Developing Next-Level Products for a Next-Level Experience – 252
For e-commerce sellers, one of the best ways to make yourself stand out is through product differentiation. Of course, you can always craft a personal, branded look with your listings, photography, and packaging. Still, when it comes to catching the attention of an Amazon buyer, there’s nothing that quite compares to creating your own product.
That’s why today on the AM/PM Podcast, Tim Jordan welcomes Zack Leonard, the COO, President and Founder of Gembah. Gembah nurtures and empowers product innovation. They pride themselves on democratizing and demystifying the product creation process by helping entrepreneurs, e-commerce sellers and small-to-midsize businesses research, design, and manufacture products.
Even if you’re not looking to develop your own e-commerce product, in this episode you’ll learn information that will help you level up your online-selling game throughout the research, sourcing and development process. There’s something here for everyone!
In episode 252 of the AM/PM Podcast, Tim and Zack discuss:
- 03:00 – A White Label Product?
- 05:00 – How Did Zack Get Started with Product and Brand Development?
- 07:30 – Selling a “Defensible” Product
- 09:00 – What is the Product Development Process Like?
- 13:00 – Embracing Complicated Products
- 16:00 – Making Sure that Your Product Can Get Made
- 18:30 – Does a More Complicated Product Have a Higher Barrier to Entry?
- 21:30 – Improve an Existing Product, or Start from Scratch?
- 23:30 – “Let the Data Guide Your Decision Making”
- 26:00 – A Little Detachment is a Good Thing
- 28:40 – How to Be Ready to Scale
- 31:30 – Defining Quality
- 36:00 – Are There Product Areas to Avoid?
- 40:00 – A Trip to Zack’s Bookshelf
- 41:00 – How to Reach Out to Zack
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Want to absolutely start crushing it on e-commerce and make more money? Follow these steps for helpful resources to get started:
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- Trying to Find a New Product? Get the most powerful Amazon product research tool in Black Box, available only at Helium 10! Start researching with Black Box.
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Tim Jordan: So many people in the e-commerce world think that “private labeling” is just sticking a sticker on a box and selling it as their own. I could not disagree more. I think that methodology may have worked seven or eight years ago, but now it’s a bunch of crap. But there are methods, there are systems, there are ways to actually differentiate yourself, build real brands, real products, and even create what today’s guest calls, “defensibility” around those products and brands. Going to be a great podcast, tons of great actual information, regardless of what marketplace or system or platform you sell on. Make sure to watch the end. Here we go.
Tim Jordan: Hi, I’m Tim Jordan, and in every corner of the world, entrepreneurship is growing. So join me as I explore the stories of successes and failures. Listen in as I chat with the risk-takers, the adventurous and the entrepreneurial veterans, we all have a dream of living a life, fulfilling our passions, and we want a business that doesn’t make us punch a time clock, but instead runs around the clock in the AM and the PM. So get motivated, get inspired. You’re listening to the AM/PM Podcast.
Tim Jordan: I’ll never forget the first time I went to an e-commerce conference and I was sitting around with a bunch of other Amazon sellers. And we’re sitting at like this lunch, we’re sitting at a round table just having a conversation. And someone said, well, what’s private label? Because a lot of the people that conference for resellers and some other smart alack across the table says private label. It’s easy. It’s when you get on this website called Alibaba and you buy something that’s in kind of a plain box and you put your own branded sticker on the box and you sell it. And I didn’t know much about private label at the time, but I knew that this guy was wrong. Like I either wanted to walk around and kick the chair out from underneath them or jump across the table and slap this guy. Because I knew that was not the future. I knew it was not the way, but we’ve seen that taught in mainstream “private label”, no matter what e-commerce platform or marketplace you’re selling on. Like people think it’s easy. Just take any old product off the shelf and sell it. Now if people made money doing it, of course, but is it like a long term sustainable viable business strategy? I don’t think it is, but that makes our next step really tough. Like if we admit, Hey, we can’t just sell the same old crap with our stick around like figuring out what we’re actually going to sell becomes very, very difficult because it’s not an easy process anymore. It’s not a simple process anymore. Today’s guest knows this process inside and out. He’s been doing it for a number of years and he’s actually worked on some projects even with myself and my own personal brands. So welcome Zack Leonard from Gembah. How are you doing, Zack?
