So you have that sweet idea rattling around in your head about a product you can create or resell and perhaps your boss has just asked you to work a full shift on Saturday and your weekend of barbecuing and poolside is ruined. Your temper rises and so you start to seriously think about all of the joys you could possibly have if you were your own boss. Isn't that how it all starts? Its that very moment when you whip out a piece of paper (probably on your current jobs dime) and start to map out the idea that your life changes forever. From that moment on you start to think of ways to sell people. The first person you must sell would be your spouse. Oddly enough in most cases this will be your easiest sell. I recommend this first step because having some basic support at first and other ideas can greatly ease things. Do not try the “go at it alone" thing. So now you have some basic support. Do not just limit your spouse, but tell your other family and friends of your ideas and ask for honest feedback. These are the babysteps that can start you off to a run or a crawl.
Now lets talk about the one thing that will truly make things super easy or super difficult; research & development (R&D). I know this sounds like something that only major corporations do, but really at its most basic definition is something that everyone should put a good amount of time into. This part of your plan is something that can take anywhere from weeks to years. In our case we spent 3 months plotting out the equipment we should buy and how to actually design and make our shirts. We had very little photoshop knowledge, and when I say little I mean we could do some minor photo adjusting of family pictures. The R&D phase of your planning can also last as long as you need it to and will only strengthen your overall strategy and product. What I mean this is that if you need to wait a year or so to gain the financial support you need or save up enough capital then the entire time should be used to further your R&D. More than likely your finances will dictate the amount of time you use for R&D. This is not always a bad thing. I know the thought of actually being out there in the world selling your product is very exciting, but waiting is not always such a bad thing.
So now come the hands. Where should you research? Well that all depends on what you are trying to sell. For us we researched most of our info from where you are right now, the world wide web. We had to start from scratch. We had to research website design, graphics design, t shirt creation, t shirt equipment, and then of course business planning. You have the world at your fingertips so make sure you use it and try to find as much as you can. Here are some things to search for and overall good places for info. The first and foremost thing you need to do is checkout forums and user groups. I can not tell you how valuable it is to speak with others doing the same thing you are trying to do, or those who have already done it. We found forums for everything we needed. So if you are wanting to make power tools, there is a power tools forum out there. Another good place to look, especially for equipment and knowledge about what to buy would be trade magazines. Most of them are online and after doing about 5 minutes of research on Google, I found a good one for t shirts and it led me to find other things we could make and add to our business. Join these forums and websites and ask all of the questions that you can think of. If your like me and need to sit down and actually put your thoughts on paper, then do that. Write down every possible question you can think of and then find those answers. They are out there to be found.
So now I have given you some good places to look on the web, but what about your R&D in the real world. I mean your products will be real and you want to sell to real people, don't you? For some who want to sell strictly on the web, do not think that you will not need to do any real-world R&D. There is still plenty for you to do. Whatever you are selling, you really need to go out and see how competitors are selling their products. Location can be a very important asset, but its not all about location. For us we went to the mall to see how t shirts were sold and the prices they went for. T-Shirts are everywhere so this might not apply to everyone. We found that in the mall the prices ranged from $7-$18. This is a pretty big price range so that did not really help us. What did help us, was seeing how they were displayed, and where they were being sold. Kiosks were very popular and seemed a very ideal place to sell shirts. Further research clued us in on how Mall leases work and this is something you really need to consider before jumping in head first. While the Kiosks were fairly priced during non-peak months, during the Christmas Holidays the price went up almost 4x's. Of course business could more than triple during this time of the year so you really need to put some serious thought into this. I would suggest selling your product for 1-2 years so you can gauge all of the seasons. Most businesses do have their seasons. Our busiest time is Christmas. Some might think that t-shirts sell better during the summer, but we have found that our items make great stocking stuffers and an easy gift for those who are hard to shop for.
More good places to research are flea markets, events, and your local chamber of commerce. Once you start to see all of the places you can research the sooner you will realize how much time will go into this phase of your planning. If you were able to research everything in 2 weeks, chances are you missed things and your business will be lacking in some department. My advice here is a little biased because of what I am selling, but hopefully I have given you some new ideas to get you started. Just remember that no bad ever came from learning all you can. In all honesty your R&D will continue even after you start selling your products. As you go out in the world and see how others are doing the same thing, or something similar, you will find new ways to improve on your ideas. Good luck!
Lenore & Gregory Huskey - We are a quickstart company founded in 2005 and have deemed ourselves as truly trying to start a company on as little as possible. We first started out with a few funny shirt ideas, but quickly changed direction to sell Flag Shirts representing over 180 different countries. Our website is http://www.flagpridet-shirts.com