Creating a Meaningful Product – Part 1, Prepare
Have you ever created a product in your head? on a napkin? during church on the bulletin? tried to sell one on etsy?
You’ve come to the right place.
The next two days, I’ll be sharing from my successes and failures from creating ABC Scripture Cards so that you can learn from me! Don’t do some of the things I did. These are my expanded notes from a message I did at She Speaks with Proverbs 31. The other one was “How to create a platform from scratch.”
- I want to save you money and heart ache.
- I want to encourage you and pat you on the back – YOU CAN DO THIS!
- I want to be real – about risks, costs, sacrifices.
- I want you to hold your dreams close, but not too tight.
How To Create a Meaningful Product That Lasts
Part 1: PREPARE
This presentation has three main points: PREPARE, PERSEVERE, PACE YOURSELF. I’ll take a day to do each of them. They are all super long. Pretend we are in person and we have an hour breakout.
Let me catch you up with a bit of background on my story.
THE URGE to get a product on the market… that’s not where it started for me! My URGE was to solve a problem in my home. And help other moms while I was at it.
I am a marketing girl, always have been since the days of Public Relations at Auburn. When, I met Ron at my first job at Ketchum Public Relations – I knew I found true love. He was cute, loved Jesus AND we could talk about marketing all day long.
Then, I worked for years at the Chick-fil-A Home Office with those oh-so-fun cows. I was able to brainstorm all of the time! From how to uniquely impact the customer to fall in love with that brand. It was easy with such great food, great people and clever advertising. Once I left to stay at home with my girls, my crazy brain didn’t turn off.
During Super Bowl games – I’d still watch the ads. When I walked into Target, my eyes would go up and down and sideways to see their latest in-store promotional materials.When I had a birthday party to plan, oh my word – I went nuts and Pinterest didn’t help. I just really went crazy with any theme.
So, God started stirring in my heart.
Hey Court! How could you use WHO YOU ARE and THOSE GIFTS I GAVE YOU for good? For my kingdom?
I prayed for clarity for a couple years. I didn’t want a job. I loved being home with my girls. I just knew He had some other use for that brain. I wasn’t looking for a reason to stay busy – motherhood is busy and plenty fulfilling. I wasn’t looking for a paycheck, thankfully my husband was providing that. I had a never-ending sense and tug that I was supposed to use my marketing gifts for his glory.
I was also getting super passionate about discipling my girls. I was looking around at available tools in the marketplace. I LOVED what was coming out of North Point church and Orange, but wasn’t excited about the options (or lack of) in the general marketplace.
It was like a light bulb moment one night. It all came crashing – that’s it! Lil Light O’ Mine!
Lil Light O’ Mine. Mission: to empower moms and change little lives through innovation in the home.
My passions collided. Moms, my kids and using my gifts to glorify God. I would take those awesome coffee conversation with like-minded moms and expand our circle of friends – that’s the blog. I would take those products ideas I wish I had – and do it. And let more moms get access to them. I would solve those problems in my own home – using that creative brain of mine. Make God relevant in my home.
I started with a mission in mind, not the money.
I started with a big DREAM, but started small.
I started to solve a problem, not the urge to be busy or just create.
Dream big, start small.
So, if you have an idea (or 100) burning in your brain or God is tugging at your heart – I hope 1 of these ideas may help you in some way. Here’s the first big point with lots of bullets. Hang with me.
Estimate Costs (then double or triple that).
Money is a super hard topic – especially when you are dealing with anything in the Christian market. We don’t want anyone to think we are capitalizing on Jesus or God’s word. Heaven forbid a ministry or anything Godly make money. You guys – we have to get through this barrier. No matter your business, you are likely providing an excellent product or service and that costs money. You will not be profitable or survive if you do not cover your costs and then some. I basically just doubled the cost of my product (when I was producing it). Now, that someone else is manufacturing it in mass quantities, the profit margin is better.
I didn’t really factor in the MAGNITUDE of all the other costs – the shipping materials, returns, office supplies, business expenses, monthly web fees, and ON and ON. Just the cost of that actual product is the beginning.
You know the marriages that last the longest? Those that spend more time PREPARING for the marriage then they do for the wedding! Spend more time preparing for your new business to last … than you do just getting the product cute for launch day.
Research, plan, analyze. All the things a creative girl HATES to do. It is OK to make money for your family. Just be a great steward of that money. Just don’t let that be your driving force. Be super generous in other ways – resources with your blog, giveaways, how you support others, etc. Let the mission motivate you more than the sales. Your heart will shine through. If it’s only to make money – that will show and turn folks off. It’s a balance.
Look into funding options.
This advice is SO HARD to give without knowing your product idea. Are you creating a headband you are making or a product you are inventing with a patent and intending for nationwide distribution? Those are two different scenarios. I can do consulting to counsel you later next year for a fee. Just not right now. 😉 Would actually love to help when time permits. The brilliant woman that invented SPANX, started her giant empire with a $5,000 check from her grandmother. That’s it. I took a bonus check from my husband and then got a $5K check out of the blue from an angel investor. You can go on Shark Tank! Really! (Just watch Grace and Lace go!)
Many moms out there have just whipped up something at home – tossed it on Etsy or Pinterest and BAM! It exploded. Pinterest by the way is GIANT. That’s where you should spend your time if you have limited time for marketing. You can start so small – save and make just a few at a time and use your profits to make more. You can get a small business loan. Just be really really careful not to get yourself into debt before you know the product is going to work. There are ways to test for that.
