The second step in your journey of creating a business from your craft is that of prototyping and sampling.
This follows the first step of product idea development, which was discussed in the last edition of Small Business Connect.
Prototyping means getting your idea into a physical form and then refining it.
Prototypes are your experiments with making your product.
When something is in its physical form, it is easier to see what will work and what will not. You may have many prototypes before you decide on the version you want to use as a sample for production.
You should get feedback on prototypes to improve your final product. Try not to take criticism personally. By understanding or trying to innovate with the materials you are using you will possibly get a better or a more cost-effective production line in place.
There is no set way to put together a prototype and it can be made from anything – not necessarily just from the intended final material.
Once you have experimented with different prototypes and have received feedback, you need to develop a sample which will be used in determining the factors involved in producing the product.
This means thinking through all the stages of your product’s journey as well as making sure that the necessary management and financial systems are in place to support your product. If you get this process right, the chance of your product’s success is greatly improved.
In essence, when done correctly, the sample process is experimentation within the full value chain. It lays the groundwork for all activities that come into play once you have your product.
Your own path
You’ll have to develop your own path, but you can consider the following points:
- Materials: What is the most appropriate material to make your product from? What is the consistency of supply and the consistency of quality? How will it impact on the environment?
- Production: What is the most appropriate way to make the product? What are the complexities of the processes? For example, are the necessary skills and resources available? What resources might be needed in the production process, such as production aids (moulds, templates, patterns), tools, staff and space? What volumes of the product could you produce? Are there any health and safety issues? How long will it take to make the product and can part of the process of making the product be outsourced to someone else? How would quality control be implemented?
- Packaging: What packaging and labeling are needed for your product? How does this impact on the production costs and production time? How will your product be packed for distribution and how will the product be distributed? What logistics need to be in place for this and what impact will this have on costs and planning?
- Marketing: What similar products are available in the market and what sets your product apart? Have you received feedback about the product sample from people you think will buy it? Do you have a marketing plan? How does the product fit with the product range you have already and with your business vision?
- Financial management: What are the full costs of producing the product and is it viable? In other words, have you done a comprehensive costing exercise?
- Business systems: Are your business systems in place to handle the administration around production sales, orders, human resources, and others? Is product design registration or intellectual property protection needed?
- Activity (Sourcing three different kinds of inspiration for your prototype): Write down or draw the initial spark or intuition that inspired your product. Write down what you need from your environment and from others to feel safe to experiment. Write down any feedback you have received about your product idea.