A leader in the "maker's movement," Liz Long has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs as they bring their product ideas to life. From finding factories to building a brand identity to shipping finished goods, Liz helps makers understand exactly what they need to do to launch a successful product-based brand. She is a contributor at Forbes and the resident sourcing expert at Maker's Row.
In 2007 I decided to start a business selling reusable bags to big retailers. The fact that I had NO experience in design or manufacturing somehow didn’t deter me! I “sewed” together our first bag prototype using an office stapler. My strategy for finding a factory was to repeatedly call Whole Foods Market and ask them who made their bags. (Big surprise, they didn’t want to tell me). I was a total novice!
However, the reusable shopping bag was a new concept at the time, and we drew attention from high-profile companies and media outlets. Brands like Martha Stewart, Guess Jeans, and Oprah asked us to create custom bags for them. People Magazine, Real Simple, and E! Entertainment featured us. The exposure was exciting and we grew quickly - too quickly.
Thanks to my lack of knowledge, I made every rookie mistake in the book when it came to physically producing our product. A supplier would disappear 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. In our first few years of business we sold hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product…but somehow lost money. Much of the initial excitement was drowned out by stress and loss.
I knew that in order to move forward I would need to become an expert in manufacturing. What I didn’t expect was that the quest to learn everything I could - from the endless research to factory visits to interviewing industry pros - would lead me down a completely unexpected path.
I made an impromptu decision in 2011 to lead an online class to help other product entrepreneurs avoid the same painful mistakes I’d made. Based on my own trial and error process and the insight of industry experts, the course outlined a step-by-step process for turning an idea into a physical product. I expected 50 people or so to participate. Thousands signed up.
The realization that people were hungry for this info, combined with the lack of readily available guidance on key manufacturing issues, was my lightbulb moment. I saw that in decades past, big companies with big budgets and connections to factories were the ones dominating the manufacturing of new products. As such, the information distributed about the process of actually making something catered to these corporations. The materials were complex, corporate, and filled with details not relevant to newer, smaller makers.
Thankfully, these newer, smaller makers are now creating a large movement! Today, anyone can go online and connect with factories all over the world. They can launch a crowdfunding campaign to pay for production costs and take advantage of easy and inexpensive tools like Shopify or Amazon to sell to millions. We're in the "era of the maker", and not only is making a product becoming easier, but designing the lifestyle you want - thanks for the flexibility offered by a product-based business - is easier too.I 'm so enjoy helping entrepreneurs bring their product ideas to life, and create the life they want in the process!
ORGS & PROJECTS
Forbes // Liz Long on Forbes
The Collective of Us// Bold Broads: Interview with Liz Long
StartUp Fashion // 3 Helpful Tips for Running Quality Control in Your Fashion
Huffington Post // Making Sustainability Stylish
Print Magazine // How to Make a Product: Product Design Checklist
Maker's Row // Sourcing Specialist at MR Personal Sourcing
The Entrepreneur Review // Encouraging Eco-awareness with Stylish Reusable Bags
Becoming a Fashion Designer // Sustainable Accesories
Pioneer Mode // Industry Insights with Bag the Habit's Liz Long
Just Us Gals // Who's That Gal
OS Fashion // How to Get Your Suppliers to be Transparent
HOW Design // How to Make a Product Design
Luna Vega // Liz Long Breaks Product Development
Pivotte // Liz Long on Ambition & Motivation