Part II: The Process of Building a Product
- So you’ve made it to the prototype stage! Now comes testing and trying. Sometimes prototypes come to you ready to go, other times you can tell from the get go that you need to rework something before testing. But if your notes and directions and ideas were accurate before work started on it, often you can still try and use your first prototype.
Each product will have its own timeline for development and how many prototypes are needed. For something functional like clothing and accessories like what we make for May Babes, the truth of a product will come out in the testing portion.
Nuances like fit are left for later on, while functional aspects like seam types, seam locations, and durability are best to try out early and continue with trying until the end of the sampling/prototype process. While fit plays a VITAL role in so many goods, if you realize later on a seam needs to be changed, the fit will change so much based off of that one part, so really you need to focus on the function as your first priority. Especially if you are making something not seen in your market, do this. We had to do this with our Bella leggings and it paid off.
In our example we used our saddle cover, so for this we needed to add a little extra suede in one portion and take a little away from another. While these things did not affect the functionality of the product, we were able to trial it while making those adjustments as notes first, and then take them into the second sample knowing that the function would remain, but the aesthetics would be better. Trialing it before makes the adjustments can make the adjustments more accurate. Another example of this could be pants. In a stand still, a pair of pants might seem to be ok, but you need to move in them and do what is intended to get a glimpse of what is working or not working. Always bring a measuring tool with you when you are trialing a prototype, and to help with where you want things to be. Pins help, but I also love to use crayons as they make marks that do not rub off the same way marking chalks do. Do not be afraid to alter a sample, and take COPIOUS photos before and after.
ALSO: Ask friends and family for help! When you have your sample made, take into consideration sizing. Before finalizing the sample, it would be helpful to give the sample to multiple people to trial. The more input you receive the better your product will be. Take considerations to heart, write everything down even if you do not agree with the feedback, and move forward without deviating too far from the mission or the idea of your product. But also take advice and feedback because down the road you can reflect on it, refer back to it and oftentimes, when you are further removed as time goes on and less emotionally invested, that feedback is really incredibly useful.
- Finalizing your prototype, and moving to production. Once you receive your final sample/prototype you need to do two things:
If you’re truly happy with the final prototype or pre production sample- make sure you double check all notes with your manufacturer prior to finalizing. This means that you reiterate all of the sample changes, make notes on what is expected and send a copy of that to your manufacturer so that in writing you have an agreement on the design and expectations. If you’re pleased with what you have, you can move into production. Production timelines differ between industries but from experience, you are looking at either scheduling months out or you sign up for immediate production. Typically half of production costs are due up front and the second half due when production wraps. Production: this is where your market research comes into play: you need to order sizes, colors and quantities. This is highly dependent on what your polls, conversations with friends and social media groups have shown you. It also takes a lot of input from your finances and a little bit of following your gut, because your sizes and overall quantity will be determined by sales expectations, what way you plan to sell (DTC or wholesale), what you can afford and the reorder time frame your manufacturer gives you (when more inventory would be finished with production if you ordered more).
THAT’S IT! That is the basics of how to bring an idea from drawing board to production!
Did you enjoy this post? Is there anything else you would like to learn about our process or inner workings? Let us know :)