Zack: Thanks, Tim. I’m excited to be here. I’m doing great.
Tim Jordan: So would you agree with what I said? Would you agree that a lot of people have this misconception about what private label is, but it’s not the right way to do it?
Tim Jordan: Yeah, I would agree that, I think there’s a quick way to make a dollar here now, which is more of the private, the white label experience that you’re talking about. And then there’s the way to build a brand and to build some defensibility around your brand and your company. And that would be what I think we want to talk about here, which is the experience of creating your own products, whether it’s custom, whether it’s slight iterations to something that’s already out there. But yes, I definitely agree that with the increased competition across all key, all e-commerce platforms, whether it’s Walmart, Amazon, Shopify, retail, I think you’re starting to see the shift in the creators thinking that– the seller is thinking that you actually have to start creating your own products and create defensibility. And if you look at even beyond that, if you’re looking for some way to exit, I think the private equity companies or the aggregators are looking for that as well. They’re looking for companies that have defensibility in their products. So whether that’s patents, whether that’s establishing a huge brand, that already has a big following in a big raving fans. I think that’s the way the future of e-commerce is going to be, both e-commerce and retail. I think you’re going to start to see that in the retail space. There’s going to be a larger number of products on shelves that are actually Walmart branded or target branded, not something that’s outsourced from another supplier or distributor.
Tim Jordan: And I completely agree, and you’re already bringing up all sorts of questions that I want to actually get into. Like, okay, now how do we do this? Because philosophically, I 100% agree, but let’s talk a little bit about briefly, like why we’re talking about this today with you specifically, right? You founded the company Gembah, who’s even as much as a year ago, had some big headlines of even raising some money and that just adds credibility, your company that this is not just some fly by night operation. Like you guys are essentially the real deal. Right. Which I think is important. How did you get into this? Of all the things that you could have been involved in in this world, how did product and brand development become your thing?
Zack: That’s a great question. So, I was in the same day logistics space for about eight years. And I started to see what the consumer behavior was like, not a lot of brand loyalty. It was who can get my products from A to B, the fastest with the cheapest and on time as much as possible. And so, that’s the last mile of the supply chain and I figured there was more value to be had further up the supply chain. And so with kind of my why, which is to help other people, right? And so if I can help people further up the value chain, I think I was onto something. So I did a bunch of research and found that especially the entrepreneurs and small, medium sized businesses, they lack a ton of expertise, either the product development side of things or on the supply chain side of things. And so what Gembah was really created to do was to help these entrepreneurs and small and mid-sized businesses assemble a team that has the expertise for what they lack and enable them to help create that value, create that brand great, those products from A to Z, all under one roof. And so far, like you mentioned, we’ve had a lot of traction and growth, and I think the amount of products we’ll be able to release over the past couple of years and help our entrepreneurs and our customers on their journey to success has been overwhelming. And I think from my perspective, that continues to fuel me as we continue to grow and serve more customers,
Tim Jordan: Just to add a little bit more kind of fuel to the fire, to explain what you do to our listeners. It is just a massive amount of systems, processes, designs, services that you guys offer for developing products, developing brands, give us working with me right now on a project that’s taken forever. It seems like because of the COVID supply chain finding manufacturers, but anything from 3D CAD drawings to helping figure out actual designs and shapes and functionality all the way down to, like specific engineering work in 3D printing templates, as prototypes like really, really crazy stuff, the next level, because it’s not stuff that people talk about a lot in this space. It’s not something that we see all the time in the kind of mainstream training, because it is a little bit more complex and it is a little more high level. But I think that as e-commerce continues to mature, sellers are going to have to mature too. So, if some of the stuff that we’re going to talk about today, if this is the first time you’re hearing it, that’s great. Get exposed to it. Started to become a little bit more comfortable, familiar with it, because this is going to be important as we move forward. So go ahead, Zack, and start talking just like really high level about the process for creating an actual, you said defensible, which I think is a great word, defensible product or brand under the assumption that if we’re going to sell on a marketplace or a platform, we can’t sell the same old bull crap as everybody else. Start walking us through the very high level process of creating something that’s not like everybody else.
