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:
- 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
In 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.
Was this your first choice or did you ever try to import and sell other products?
When things don’t go well, we naturally start looking for other solutions. So i went from affiliate marketing, Clickbank, Google Adwords, retail arbitrage, drop shipping, you name it. But at the end somehow i always went back to the drawing board.
There are so many different models. And they can be very lucrative, but i wanted to provide a real value for the customer. Not just to resell other’s products and build up other’s brands. I wanted a value for the customer and a long term asset for myself.
Did you decide to go for a custom designed product or a private label product?
Being curious about “Why people buy this instead of that” made me go the “Custom designed” way. I believe there are more advantages in a unique product manufacturing than any other business model out there.
If there is one function that our brain performs well, it’s a comparison. Buyers always compare to make a purchasing decision.
With a private label [product] it doesn’t matter how well presented with optimized listings, better logo and a bonus e-book, it’s the same exact product as everybody else.
Eventually [the market] will be oversaturated and face the reviews and price war. To me, innovation is what young entrepreneurs should focus on.
How did you find your suppliers in China?
Before i even knew about Alibaba, I found my first supplier from a freelance website. When the employee who was serving me at the time moved from job to job i discovered the power of working with a Chinese manufacturer. I worked with Alibaba and the others, but nothing compares to having local staff.
There are small gems to be found that are not present in Alibaba or other places.
What kind of challenges did you face when dealing with Chinese suppliers?
With my karma, if anything can go wrong, it will.
I had all the problems that you can imagine. From being cheated to bad quality products, to customs and import problems. Soon I learned to never trust that the other person [in China] understands you.
“You know what i mean” doesn’t exist in this world. Drawings, schematics, photos and phone calls are required to make the job done properly.
How long did it take before you could deliver your first product?
Developing a product is an investment of time and money. Not everyone has one or the other. One rule that i follow is that i need to be able to presell the product before its existence. If many are willing to pay money for an idea, it must be a good idea. Since the launch of
Kickstarter it became much easier to test your ideas and to fund them if proven worth. It’s a longer process, but it pays the effort. Since 2014 i launched and successfully delivered 9 Kickstarter projects.
When i first started it took me 5-6 months to deliver the product. With my Chinese employees and the system i have now, a product can be ready at the FBA warehouse in a month.
And once you did launch your products, what kind of sales channels did you work with?
I work primarily with Amazon and retail. Also trying not to keep all my eggs in one basket. So Ebay, Shopify, my own website and other marketplaces are always present.
Did you see sales coming right after launching?
Some people get lucky with their first product. Not me. At the beginning I had to launch 10 products so 1 can stick. If i was lucky. Because i was developing for myself and not what people wanted.
I was convincing myself that my product is great, but then the market didn’t agree. Now i don’t trust my gut feeling. I go by the numbers.
Kickstarter has been a big part of your business. Do you have any tips for launching a successful Kickstarter campaign?
Have a remarkable product first. Then present it in the best possible light.
Rigorous preparation of your visuals is the key to success for your Kickstarter campaign. As with any launch follow the rule: “To Cut Down a Tree in Five Minutes Spend Three Minutes Sharpening Your Axe”
What does the future hold for your Ecommerce business?
We live in an ever changing world. Things change quickly and we must adapt. Whatever the next trend is, people’s basic desires are the same.
We will continue fulfilling these desires. If there is one thing that makes me move forward is to see that i am solving someone’s problem and making the world a better place. Sounds cliche, isn’t isn’t?
Money is just the result of that process.
Thank you so much for sharing all this. Where can our readers find out more about your products?
You can Google my name and see more about my Kickstarter projects and my public products.