ShopMarvels

Let’s get together and talk shop

If you’ve been hanging around at Ponoko for long, then there is a fairly good chance you’ve already come across Jon Cantin.

Not only is he the man behind the most prolific personal collection in the Ponoko showroom (280 products and counting), Jon also heads up WoodMarvels, 3dMarvels and has just launched his next venture: ShopMarvels.

The idea behind ShopMarvels is to form a hub where creative people from various related fields can get together to discuss ideas, businesses, services and more.

There are forums for traditional woodworkers, forums for gadget
makers etc… but not one bringing them all together under one roof.

Opening up the conversation in this way will hopefully bypass some of the hurdles and pitfalls of localised forums, and also gives rise to the potential for people to be exposed to ideas, resources, products and techniques that they may not have previously considered or even been aware of.

ShopMarvels is a directory.
ShopMarvels is a knowledge base.
ShopMarvels is access to designers, engineers, machinists and manufacturers.

The experts become accessible in this open environment – and who knows, maybe there is someone out there who could benefit from your expertise!
Add your business as a resource, if it fills a particular niche. Join the forum, introduce yourself and start engaging in the sharing of knowledge with others.

Read the story behind ShopMarvels.com

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Nervous System Walks You Through Making an Awesome Trade Show Booth

trade show structures

Science-fashion jewelry + houseware designers Nervous System recently exhibited their work at the New York International Gift Fair.

The NYIGF is a biannual trade show for housewares, home decor, and personal accessories, and is *the* trade show for picking up buyers ranging from boutiques to national chains.

Success at NYIGF isn’t just about having great product; it’s also about having an awesome booth.

In a recent blog post, Nervous System talks about how they created a booth space that both functioned as a showcase for all of their work and carried their distinct cellular aesthetic.

And guess what… They fabricated everything out of “hardboard, cable ties, velcro and paint.”

Jump over to the Nervous blog and pick up a tip or two on putting together your own awesome trade show booth.

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10 Simple Steps to Make & Sell Your Custom Product


The world is full of great ideas, and never before has it been easier to turn those ideas into real, physical products. The thrill of holding something in your hands which you created is something quite special.

Here at Ponoko we love helping everyday people make extraordinary things and we relish our part in the renewed ‘maker movement’ which has taken off over the past few years.

To help you become a part of it too, we have drawn up ten steps to creating a successful custom product. We hope they’ll help to inspire you to start making – and hope to hear about your experiences of doing so!

1. Create a clear design brief for your product

The best thing you can start with is a very clear design brief, or outline. The key questions here are “Why?”, “Who?” and “What?”.

Firstly, identify the problem your product will solve, and the constraints you want to work within. For instance, instead of deciding you want to make a set of shelves – start with the fact you need to organize your books, and the constraint is that it needs to fit between your desk and your bed. This will widen the scope of what you may create, and ensure that it’s meeting a clear need.

Clarifying who you’re making the product for will help you in a multitude of ways – from how you will make it in the beginning through to how you will promote it to others.
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Using Colors to Sell Your Products

How color and other influences affect purchasing decisions.

Many people think of color as merely personal preference, so color becomes an afterthought when designing a product. Unfortunately, this approach ignores a powerful tool and can hurt the success of an otherwise great product. Different colors have been shown to influence people in surprisingly specific ways.

Check out the infographic below from KISSmetrics for guidance on using color effectively to reach your intended audience. It also has some useful information about other factors that can hurt sales.

For more great business advice, read the series of posts on  10 Rules for Maker Businesses.

Click on the image for a larger version.

Via Huffington Post

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“Ten Rules for Maker Businesses” by Wired’s Chris Anderson — Rule #1

Make a profit.

You would think this would go without saying, but one of the first mistakes Makers, well, make when they start to sell their product is not charging enough. It’s easy to see why, for all sorts of reasons.

They want the product to be popular and the lower the price the more it will sell. They’re generous and they don’t feel right charging more than is absolutely necessary. Maybe they even feel that if the product was created with community volunteer help it would be immoral to charge more than it costs.

Understandable, but wrong. You’ve got to charge a reasonable profit, and the reason is simply because it’s the only way to build a sustainable business.

Consider what happens if you make 100 units of your delightful laser-cut handcrank toy drummer kit. You do the math, and between the wood, the laser cutting, the hardware, the box and the instructions, it costs you $20 to make each one. You pack the kits in your spare time, price them at $25 just to cover any costs you may have missed, and start selling.

