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How to Launch Your First Custom Design Product on Kickstarter: By Ivelin Demirov

Kickstarter Journal

What do you do when you’ve spent months, or even years, developing a new product – only to see it fail? Ask Ivelin Demirov, a Bulgarian-Canadian Industrial Designer, with more than 240 (!) products launches under this belt.

And, he designed them all, including these:

  • Learn Javascript Visually Book
  • Enigmaze Secure Password Journal
  • Clever Kebab
  • Radiance Planner

Ivelin is one of our readers, and in this article, he explains his framework for finding the right product idea, and how you can test it out on Kickstarter – before spending too much time and money on a product concept that will not sit well with the marketplace.

Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before starting your current business

Ivelin DIn 2001 I was working as a graphic and web designer while doing my master’s degree in Industrial Design Engineering. I was very interested in marketing and online sales at the same time. It felt naturally to combine both worlds and my first product was born “10 fingers typing system”.

It did well enough to spark my interest in developing custom designed products and sell them through different channels.

16 years later, I designed, developed and manufactured over 240 products, successfully funded and delivered 9 Kickstarter projects and was an “American Dreams” guest on HSN TV.

How did you decide which products to launch?

Most of my early products failed because i was going after my gut feeling about the ideas i had. Some did okay. I wanted to know why some product sell well some don’t.

They were all brilliant to me. This first thing i learned is that I need to understand the market very well and the product should Solve a problem.

I came up with a S.E.X. formula which i use to this day.

Every product should: Solve a problem. Elevate status. eXcite.

The Solving a problem criteria is the most important but not always enough. If i had the 3 in a product that i was sourcing or developing, i had a winner.

Now, every time i go for a new product, I follow a passion of mine (guarantees that i know the market) and I check for my S.E.X. formula. Continue Reading →

How to Deal with Post-Sales Quality Issues: By Renaud Anjoran

after sales quality issues

When quality issues are found during a pre-shipment inspection, there’s still time to correct them before the product enters the market. However, some quality issues only appear after the product’s been used for a few weeks, or even months, by the consumer.

At this stage, your product may still be covered by a warranty – but don’t expect any replacement units or refunds from your supplier.

For example, chargers explode, and glued parts may start falling off. Or the batteries die out long before they’re supposed to.

Such quality issues are not only hard to prevent, but can also ruin your business – especially if you’re selling on Amazon.com.

In this post, Renaud Anjoran at Sofeast in Shenzhen, explains how you can identify and prevent potential after sales quality issues – using a tried and tested framework for Importers.

Can you give us a few examples of typical quality issues that may show weeks or even months after a product is sold?

Let’s first look at electronic product Failures.

Anything electronics-related inherently has a percentage of failure at some point, and this percentage probability depends on the complexity of the product. A simple switching mechanism driven by some logic control would be more robust than something with a printed circuit board involving thousands of components.

Another major factor is the environment in which the product is used. If the product is submersed in water, used in a harsh environment, or under constant vibration, it might stop working much earlier.

One product comes to mind immediately. A time-delayed fault caused worldwide news headlines, for the wrong reasons. I bet you remember the hoverboards whose lithium-ion battery packs overheated and caught fire. Continue Reading →

How to use Hong Kong as a Fulfillment Center: By FloShip

floship interview

These days it’s common that Ecommerce companies don’t start with one target market in mind. Instead, European importers start selling in the US and EU on day one, and vice versa.

For Startups, it’s expensive to ship stock from the manufacturer to several countries – not to mention how complicated it can be to get a grip of taxes and customs procedures in all those countries.

This is why more companies are using Hong Kong as their main fulfillment center. From Hong Kong, a freeport in southern China with no import duties, you can ship products directly to customers in the US, Europe and the Asia Pacific Region.

In this interview with Steve Suh at Floship in Hong Kong, you will learn how your business can save time and money using Hong Kong as a fulfillment center.

Steve Suh, please tell us a bit more about yourself and your work at Floship in Hong Kong

I am Korean-American from Philadelphia. I Embarked on my start-up career in Shanghai, where I got involved with a Sequoia Capital backed start-up called MyLuxBox, a cosmetics subscription box start-up that later got acquired by jumei.com.

After that exit, I joined China’s largest cross-border e-commerce logistics company 4PX, where I gained knowledge on the industry and led me to kick-start Floship, a platform catered to international merchants – whereas 4PX was China merchant focused.

Regarding work at Floship Hong Kong, started in February 2015, went though a couple rounds of funding led by prominent Asia VC’s and angel investors.

To date we’ve raised more than USD 7 million and, as we continue growing and adding new products, for example, we are soon launching a FBA prep service, a China ecommerce B2C inbound channel, global warehouses and a few other projects we are excited about but aren’t ready to disclose yet that will continue to make it easier for online sellers of all sizes to take advantage of marketplaces globally and participate in the world economy in ways never before possible.