Zack: Absolutely. So, we go through a pretty sophisticated process at Gembah. But I’ll try and boil it down because we have like between 150 and 250 different checkpoints depending on the type of product that is, but at a high level, the first step is research. We need to know what you’re trying to solve, what’s out there in the market and then get more granular in those two things. So, is the idea that you have out there in the market already, what defensibility is already out there in the market. So you have to look at patents, you have to look at Googling or on Amazon, other outlets, like what is out there in the market from the idea and the problem that you’re trying to solve. The next step would be to do a little bit more analysis on, if there’s something out there that’s comparable, what are they pricing it for, right? What do you need to be comparable? Are you trying to be a premium product? Are you trying to be a low cost product? Are you trying to be in line with what’s out there in the market? And then the next thing you should look at is some qualitative metrics, like other things on smaller batch sites, like Etsy, Pinterest out there that you could look at and get inspiration from. Are there colors and shapes in sizing you need to take into consideration from a qualitative perspective. But I think one of the most important things you can also look at is the reviews of the products. And it gives you so much qualitative data on the things that are lacking in the products that are already out there. So you can take all those ideas, start sketching it out on paper and start writing your ideas down on paper. And then once you have that research compiled, you move into the actual creative side of it, which is designing engineering products.
Tim Jordan: 200 points. How many of those points in the process are general to every product or does it really, really get specific based on the material or the type of construction or the use like is every single project that you guys do? Do you have to look at it is a very custom process or are there some things that are just always going to be part of the system?
Zack: Yeah, I think for the most part, they kind of aligned with the different types of products that are out there. So really there are three high level types that you have. We have cut and sew, injection mold and electronics, right. That’s kind of the first bucket, but then once you get into injection mold, there’s so many different ways to inject molder or mold the product. There’s blow molding, there’s objection molding there’s– again, a ton of different ways to do it. So it just depends on how the manufacturing process goes. And you match that with the type of product that’s out there. We call that the NPI process, new product introduction process. And again, it’s very cookie cutter for a certain aspect of it based on the type of product it is. But as you get to the different sophistication on how it’s manufactured or how it’s engineered, that’s where you start adding steps to the process because you need to start testing for QA based on those different specifications. So that’s where I think we, once you get actually get into the designing and engineering side of it, you’re trying to limit the amount of exposure and risk you have on the manufacturing side, by making sure that a) the product is actually manufacturable, and b) you’re going to limit your costs on the molds and tools based on things that are already out there in the market. So that’s why the research side of it’s really important for you to understand from a margin perspective, like where can I price this? And then what do I need to make it for to make the margins make sense for me as a business owner?
Tim Jordan: And we see that a lot, like in building and construction, like an architect will come in and develop this amazingly beautiful building. But if the engineers can’t figure out how to build it cost-effectively, the project goes down. Right? And I think a lot of people that do have great, innovative ideas that they have a cool product idea. They will invest way too much money getting this thing put together and then find out later, Hey, it’s not really feasible or they’ll develop the most amazing new variation of something and nobody else really cares. So what you’re talking about is that whole measure twice cut once philosophy, it sounds like a lot of your processes is figuring out, Hey, is this feasible? Is it actually going to work? Is it actually means something is going to return a profit at the end, which I think a lot of people mess up, frankly. So you’re talking about the big ones, electronics cut and sew, and then injection molding, right. And probably 90, 80% of the products out there can be categorized by one of those three. If you look at the types of products that you’re doing, do you tell people to stay away from electronics or from extremely complicated products because that’s what “everybody” else is saying, Hey, stay away from this tough stuff. But it sounds like you do a lot of that. What do you think?
