Many moons ago, I launched one of the first companies to make reusable shopping bags (to replace paper and plastic bags). I had lots of enthusiasm and a strong worth ethic, but zero experience in design, manufacturing or marketing. Our first prototype was “sewn” together with an office stapler!
The first few years were exciting, but rough. We sold hundreds of thousands of units of product…but somehow lost money.
We had some of
the biggest brands in
the world as clients
(Martha Stewart, Guess Jeans, Lexus, Discovery Channel and many more) and garnered attention from national media outlets (People Magazine, Real Simple and the OWN Network), but my lack of knowledge meant that I made every rookie mistake in the book when it came to physically producing our product.
Suppliers disappeared with our money. We’d ship product to customers, only to discover an embarrassing quality problem like broken handles or upside-down labels. Deliveries were always late.
I had started out passionate about the business, but soon became burned out by stress and fear. It was clear that being a novice was getting in the way of my success, so I decided I needed to learn everything I could about the process of making physical goods. What I didn't expect was that this quest would lead me down a completely new path.
In 2011 - after hours of research into the manufacturing industry, numerous factory visits, and countless conversations with industry experts - I made the impromptu decision to teach an online class for other product entrepreneurs, to share all the information I’d gathered. The hope was that other people might avoid some of the same difficult mistakes. I expected 50 people or so to participate; thousands signed up.
This was my lightbulb moment.
There was a lack of quality guidance for new product entrepreneurs and people were hungry for the info! I knew I wanted to contribute to the maker community in a bigger way and threw myself into creating the Learn To Make A Product platform.
Fast forward to the present...Learn To Make A Product is serving makers from all over the world. Our workshops, digital products, and support packages have reached over 5,000 people and I’ve educated groups at MIT, Babson, General Assembly and beyond!
Those who invest time and energy into their ideas are my heroes. It takes serious guts to do something you've never done before! I’m honored each time we get to support someone’s entrepreneurial journey, and hope we will part of yours.