LaunchYourLine.com — The Ultimate Resource for Designers?

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Launch Your Line is a new web service that aims to comprehensively support the creation of an original product line. Within the site you build a dashboard by refining your ideas and defining the stage of your product. From your dashboard you can find manufacturers, develop branding and packaging, commission a website, order a prototype, and find interested buyers. Signing up for an account is free, and Launch Your Line collects a percentage from the products and services you order through their site. This all sounds amazing, but is it too good to be true?

I decided to sign up and go through the steps with a hypothetical stationery line to see how this potentially industry-changing service shakes out.

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First of all, the site needs a make-over. There are certain design characterstics of Web 2.0 and Semantic Web sites that communicate a sense of competence and secure an initial trust in users. I’m a little skeptical of trusting my own branding and graphic design to the partners of a site whose own logo looks like Cash4Gold. (Not that I’m bashing Cash4Gold; that’s a brilliant business.)

To get started, you select whether you would like to create a product line (for designers) or bid on a project (for manufacturers). Going the designer route, I define my line as a stationery series under Gifts & Crafts. Then you select at which stage you are at in terms of Product Development.

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You then define what you are looking for in terms of manufacture: if you need a prototype, if you plan to manufacture the item yourself, if you want a pre-existing item with your own signature, etc.

Next you choose the packaging you need: boxes, blister packs, tags, labels, etc.

The next step is to select a distribution mode. It looks like Launch Your Line will have its own online store.

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Marketing considerations include print, tv, internet, press releases, and product catalogs.

Getting down to business:

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Then you select what you need in terms of online resources: a domain name, a web site, personalized email, e-commerce, etc.

The Legal section includes requests for copyright, patent, and trademark information and insurance.

After filling out these seven or so forms, I now have my Super Stationery dashboard. Each phase of my product line can either be revisited for changes or started. They should probably get rid of the thumbs down icon in the feedback button gif; not a good visual cue.

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If you’re overwhelmed with where to start, you can contact someone for paid consultancy services. Jumping into manufacturing, you’re asked for a project description, budget, and response deadline. It’s up to manufacturers to contact you if they are interested in producing your line. There’s a typo on this page which increases my discomfort with this site. While a human error, it reflects a lack of attention to detail — something that concerns me if I’m trusting my ‘baby’ to this company.

You fill out the same information for packaging. For making a product catalog, there’s an internal service called Catalog Creator. When I click to launch the Catalog Creator, a blank window opens i.e. it doesn’t work. The Press Release Creator does work however.

It’s less of a write-your-own-release tutorial and entirely a ‘buy now’ pitch. Starting at $599, a Launch Your Line’s partner will write the release and distribute it to Google, USA Today, the New York Times, and a variety of optional target markets. Not exactly a cheap way to get started. I think I’ll go with word-of-mouth.

On to legal operations. I can choose to form an LLC or incorporate. I’m actually well aware of the differences, but check out their comparison chart of the two entities. A lot of details are presented, but not very clearly. On this page is a right hand column of ads for books. In my opinion, if a company makes money on commissions from successful partnerships, having ads on the site tells me that either its service is not so successful or they’re out to make any cash they can.

Like the press release, forming a legal business is a ‘buy now’ affair. LLCs are sold in ‘Economy’, ‘Standard’, or ‘Express Gold’ packages. There’s something a bit bogus, a little too Cash4Gold, in buying an ‘Express Gold’ business package for $359.

My final investigation into Launch Your Line is the Distribution phase. Will I be able to have my products pitched to Target? or directed to create an Etsy site? or given a list of local retailers that sell my genre of product? Nope. All I get this.

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Having been official for only a week, there’s nothing except their own release in the press section, and I doubt they add this review.

Conclusion: Launch Your Line is a wonderful concept that I believe would be quickly embraced and much-loved by designers if it wasn’t a scam. From the terrible logo to the typo, the broken link to the book ads, and the hundreds of dollars to be dropped everywhere, I don’t think this company’s heart is in the right place. They are out to cash in on the design-democratizing movement through advertising, guillible entreprenurial-hopefuls, and probably the sharing of personal information. Launch Your Line looks like an online danger zone to me.

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8 Responses to “LaunchYourLine.com — The Ultimate Resource for Designers?”