Many of our readers want to know if it’s possible to deliver products, one piece at a time, directly from Mainland China or Hong Kong – to their customers all over the world. Is this possible today?

Yes. This is one of Floship’s most popular offerings.

As far as whether or not this model is possible – it is now at a mature state: it has been going on for over 10 years .

Due to the high volume of e-commerce cross border shipments from China and Hong Kong, there are now cost effective and fast shipping options that have opened up to facilitate cross border trade. Continue Reading →

Barcodes for Amazon Sellers & Ecommerce: By Ricky Jones of GS1UK

Ricky Jones GS1UK

Do Amazon sellers and Ecommerce companies really need barcodes, or is it a mere relic that is about to be swept aside? And, if you really need a barcode, how do you get them? These, and many other questions, are answered by Ricky Jones at GS1UK.

In this Q&A, you will learn how Amazon sellers and Ecommerce companies can use barcodes to track and protect their brands, save on logistics costs and cut delivery times.

Ricky, please tell us a bit about yourself and your work at GS1UK

I work in the marketplaces team at GS1 UK. We focus ourselves on our SME members and helping them to trade online.

Before joining the marketplaces team I’ve worked in quite a broad range of marketing roles. I’ve always had more of a digital focus with expertise particularly around SEO and launching websites for international markets. Although, have had the chance to lead much wider marketing projects also – brand development as well as content and communications. Continue Reading →

VAT for Ecommerce and Amazon Sellers in the EU: By SimplyVAT

Alex Wyatt

In the European Union, you must pay VAT on both the imported products, and add VAT when selling to customers in various EU member states. Given that there are 28 EU member states, all with their own VAT rates and registration procedures, it can be mind numbing to get a grip on how VAT actually works when importing products from Asia – and selling them in the EU.

So, why not just ask an expert, such as Alex Wyatt at SimplyVAT?

Said and done, we wrote a list of questions that cover all major VAT scenarios:

a. Importing to Country A and selling in Country A

b. Importing to Country A and selling in Country B

c. Company in Country A, importing to Country B and selling to Country C

d. Non-EU companies importing to, and selling in, an EU member state

Alex, please tell us a bit about what you do at SimplyVAT

After starting at SimplyVAT just over a year ago, I now lead the business development team in the UK and China.

SimplyVAT helps e-commerce sellers VAT register and comply in all 28 EU countries and Canada. We provide our clients with a proactive approach to their VAT needs to help their businesses grow internationally, and sustainably.

Say that I am based in the UK, and importing products to the UK. How and when do I pay VAT?

If your company is based in the UK, and you are importing stock and holding products within the UK, there are a few things to take note.

As a UK registered company, you do not have to VAT register until you have reached £85,000 turnover within a 12 month period. During this time, you do not charge VAT on your products nor can you reclaim import VAT. As a UK company, you will still be required to include corporation tax on profits in your margins.

You can also voluntarily VAT register before you have reached £85,000. Once VAT registered, there are two types of VAT you should be aware about:

1. Sales VAT
2. Import VAT Continue Reading →

Importing Medical Devices from China: By Jason Lim of Stendard

Importing medical devices from China requires full compliance with all applicable safety standards and regulations in the destination market. For many Startups looking to import medical devices, it can hard to even know where to look for information.

So, we decided to ask an expert.

In this Interview, Jason Lim, co-founder of Stendard, explains everything that you must know before importing and selling any product that may be classified as a medical device.

Jason, please introduce yourself and Stendard

I’m Jason Lim, CEO and co-founder of Stendard, a cloud-based platform that help companies generate documents to meet international regulations, such as ISO 13485 and US FDA 21 CFR of the medical device industry.

Having experience working with the local government, technology incubators and innovative companies here, I personally feel there are still a lot of improvements to be done when it comes to the entire compliance ecosystem (both from the industries’ and authorities’ standpoint).

That’s why I started the company together with Vincent Lim, COO of Stendard.

Our aim is to make compliance easily understood for businesses so to encourage standards adoption. This includes the usage of technology to accelerate the speed of document creation and management.

We are also planning to include partners to make the entire training, certification and registration process a breeze, and that’s what we meant by the term “compliance ecosystem”! Continue Reading →

The Art of Finding the Right Supplier on Alibaba – By Gary Huang

Gary Huang 8020 Sourcing

You can find a supplier for anything on Alibaba.com. There are often too many supplier, rather than too few. As such, you might find yourself trying to navigate between hundreds of different suppliers in the same product category – all with varying levels of expertise (or lack thereof).

Rather than flying to China and visit 200 suppliers, you need to use information available on Alibaba.com, to identify the supplier that is the right choice for your business.

And that is exactly what this interview with Gary Huang, founder of 80/20 Sourcing in Shanghai, is about.

Gary, tell us a bit about yourself and how you started 80/20 sourcing

I’m originally from the US and born and raised in Los Angeles. I’ve been working and living in Shanghai since 2008. Some people say the sourcing is like a black box.

