Josh Sprague is the founder of Orange Mud, designed to “change the way runners look at hydration.” The company’s tagline is “innovation from frustration.” They design highly-engineered hydration packs for runners, lifestyle gym bags and backpacks for athletes, and workout accessories for anyone who sweats. Josh has a background in manufacturing medical devices, from which he draws knowledge about design and materials. He is an adventure seeker at heart.
I estimated $50,000 for development upon inception of my first product idea. “Worst case scenario, sweetie, we’ll make the two best backpacks perfectly designed for us each worth $25,000,” I told my wife. As it turned out, we spent just over $50,000 to get the prototypes, patents, and first small-batch production live.
- » $1,500: Tech pack (even though we didn’t end up using it in the end, it made us look more legitimate to manufacturers)
- » $15,000: Samples and development
- » $8,500: First production order of 200 units across four colors and necessary tooling
- » $8,000: Legal intellectual property research and patent
- » $20,000: Business costs (e.g., operations, administrative, marketing)
- » $53,000: Total
Sourcing in the United States was painful because there weren’t a lot of shops, and many that we found didn’t return our calls. For the first two years of our business, sourcing was a struggle. Now we’re fortunate enough to have two suppliers who we very much appreciate.
1. Put your design, production and budget thoughts on paper before working with a manufacturer. Consider the following:
- What are the critical-to-function aspects of my design: size, weight, feel, fit?
- Who is the intended customer base?
- What are the top five most competitive or similar products to mine, and what makes my product different?
- What materials do I want to use and why do I want to use them? (Note: what you think you want may not be what you really want and a good manufacturer can help you determine this.)
2. Make a tech pack. Maker’s Row has technical designers that range in cost, so it doesn’t need to break the bank but will force you to think critically about what you want. They can help you put a rough concept together. This will give you street cred with manufacturers.
3. Be careful about your advertising spend. You may be tempted to purchase magazine ads, shoot a commercial, etc. In ninety-nine percent of cases you probably shouldn’t extend too far in the first year. Use free social media platforms instead:
- (a) Build your social media and start with releasing content at least once per week on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google+. If you were to choose one, I’d recommend Facebook or Instagram. Instagram is very visual, which makes it appealing for most products in the maker community, and Facebook is a tremendous tool for social reach and advertising as you grow.
- (b) Try building your audience organically for a bit to get the feel for the platform and your community. Ask friends and family to share your posts on their Facebooks if relevant. Think strategically about what could benefit your audience. Only sell to them 20 percent of the time. The rest of your content should inform and entertain. Eventually, you can promote your page through paid advertising, starting with $5 per day on a select audience. Test multiple ads and spend more only on the highest performing ones. Facebook is an amazing tool if you use it right.
- (c) Don’t spend on print unless it’s towards a highly-focused magazine that directly hits your target market for a good rate. We sell hydration packs – I wouldn’t buy an ad in Outside magazine, even though they are a great publication; purchasing an ad in Runner’s World (still expensive but highly-targeted) or Ultrarunning Magazine (very niche but even more targeted and reasonably priced) would be a much smarter play. Print ads usually take a few issues to determine whether they will pay off or not. So be prepared to run the ad three times before pulling the plug. If you make a seasonal product, remember the January issue will hit stands in early December.
A parting note: listen to everyone, but be cognizant of which advice you take!
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