In the spirit of the New Year, Tablevogue Founder Jane Birdwell wants to share the realities of bringing a product to market in today’s volatile environment in order to save other entrepreneurs time and money.
Jane Birdwell bootstrapped Tablevogue into a multi-million dollar business without consultants, reps or a sales team. In 2015, Tablevogue attracted the attention of two industry giants, Bunzl USA and Party City, with exclusive licensing agreements. Birdwell is excited to help first-time product creators avoid the typical financial and emotional pitfalls in bringing even the best products to market.
1. Circle of Haters – Test your idea with the most brutal friends and relatives you have – then do it again with fun-loving, go-getters. If you have any sense at all – listen carefully to what they say and decide your next steps, which might be something very different.
2. Patent when Possible – Good ideas are worth protecting and protection means market share. Consumers and your potential partners want something new and different. If your product is another one of something else – think long and hard unless your pockets are lined with gold or you have a serious competitive advantage.
3. Dreaming of Shelf Space? Shelve the dream. Most products don’t have enough margins to make the associated costs worth it. The margin you think you have is much different than your real margin….trust me on this. Focus on sales to your own shopping cart.
4. Pitch Perfect? Sorry, no such thing. No matter how good your pitch or story is – the calls and emails you send will be received by (most) buyers conditioned to say no, knock off your concept or source from an existing vendor or supplier. A single SKU is their worst nightmare.
5. Gatekeepers are Deal Killers – The 20-year-old answering the phone is only interested in getting off the phone with you so they can socialize on theirs. Spend every waking moment connecting with any contact that can move you up the ladder. The higher up the ladder you get the easier the deal is to close.
6. Burning Money – If you need people to make your dream a reality or just like the idea of having people around you to share the journey, expect to waste seventy-five cents of every dollar chasing any possible return. Do everything or a lot of everything yourself in the beginning. Avoid partnerships if possible…just like marriage, a high percentage of them end up in the courts.
7. Pretend Promotion – If you’re lucky enough to get some press or a patent, you’ll get calls from promoters and consultants claiming to have the magic bullet. There is no such thing as a magic bullet and what they’re peddling is bull____! Unless you have access to Partners and Spade, you are the best person to tell your story in the beginning.
8. Win Small – Everyday win small. Make a sale, contact, improve operations… I promise winning small everyday will create the eventual Big wins. Moving the needle positively every day is like a shot of start-up B-12.
9. Money Troubles? Don’t raise it unless you absolutely have to. You’re going to bet the wrong horse a lot in the beginning and you’ll blow through a lot of cash. Finance your receivables instead of taking out loans or selling equity to create inventory and work with a manufacturer who will allow you to produce on demand. Your product will be more expensive to produce this way but costs are always higher until you scale. Avoid using alternative lenders at all costs if possible.
10. Do the Deal – Find partners who can do what you can’t and make them a deal they can’t refuse. Three to 10 percent of a million dollars is what you’d probably end up with pursuing the same million on your own but a whole lot easier.