Online/Offline design shops open for independent designersï¿

Hi, we in my studio are making a self investment product, we are a small studio and we usually do graphic / web design, not product, yet I was always passionate about product design, first I though we show our vision and style and clients will emerge, we released some concept designs, one won a red dot others got showcased in the press all over the world, we had zero interest from manufactures and investors only private individuals asking where to buy our vapour.

This year I got an idea about new product, figured out we can actually go into prototyping and then production, even can produce in limited quantities like hundreds on self investment or if investor likes the project in thousands.

I decide we do it no mater what, idea is unique, and we can make it with today technology, I am speaking about the product quite similar to mp3 players, yet not exactly.

Now lets imagine we make it in few hundreds / thousands / we do package and so on so this will be a typical limited edition product, but what do we do next?

We sell it right? Where? That is the question, I know few design web and offline stores that are great yet they usually don’t even answer the e-mails, are there places that are open to work with independent designers and are ready to sell the independent product if they like it from quality / design / features points of view? Any suggestions? We can of course ship internationally yet imagine paying 100 USD only for shipping while the product itself goes for 200 for example.

Hard to give you a good answer without knowing the product, but one tip would be to make an actual phone call to potential customers rather than just sending email. Compared to say furniture, there aren’t a lot of places selling independent design electronics, simply because there aren’t a lot of people making them. Keep in mind that most of the retail websites you’re looking at are drop ship operations, so you will have to handle all the order fulfillment and shipping. Keep that in mind when you tell them the price.

Also, something small like an MP3 player won’t cost anywhere near $100 to ship internationally unless you try to overnight it.

If we say we manufacture in China or Taiwan and the client is in Europe the DHL may be near 100 USD… Yes this is 3-5 days delivery, 2 weeks may be near 40 usd or less, yet still this is too much from my point of view, to ship 10 or 100 units to the shop at once is the thing I want.

The project I’m talking about is not hypothetical, we are making a product and are trying to find some places interested so when it is mass produced we know where to ship and what to say to the people who will like to have one.

We simple don’t know where to look, in the places personally been to like Singapore, Japan and Russia I have some ideas and we are working on them, yet no luck for Germany for example, and other parts of the world.

what is generaly done is a contact reshipper, adds to cost but solves some of the problem but in the end you need a starting inventory and that ties up some serious cash. Your mfg will give you prices for vairious runs and as far as shipping goes…give them options and they eat the freight.

edit all products are “hypothetical” untill they perform that true test…sell through.

the first thing that comes to mind is

great design, straight from designers? its like a designer etsy. that said, i agree with the person who said there aren’t a lot of places selling independent electronics, because there aren’t that many people making them.

Having worked with a small company in a similar position, I can say that distribution channels are the most difficult thing to work out in a situation like this. Many retailers (Best Buy, Amazon) were willing to carry a product in small quantities, but if you’re making small quantities its difficult to make the product cheap enough that you can afford the margins of a traditional retailer. Sorry, I don’t have any easy answers for you, but wish you best of luck!

When looking for distributors it is always good to check out existing similar products in stores and back track them to their distributors and suppliers. This involves many phone calls and lots of charm.
However, I’ve read that large distributors in the US typically won’t bother with small orders or with suppliers with only one product in their line and so you are less likely to get any shelf space… online stores are a different story…a few things that pop to mind here:

  • Boutique Shops with Designer Products (eg. Top 3 By Design)
    These types of shops tend to carry quirky short-run designs to support designers. (NY should have plenty of these). If they don’t answer emails call them. It’s too easy for people to ignore emails these days… hook’em with a call.

  • Create an Ebay/Online Store. Might sound obvious.

  • Wal-Mart Innovation Network (for a small fee Walmart evaluates your product and if they like it they put it in their stores… aimed at start-up inventors)

As far as shipping costs go $100 seems an awful lot. Did you ask your manufacturer if they have any distribution channels themselves? Most Chinese/Taiwanese companies either have their own D-channels or they already work with other clients that do so they should be able to give you some contacts and even provide you with some prices for bulk-freight. They might request a percentage of royalties and in return they will handle all the distribution issues. Plenty of Chinese manufacturer’s work this way if they like the designer’s idea. Otherwise you pay a distributor to handle all of this and save yourself the hassle. This is all a great deal of work by the way. Not easy.

Check out “The Inventor’s Bible (by: Docie Sr.)”, very good book on how to license your own products. This goes through how to source suppliers and negotiating deals as well as how to protect yourself legally along the way.

I hope this helps.