We’re building a simple order management tool for surfboard shapers

In various places around the world, there is a small team of people working together to build an order management tool specifically for surfboard shapers.

Rather than just talk to ourselves on Skype (that gets boring), we want to get involved in the shaping community. So to kick that off, we want to share with you why we’re building this tool and the steps we’re taking to bring it to life.

Why we’re doing this

As an avid surfer, we’ve ordered a few surfboards in our time.

However, we haven’t always had the best experience doing so. One time Aaron (founder of Shaperbase) a board with a well-known and reputable surfboard shaper in Sydney, waited the usual 6 weeks and then called up asking what the status of the board, only to be told they had no record of the board being ordered.

Other times, we’ve called up asking where board orders are only to be told by the person on the other end of the phone that they had no idea what the status was or when we could expect to receive it.

These experiences lead us to believe there was an opportunity to build an app that helped surfboard shapers take orders, track them through production & communicate with their customers better.

How we’re doing it

In Silicon Valley, where technology companies like Facebook, Twitter & Uber have all grown from, there’s a well-know methodology for starting a software company known as ‘Lean Startup’

This methodology has 4 parts to it, and we’ll be using it as a framework for building the Shaperbase app.

Step 1: Understand the problem

Through our experience of ordering boards we have a hypothesis of the challenges shapers face in the production process, but we need to validate that those problems actually exist before building anything.

To do that, we’re reaching out to surfboard shapers across the globe and asking to interview them

Our goals with these interviews is to understand:

· How the board production process works and how it differs between shapers of different sizes, locations, etc.

· What the biggest challenges of the board production process are

· How big of a problem it really is for them (if it’s not a big problem, it’s unlikely shapers will pay for a product that solves it)

These interviews usually go for about 15 minutes, and if you’re willing to chat to us we’d love to hear from you.

UPDATE: We’ve completed our Problem Interviews and have summarised what we learnt here.

Step 2: Test the solution

Once we have a thorough understanding of the problem, we’ll build a prototype of the product that we can take back to shapers for their feedback.

Our goal of this step is to understand whether the solution we’ve designed will really solve the problems shaper’s experience.

We’re interested in learning:

· Does the product we’ve designed solve the problems shapers are experiencing?

· Which features of the product are the most useful to shapers? Which features could we possibly do without?

· Are there any other features we could add that would help solve problems?

By testing the solution using a prototype (rather than spending months building the full version of the product), we can rapidly iterate on the features and design until we have something that we know will solve the challenges shapers have.

We’ll also be testing our pricing structure in this step. We’ll be offering a 30 day free trial so shapers can try out the product for free without needing to talk to a sales person, but we need to understand what’s a fair pricing structure after that. We have some ideas, and we’ll be testing them at this stage.

Step 3: Build the first version

Once we have a thorough understanding of the problem, and have received feedback from shapers on our prototype, we’ll start building the first version of the product.

We’ll then be inviting some early users to start using it, and collecting a lot of data and feedback on how useful it is, what the annoyances are, how it could be improved, etc.

We’ll use this feedback to continue iterating on the product until we reach a point where we think it’s ready for prime time.

Step 4: Launch the product and scale up marketing efforts

Once we’ve built the product and are confident it’s ready for prime time, we’ll do a proper launch and shift our focus towards marketing the product and getting the word out there.

At this stage, it’s unknown what will work and won’t work in terms of marketing the product, but we’re currently thinking we’ll do the following:

· Search Engine Optimization — We’ll optimize our marketing site to ensure it appears when shapers search for things like ‘order management tools for surfboard shapers’

· PR — We’ll likely do a launch event and try to get interest from some surfing publications like Tracks, Surfing Life, etc.

· Advertising — We’ll purchase some ads on platforms like Facebook & LinkedIn and see if we can attract shapers and convert them into customers at a positive ROI.

· Groups & Communities — There are a few LinkedIn groups and forums that we’ll get involved in to try to get the word out.

· Associations — We know there are a few associations around that some shapers are members of, so we’ll see what opportunities exist to get involved there.

If you have any ideas for how we can reach surfboard shapers, or you are in fact a shaper and can inform us of where you get information on tools like this, it’d be greatly appreciated.

In conclusion

So there you have it, that’s our plan for building Shaperbase. We’ll continue to blog about our progress and things we learn along the way, so if you want to stay informed then feel free to enter your email address below and we’ll let you know when we publish a new post.

Want to check out the prototype of the product? Visit shaperbase.com and signup for a free account!