Launching new products
I'm going to start this blog post by saying this feels a little funny to write. Why? Because the way The Midi and The Lowdown were brought into this world felt a bit more like a baby being born in the back the car on the way to hospital with heavy metal booming on the radio than a soothing water birth surrounded by candles and a chilled Spotify playlist.
Let's just say, it was a little hectic.
Way back before Mustard was officially a thing we were dreaming up the two door lockers. We had so many ideas and it was easy to get swept away with sampling everything that came to mind. One night I had one of those lightbulb moments, we were doing it all wrong. We needed to start simple. We needed to start sustainably. Jess and I agreed to start with our core range of just two products, The Skinny and The Shorty and thank goodness we did.
Each product comes with it's own special needs whether that's the moulds needs to manufacture them, the way they need to be photographed or the safest way to package them for shipping. Both our first products came with little surprises and each batch that was produced had slight tweaks to improve them. Having made significant changes to the packaging we felt ready to get some of our other dream lockers out from the drawing board and into the world.
Designing the two door lockers was a mixture of customer feedback, our own unmet needs (if we need them others might too!), our factories capabilities and aesthetics. The Skinny was designed to be deep enough for an adult hanger to fit inside so we made The Shorty the same depth so they'd sit nicely together. While we are happy with that choice there are a lot of instances where they're a bit too deep for hallways or small spaces so making the new products shallower was one fixed reference point.
In terms of unmet needs Jess had two shorties side by side as a tv unit in her alcove. While it did the job it left wasted space either side but she hadn't found anything that fit just right. So I made her The Lowdown, it's exactly the perfect size for her Victorian terrace alcoves. We figured that if Jess had trouble finding a solution other people in the world are probably asking the same question. The height we kept the same as The Shorty for consistency keeping it all in proportion.
The Midi was dreamed up as a cocktail bar/hallway storage/dresser. She's a little narrower and taller to give the extra storage and create a surface at the right height for a mirror.
Once the proportions were more or less fixed we asked our factory to create samples to work out the best construction. The sampling happened in three stages, the first when Jess was there in China, the second a few months later when we were both in China and the last stage were shipped over to me in Australia. The samples are custom made as the moulds for the design do not yet exist so they cost more and take longer. It's a beautiful process :)
We ironed out a few potential issues while we were at the factory and the new updates were prototyped. A good example is the middle bar that separates the two doors and adds strength the the structure and support to the top panel. We knew from experience that when parts can go either a right or a wrong way, customers often get it wrong! So instead of having the piece only go in one way we redesigned it to be symmetrical. A lot of time was spent working out the best way to package and protect them, getting the best possible balance between enough packaging and avoiding unnecessary waste. It's a hard one given the nature of the product.
Coming up with the names was frustratingly difficult but they now seem so right it's hard to remember why!
Way back in February we took our samples to Life Instyle, a Sydney trade show where we told our stockists we'd have them ready in May. Mistake number one. Things always take longer than you think. We also told the stockist a price which we later had to increase slightly because our better packaging not only costs more initially but also takes up more room therefore less fit in a container which nudges each items cost to us. Mistake number two. These were both painful to admit that we'd been too quick to promote the new products and being really honest, embarrassing.
By June our containers were finally on the water and we set a date to release them. Then of course the containers were delayed so we ended up so close to launch but didn't have all the photos of the products! I had worked hard on our dream photo shoot for the new colours with Zoe Lonergan and Rachel Cullen which was totally magical but none of the other colours had been photographed or even made up! Jess is pretty amazing at organising stuff and managed to somehow pull together a photoshoot in her house with 48 hours notice with Clare Watson and Libby Hobbs. Coupled with the images of our new coloured samples which I had here in Australia we had the full range photographed just in the nick of time.
To make things a little more complex we also offered our stockists a pre release giving them the opportunity to buy two days early. While this was a good thing to do it also stacked up the real time pressure on us to make it happen.
The last icky issue is the finances. getting real with you, it cost a lot to go through this process. Custom sampling, shipping the large samples, the photoshoots, the new instruction videos that need to be made, paying for the actual stock itself which then costs us in storage (we use a 3PL) and our biggest freight and importing bills yet. We stretched our cash flow to the limit to self fund this but ended up needing a last minute loan from someone who believes in us (thanks Dad). We called this phase "The Leap" where we went from ordering one container for each country at a time to ordering multiples in very close succession. Thankfully we are on the other side of the leap and the ground now feels a little more steady. We paid Dad back the moment we could. Phew.
The good news is, in the end we are extremely proud of the lockers we've added to our range. They add versatility and mean lockers will be found in even more homes around the world. I hope this (perhaps too) honest blog post gives you some insight into what it takes for a product to be born. I hope if you're on a similar journey, making similar mistakes, it makes you feel a bit less silly and alone!
- Launch simple and grow from there.
- Don't over promise.
- There will be problems to solve that you won't see coming - the thing you don't know you don't know.
- Be brave, be honest, be nice to your parents.