Growing up, Nalin’s dad had always been an entrepreneur, someone who took every failure or stumbling block as an opportunity to try something new and see what worked.
Nalin grew up in Thailand during a time of great economic instability. During the 1997 Asian financial crisis, her dad’s business went bankrupt, putting him millions in debt. “And instead of just giving up, he just kind of looked at the world and was like, what else can I do?”
Nalin was seven at the time. “That was kind of my first insight into the idea that, ‘Hey, the world doesn’t end; things happen. You just keep doing it.’”
So after being let go from her job, she jumped in with both feet trying to find a business model that resonated.
“I tried all the things. I tried to do drop shipping, print on demand, building a Shopify store.”
She even tried to turn her dog, Rory, into an Instagram influencer, with some success. “I did sell some things through that, though. People did contact me. So that was kinda cool.”
But it wasn’t the kinda cool that would lead to a lasting business. In all, Nalin “probably failed four or five times within those few months after leaving the job.”
Trying a bunch of different businesses had helped Nalin understand what she wasn’t best suited—or most excited—to do. “I didn’t want to be the person who’s just posting something on Instagram and drafting a really cool little post. It didn’t feel like me because I don’t use social media that way.”
In the same way, “it just was not a natural extension of myself when I was doing print on demand. There’s not a lot of innovation. There’s not a lot of bringing cool new ideas to the market.”
With every business she’d tried to that point, “I didn’t go to bed wanting to figure out those problems. I didn’t wake up wanting to solve those problems.”
Nalin had a degree in marketing and some experience with crowdfunding at a previous job.
“Crowdfunding is pretty much just marketing, figuring out where a cool product that someone wants to launch meets with an audience, and how do you marry that together to release this cool new idea to the market?”
One day she got a note on LinkedIn from someone asking to chat for a half hour about a crowdfunding project.
They ended up talking for two hours. “I was pacing around my living room, just super excited talking about crowdfunding.”
In that moment, it all clicked for her. When she hung up, she said to herself, “Okay, well, that’s where it is. That’s where the passion lies.”
She quickly realized that crowdfunding was something she did go to bed thinking about.
“And so that’s kind of the route it took for me, where I was constantly thinking about something and happy thinking about it.”
So she got to work. She spun up a blog, “and it just kind of snowballed from there.”
Getting the Business Model Right
Before her entrepreneurial journey started, Nalin had also worked at a crowdfunding agency, which got her even closer to knowing what she didn’t want to do with her own business.
At first she tried an agency-style model, “where I tried to onboard lots of people to kind of deliver a full project. But then it seemed like people didn’t want that.”
Why? Cost. “For example, when you’re working with a crowdfunding agency, it’s $25K upfront costs. And before you actually even launch the product, which is kind of scary for an entrepreneur with a new idea that’s not tested to just cough up that much money.”
“And I was like, well, it doesn’t seem like it’s a model that’s working.”
Finding a model that would work would require a little more listening. And to listen to what your audience wants, you need to know where to find them. Thankfully, all of the trial-and-error in the run-up to starting her business helped lay the groundwork for a great network that could help guide the business’s direction.
“I tried different things because I think it just kind of led me to connect with people on LinkedIn, connect with people on Facebook, on Instagram, and just expand my network so that I did find what I was looking for just by, purely by coincidences, people reaching out.”
“Once I started getting a following, it was just asking people what they wanted and just having these conversations—What do you need?—and going from there,” she says.
By putting her ear to the ground, Nalin got a better idea of the nuances of how people needed help navigating their options for using crowdfunding most effectively.
Learning those nuances helped her pivot Crush Crowdfunding to more of an individual consulting model, which she would eventually supplement with two online courses—one for people just getting started and one that’s more advanced.
“It pretty much has evolved from listening to what people wanted and just kind of delivering that.”
Own That Traffic
In SPI land, we love talking about the importance of email marketing. Why? Because the benefits of starting an email list early on and cultivating engaged email subscribers are so huge.
Thankfully, starting her email list “was definitely the first thing” Nalin did. “I was like, Hey, I gotta put something together to start owning that traffic.”
Now that Nalin is on a track she loves, she relies on her email list as a key source of audience feedback and engagement. She says she learned a lot about effective email marketing by reading other newsletters, like Pat’s Smart Digest and a daily financial newsletter called Robinhood Snacks.
People sign up to get her lead magnet, a free “Crowdfunding Handbook,” and she emails them every week. Every so often those emails will include a question or survey. She also hosts a Facebook group for people interested in launching their own crowdfunding campaigns, where she’ll share occasional questions or polls.
And, sometimes people contact her directly on LinkedIn asking for help—leading to conversations like that magical two-hour phone call that clicked everything into place.
You’ll Never Be “Board” Doing Something You Love
Nalin’s business has been humming for nearly three years, and she recently started to expand her team.
“It’s so fun, because you meet people from all around the world. She found her first virtual assistant (VA), who’s based in Austria but originally from Nicaragua, through a Facebook group. “She’s in Austria now doing her second bachelor’s degree in music theory. And then I have another person who works with me from Oregon, who manages my content, and there’s a podcast editor.
“So there’s a lot of different people that I was able to meet and kinda get together, which has been really fun.”
With a team in place, she’s also been freed up to pursue another opportunity that’s taking her even deeper into the crowdfunding space.
“Typically I work with hardware entrepreneurs or apparel entrepreneurs. But I found that I really like board games.” As an avid board gamer in her free time, Nalin saw an opportunity to work with people who want to use crowdfunding to launch their own games.
