Small Business School: How To Create A Product Line
This has totally been a long overdue post! I’ve been wanting to share what I know with y’all and have been going back and forth about what I should share. One of my goals this year is to share more insightful topics on our Small Business School blog series so if you guys have any burning questions, please leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!
There’s so much that goes into creating a product line that would warrant a MUCH longer post and perhaps even multiple posts. I wanted to just give y’all a summary and things I’ve personally identified as the most important things to consider. Whether you are thinking about starting your own stationery line or perhaps just want to expand on your product offerings, these are 8 of the most important things to consider.
p.s. be sure to read all the way to the bottom to get a little insider scoop to something new happening soon ;)
IDENTIFY WHAT PRODUCT OR PRODUCT RANGE YOU WANT TO OFFER.
Specifically for a stationery or paper line, I feel like product variety is important. It’s something I look for when deciding to add a new stationery line to our shop. Having some diversity is easier as a buyer to purchase a group of product that will also merchandise really well together.
When deciding on product for the P+CP line, I wanted to hone in on products to fill the gaps. There are a lot of great paper businesses out there with great product, however, there were still product gaps in what I felt I wanted in the shop. I also wanted to have this new product line be cohesive and easy for paper lovers to gravitate towards multiple items.
I also did a poll via social media to ask our community what they wanted. Simple questions like asking if they’d prefer a notepad that was lined or blank was incredibly helpful!
TRUST YOUR GUT WITH THE DESIGN + CREATIVE PROCESS.
There are no shortage of ideas that are floating around my head. And I want to turn them all into tangible goods- but that’s not realistic because producing product takes an upfront investment.
I knew I wanted our P+CP mint color to be present throughout our designs and our line, even as it evolves. I also wanted to have designs that were “timeless”. Trends are a real part of life and design, but I wanted to stay true to what felt in alignment with our business and brand regardless of if it was cool or not. An example would be suddenly incorporating the Pantone Color of the Year into everything even if it doesn’t fit our brand.
Functionality and simplicity was another thing I focused on. I also ask myself every time I design or want to release a new product “Would I use this?”.
I probably have twice as many designs that were weeded out slowly before deciding on our current line!
BE RESOURCEFUL-GOOGLE WILL BE YOUR BESTFRIEND.
I did most of my test printing at home and did a TON of googling. I already had some sources from before the P+CP existed and I was working on my own line full time. I visited several local print shops to get quotes from them.
There is no one “size” fits all for any business. What works for someone may not work for you and vice versa. It’s up to you to explore and do some research.
This might be something that’s only true for me, but even though I have a lot of friends in the industry- I don’t usually ask them for their printers or sources. Mostly because I see it as asking someone to give me all their research and hard work for nothing. It takes months, sometimes even years for people to find the right printer/manufacturer and it seems like a big ask to have someone just hand that to me for nothing.
I equate it to going into your favorite restaurant and asking the chef for their recipe.
*p.s. this was one of the most asked questions when we opened up questions about producing a product on our Instagram community!
ALWAYS GET A SAMPLE AND PROOF!
I always order samples and pay for proofs. It sometimes costs a little more but it’s worth it to know you’re not going to end up with a giant box of product with a slight imperfection or a missed crop line.
This actually happened to me during the production of our line last year. I ordered a proof and yet, still somehow missed that I did not remove the crop lines off one of our notepads. It was 100% on me for missing that and now we have a big box of notepads we use for scrap paper because there’s just the tiniest lines down each side. It’s barely noticeable but as someone who really stands for quality of paper (and business in general) these will never be sold! It definitely stung both in my bank account and I had to take a moment to realize I’m human too and mistakes will happen!
CALCULATE THE COST OF EACH ITEM AND THEN FACTOR IN THE TOTAL COST.
A lot of times, the larger your quantity is the lower you’re going to be able to get the cost per item. That means higher profit margins! But if you are just starting out, I really think doing as much printing (by investing in a good and solid printer) can help you from just having way too much inventory on hand of just one thing.
If you are trying out a ton of designs, you will be able to do that without high minimums when you print yourself. If you want to outsource printing and production, you may have to streamline and only produce a few things at a time because of costs.
Minimums can range from the hundreds to thousands! So even if you can get an item at a low cost per item (example $4) having to order hundreds or thousands of that means you’d have to pay all of that upfront!
A big thing to consider and NEVER forget is to include the TOTAL cost of each item into what you price it at. Take into account the cost you pay for shipping for the product to be sent to you (if you are outsourcing your production), cost for packaging (yes even the cute little labels and stickers on your product) and even the cost of you designing the product/packaging design!
PRICE FOR WHOLESALE AND PRICE COMPETITIVELY.
When pricing your product, always price for wholesale pricing even if you are not planning on wholesaling right now (or ever!) For example: If you plan on retailing a greeting card at $5. You will probably be wholesaling it at $2.50. So to make a profit, the total cost of that card should be at or less than $1.25.
I also think it’s really important to price whatever it is you’re making competitively. In my opinion, I want people to pick up our product because they like it vs. choosing it because it’s a cheaper option.
GET COMFORTABLE WITH VULNERABILITY AND BE OPEN TO FEEDBACK.
Putting your art, design and work out into the world is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. You’ll question if people like what you are doing. You’ll question if you’re good enough. You’ll also probably start comparing yourself to others.
A huge thing is knowing that the people who will resonate with what you’ve created will LOVE it, and knowing that you’re not going to be for everyone and that’s okay too!
Once you create your product(s), it’s important to get feedback and be open to hearing what people have to say about your work. Get your product out in front of people at local events and listen to what people say when they see or touch your product. There’s no better way to test the market and see what designs or product resonates with your audience than for you to do that.
Last but not least, perhaps the most important thing is to start small. Start with a small range of offerings, with a few designs. Print from home to keep your cost down and to keep from ending up with thousands of the same notepad stored in your closet! You’ll be able to offer diverse offering while being able to test out various designs and products. Invest in local markets and shows to test your products- make tweaks after feedback and be open to evolving.
The original product line I started with in 2013 is vastly different than what I am doing now :)
I’m already working on a few follow up posts from additional questions you all had for this topic like:
What questions do you need to ask printers/manufacturers?
Do you need a lot of followers before you launch? Are countdowns good a good idea?
HAVE ANY OTHER SMALL BUSINESS RELATED TOPICS YOU’D LIKE FOR ME TO SHARE ON OUR BLOG? LET ME KNOW BELOW :)
Alright, here’s the inside scoop and you’re hearing it FIRST!
We’re going to be releasing NEW product in a few weeks. Like even more stationery and paper goodness. So get excited!!!