Ok- you've managed to put together a Start-Up plan, and we're now working together deep in strategy, design and development. What can you expect from here?
Following up on the last post, "So You Want to Start a Footwear Brand?" and in the light of some recent inquiries, here's an additional 5 tips for Start-Ups/Entrepreneurs who do make it past the planning stage-
1. Be patient. Planning, Strategy and laying a solid foundation are the key to the design process. Typically this includes a lot of research, written documents and Gantt charts- all before any of the "fun" sketches and designing. We will walk you through the process, but just understand that all the work upfront is key to ensuring decisions down stream are good. Building a house starts with planning, surveys and more, long before the first boards get nailed together. Building a product/brand is same.
2. Time is money. This is pretty obvious, but keep in mind it works both ways. Longer lead times can "cost" you money (ie. not shipping until a later season affects cashflow), but likewise speeding the process also can eat cash. RUSH projects are billed at RUSH rates, and making decisions to quickly can have consequences that may mean that molds are wasted or unnecessary samples are made. Expediting the process with additional travel and in-factory development is usually possible, but costs can add up. Typically we recommend the best balance in cost and overall time for deliverables, but if you want it faster, be prepared to pay.
3. Expect mistakes. Things happen. Guaranteed the first sample from the factory will be terrible. The next sample after 50 pages of development comments will likely overlook some corrections and still have issues. Final production samples will have some small QC issues. Making a shoe is not easy and typically requires over 50 parts, from 20 different suppliers and involves 15 different workers. Not to mention the development process is usually conducted "remote control" by Skype/Email with a factory who doesn't speak English as a first language. We know this and the process accounts for this.
4. Everything takes time. Material may take 20 days to prepare. Samples take 3-4 days to ship from Asia. Molds take 30 days to cut from steel. It all adds up. We'll work together to lay out a preliminary schedule for strategy, design, development, etc. and will work to hit key milestones throughout the process That being said, as per point 1, 2 and 3 above, keep in mind the schedule is built on our experience and we do our best to present an accurate, responsible timeline with buffer as needed to ensure final deliverables are on time and on budget but adjustments along the way are often necessary. More-so if the product is technically complex or very innovative.
5. Say "No". It's easy to find 1000 "opportunities" along the way. "Wouldn't it be neat to make some branded apparel to go with the shoes?"..."Maybe we can design a custom mobile app experience"...."Why don't we also design another 5 products because X customer wants Y".... Anything is possible, but it takes additional focus, resources (time and money) to change scope of work. As a Start-Up, in our experience, the key to success is staying as focused as possible on the brand and launch product. The planning process (point 1) will help lay the foundation for this, but as a founder you will likely get pulled in 10 different directions. Say "No" more often than you say "Yes" and you'll have a better chance of launching and getting to those future opportunities and more, later.