Zack: We definitely do not turn away complicated products. I think it just depends on what your budget is and what you’re trying to accomplish with that technology, right. So right now, for example, if someone’s looking for semiconductors and chips that are at a shortage, right, like you may want to stay away from trying to launch the product in the next six months, because you’re just not going to get the supply chain up and running to facilitate that if you have a longer lead time and those types of raw materials are available, then there’s a potential for you to launch the product on a timeline that you want. I think a lot of what you’re talking about is the feasibility side, that’s the first step that we take during our process to make sure that we can actually create something for the customer based on what their requirements are. We can make it for the price target that they’re looking for. And so that’s the first step is more understanding how what’s out there in the world from a technology standpoint, what you’re trying to do and what the designers or engineers who’ve done this stuff before and actually create for you, is it possible to accomplish in the timeline and the budget that you’re looking to do it for. Once you get through that process, then it’s really about assembling the team and getting the right people on the bus to make sure that you have a better shot at getting this product out in the market. I think there’s statistics out there that 90% of all products fail, right? So you’re kind of– you’re playing for that 10%, no matter what you’re doing, it’s about making sure that you have the best team assembled the best people to help you see your vision, get that product out there, without any chance of failure, right.
Zack: And so, depending on the type of product is going to depend on the team that you actually need to assemble. So we can start with those three categories. We start with cut and product soft goods product at the bare minimum, you’re going to need an industrial designer who’s worked on soft goods before. And if there are different components to it, you may need an engineer on top of that to make sure that all the products that are being sewn together can also match with maybe some injection-molded items or some items that need to be sewn on that are not normal. Something like a piece of furniture. That’s not necessarily a soft good, but there’s a lot of combination of engineering and soft goods designing that needs to go into that product. Once you go into plastic and glass and injection mold, molded type products, you definitely need to have an engineer on the team and mechanical engineer at the bare minimum who understands how that can be created and to make sure that the pieces can all fit together at the molds and the tools can be minimized for costs. Then finally, if you go down the electronics side of creation. If you need to have an electrical engineer at the very least, and if you have software, that’s alongside it and you need to have a software engineer as well. And so again, the key is to make sure that whatever product you are trying to get out in the wild, what category it fits into, you have some sort of team that’s assembled that has worked on that product or product type before. And that they’re also engaging the factory very early on in the process to make sure that whatever they’re talking about, whatever they’re trying to create from a collateral standpoint can actually get made with manufacturing. You’ve seen tons of talent, tons of people who have tried to come onto our platform that have awesome portfolios. At the end of the day, we don’t let them on because they’ve never made something mass manufacturing before. And so the key is to make sure that you have that distinction. That’s something that they’ve created out in the wild. You can create the most beautiful product, the most beautiful PowerPoint and those beautiful Kickstarter. If you can’t manufacture, you’re DOA. That’s the bottom line.
Tim Jordan: And I think that I have a tendency to feel a little intimidated right now with what you’re saying, right? You’re like, you’re talking about engineering, you’re talking about industrial designing. You’re talking about stuff that is really foreign to the “e-comm world”, because a lot of us started in this business because there’s kind of a low barrier to entry. But if any of you listeners are also feeling intimidated, keep in mind that high-risk high costs is oftentimes needed for high rewards, right? I’ve used the example for oversized products on Amazon. Everybody says, oh, don’t sell oversize. Don’t sell oversize. Is oversized giant pain in the butt? Yes. Have I made a crap ton of money selling oversized products? Yes. Like, yes, it’s more work. It’s more hassle. It might cost more costs, but less people are going to do it. And if you look around at e-commerce drop shipping, affiliate marketing, private label content, nobody’s talking about this stuff, folks, nobody’s talking about getting industrial designs and engineering on your mold production. Nobody is. But if you can afford to, and if you have the stomach to go through this a little bit more, not complicated, but a complex process, you may be able to put yourself in a position where nobody else can catch you. Right? Like you’re not selling a me-too product. You’re not selling the same old crap that everybody else has in your category. Like you can actually do something big and one of those go big go home or– yeah, go bigger, go home slash Ricky Bobby, if you’re not first, you’re last kind of thoughts that we’re talking about here. So is this something that is like a type of process that most people get into, like this more heavy weighted industrially designed, engineered processes, just something that’s going to take more money to get into and maybe a little bit more mature business owner, just because there is some added level of complexity?
