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We recently chatted with Mike Stone, cofounder of MakersKit, a Techstars alumni (NYC ‘14). MakersKit was founded to inspire creativity. The company shares its favorite ideas and offers the best tools and supplies to make DIY a blast. While MakersKit was in the Techstars program in New York City, they met and partnered with American Airlines, a global sponsor of Techstars. Under their Innovators Initiative, American Airlines has been supporting Techstars companies within all of our US-based programs with marketing opportunities, connections, travel grants since 2013.

Want to learn more about how startups can build marketing partnerships with corporations? Continue reading…

MakersKit - Sponsorship in Action

What has MakersKit been up to since going through the Techstars NYC 2014 program?

It has been a crazy year, in the very best way possible.

Before Techstars, it was just the two of us working out of my apartment. And now, a year later, we’ve created nearly fifty new jobs and our products are available in over 5,000 stores with retail partners including Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, West Elm and Williams-Sonoma. We’ve partnered with major brands like National Geographic, Macy’s and TOMS helping them use digital media to connect with millennials. The Techstars program helped us figure out our secret sauce, and now we’re helping brands create an experience by doing what we do best.

What is our secret sauce? We use digital media to teach new skills in an entertaining way, it’s all about the experience. We’re good at it because we’re authentic, our team is made up of makers and doers. Are we the best at what we do? I think we are, as do the brands that are working with us. Awesome brands like MakerBot, LittleBits, Raspberry Pi, and Bare Conductive are made more mainstream and accessible by partnering with us.

How did MakersKit discover—and choose to develop a partnership with—American Airlines?

American Airlines was one of the many sponsors of our Techstars program in NYC, but to us they stood out by being the most helpful. Through their Business Extra program, we received travel grants and benefits because of their partnership with Techstars. We travel, a lot. The three month program was right in the middle of our national book tour in partnership with Macy’s, and every flight we took was with American. The Business Extra program has great perks and the Admirals Club lounges don’t hurt either. Complimentary cocktails? Yes, please

MakersKit was featured in American Airlines’ American Way in-flight magazine. How did that happen? And what were the results of that feature?

Any press is good press, but being featured in American Way is great press. They feature one up and coming startup every month in their “Innovators” article. We honestly didn’t know what to expect to come out of the article at first, but then the calls started to come in, “I read about you while on a flight to…” which would lead to “how many containers can you ship”… not digital containers, but freight containers you can fit a couple houses into.

Oh, and it also caught the attention of Home Depot, who happens to have over 2,000 stores.

MakersKit team - sponsorship in actionWhat is the latest at MakersKit?

We’re publishing our second book, opening up pop-up stores in LA, Austin, NYC, Chicago and Seattle, launching NatGeo by MakersKit, and partnered up with TOMS #TOMSxMakersKit. We also won first place Content Technology Company at Las Vegas at SXSW V2V.

Do you have any advice for other founders who want to leverage corporations for marketing and business development opportunities?

Do it. Seriously.

Partnerships and deals with major companies give us a step up over our competitors. Find out what you do better than anyone else, and leverage that to get you things that even money can’t buy. Find brands that align with your mission or customer base, it basically has to make sense for both of you. NatGeo is ranked #1 among social publishers so why would they ever partner with a startup like us? Long story short, there’s something we do better than any other company, too. MakersKit has the largest US and Canadian retail distribution in our industry, something every brand would love to leverage by partnering with us.

 

You can follow @MakersKit and @AmericanAir on Twitter.


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Cali Harris
(@caligater) Director of Founder Resources at Techstars