Product development is a tricky business. It isn’t for the faint of heart. Abbie and I have developed many products across a vast assortment of product categories. We have developed handbags, men’s button down shirts, hand warmer accessories, women’s dresses and everything in-between. The product development lifecycle is a learning rollercoaster The product development lifecycle is different for every new product launch, but we have found that a few key tips can improve the process while helping you preserve your sanity. We hope these help!
1. Start with the numbers
Before you start to develop your product, first cost it out. We always start here! Forecast how much it will not only cost you to develop your product, but estimate how much it will cost to produce it. You don’t want to walk down the development road only to run out of money before you get to the production phase! You also need to ensure that this idea will make you money. Can you hit the retail price point that you envision? There is no need to create a product that won’t be a viable business (unless of course you just want a hobby).
2. Test your idea with your target market as you develop
As you create samples you are testing a lot of different aspects of your design. For instance, if you are working with apparel, you are testing fit, fabrics and colors. Or, if you are developing leather handbags, you are testing various leather weights, pocket placement and function. But don’t forget to test the most important part of your project: your idea! Just because you think you have a great idea, doesn’t necessarily mean that other people will agree and make a purchase. Test your idea at various stages in the development process. And, don’t just ask family and friends. While everyone has that honest friend, most of them will tell you what you want to hear. You need to get in front of strangers that fall into your target market.
3. Patience, Patience, Patience!
The product development lifecycle is long and the process is never as smooth as you imagine. You will rely on many different people from the label vendor to the fabric mill to the pattern maker. They all have their own schedules and timelines to adhere too. It doesn’t matter how detailed, how organized or how available you are to your vendors. Situations arise that slow down the process. The fabric that you fell in love with might be out of stock for 3 months or a particular trim has been discontinued. The relationships that you are building now are important and key to your success. Vendors might make mistakes and/or hold up the process, so it is important to keep your patience and work with everyone involved to find the solutions and keep moving forward.
4. Have an open mind
This goes hand in hand with your patience! Before you start development, you might have a very focused idea in mind. However, as you start to test and build it out, you might find that certain aspects of the design don’t work out. Don’t let this hold you up. Don’t get stuck on that one detail. Be open to brainstorming on other ways to achieve something similar. Being able to pivot is key to being an entrepreneur. You never know what curve balls will be thrown your way so you need to be able to adjust.
5. Stay organized
No one is more invested in your product than you. All of the vendors in your supply chain are working on multiple products so it is important that you keep detailed notes, sketches, technical packs and emails regarding your specific project. This is especially important at the factory level. Your cut and sew factory probably has tons of fabrics, labels, trims etc. across various brands. Make sure to keep a detailed inventory list. When you place orders with fabric and trims vendors request shipping information to forward on to the factory so that they are aware of what will be arriving soon. Once it has been received and they have confirmed its arrival, you can add it to your inventory list. This will ensure items don’t get lost.
What other tips do you have to survive the product development rollercoaster?