Ever had the urge to create your own product? Right now, it’s easier than ever before to do that - at any scale you desire. No, you don’t need a lot of start up capital (though it helps if you have it) - but, you do need some motivation and some commitment to see it through. People all over the world create their own ideas and get them manufactured. Whether it’s at a smaller scale and made by hand locally - or manufactured overseas in large numbers. Whatever it may be - it’s doable.
This is meant as a quick guide - something that can give you a rough idea on how to get going. I’m using this process right now to create several products. I don’t have a budget, I don’t have a team - but, this year you’ll see at least 2 unique products that I created and manufactured using this process.
Step 1 - Define the Idea.
It doesn’t have to be new, but it has to be great. You need a good idea - a clear idea as to what you want to make.
- do some research to ensure your idea can be a viable business - is your eventual product desirable? i.e - don’t go out and make VHS tapes
- tap into your passions - you'll likely spend a considerable amount of time working on your idea. Make sure it's something that can keep your interest.
Step 2 - Define the problem you will solve.
In all likelihood, you will be working on solving a specific problem with your product. Is it to make something more functional? Is it to make something more usable? More beautiful?
Having a problem to solve is also a good gauge when it comes to actually reviewing your prototypes. Don't make something for the sake of making it. Have a purpose.
Step 3 - Define a schedule
This is kind of crucial. It’s too easy to let a project like this slide. Too easy to let it go when it hits a roadblock. In any big project you should be working to a schedule. Make yourself accountable not only to yourself but, to someone else as well. Tell people about what you’re doing. Get them interested. Get the excited and get them to keep you on track.
Step 4 - Define an outline
Once you have your idea, your goal and your schedule - you should write out a 1 page outline that summarizes your project in one place. Print it out - stick it in front of you and let it serve as a constant reminder about what your’e doing.
- What do you hope to charge?
- How many do you hope to make?
- How do you plan to sell it?
- When do you plan to sell it?
Step 5 - Design it
This can be a tough step for those who have never done it. If you have some experience in design, it should be easy. If you’re about to dive into design and you’ve never done it - it’s possible that you’ll need some help.
- you can hire someone to do it if you’re not comfortable with it
- you can team up with someone if you don’t have the money to do it
Step 6 - Prototype
You have to prototype your idea. it’s part of the design process. It’s going to answer a lot of questions. It’s going to teach you things you didn’t consider. It’s going to allow you to get some initial feedback on your direction. Your prototype is crucial. And the quicker you can get to your prototype, the better.
Step 7 - Find your manufacturer
Will you manufacture the idea yourself? - Do the research, get the materials and get moving. A lot of folks make a living making things by hand and selling them online. The information is readily available.
Will you use a local manufacturer? - Go out and find them. With google.com it’s easier than ever before to find out if you have someone who can make your ideas. Want to make clothing? Look for a local clothing manufacturer. Want to make furniture? I’m sure there’s someone in your area who will be able to help you.
Will you manufacture globally? - This doesn’t mean China. It can mean anywhere in the world. You go where the best manufacturers are. Alibaba.com is your destination to find a manufacturer. Whether it’s within your country or abroad - there is a huge list of choices. You have to reach out and do your homework. You have to open the conversation and dive in and understand what they offer.
KOTN manufactures product in Egypt - because, they found the best cotton there. Looks like they found production capabilities there as well.
HIUT manufactures in Wales - but they source their materials from various places. They look for the best and go from there
APOLIS is doing a great job at ethical sourcing all over the world - and it’s part of their story.
VITSOE manufactures in the UK and ships all over the world
Ashley Wood (3A) designs in Australia and manufactures in China with the help of his partner in Hong Kong
No matter what kind of product you want to make - it’s possible to make it. You have to dive in and do the work. Sure, it’s going to get quite difficult to start a car company - but, it’s been done. It’s been done well - TESLA. And it’s been done not so well - FISKER. It really depends on you.
Step 8 - Work with the manufacturer
You can skip this step if you’re doing the making yourself but, if you’ve found the perfect factory then it’s time to get to work.
You’ll need to submit your design and your prototype to the factory, yes. But, before you do that, you need to explain what you’re trying to achieve. You need to outline your vision and your goals. This is where your outline can help. You can share and gauge the reaction of your manufacturer. Your goal should be to find the right partner. Someone who understands what you’re trying to achieve and is willing to work with you on your terms.
Step 9 - Iterate
This is where the factory begins to sample your product. They will want to take your intention and start bringing it to reality. This is different from doing prototypes simply because it’s being done by the people who will manufacture your product. There will be manufacturing limitations. There will be material limitations. There will be pricing issues.
Your best bet is to understand all the limitations and work closely to iterate around them. This can lead to new solutions. This can lead to better and smarter solutions.
Note - the more you iterate, the better your product will become.
Step 10 - Finalize it
You’ll need to arrive at a point where you’re happy with the product from multiple perspectives. Does it still meet your desired goals? How does it line up with your initial outline? Are you hitting your price target?
- you’ll need to confirm final pricing and sign off on the final sample.
- FOB (Freight on Buyer) price is what you’ll pay your manufacturer. Usually your FOB should be roughly 1/4 of your selling price. If your FOB is $25, then your retail price is around $100. You can adjust this according to your needs.
- you’ll need to confirm the minimum order quantity (MOQ)
- you’ll need to understand when the manufacturer will be able to manufacture your order
Step 11 - Fund it
This shouldn’t necessarily be the last step - you have to have some idea on how you’ll pay to manufacture your product. You should start thinking about this early in the process and prepare accordingly. Here are some options for you to consider:
- Fund it yourself. If you can afford to order the MOQ - do it. If your MOQ is 500 pieces, and your FOB is at $25. You’re looking at spending $12500 on manufacturing your initial run.
- Do a pre-order. You can set up a pre-order page for your product and get people to commit to buying your product before you jump into manufacturing it. 3A toys does this really well. HIUT has done this. It’s a way to limit your exposure and ensure you have customers before committing big dollars.
- Use a funding site like Kickstarter.com - There have been some amazing successes on kickstarter. It’s not easy, but its definitely doable. There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing your campaign, but this option can also ensure you have your customers lined up before you dive into manufacturing your product
You can use other ways to fund your project, but the 3 above are really the ones I think will apply to most people.
Step 12 - Import it
If you manufactured your product overseas, you’ll need to figure out how to import it properly into your country. Depending on your product, the materials you’re using and your source, you might need to pay taxes for importing that product. All this information should be readily available. You’ll need to do some research here.
Step 13 - Sell it
Whether it’s partnering with a retailer base or setting up your shop online - you’ll need to figure out how to move your product. Fund sites like kickstarter can make this process easier as you have customers waiting, and you don’t necessarily need a storefront. But, there are plenty of services available to set up your online store. Check out Wix.com or squarespace.com to create your site around your store. You can of course sell through services like Amazon.com or Etsy.com. And there’s always ebay.com
As I mentioned, this is just a quick overview on what it takes to get your product made - I hope this quick list can serve as a starting point to get someone going on their idea. Good luck. It’s definitely possible - the question is - Are you willing to do the work?
This series of content is a small experiment. I pledged to create a piece of content on my site for the next 365 days. You can read the opening post here. The posts aren’t limited to thoughts or ideas, they’re really just a way for me to create original content. If you got any feedback/questions, please reach out. Thanks for looking.