in 2018.
Javier: The idea of this campaign was to launch a new product to the market and see if customers were ready to buy it. The expectation of the first campaign was to sell between 7,000 and 10,000 pairs of shoes, but in the end, we reached 25,000 backers and sold more than 32,000 pairs of shoes.
It was a huge success for us and we were very, very happy with the result. It was a huge milestone for the team as we worked for over a year and a half to develop prototypes and our MVP prior to launch. It was satisfying to see the results of all this work.
Easyship: What went through your minds after the success of the first campaign?
Javier: After the success of our first campaign, we knew it was the beginning of a new adventure. We realized that our product offered a lot of opportunities for travelers. We also saw an opportunity to expand our product offering to backpacks as well. We realized that we could build a community of travelers willing to purchase products that facilitate a traveler’s life.
Easyship: What did you learn from the first campaign that you then applied to the second?
Javier: One of the main learnings we took from the first campaign was that 80% of the success comes from the pre-campaign period. This means not only having leads from a marketing perspective but also developing a good logistics and purchasing strategy in order to position your business to get your deliveries to your backers as fast as possible.
Also, the importance of your first day. We learned that a majority of our first sales are in the first day, even the first hour. On average, 25-40% of funds raised during the 60 day campaign is in your first 4 days!
Easyship: What was the most challenging part of the pre-campaign period?
Javier: It depends on the stage you’re at. In the beginning, it would be designing the prototype. You’ve already set the deadline for your campaign so you have to manage your manufacturing to meet these deadlines. Then, your next challenge comes two weeks before the launch of your campaign, when you ramp up your marketing. You need to figure out how to gain leads with all of your digital ads.
Easyship: Of all your products, what’s your favorite?
Javier: Of the products right now, I would have to say my favorite would be the Canyon all-terrain sneaker. I like it, as it was based on our original product from our first campaign. In 2020, we are planning to launch another 20 products so I hope that when you ask me this question in another year, I don’t have the same answer because we’ve developed so many cool products!
Easyship: What was your experience with fulfilling your campaign?
Javier: During the first campaign, we were not expecting to sell to 25,000 backers in 138 different countries. Thanks to crowdfunding, we were able to be global from the begining, today only 3% of our sales are in Spain and 97% are worldwide.
The first campaign was with a logistics partner in Hong Kong who had helped us a lot, but we realized that the overhead could’ve been a lot less, which is why we chose Easyship for our second campaign. In the second campaign, we have been able to ship to 142 countries, including remote countries such as Papua New Guinea.
Easyship: You guys are one of the few entrepreneurs who have successfully grown a crowdfunding brand into a eCommerce business. What advice do you have for makers transitioning to eCommerce?
Javier: The advice I have to give is to spend the time thinking about your operations strategy first. When a product is backed in crowdfunding, supporters are willing to wait to receive their goods, while in eCommerce, the expectations shift from months to 3-7 days.
With Easyship, the transition between crowdfunding and eCommerce was seamless, due to their direct integration with Shopify. Plus, they even provided global warehouse partners to allow us to offer both affordable and fast delivery solutions. Now they're evolving their data, which allows us to make quick and fast decisions to increase the customer experience.
"With Easyship, we were able to expand quickly without decreasing the quality of our service."
To learn more about how Easyship helped Tropicfeel fulfill their orders to backers worldwide and grow their eCommerce business, check out our case study here.
Easyship: Finally, where do you see Tropicfeel in the next 5 years?
I see Tropicfeel, in five years, as the reference brand for travelers, giving them the option to buy different products in different ways - online and in our own retail stores. But, in the end, what we’re looking for is to inspire travelers and change the way they travel.
We want to change the way people travel because the industry is growing so fast and while we believe it’s great for people to learn new cultures, we also realize that there can be a negative environmental impact. We wish to let customers know that when we travel, we need to be mindful of our environmental footprint and work towards decreasing it. We do this by giving 1% of our revenue to protect national parks.