Interview With CrowdCases: How Designers Can Change the World

crowdcases logoEarlier this month I wrote a blog post about non-profit branding, focusing on charity: water specifically. The post happened to catch the eye of social entrepreneur Dwight Peters. Dwight is the founder of CrowdCases, an innovative, brand new startup that’s changing the world with graphic designers and their art. His business model brings together crowdsourcing, charitable causes, and art in a completely new way…

How It Works

Every Sunday, CrowdCases selects a social cause and issues a design challenge. Graphic designers have the week to create a design for an iPhone and Samsung Galaxy case highlighting the cause. Once the submissions are in, the winning design is selected, and the designer receives $500. The winning design is available just a few days later as a limited edition iPhone/Samsung Galaxy case, and sold for $34.95, with 20% going directly to the featured non-profit. Here’s an example – this week’s contest:

Clean Water FB Design Challenge

I had the chance to pick Dwight’s mind on crowdsourcing, non-profits, online marketing, and more. Check out the interview below…

The Interview With Dwight Peters

CEM: How did you first come up with the idea of CrowdCases? 

CC: CrowdCases is actually a pivot from my original tech accessories startup called Slate & Stylus, which was launched last summer via a successful Kickstarter campaign we had. We were always socially conscious, even from the very beginning. With Slate & Stylus, we sold cool but very regular/plain iPad and iPhone cases. We teamed up with TheSupply.org, and for every case sold we were able to provide a child in Kenya with school supplies. It was a great experience, but it wasn’t scalable; we didn’t have [many] products to offer. However, some of our fans on Facebook started sending us images that they would have loved to see turned into cases.

After months of brainstorming, tinkering and getting feedback – finding the right local manufactures – the CrowdCases model was created.

CEM: Crowd Cases seems to me to be a mix between 99designs (and similar sites) and non-profit work. Everyone wins: the cause is promoted, the designer has a unique opportunity, and the public can buy an original, limited iPhone case. It’s not “charity.” Everyone that’s involved works and benefits. Are there other non-profits or businesses you see taking a similar-minded approach?

CC: Yeah, we definitely looked to 99Designs for inspiration and a few other sites/platforms that we are big fans of. We tried to blend the Kickstarter experience of crowdfunding with the crowdsourcing ability of 99Designs for a specific niche of social good. Other sites that are applying this model, that we are big fans of, are Sevenly.org, TeeSpring.com, and Threadless.com.

CEM: Do you hope for CrowdCases to operate on a for-profit model in the future? If so, how will this work? 

CC: Totally cool question! We are actually a for-profit (S-Corp). We wanted to establish that from the very beginning. Though we donate a portion of each case sold, and pay the designers, and cover our manufacturing cost, we still have been able to have a margin for profit. Being a for-profit company gives us a lot more freedom and flexibility in tackling our goal of changing the world.

CEM: Do you see crowdsourcing as a strategy that’s here to stay?

CC: Yes. The world has changed over the past few years as everybody has noticed; it’s much smaller. We are able to engage with our designers and make them feel a part of something bigger than all of us. Crowdsourcing is the perfect way to get everybody in on the idea at hand, making them just as passionate about the project as you are. The threshold of being just an observer to becoming an ambassador is reduced significantly. That’s what we aim for at CrowdCases. Though only one designer is selected every week, all of our designers are participating in bringing change in the world.

CEM: What has been your promotion/marketing strategy so far? How are you looking to expand this strategy?

CC: Right now, we have been getting a lot of press support, but we know that’s not scalable. We are marketing to our generation Y-ers that want to make a change in the world without feeling the extra cost. We keep our cases competitively priced. Also, the fact that they are limited edition plays a role as well. Helping non-profits build awareness, fundraise, and tap into a younger demographic is no easy feat.

CEM: How do you pick the cause of the week?

CC: The cool thing about CrowdCases is that we have the freedom to move in real time. There are so many causes that need awareness. We take into consideration any national awareness days and try to tap into that attention flow. We are working to get it to the point were our crowd determines the cause of the week via polling. For now, we just pay attention to what’s going on around us and try to move quickly.

CEM: I assume you have to get approval from the organization you’re featuring. What’s the response been like so far?

CC: The response has been great but sometime the ability of the non-profit to move quickly enough can be a little challenging. What we realize to be our biggest strength is not relying on the non-profits for marketing support. Instead, what we do is focus on the cause. That’s the star of our campaigns, as it should be instead of any particular organization. We are building our own crowd of consumers, [which] allows us not to depend on any one non-profit for sales, which allows us to be more creative.

CEM: Anything else you want our readers to know?

CC: Yeah, it’s all about having fun and truly being of value to people. We are looking for graphic designers that want to use their talents for change. As our Chief Designer Aryo always say, “Stay Creative.”

CEM: Thanks for your time, Dwight!

CC: No problem, Ben!

Are you a graphic designer? Want to make a difference? Get involved with CrowdCases!

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Ben Richardson is a writer based in Nashville, TN. While he loves writing on a variety of subjects, he's our go-to on all things related to branding and the creative aspects of content marketing. Follow him on Twitter!

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