What lessons did you learn starting your line?

I'm working on starting my own line, and am very interested to hear from those of you who have existing lines of your own - what lessons did you learn along the way? What would you have done differently, and what do you wish you knew when you started out.

I've started Perry's great video series on the steps of how to get started which is great - but in this discussion I'm more interested in hearing the nitty gritty details: Did you launch with too few / too many products, did you have issues sorting out logistics of posting your products if you sold online, did you aim for a target market that you couldn't tap into and have to change directions, what other odd learning's did you have along the way that you didn't expect?

Comments

  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    I have this line http://phique.com

    There were a few hiccups and I already had my formulas.
    First, it was hard to find a reliable contract manufacturer. They didn't want to make exactly my formula but rather, they wanted to make a formula based on ingredients they were already buying. Eventually, we were able to get something close to my formula but it still wasn't an exact match.

    Next, the first batch made didn't meet specifications but the contract manufacturer filled it anyway. They were all set to ship it out when I finally got a sample and noticed it wasn't right. Had I not inspected the product, I would have had a shampoo that was so thick no one could get it out of the bottle. The CM made another batch which came out right but I learned to always double check.

    Another thing I would have done, should have done was to get pre-orders or commitments from customers prior to moving forward. In the initial batch I made more units than I could quickly sell and had inventory for which we had to pay storage fees. To do this you need to do an excellent job of figuring out who your customer is and where they make their purchases.

    If you are wondering how many products you should launch with, you don't know your customer well enough to launch. 

    Finally, I work with a partner on the project and neither of us are completely dedicated to the line. I've got my websites & other work and he's got a regular job. You can't properly build a brand if you aren't focused on it. 
  • @Perry, congratulations on your line. I didn’t knw you had one. I was inspired by the launch of just two products.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Yes, I think it is better to start with fewer products. Think of a brand like Wen or Burts Bees who started with only 1 product. Certainly, it's easier to do that for a hair care or lip balm brand but there are lots of examples on the market of brands that sell a lot of only one product.
  • Very interesting. I actually wanted to buy it after seeing the website and reading through - but doesn't ship to Australia.

    What factors made you stick with the contract manufacturer when they forced you to compromise your formulation based on availability of the ingredients to them?

    I plan to launch with just two products, but I wasn't sure if that makes the brand look immature. But you're right, there are many examples of brands successfully launching with fewer. I also read an article on the founder of a brand I admire / aspire to, and in the interview they asked her what lessons she learnt. I found it very interesting that she said she spent years longer than necessary to launch with over 100 sku's, and wasted a lot of money and time in the process. She said if she did it again she'd launch with maximum 5 products and then expand over time.

    Do you generally conduct your quality control yourself or build it into your contracts with suppliers / manufacturers, etc?



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