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Giving Birth To New Product

Lessons From A Newbie

Imagine you are alone in a gloomy carpark, hunting through your bag for your car keys. Every shadow looks like a person. Every noise is someone creeping up behind you. The search for your keys in your dark handbag becomes frantic. It does not matter how many times you dig around; you just can’t find them.

These feelings of fear and vulnerability drove Marcia Mattushek, a fashion stylist, to invent a light for a handbag to help women (and men) find items in their bag quickly and easily.

“Bagsablaze is just like a fridge light for your bag.  You open the bag and the light comes on, making it so much easier to find keys, phones or lippy,” she said.

“I came up with the idea after leaving a function. Here I was, a woman on her own, in a deserted car park, with little light and no one around. I just wanted to get out of there but I could not find my keys - it was so dark. I felt unsafe and vulnerable.”

Over the next 18 months, Marcia came up with a solution.  

“I thought there had to be something out there to help you find all the goodies in your handbag...it was such a simple idea.  But there was nothing.”

“Even though we have our phone lights and a whole range of torches, they are hard to find without the light to start with and you have to dig around in your bag to find it.  I wanted something that would automatically turn on when I opened my bag. That’s when Bagsablaze was born,” Marcia said.

“I am not an inventor so it was ‘where do you even start?’

Creating a new product was a process of reverse engineering. Marcia had to get clear on what she wanted the light to do and how she was going to get it to do that. Here is where a piece of paper comes in handy. In order to convey the concept to a designer, she drew out her idea.

“Once I knew what I wanted it to do, I talked to an industrial designer because I am not an engineer or designer; I had no idea how of the mechanics and how the parts would work together,” Marcia explained.

“He asked me a series of questions such as ‘do you want it to do this or that.’ This was a process that went over and over with scraps of paper until we go to the point where I had a 3D print version of the Bagsablaze.”

Working with an expert helped Marcia because he was able to interpret her wishes.  Then began the process of fine-tuning … and more questions.

How big of small do you want the clip to be?

How do you want the clip to work how flexible do you want the arm to be?

How powerful will the light be?

What colour?

What size battery?

What do you want the battery to do?

How many lights?

Once Marcia nailed these questions, she took the concept to focus groups (her target market) to see what they thought of the idea.  “The beauty of having a product marketable to my peer group made the market research,” she said.

“It was all new to me, so I did not know what to think.  I had to trust my designer; go with my gut feel on him.  Now, I realise I knew a lot more than I thought I did – you never really think about the things you use on a daily basis and how they work. 

“When you think about how a fridge door is open, there is a switchy thing that you do not know what it is called (reed switch) but you know how it works and why it works.  You just have not given it any thought.

“The process of creation makes you think about those things.”

Marcia biggest learning was on the financial side of the business – how much things really cost. “I did not know how much all of this was going cost when I started out.  It adds up to what more than I thought. The money I had set aside to get the whole project to market was taken up in the R&D costs, this is why I went to crowd funding,” she said.

Another key learning was to not buy into other people’s negativity. “People seem to enjoy picking apart new ideas but not in a constructive way.  There are not many of them but there enough of them to make you reconsider what you are doing,” Marcia said.

“You need to put yourself out there, which was huge for me and open yourself up to critics, from people who do not know you or have nothing to benefit from being positive or negative towards you.  They do not care if I do well or not. 

Instead of going to the bank or taking on investors, Marcia is using crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise funds to manufacture her bright idea.

“Kickstarter helps launch new products through pre-selling, allowing the entrepreneur to market research product viability - if the price is right and there’s interest in the market,” Marcia said.

“Bagsablaze is my baby and I want to manage the process without outside investors and having to go into debt by embracing the new age of digital disruption. It is the way of the future – look at Air BNB and Uber; it is thinking out of the box and not using traditional means.”

Kickstarter allows the ‘woman on the street’ with a handbag to get involved in something from the ground up. It gives those initial adopters bragging rights of being part of bringing a new cool product to life.

The Kickstarter campaign launched on January 29 at a function and there was a flurry of activity, with support coming from surprising places.

“I expected first backers to be friends and family.  Imagine my surprise when I woke up to find three backs unknown to me from the US.  A lot of my friends I expected to pledge haven’t – I do not if it is because they don’t want to, or do not understand the process,” Marcia said.

With the launch of Kickstarter making Marcia’s project more concrete, she is finding other opportunities are coming her way – to manufacture, market and distribute her product.   People are giving me contacts of people in other industries.

Bagsablaze already has over 40 investors and the project closes mid March.

Kickstarter Bagsablaze http://kck.st/1nSj7Mm