Lever Gear leverages Kickstarter success to carve a niche in the everyday carry market
By Dustin Waters
From an Asheville garage to a Greenville brick-and-mortar, Lever Gear has parlayed crowdfunding success into a unique position in the everyday carry market.
Capitalizing on his experience as a design consultant, Lever Gear founder Mike Scully began developing the company’s first product in his free time back in 2015. Featuring 40 different tools in a device the size of a credit card, the aptly named Toolcard was the culmination of a yearlong design process. Scully initially considered a wide range of ideas for the product, including moving parts and additional features, but ultimately opted for simplicity and utility in the one-piece design.
“I’ve been designing products for a long time, so I sort of have a feel for when the design is right. The luxury on this product was I didn’t really have a deadline,” says Scully. “I was still doing my consulting work, so I could really take time to keep working on it and trying different things until I felt it was a really optimized product.”
Moving from San Francisco to Asheville in the summer of 2015, Scully rebranded his consultancy firm Lever Gear as he continued developing the Toolcard. Once in North Carolina, he began speaking with local sheet metal manufacturers to get input and work together in figuring out the best process for making Toolcard a reality. In March of 2016, Scully took his pocket-sized multi-tool to Kickstarter to drum up support from potential customers and crowdsource funding.
“Kickstarter was great. It’s really exciting. It’s also kind of scary. It’s a lot of work, but it’s really work you have to do anyway. You want to be thinking about your brand and your messaging,” says Scully. “You want to be shooting great images of your product and prototypes, and shooting video. That’s the stuff you’re going to need to be doing to launch a product anyway. But with Kickstarter, it sort of forces you to focus on fine-tuning your message and the story behind the product.”
Thanks to effective networking and branding, Lever Gear greatly surpassed their Kickstarter goal of $12,000—going on to amass 1,375 backers and an investment of $65,840 for the company’s first product.
After two years in Asheville, running Lever Gear out of their home, Scully and company began considering expanding operations. Around that same time, Scully and his family paid a visit to Greenville. Taken by the city’s family-friendly nature, Scully found what he describes as the “perfect location” for Lever Gear at Greenville’s Hampton Station.
Once Scully felt comfortable with where things stood with the Toolcard and the company’s vendors, he decided to approach an idea he had been kicking around for awhile. He wanted to develop a line of small, modular cases that could fit comfortably on a keychain while safely storing screwdriver bits, a flashlight, and anything else a customer may desire. And thus the CLiP System was born.
This idea for sturdy, functional, and convenient capsules eventually evolved into the BitVault and the BitLight. Both products would be watertight and durable enough to carry your most essential items.
Following up on the success of the Toolcard, Lever Gear turned to Kickstarter again, with the CLiP System campaign setting a goal of $16,000. Lever Gear was able to sell 663 backers on the company’s sophomore effort, earning $45,098 in the process. But, as the 2018 holiday shipping date for the first round of CLiP System orders neared, Scully began to reconsider the flashlight function on the BitLight.
Recognizing just how crowded the pocket flashlight market is, Scully decided to delay the BitLight’s initial launch in favor of providing the highest quality product he can provide. “Your backers, they’re wanting your product when you originally said you were going to deliver it, but then again if you deliver something that’s not as advertised, that’s not good either,” says Scully. “We made the decision that we would make it better than advertised, but it would just take a little while. Hopefully, they’ll be patient.”
As they work to perfect the BitLight, Lever Gear is focused on capitalizing on the company’s strengths.
Last fall, the company revamped its website. Hoping to leverage its sleek, new online storefront, Lever Gear partnered with other everyday carry product manufacturers. As a new company, Lever Gear could rely upon their admittedly small line of products to draw online attention. But, by selling products from other everyday carry companies, Lever Gear could offer a larger product line while serving as a destination for everyday carry aficionados—a strategy which has carried over into the company’s retail store at their Hampton Station office.
“We want it to be an everyday carry store. All this stuff makes really nice gifts. It’s all sort of at that gifting price-point,” says Scully. “And since we do our own laser-etching on the Toolcards, we are able to personalize a name or message or logo on a lot of the products. That’s something we want to incorporate into the store by offering a unique gift.”