“Been a long time, shouldna’ left you without a dope beat to step to.”
Try Again, Timbaland, Aaliyah
So, it’s been a few weeks and a lot has happened, most of it exciting, some of it fairly mundane, relatively little of it actually bad. Firstly, I finished my degree in Industrial Design from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Pause for dramatic effect.
Part of this involved putting the Coconest project temporarily on hold so that I could take what I had written in this blog, and some of my other notes and gleanings from this whole experience thus far, and dump it all into a more consumable format. Specifically, a book. In about two days.
Well, it’s not so much a book as it is a booklet. It’s called Brilliant Pebbles.
It’s Something like 30 pages all together with a big, fold-out info graphic right in the middle called the Star Chart that’s meant to be a quick visual reference (like a flow-chart) to help potential entrepreneurs take their Brilliant Pebble to market (which is to say, an idea that is something more than “just an idea,” that has had some real work and thought put into it already and might just be the right combination of desirable, marketable and feasible).
So why did I decide to write a business book as my senior thesis project in design school?
Basically it comes down to this: there are a TON of books out there on starting businesses BUT there are none that I have identified that do the following:
A: Are targeted specifically to people with a product design background who want to bootstrap, manufacture, and sell a product on a massive scale (because we’re kind of fundamentally different than the audience for a lot of those other books; in our approach, the level of our ideas when we begin the process, and the potential scale of our products)
B: Present this information in a quickly-digestible, highly visual format so that said designer can, at a glance, understand where they are in the process and what steps need to be taken to get where they want to be. Think of it as an exceptionally well annotated info graphic with brief, several page chapters on IP, manufacturing concerns, fundraising, marketing, and so forth. It is not a reference book or an exhaustive treatise, or one of those flashy, iconoclastic business books that tries to tell you everything you know is wrong (looking at you “Rework”).
C: Address the difficulties, emotionally, financially, spiritually, etc. of really bootstrapping a business, and the staggering importance of guiding principles, like understanding risk (shout out Daniel Kahneman), finding mentors and giving back through mentorship, and getting skin in the game (shout out Nassim Taleb)
So that’s pretty much what I did. I had several copies printed for my final reviews at Mass Art, (which you might call “Galleys”) but the book is in the prototype stage right now (which you might call the “First Draft”). I have to give it some substantial edits, then I plan to disseminate it to the Mass Art community digitally and send copies to some of my mentors throughout this process, hopefully for their feedback. Ultimately I’d like to have something that can have a life beyond this project and be a resource to other would-be Design Hustlers out there, though I might be a bit of a ways off from that.
What’s Next for Team Coconest?
At the end of 100 days (actually more like 80) of working on this project, I had a fully developed working prototype, the IP to back up my idea, a manufacturing plan, a business plan and pitch deck, and a few people interested in investing in my idea. Now that I’ve caught my breath after the all-out sprint to the finish line, I can start thinking about my next steps, which are the following:
- Send out for quotes on soft tooling. Basically, I know my numbers work for production in the 20K – 100K unit range, but my fundraising strategy relies on hitting smaller goals and building up to those big numbers, so I may have to start with very small runs. The margins per unit are going to be terrible and I may even take a loss on them, but once I know how much money I’ll have to raise to hit that small number, I can move on to…
- Creating a crowd funding promo. Honestly a lot of the work is done already for this. I have documentation, I have a product pitch, I have the business numbers. I need to hire someone to do the videography, but then it’s just a matter of formatting the information.
Then there’s launching the campaign, promoting the campaign, annoying the hell out of everyone I know with constant Social Media and email barrages, etc. but for now I’m focusing on the little steps because I really do want to make this thing happen. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve sunk real effort and real money into this project, and even though I could walk away now, I want to see this through.
At the least I want to take it as far as fund raising, and if it doesn’t make it past that step then fine, it wasn’t meant to be. I’ll still walk out with a lot of experience and knowledge that I can take with me wherever I go next. But if I don’t try and take it to that next level, I’ll never know what could have happened.
Of course, I’m also balancing all of this with finding a job, revising my portfolio and the aforementioned book project, doing contract work and taking care of all of the little things I’ve been putting off for the last 3 years or so. But I’ve got time, and I’m really, really damned close to either putting the lid on this project or blowing it out entirely, and if there’s one thing I hate it’s an unfinished entry in my ledger.
So stay tuned. It’s about to get real.
Until next time, hustle hard.