I had a feeling my cards wouldn’t just sell a few – probably thousands because of the contacts I had and marketing experience. So, I was prepared, somewhat. However, I had no idea how quickly the trouble would come. So, be prepared – with a business comes the risk of credit card fraud and/or paying to protect and screen from that happening. There are legal feels and people copying you left and right and copyright bills and all kinds of stuff. Oh and taxes! Don’t forget when you start a business, you have to actually file it with local, city, state and every department within the wide world and pay them all these checks. It’s unbelievable. I still don’t get it. And then quarterly do all this tax work. Or, you hire someone – another expense. I hope I’m not scaring you. 🙂 Just factor it in.
I FLIPPED you guys out with a story about the cost of using scripture at She Speaks. It is absolutely true that Zondervan requires that you buy/pay rights to use scripture. I was shocked too. Just think of it like this – if you place an Auburn logo on something – it’s going to sell (in some places). The NIV brand is the most popular translation of the Bible and cost them years and time – so you use it, you have to pay for it. BUT – this is for goods that are sold for profit AND it has to be more than 50% of the product. So, with mine – if you take away the scripture – it’s not really a product. If you are using in a book or for a church – don’t sweat it. Their site explains it all. Each translation is different. KJV is free. They aren’t legally going after every tiny shop – but I knew they’d see me and I prefer to do the right thing. Don’t panic – just another point in the bullet of “prepare” – research.
Research your competition and be unique.
If you have an idea, I’m begging you to research etsy, pinterest, google and every site you can think of to see if it is already out there. I can speak for myself to say it is heartbreaking when you invest thousands and much heart and time and someone just rips it off. There is so many ways to make your idea your unique. Scripture to ABCs wasn’t unique – but it was the first set to be done on cards for designing in the home with an easel and a magnet. I wanted them to be done for the mom’s style and for the child’s heart. The concept was something I thought long and hard about because I was solving a problem not just making money. My kids were fighting and I needed a better way than “because mom said so.” I needed a tool for me and my friends that would WORK. So, I made it as mom-friendly as possible. Take time in the preparation process to make your product so smart, so unique – less chance of getting duplicated.
Make It Meaningful.
Companies like TOMS inspire me – how can you take your product and impact the world – use it to give back? I knew from the beginning I wanted to give a percentage and grow it as quickly as I could. One day, I finally decided who that partner would be – when we first started. It was International Voice of the Orphan. Frontlines Feeding Program. I knew 100% of my check to them would go to feeding those kids. I emailed her conformation – sent a check. Then, guess what happened? Lysa TerKeurst put my cards on her site and I sold out in 2 hours? As I watched the sales flood my phone, the first person I emailed was Linny of IVO and she was not surprised at all. I wasn’t either. We fed a lot of kids that month.
Find a way to make your business meaningful through the product you choose or the way you give back. It will help you persevere. I believe getting God’s word in homes is a great great thing. And I like precious kids like these with bellies full.
Try Etsy First.
I had my own website and ecommerce store, I would’ve started with etsy if I could’ve done it again. Credit card processing is complicated and sometimes costly. Etsy is already set up and ready to support people with new products. Start there and just see how it goes! Their fees are small compared to starting your own site/store.
Blogs Are Great.
I was in the “go big or go home mentality” – there is one problem though. I sort of forgot that I wasn’t running the Eat Mor Chikin campaign anymore. Those funds were not in my bank account. My husband’s bonus was there and was running out quick. So, don’t create the flashiest website of all time. A wordpress.org blog is awesome – keep it simple and start small. The customer will demand that you get bigger. Plus, you’ll want to change your site every year or so anyway because things change quick.
Careful with Branding.
I just LOVED the name Lil Light O’ Mine and still do – but do you know how hard that is to spell? And I had no idea the book was coming – and that my name might be the better thing to brand all the programs. Whatever you decide as your name – I would suggest you keep it simple and make sure it is available and memorable in every social media channel. Go ahead and save them now in twitter, instagram, Facebook, etc. It isn’t impossible but tricky and confusing to rebrand.
Keep Your Priorities.
You might be like me – but once you have a mission or project – it can consume you. Or at least it did me. And those little lights of mine, they watched a lot of TV and I would even snap at them while writing a blog post about loving your kids. Absurd. So, remember, YOU are likely creating the drama. God called you to the first step – we heap on the next 100 steps. My husband kept reminding me that he didn’t need income from this – I could do it on the side – but our girls were our main thing. Have someone in your life that will keep you grounded. Ask God to confirm if this is even the right time. It is HARD HARD HARD to do when the little ones are right there. I’ll tell you more tomorrow how I quit making My Lil Money Jars and sold off the cards – in order to keep my priorities!
PS – I am WAY more passionate about this topic in person so if you have a group of creative folks or entrepreneurs, let me tell all my mistakes.
Come back this week for Part 2 and Part 3! More honesty on how these little cards made it despite my self.
Courtney, thank you so much for this post! We’ve got to talk about all this in real life sometime soon. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.
Thank you Joy! I would love to. Shockingly – I am just scratching the surface of the last three years. It’s been a ride. Happy to share/help.
Courtney, this was a GREAT post!! I am so inspired to go forth with what’s in me to create that’s passionate to me and will bless the kingdom. You words were simple, encouraging, and to the point of what’s needed when someone is feeling stuck or trying to find their place in a fast-paced world; moving slow but has potential and a Big dream to just move forward, persevere, and succeed. It’s in all of us to do!! Thank you so much for sharing your motivation and journey. I really heard your heart through your message–your testimony and that’s a blessing that will keep on blessing others as you so did me. Keep up the great work! I’m Rejoicing with you, for HE IS GOOD!!
God bless you!!