Since I am a 2nd generation Chinese American and being culturally and linguistically fluent in both cultures and countries – I have an unfair advantage in being able to do better business between China and the US.

I started 80/20 Sourcing because I saw that a lot of online Sellers and small business owners were struggling with sourcing products from China.

So I decided help online sellers and small business owners save time and money when sourcing products from China and to scale their online businesses. 80/20 Sourcing offers video courses, webinars, coaching, and free articles which can be found at www.8020sourcing.com. Continue Reading →

The Importers Guide to Global Sources Trade Shows – By Meghla Bhardwaj

Meghla Global Sources

Global Sources started as a media company more than four decades ago, and has now evolved into both a leading supplier directory (2nd largest after Alibaba) and trade show.

This combination makes Global Sources unique, as it acts a hub for both buyers and suppliers – both offline and online.

In this interview, with Meghla Bhardwaj, head of content marketing at Global Sources in Singapore, explains why startups and e-commerce businesses should use their directory – and attend the upcoming trade shows and conferences in Hong Kong.

1. Meghla, please tell us a bit about yourself and how you started working at Global Sources

I’ve been working at Global Sources for about 17 years. I started in the India office where I wrote sourcing-related articles for our magazines, and managed the freelancer network there.

Then I moved to the Philippines office in 2003, where I led a team in Manila and China producing the company’s research reports, China Sourcing Reports. This is when I started traveling to China, touring factories and meeting with suppliers there.

In 2006, I moved to China where all the action was. I lived in Shenzhen for 9 years, where I visited hundreds of factories, worked with suppliers and buyers, and got a good understanding of how the supply chain works, and the issues buyers face when sourcing from China.

More recently, I’ve been working with Amazon and online sellers, trying to understand their pain points, and helping determine how Global Sources can meet their specific needs.

I’ve been organizing Global Sources Summit, a conference for online sellers sourcing from China. The conference is held every April and October and is co-located with our trade shows in Hong Kong. Continue Reading →

How to Utilize Freelancers for Your Ecommerce Business: By Mike Michelini

Asian Freelancer

Managing RFQ procedures and day to day communication with your supplier, can be very time consuming. Especially when you consider the time zones. Before, the only option would be to hire a procurement agent, and adapt to their procedures (and perhaps even use their suppliers).

Or, setup your own office in Asia – which is not a realistic prospect for startups and small businesses.

But things have changed. Today, you can go on Upwork.com or Freelancer.com, and tap into a huge pool of freelancers, that you can pay by the hour or on a per project basis.

A Freelancer, that will likely be based in Asia, can keep up to date with your supplier, coordinate shipments – and even negotiate prices, while you spend your time doing something else (rather than calling your suppliers at 10 PM).

In this article, the Shenzhen based founder of Global From Asia (www.globalfromasia.com) shares his best advice for hiring and managing Freelancers, and how they can free up hours of work, every week.

How have you been using remote workers in your businesses?

I have been using remote workers on my team even before I read the Four Hour Work Week in 2007. It started with customer service for my e-commerce business when I hired “military spouses” who wanted to work online as their spouse (normally husband) was traveling often for work so they couldn’t get a “normal job”.

I was blown away (this is 2006) that I could have a work at home professional customer service rep help me at all hours of the day or night. These were “moms” based in USA (Kansas and Texas – Michelle and Janet – you rock) who really were moms of my business.

The hardest part about working with remote workers is the setup of tools and systems – which is a ton of upfront work.

Once you get a good flow with you and your remote team, it is like working next to them.

I have used remote workers for almost every part of my various businesses now for over 10 years – starting with customer service to graphic design, video production, web design, app development, community management, marketing – basically every kind of role except meeting clients face to face (waiting for the teleport technology to develop more for this).

Basically, if a task can be repeated, it can be delegated. If it can be delegated, 95% chance it can be done by a remote worker. The trick again is the upfront training and tools, and then the ongoing management. Continue Reading →

How to Get a Prototype or Sample Made in China: By Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee Asiaconn

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Importers order product samples to both test their new design, and the suppliers production capabilities. It’s also a way for the supplier to learn how to make the product, and create molds and other necessary tools.

The prototyping and sample order process can take months, and sometimes suppliers just give up – even without telling the customer. In this article, Kevin Lee of Asianconn, shares his best advise to Startups and SMEs looking to get their prototype or product sample manufactured in China.

Kevin, please tell us a bit about your background, and current business

In early 2000, China became what many call “World Factory”. She had reliable and cheap labor pool, friendly business ecosystem and low production cost. However, that “potential” came with certain issues that make the business full of risks.

Compared to big companies, many middle and small business didn’t have the ability to implement international purchasing strategy. On the other hand, excellent local suppliers totally didn’t know how to deal with customers abroad.

In 2009, I finished my work in Hong Kong and built this business with my friend Vincent to connect reliable Chinese suppliers to Western purchasers and help them hold the entire trade process to avoid various kinds of risks.
Continue Reading →