“So now there’s kind of two sides to what I do, which is making it even more exciting every day.”
Her initial plan was to make $500 on the board game project within thirty days, and if she met that objective, then she’d keep going.
“Within two weeks I made that and I was like, okay, well, there’s a market.”
Personal Brand, No Quicksand
Right now, the board game side venture only involves Nalin and a VA. Meanwhile, the original business continues to evolve in a way that’s putting Nalin even more in the middle of things.
Crush Crowdfunding began as Nalin’s pet project: ”Just me and my idea.” In terms of branding, though, she originally chose to leave herself out of it.
But she recently found herself rethinking this decision. “I do want to be the face of something. I do want to really talk directly to people and want people to just talk directly to me when I’m doing this. Because that’s one of the things I enjoy the most.”
And so Crush Crowdfunding is in the process of becoming a more personal brand, with a new website that will put Nalin front and center.
At the same time, Nalin is still learning how to share the load. Although she credits her dad for her entrepreneurial spirit, she acknowledges that she also grew up in a family of “workaholics.” Her grandfather is 93 and still works three days a week. Her mom travels almost half the year for work.
“I grew up with that type of mentality where you just kind of don’t stop. You just keep going. And so as an entrepreneur, it’s hard to find a stopping point.”
Having a team has been helpful, but Nalin finds that the old impetus to do it all herself still kicks in from time to time.
When she hired her first VA right before Christmas 2019, she asked the new hire to do her a special favor when she was handing over some of her responsibilities.
She told the new hire, “I’ve been holding onto this for two years now, and it’s going to be hard for you because I’m going to want to hold on, but just tell me to let go. So keep me accountable. I’m coming to you for a reason.”
Nalin still has to remind herself when she’s inclined to put a task on her own to-do list that she should write it on the Trello board for her VA instead. “And so it’s a constant struggle, which, you know, I’m not perfect at. I still struggle with it.”
What Success Looks Like
Nalin recently read a book called Company of One by Paul Jarvis, which encourages entrepreneurs to consider whether growth is the best—or the only way—to succeed.
“[The book] really resonated with me because he really redefines what success is and what it means, and kind of introduces the concept of ‘enough’ as an entrepreneur. A lot of people think, okay, well, if I spend more time, I’ll make more money, you know, and I’ll build this, and I’ll do this, and I’ll have an eight-figure business.”
Reading Company of One helped Nalin come to a simple conclusion: “That’s not me. That’s not what I would want. And what I want in life is success, but in a very different way that culture doesn’t really talk about—US culture, entrepreneurship culture doesn’t really talk about.”
The book “really opened my eyes to a different world of what entrepreneurship can be.”
This realization has dovetailed with an understanding that building a successful business doesn’t have to mean outdoing the competition.
Nalin played competitive sports throughout high school, as well as rugby in college. “I’ve been out there trying to ‘get’ people all through my life. I was a competitive person. And then when it comes to business, I was like, I have to be competitive too. I have to win.”
Crowdfunding is a huge, multibillion-dollar industry, and Nalin didn’t have to look far to find others making their mark and getting a piece of the action.
“There’s a lot of competition. There’s tons of agencies. There’s tons of consultants.”
And so initially, she operated with an “Oh no, everyone’s a competitor” mindset. But gradually she started to question that wariness.
“After a while, I started getting a feeling like, Why? Because I see that you guys are doing something, but it’s not like what I’m doing.” So in early 2019 she decided to start connecting with the competition instead of fearing them.
And since then, it’s become “so fun. I’m reaching out to everyone because everyone has a different system. They have a little different niche,” whether it’s hardware products, or comic books, or social nonprofits.
“That actually just opened a whole new door.” Many of her one-time competitors are “kind of like friends now,” and some of them even share regular guest posts on her blog.
“So the plan isn’t to take over the world. The plan is to just help people who resonate with me. And wake up enjoying doing that.”
What It’s All About
Nalin loves the time and freedom that entrepreneurship—and especially working with a team that can take things off her plate—has given back to her. She and her partner are thinking about starting a family of their own soon, and she knows time will become even more valuable when that happens.
“So, to me, success? I don’t think it’s IPOs. I don’t think it’s more money, more success. I think it’s for myself, finding that sweet spot where I can wake up and work on products I love. I’m able to have a team and have my team be happy doing what they’re doing and they can support themselves, support their family.”
“And also just be able to have time for myself and my family, because ultimately, why are we here?”
In December 2004, Nalin and her nuclear family were on a boat in the waters off the coast of Thailand, hanging out and snorkeling. They also happened to be in the path of the deadliest tsunami in recorded history.
Thankfully, they all survived, but they weren’t unscathed. Nalin’s mother severely injured her right arm, and Nalin had to undergo several surgeries. After the ordeal, they all spent a few weeks “literally in a room together as a family, healing from our scars pretty much, and just … talking.”
“It got me to really think about what’s important. It made us stronger as a family and just kind of solidified the idea of, family is what it’s all about.”
Nalin Chuapetcharasopon helps people bring products to market using Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Since 2015, she’s worked with entrepreneurs and businesses to raise millions of dollars. As founder of Crush Crowdfunding, she offers no-BS strategies, marketing resources, and campaign tactics to get products launched and funded. With a double master’s from Stanford University and University of Virginia, Nalin applies her interdisciplinary skills to help craft the best products and market them to the right people. She is deeply passionate about empowering entrepreneurs to launch their dreams. In her free time, you can find her on the soccer field, sampling beer, or playing board games.
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