Designing and selling a consumer product
February 16, 2016 3:30 PM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a pretty simple consumer product (no electronic components or the like) that I'd like to design, manufacture, and sell (probably on amazon?) What's the best way to do this?

I have an idea for a somewhat niche product that I think can be useful to people if it's brought onto the market. I know alibaba is a thing? Any ideas for how to get started? How do I find a designer? Or am I thinking about this in the wrong way? If you've had any direct experience I'd love to hear about it.
posted by jourman2 to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is it the sort of thing that falls into the category of "stuff people that use Kickstarter like?" If so, you can use that as a way to gauge consumer interest, generate publicity, and get funding for the first batch. But you'd have to get it to a close to marketable state before that. If you go that route, it is highly advisable to outsource the shipping of the product, especially if you're allowing international purchases (and factor that into the pricing ahead of time).

How much work will your idea take to bring to fruition? Ideas are cheap, design and execution are hard, so be ready to be realistic about what your cut should be and what you'll have to pay to have someone with design skills. Every designer out there has a story of an inventor that came to them with the barest outline of an idea and wanted them to work for free or next to it.

Depending on what it is, 3D printers make prototyping a whole lot easier than it used to be.

If the idea is a relatively simple one that's easy to copy, expect that low cost manufacturers will do so, and that if you solicit manufacturing bids from the wrong company, you may just give them a head start on doing so. Some factories will do the customer's run of the product and then just keep making more to either sell themselves or to pass on to a middleman that can undercut you.
posted by Candleman at 3:49 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

It really depends on what the product is and how you want to sell it. So much depends on your budget and how much you are willing and able to spend on the different aspects of starting a business. I am a business strategy consultant, so I do have experience with this. Mostly what I have are some questions for you to consider :)

Alibaba is a wholesaling site for goods manufactured in China. Is this the route you are looking to go?

The best thing to do right now is research. Figure out what resources you have, what you need, what the costs involved are. Then write a business plan and do some financial projections to make sure your idea is actually going to be profitable at the scale you are able to handle, and what it would look like when and if you grow. Figure out how many units you would need to sell each week/month/year to cover expenses. Develop a plan for how to hit those numbers, and how long it will take you to do so. All this is a critical step for your success. It seems like a lot of work, but trust me, you will be grateful you did it.

Yes, you need to design and prototype. You can hire a designer through Craigslist or look into industrial design firms. In this field, you generally get what you pay for :) Depending on what it is, 3D printing can be very useful to make test models. Once you have a working prototype, you need to figure out where you are going to have it made, in what quantities, and how you are going to sell it. Will you ship it yourself? Do you need to find a drop shipping company to take care of order fulfillment?

Are you planning to do resale or wholesale? Both? Do you have contacts who are or would be interested in retailing the product? If not, do you have a plan (ie documentation and marketing materials) with which to reach out to these folks? You probably should also look into the costs involved in patenting, if it's a unique product.

How do you plan to market this? You will need a website and a presence on social media. You will also want to look into trade shows that cater to your market and get involved as a vendor. Really spend some time analyzing your target market and learn how and where they buy things, and how products similar to yours are being presented to them as options. The more specific you are with the target market the better off you will be. Many people cast too broad a net and as a result their marketing efforts are not as productive. Kickstarter is a great resource for people who don't want or can't secure investments at an early stage. But running a successful Kickstarter takes quite a bit of work and preparation, plus a great team.

Are you planning to incorporate? You will need some kind of business entity, the best one for you depends again on how you are planning to scale. Will it be just you? A few partners? Do you want to sell shares or get investment capital?

Lots of stuff to think about :) Read this book. It will help.

Good luck!
posted by ananci at 3:59 PM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you can clearly articulate the usability of the product and create a business plan that describes the in detail the cost of what the market would be willing to spend on the product, you can look into a tech incubator to help connect you to designers and manufacturers.
posted by A hidden well at 5:49 PM on February 16, 2016

You might be interested in reading a book called Fab.
posted by Michele in California at 6:56 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

There may be a nearby meetup group or organization that has resources, for example Chicago Inventors Organization
posted by Sophont at 10:26 AM on February 17, 2016

« Older Best way(s) to bring house insulation up to...   |   Transformation Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.