Happy 2019 folks! This year, Ash and I are jumping straight into our business and getting things fired up (it’s Ria here, hi!! 👋)
We’ve got our hearts and minds set on making a range of patterns and designs that’ll be printed on a range of decor items for nurseries and children’s rooms for our business. After talking to some manufacturers and getting a clearer idea of our costs involved, we decided it’s time to make our product before we get stuck in all the details.
If you want the full recap, check our our past few updates:
- Update #1: How we came up with a handmade business idea
- Update #2: How we validated that the product would sell and whether we could afford the initial start up costs
We want to move fast, and have something ready to sell by the end of this month to verify we’re onto something that’s valuable to our customers. So, if you’ve got an amazing idea this year, just make it happen! Stop worrying about the little details, getting everything perfect and keeping your business a secret from everybody. Heck, we’ll probably have a product ready before we’ve agreed on a business name! Sure, there are so many steps and so many “what ifs?”, but you’ll figure out everything on the way.
Now let’s dive into the process! Rest assured, all our takeaways will apply to you and your business even if you’re not in the baby or homewares space.
Coming up with our initial ideas
As we were discussing the types of products we would want in our homes, we knew that the hero of our products would always be the patterns and designs that would be printed on paper and textiles. We started by writing down a list of objects, things and animals that we loved or thought are trending right now. Eventually, Ash would go away with this list and start designing patterns around the themes.
Here’s our list:
A lot of the design ideas came from browsing other similar products, collecting and collating some of our favorite shops and randomly shouting to each other things like, “WHAT ABOUT SLOTHS?” whenever we thought of something that would look super cute somewhere in a nursery. After this process, Ash would start to sketch out the ideas, play around with some existing designs by mocking them up on backgrounds and adding her own touch of magic to it.
Developing our minimum viable product
Launching with a minimum viable product is the concept of getting your business to a stage where a basic version of your product solves the problem you set out to achieve. It probably means that your product is far from the perfect vision you conjured up, but your customers don’t know that. As long as your product is something that appeals to your ideal customer, then you should be able to sell it.
And even if it doesn’t sell, an advantage of launching your product quickly is that you can test whether your initial ideas are actually good ideas before wasting too much time or money.
So that’s why we’re focusing on launching with a print and wall sticker range first. We’ll get to experiment with a range of patterns and get direct feedback on what designs are popular based on our sales metrics. After that, we can keep refining the designs or turn them into textiles products.
Making a product that stands out
Part of making a product stand out is understanding your market really, really well. Study other products in your niche, compare them, and analyze what makes them special. Now, figure out how your product sets itself apart. Is there something other businesses aren’t doing? Is there something that customers keep asking for over and over? Become an expert in your market and soak in all this information – slowly, you’ll find where your product fits inside the market.
We spent just as much time drawing sketches as we did pouring over popular sellers in the space, reading their reviews, figuring out which product sells the most in their shop and trying to deconstruct what makes those products so attractive. We did this by going over shops on Etsy and Amazon but this tip works for virtually any marketplace where there’s a lot of transparent activity available between buyers and sellers.
Even though we weren’t going to start with the textiles items, Ash followed a tutorial and went to work on learning how to turn a design into a seamless pattern. We want our minimum viable product to still work with our dream product in the future, and of course, we want to understand the mechanics behind producing something for our market from scratch. Check out the mini tutorial below to see some of our pattern-making progress fun!
Our next steps
Our product development week has really been a huge experiment – figuring out what we like, what we don’t, and starting to come up with a small print line to see if our idea has legs.
There’s still so much to do, but to sum it up, these are the things we’ll be focusing on during the first weeks of the year:
- Testing our products
- Selling our products
- Getting feedback on our products
- Getting our product line closer to our goals
Testing our products
Our next step is to test out our prints by getting them printed, cut out and framed to see what they would be like as the real thing. For wall decals, we decided to go with a local printing company that specializes in wallpapers and sticker paper. At the end of the day, if we don’t love what comes out from the samples…most likely our customers won’t either. There’s so many other benefits to testing and sampling our products. We get to see:
- The quality of the final product
- How the colors change from our computer screens to physical items
- Imagine how it would look in our homes
- Plus, samples are great for our very first product photography shoots!
Selling our products
We want to get our prints and wall stickers online as soon as possible. During January we’re going to be focused on setting up our first shop, taking photos and tying it all up with some neat branding.
I’m going to be upfront and say:
We’re not going to have any stock right off the bat.
Instead, we’re going to list our products, share it around, and when we do get a sale, we’ll be frantically running to our local print shop, collecting the print order and fist pumping the air on our way back to the post office.
This means that we’re saving money on the upfront cost of product. We won’t be spending a cent in inventory until we make our first sale.
Getting feedback on our products
After that we just gotta listen to our customers. Getting our business to the point where people will actually pay us their hard earned cash is huge. There will always be no end of people who tell us what they think they want, but when it comes to launch day, there’s always going to be a portion not willing to part with their money because the product just isn’t compelling enough to them.
Getting our first paying customers means that we can start to hear honest and authentic feedback and ideas. There’s far more value in feedback from people who are happy to pay for our products so we just need to keep our ears and our minds open.
Getting our product line closer to our goals
Even if you think your product is perfect right out of the gate, keep in mind that there will likely be changes your customers want.
We know what we want, but often, we don’t know what our customers want.
So even though our end goal is to have a shop full of awesome textiles goods, we don’t know if that’s going to be the case. Here’s the biggest “what ifs?” that have crossed our minds over the last few weeks:
- The most popular pattern or design is one that we hate the most
- Nobody buys our products and we need to revamp our entire product line
- People only buy a certain item from our shop so we’ll need to double down on that niche and keep our focus there
- People want our designs available on other items
- Our target audience (mothers) are not our main customers
These scenarios are all so possible for the future of our product and we know if we encounter any, our product will shift and morph into something better than we can ever imagine.
P.S If you want to get all the details of our product development week, check out our Instagram Highlights and watch Update #3: Product at @handmadeto100k.