Tim Ferriss is no stranger to manufacturing and prototyping products. Before he started writing books, Ferriss built companies. One of his first ventures, BrainQUICKEN, took two weeks and $5,000 to launch. This sports nutrition ecommerce store quickly grew to $40,000 a month business.
We asked Ferriss for his best advice on how to prototype and manufacture a product. Here's what he had to say.
Tips on Manufacturing a Product
1. Think Outside of Google
Google is great for finding manufacturers, but it shouldn't be your only source. Also check out trade magazines, and find trade shows that are dedicated to the industry you're getting into. At trade shows, you'll find all the reputable manufacturers and distributors under one roof. Also check out the well known Alibaba, and ThomasNet (Thomas' Register of Manufacturers).
2. Submit Lots of Proposals
Once you find a bunch of manufacturers, put out a proposal to all of them. Let them know you're contacting all the others. Now, chances are you don't be able to impress them with the amount of capital you have to invest in a first run, so it's important to tell them your marketing and business plan. Include how much volume you'll be capable to bring to the table if the first run is a success. Read The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing to help you with your pitch.
3. Hunt Down the Scams and Fraudsters
Do your due diligence. Take the manufacturers name and research their reputation. Try typing their name into google with "fraud" and "scam" after it to see if anything pops up. Do the same with the principals of the business. Find out who the lead executives are and search their names with "lawsuit" and "FTC" after their name.
4. Don't Judge a Book by the Cover
Manufacturer websites are notoriously poorly designed, but that doesn't necessarily reflect the quality of the company or the products.
Tips on Prototyping a Product
1. Define What Type of Prototype you Need
It's vitally important to determine the objective of your prototype.
- Is it for you to assess the manufacturing?
- Is it to sell perspective clients?
- Is it to test or sell on Kickstarter?
2. Don't Spend Too Much Money
One of Tim's friends has made millions of dollars selling various licenses. He didn't spend tons of money to develop beautiful prototypes, in fact, most of them were made from paper and cardboard.
3. Hire a Firm, Use 3D Printing
If you require a more professional or intricate prototype, find an industrial design firm in your city. They'll put something together and using a 3D printer will develop a prototype for you. Or - even use your own 3D Printer, like the MakerBot that's pictured above.
4. Manufacture in Small Batches
Only manufacture in small batches until you have proven you can fill the demand and acquire customers profitably. You don't want to end up with inventory you can't move. Also keep in mind that most people tweak their product and it's packaging along the way. It's important to be able to pivot and change without having to throw out a whole bunch of units.