After the lightbulb moment and before you can sell, your product has to go from your mind’s eye to reality. Depending on your product, that process may involve being alone in your kitchen or seeking out manufacturers that can help make your vision happen.
To see what the prototype phase looks like, we asked 10 Abound brands how they made their first prototype, and what changes they’ve made since.
1) Amy Fernandez, founder of Buddha Blossom Jewels
My first prototype was a simple wire wrapped stone necklace that I made off the top of my head. I still do wire wrapping, but have expanded to another medium called electroforming.
It took about a year of trial and error with electroforming to get a good process going and there were many kinks to work out, but it was worth it. I absolutely love the organic look of the metal and the unique way that copper forms around and compliments raw stones.
2) Natasha Byrd-Gaylon and Jennifer Peets, owners of Naked Bar Soap Co.
The first products we made were in Natasha’s kitchen. For the first four years everything was made in that kitchen. It was very time consuming because we had to clean the kitchen before we started to make sure we had no sort of cross-over contamination. We had separate utensils and supplies for soap making that had to be used and labeled as not to mix with any of the household items.
Finally after all was done, we had to thoroughly clean and disinfect the kitchen to make sure everything was clear of lye, essential oils, and any other bath and body making product. Those were long production days. Now it is easier with having space in our brick and mortar shop because everything is in one place and everything used is just for our product needs.
3) Antonella Nardi and Desirée Chance, founders of Yourlixir Multi-Functional Superfoods
Our first prototype was by hand. We sketched the products, used ingredients we sourced from farms, and handmade the labels. From there we brought on suppliers for our first run. Since then, we’ve upgraded our packaging to be more eco-friendly by sourcing packaging that is made of recycled materials, can also be recycled, and is BPA-free!
4) Jamah Dacus, founder of Modest Mix
I started with designing my tea blends first, the packaging has evolved over time. Finding the right suppliers that were fair-trade and organic took a lot of research. I’m still always on the search for high quality wholesale ingredients.
Packaging initially started as simple as possible, with food-grade zip-lock bags and labels which I printed. Over time my packaging has evolved, and we are actually doing a full packaging redesign as I write this.
5) Cathleen Miller, founder of Catalina’s Cottage
My first prototype was a soap for my husband. It was rosemary mint with avocado. I continue to make that soap to this day. I have not changed the recipe. It is amazing.
6) Eli Ratner, owner of Bella Candle Factory
A few years ago I was on vacation visiting my sister in Florida. I was in the kitchen making a dessert for dinner, and I remember she had some candles in the kitchen.
I decided to melt the candle in the microwave and then poured it into a mold that was there. I remember that it was the shape of the waffle, I took her mold and bought wax, and tried to make some candle waffles from scratch.
They ended up looking really cool. I really liked the idea that I could make a dessert that did not have to be eaten, so I decided to make a business out of it.
Since then, I have developed my own methods of preparing candles. I’ve tried all types of wax, scents, and colors, until I reached the results I produce today. And I’m still getting better all the time!
7) Jeff Schmidgall, CEO of Bubba’s Fine Foods
Jared made the first test batches in his home kitchen. We are very proud that we still continue to use the same simple ingredients as our very first prototypes, instead of cutting corners and using ultra-processed flavors. The only change is that we now buy ingredients by the pallet or container load.
8) Leslie Bradford-Scott, founder of Walton Wood Farm
I made bath salts in my Kitchenaid mixer and created fun themes to address life’s issues, like having the Week from Hell. I have expanded categories to solid colognes, hand creams, body scrubs, lip balms and more.
9) John Knauss, founder of Schooled by Paper
The first prototype made in our partner factory eventually became the Signature DrawBag. It was a simple paper backpack with a paper pouch built into the shoulder strap to hold a Sharpie-type marker.
We produced three different versions of this prototype for an early Kickstarter video, each with a different colorful print on the surface: Sign Me, Draw On This Bag, and Write Here, Write Now. The purpose of the pouch and the prints were to encourage writing and drawing on the bag at an event like graduation. Sort of like a wearable yearbook.
But long before going to factory, I was making prototype bags at home.
In 2015 I met a terrific Chinese bag designer who grew to be a good friend. Her name is Gigi Mei. She literally took me by the hand to the fabric and hardware markets in the Sanyuanli area of Guangzhou to source materials. This was before the DrawBag, when I was working on the modular messenger bag I mentioned earlier.
Late nights after teaching at school, I would be up at my kitchen table, listening to Odesza and Nas, butchering designer bags to see how they were made, and then hand-sewing and super-gluing parts together to make my own Franken-bag prototypes.
I remember the moment of ripping the seams out of a Calvin Klein backpack, realizing I was making that transition from consumer to creator in sacrificing a bag I really liked to figure it out better!
The first Schooled by Paper products were DrawBags, and they went through just a few changes in size, colors, and material before full production. There was also the addition of recycled plastic hardware and natural cotton.
And we produced a three-pack of permanent markers in a paper pouch for retail display, as well as a drawstring giftbag for mailings. The original DrawBag has been followed up with a number of products that were built upon what we learned from that first production run of 1,000.
10) Octavio Orozco, owner of Chilesquiles
These are the same sauces we use to cook at home. The recipes are authentic and original. We have always maintained the quality in their fresh and handmade production.