When we set out to make a consumer product, the three of us had no idea what we were in for. The initial design was the easy part. As mechanical engineers, that came naturally. We spent two months researching existing products in our field and discovering their successes and failures. Our goal was to design a product to help people release fidgeting energy without distracting those around them.
We spent time deciding what we wanted in the toy, slowly letting ideas solidify in our minds, but we quickly realized that our personal ideas would not be enough — our focus had to be on our customers. We had to be sure our potential customers needed what we wanted to make, so we gathered as much information as possible from them. Feedback from surveys along with our research proved there was, in fact, a need for our product.
The surveys also showed how people like to fidget. Despite our own thoughts, we found many of our potential customers didn’t fidget the same way as us. Even though there was overlap between our needs and our customer’s needs, the perfect fidget we had in mind wasn’t what they wanted most. Instead of pursuing our favorite ideas, we accepted our customers’ needs above our own and designed around their feedback.
We brainstormed many designs, identified the best one, and started our long, difficult journey of creating the best prototype. And many unsuccessful ones. We found volunteers to test our product and changed our design based on their feedback. There were little tweaks and changes that we constantly wanted to add, but we learned that if the customer didn’t feel it needed to be changed, we didn’t need to change it. We are not our customers.
With our product ready for the market, we set out to sell as many fidgets as possible. But our business didn’t magically take off. We didn’t have thousands of orders. We had to find a way to sell them.
We started off by telling anyone and everyone within earshot about our product. All three of us made sure we had a fidget or two in our pockets at all times so we could show everyone how it worked. If they liked the product, we would mention it could be purchased. That’s how we started selling them — one by one to all of our friends.
Selling to a friend is hard. We found it was difficult to place value on our own work. Could these things we created out of plastic really be worth the actual dollars we asked people to give us for them? Over time, we’ve developed faith in our own work. Asking for payment became easier with more sales.
Another problem? Guilt caused by the fear of not living up to our friends’ expectations. To ensure we never mislead a customer, we make sure we only make promises we can keep. We began offering a lifetime guarantee, assuaging our guilt if a fidget breaks.
Still, there were the haters. Not everyone liked what we made; some people dismissed it and others said it was too expensive. We could not make progress if we lingered on these people. Our current trick is to listen politely and then forget about them when they walk away.
Your product isn’t going to be for everyone and that’s okay. Over time, our customers started telling some of their friends and we started gaining traction.
We outgrew word of mouth sales and made a website, a Facebook page, an Instagram account, an Etsy shop, a sticker design, a company logo…and wrote an article for The Hum. Now, how to successfully manage all of these different accounts between the three of us? Well, let’s just say we’re not quite there yet. And that’s okay.
We now sell more fidgets than we can manufacture. We are not complaining.