  1. Whystler Says:

    Thanks for a well thought out evaluation of a potentially scamming site. I’ll wait for their redesign, or for someone else with the right intention to take this great idea to the place it belongs.

    -Whystler

  2. Jon Says:

    The concept seems alright but I think there are some pointers from this that can be applied to Ponoko once it progresses a bit more regarding shipping options (only pieces that are part of model in a box type etc.).

    Jon
    http://WoodMarvels.com – Create Unique Memories

    ps: yesterday and today the blogs have appeared 2x on the same page (duplicates), not sure if you noticed this, seems random.

  3. Kristen Says:

    @Jon,
    I agree that the boxes for various options were a good idea, and think any way in which Ponoko can simplify the entire process is helpful.

    @Whystler, I don’t mean to make the site out to be an unapologetic rip-off and blatant scam, but they’re going about it the wrong way if they really want to help people launch product lines.

    On the blog dups, I haven’t gotten that. I’m using Firefox. But maybe there is a glitch in WordPress. (You should see the spam that hasn’t been auto-filtered for the past 2 days!)

  4. Shelley Noble Says:

    Yep, great analysis, Kristen. That bad design said it all from the outset.

  5. Bonnie Sandy Says:

    I have monitored the development of the online Creative Enterprise space since 2005/6 we also run an offline project that explored startup businesses with a creative focus. Our program has been successful quality well designed product and sales. I say this only to emphasize that I have a solid background and a proven track record. We have also explored web technology for creative business use and have tracked our artist across many sales avenues. “Design characterstics of Web 2.0 and Semantic Web” and large numbers of users does not mean artist are selling, or more importantly making a profit!

    Can the site be improved … yes.
    Is this Fraudulent… Time will tell
    Do they have experience in helping set up design businesses and the resources I suspect they do. However, if as I suspect they are industry savvy, Tthey would have turned to a “web designer” who probably charged them a lot of money. Without understanding the space and language they were probably not able to communicate their needs.

    I am in no way associated with LaunchYourLine.com however this “space” has two distinct components. The technical Savvy “Web 2.0″ young start-ups with ideas of what should work are struggling to pay the bills and those I define as “Masters” with years of experience, who sell and are trying to “get with It”

    At DeMarketPlace we opted a slower route and worked at translating what works offline on. We have also boldly left that progressive development online ( as we would in setting up an offline store) as part of the conversation with our constituents. We have changed designs and have grown with the needs and technology. Give them time.

    I am yet to see a business model that can truly be recommended to artist as being “ready” as is. I’ll tell you this, were it not for funding and VC money many of these “Web 2.0″ with “semantic” would not survive. If we were to carefully look behind the record numbers we would see they were due to service fees and advertising rather than actual sale of goods. There is so much that needs to come together to make the virtual independent design marketplace online sustainable, that we need to bring all the experts in various components together.

    The perception of who’s valuable also has to change. As a 2nd generation to own a design business I find myself utilizing the wisdom I learnt in my mother shop, the knowledge I learnt at FIT and the technology my younger brother and his “geeky” friends taught me.

    I love looking at Ponoko, however I cannot recommend it as a production tool especially in today’s market. Outside of Museum shops it world be hard to sell some of these items. On the other hand the technology would a broader scope of design.

    I recently did a similar test on Ponoko, with a belt buckle in acrylic it would have cost me $36.00 (with shipping) for a 4″ square buckle Post production I would be retailing a belt with an acrylic buckle for $240.00 for this to be a business model. That does not mean that Ponoko is not a valid concept, rather it means that the tech has to come inline with the reality. They most successful design entrepreneurs I know barely use email!

    The perception of value in the supply and demand chain has to be understood from the perspective of the designer as well as consumer.

    The truth is that for those of us in the business especially those who are currently selling, with the exception of jewelry and Tee shirts( and then artist profits are questionable), many of these online sites don’t “work”. Before you protest, by work we mean that the Artist is selling regularly at a respectable profit, to customers who actually love using/wearing our products.

    We are actually bringing together all the various players to discuss learn and share in a BarCamp Type event http://www.FashionCamp.org in the meantime, reach out to LaunchYourLine.com they may actually know their end of the business very well!

  6. Duann Says:

    great post..

    Investigative journalism Ponoko style..

  7. Isette Says:

    Nice write up!

  8. Machinate — Pinball Publishing « Ponoko – Blog Says:

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