Every morning we brew a big pot and spend 45 minutes talking about one product in our lives that sucks or better yet, doesn't even exist. We then whiteboard solutions assuming no limitations. As a client, this is where you come in, helping start the brainstorm.
If we hit an "a-ha" moment, we'll sit on it for 2 weeks. If we're still excited, that's when we get to work! First, we scour the internet looking for prior art. If we're first or can easily differentiate our solution from others, we cut, weld, sew, print, torch, drill, glue, staple, mold and assemble a proof-of-concept.
After using mock-ups to refine the design, it's time to break out Solidworks. Using Computer Aided Design (CAD), we create detailed schematics and use our FDM then SLA 3D-printer, or metal and wood shop (with 6-axis CNC!) to create something we can eventually hand people to play with.
Because getting user feedback early is vital to our development process, it's important to protect our inventions with a rolling set of provisional patents. Given they only cost $135 to file, it's a no-brainer. Before we go to market, we work with outside counsel to file a non-PPA Design or Utility patent (or both) to ensure our ideas don't get knocked off or contested in PTAB.
One of the funnest (is that a word?) parts of the journey is working on branding. We get everyone together and go over dozens of names, narrow down logos, create a compelling slogan, mock up packaging concepts until we feel the product can visually tell it's own story. We may do online surveys to narrow down choices. With a winner selected, we file trademarks, capture website and social media handles to protect brand assets.
We then walk outside our offices in downtown Encinitas to see if people call our baby ugly. Other than a quick "Hello," we don't describe the product, rather show them the packaging to see if passes the 15-foot test, and hand them the product to play with. We capture their input and repeat the process until we hopefully get a "where can I buy one?" mark of approval!
Although we have a rough BOM and know our margins, (otherwise we wouldn't have come this far) it's time to source the right factory. Depending on where we see the product being sold online (high margin, low volume) or retail (low margin, high volume) a factory is chosen to meet the manufacturing and volume demands of that channel.
Based on several factors, we decide if we are the best team to take the product to market, or if it's better to license our invention to the network of 233 companies that make everything you see in WalMart, Target and BBB. Since a lot of the risk has already been removed and patents filed, we're able to negotiate higher royalty rates, often 5% to 7% of gross sales.
If we're the ones taking our invention to market, that's when the real work begins! Everything up to this point has been fun. It's time to rise and grind and get out there and sell. Our team shoots a long and short form video focusing on the "who cares?" and builds a lead-generating website. We spend several months on a pre-Kickstarter campaign building a list of bloggers to pitch with samples, while leveraging targeted A/B social media ads to find our tribe at the lowest CAC. We only launch if we're confident CAC leaves plenty of margin and we have a third of the backers needed in the campaign's first three days.
Armed with a clear technical document and video showing how the product is to be tested, our sourcing agent on the factory floor ensures the QC team never sends a 40 foot container of inferior product.
The last thing we want to do (again) is create an assembly line where we painstakingly remove each product from it's packing, fix an issue, put it in new packaging, box and ship it. It's costly and not fun!
With an Amazon Fulfillment Center close to Port of Long Beach, we leverage their distribution power and deep discounts on shipping to fulfill our Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Shopify and Amazon orders. If margins permit, we also work with a handful of distributors who are key to getting our products onto store shelves. If we secure a particularly large purchase order, we have a network of investors we can tap into for a credit line.
A small network of passionate virtual assistants using their smartphones and mobile CRM software help ensure that every customer request or return is handled quickly and with care. We live or die by our Amazon reviews, so ensuring at least a 4-star on the portal is key. If we see repeated customer complaints about a particular feature, we will pull inventory and sell excess on Ebay, while working to fix the design flaw and re-listing the item on Amazon when new inventory arrives.