Just get it made in China

Back when we had even less of a clue about turning an idea into a marketable product, we spent a lot of time on the web trying to figure it out.

Sure, Mel had already made functioning prototypes, but turning those into beautiful objects that people wanted to buy was completely out of our wheelhouse.

As we didn’t have the money to just outsource the problem to an industrial design firm, we trawled google for start-up bloggers with manufacturing experience and perhaps, a detailed outline of how they did it.

Predictably we found a lot of articles about entrepreneurs that had ‘made it big’ with nothing but their ‘wits and a dream’ but nothing that delved into the logistics of their success.

Many bloggers were producing much more simple or mainstream items than ours. Items such as wallets and bags that already had easily identifiable, specialist manufacturing systems established. Some bloggers were lucky enough to be producing products they could manufacture themselves initially. Our product was a new concept and it needed serious engineering and material expertise to work.

When we did find a post that attempted to walk you through the end to end design process, crucial details were often left out. For instance, one blogger spent a long time delving into the ideation phase of her product and telling us how ‘attitude was everything’ but when it came to manufacturing her idea, she said it was as simple as writing down a product description and sending it to “contacts in china”.

While many business do actually get their stuff produced cheaply in China, they’re not startups with no money and no industry knowledge or contacts. Writing to China with a few blueprints from a hotmail account isn’t going to get you very far.

But we didn’t know that yet, so we hired an American industrial designer from UpWork to ‘pretty up’ Mel’s designs and then sent them to dozens of Chinese manufactures hoping for the best.

All but one totally ignored us.

And the one manufacturer that did respond told us that our designs were unsuitable for the mass manufacturing process. This wasn’t much of a surprise to us given the area between Industrial Designed and Designed for Manufacturing seems to be pretty grey, but when we asked for a quote to re-design it for their manufacturing processes, we never heard back.

So we stopped thinking about it for a while and thought about trying to buy a house instead.

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