Since it’s a fun kit and pretty cheap, it sells quickly. You suddenly realize that you’ve got to do it all again, this time in a batch of 1,000. Rather than putting up a couple thousand dollars to buy the materials, you’ve got to put up a couple tens of thousand dollars. Instead of packing the kits in your spare time, you’ve got to hire someone to do it. You need to rent space to store all the boxes, and you’ve got to make daily trips to FedEx.

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“Ten Rules for Maker Businesses” by Wired’s Chris Anderson — Rule #2

It takes lots of cash to stay in stock.

One of the surprising prices of success is how much it costs! Obviously you’ve got to buy your parts and pay for the manufacturing before you can sell your product and make the money back, and the time between those two can be measured in many months if not years.

Likewise, if your product has many components, you’ve got to have a healthy inventory of all of them, with a large buffer in case any one of them become hard to find or there is a delay in shipping them to you.

One of the first hard lessons Makers learn when they go into business is that their supply chain is only as strong as the weakest link.

If you’re out of one component, you can’t ship your product. For the want of one chip or bolt, your entire business can grind to halt.

“Out of stock” is the curse of the Maker industry. Because most of us are new to manufacturing, we don’t get our supply chains and component inventory right.

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“Ten Rules for Maker Businesses” by Wired’s Chris Anderson — Rule #3

Buy smart.

The real difference between a hobby and a business is that businesses don’t buy retail. Just as you’ll be selling wholesale to other stores, you’ll need to buy your components wholesale to keep your products affordable. That means buying in volume, and the discounts typically get a lot better in units of thousands than in hundreds.

In the case of electronics components, that means buying reels or at least long tape strips rather than bags. Fortunately, there’s a pretty good secondary market for unused electronics parts, so if you really get your forecasting wrong, you can recoup a fair bit of the money by reselling them.

Likewise for laser cut products, where you can sometimes buy material in bulk or negotiate a volume discount with the service bureau. But for those, you can’t resell what you don’t use, so don’t bankrupt yourself shaving a few cents off a part and ending up with boxes of parts you don’t need.

As for your other components, almost everything you can find retail, you can trace back to the manufacturer or wholesaler. It’s worth the search—the price savings can be be astounding (we pay less than twenty cents for motors that sell retail for $3).

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“Ten Rules for Maker Businesses” by Wired’s Chris Anderson — Rule #4

Basic business rules still apply.

If you’re selling products under your own company name, you’re a real business and you have to act like one. That means doing it legally.

In the US, that means that you should incorporate. There are services that can help you with this, such as IncFile.com, or you can do it yourself by filling out online forms at state and federal agency websites.

For example, our company, 3D Robotics, is incorporated as a Limited Liability Corporation in the State of California. It will probably cost you a few hundred dollars to cover the paperwork and is required if you’re going to open a business bank account, have employees or otherwise operate anything larger than a lemonade stand.

Even if you’re just selling online, you need to charge sales tax in your home state. Note that it may differ from county to county within the state, so use ecommerce software that can handle this and look up the tax rates on your state’s government website. You’ll probably need to register for a “seller’s certificate” at your state’s government website, too, so you can pass on the sales tax to the state.
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“Ten Rules for Maker Businesses” by Wired’s Chris Anderson — Rule #5

You get no leeway for being a Maker.

I know. You’re a good person, running a small business, maybe even giving away your intellectual property to the world.

It doesn’t matter. People are going to complain. They’re going to want more features and changes. They’re going to moan about your website and documentation. As open as your product is, people will want it be more open, and they want you to help them endlessly.

And the moment you charge a penny, it gets worse. People will expect Amazon-level service the moment you take your first order.

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“Ten Rules for Maker Businesses” by Wired’s Chris Anderson — Rule #6

Be as open as you can.

Why not release your designs, free for all to use? I realize that for many people this seems insane, but we’re seeing more and more examples of such Open Source Hardware business models working brilliantly.

It’s what we do at DIY Drones, and here’s why: when you release your designs on the web, licensed so that others can use them, you build trust, community, and potentially a source of free development advice and labor.

We release our electronics PCB designs in their native form (Cadsofts’ Eagle format), under a Creative Commons Attribution + Share and Share Alike license (“by-sa”), which allows commercial reuse.

Our software and firmware, meanwhile, is all released under a LGPL license, which also allows for commercial reuse as long as attribution is maintained and the code stays open. The result: hundreds of people have now contributed code, bug fixes, design ideas and made complimentary products to enhance our own.

The simple act of going open source has provided us with a free R&D operation that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if we’d been closed source and had to hire our own engineers to do the work, to say nothing of the quality of that work.

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