Zack: Not necessarily. Again, I think we can really think about this in the construct of what’s already out there. So, I’m sure everyone listening has access to tools like Helium 10 or Jungle Scout, and you can see the trends and you see a product out there that’s doing really well. Or maybe you found that category that might not be doing so, or is doing really well that maybe there’s not a lot of competition. If there are already products out there that have tons of upside potential, and there may be a lot of players, how are you differentiating from the players that are out there in the market? So again, that’s the research component that makes it so important to this process that people maybe not overlooked, but maybe they don’t spend enough time in that process to make sure that they can find something that is viable. Once you do that, go look at the products and see how to differentiate them. Again, there are thousands upon thousands of reviews on all of these products and the qualitative feedback of what people are looking for to iterate on those products is there. They’re literally telling you every single day what they don’t and do like about the product. And if you can take that data, extrapolate it and then actually make it actionable to an engineer designer. It doesn’t have to be so challenging. You don’t have to go out for the big and bulky items. You can go after a small item if you want. Again, that does not take a lot of time, energy and money. It just takes a lot of diligence on learning about the product. And if you’re not passionate about the product, you don’t want to sell the product.
Zack: Then I would say, stop looking into that product. If you’re still looking to make a buck, there’s better ways to do that and less risky ways to do that. But there’s something that you really, really want to solve and a product category or product that you know really well. That’s a great starting place for you to go and start looking at what’s out there, look where you can innovate. Look, you can make it better. Even something like re-engineering it to make the packaging better, or re-engineering it to make something more usable. That is something so valuable to the customer. And it may not cost a ton of money because you can go to the factory. You can go to designers and engineers, tell them to make one slight tweak on places like Amazon. Like you can get a design patent on those types of things, have a defensible product on Amazon and then go sell a crap load of it because you’ve made that slight tweak everyone’s telling you to make. And so in theory, it sounds daunting, but in reality, it doesn’t have to be if you have the right tools, right. Processes, right. Research in place. And then again, if you’re not an expert in engineering, designing, or manufacturing, go hire someone to do that. Stick to your strengths. If you’re great at marketing, you’re great at selling. You’re great at analyzing data. Do that. Go outsource the rest of it. I mean, that’s again, the entrepreneur side of everyone probably listening or who wants to get into this or who is already attempting to do it. Like you’re an entrepreneur, go get after it. Right?
Tim Jordan: Do you think that more people are likely to succeed by finding an existing product and making an improved version or going just off the wall and creating something that doesn’t exist from scratch? Or is there not necessarily a right or wrong answer to that?
Zack: That’s a great question. I think there’s a lot. I’d answer that with there’s a lot less risk involved in creating and taking something that already exists and iterating because you already have the sense of the cost, the manufacturing, social proof, you have the manufacturing supply chain already set up, but if you go for something that’s completely custom, there’s inherently more risk because it hasn’t been done before. So you don’t know the manufacturing costs. You don’t know the social proof, like you said. So, it’s just a little bit more risky, but that doesn’t mean yes or no. It’s going to be more successful. It just means that you might have some more hurdles along the way to prove out that it can be successful.
Tim Jordan: What are some of the biggest mistakes that you see people making? Because just to remind everybody like Zack and his company, people are coming all the time with requests, help me design this, help me find this, help me build this. So you get to see a big sampling of products that do well, that don’t, but when it comes to designing a new product or reiterating an existing product, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see people make in the process that will eventually lead to failure?
Zack: Yeah, I think like in any process, the beginning is so important, right? You have to start at the beginning and the research side of it, I think is very, very, very important. And the biggest mistake I’ve seen is false, or leading with the wrong information. So if you have data that shows that this is not a viable product, and you’re just ignoring that data, you have such a higher risk tolerance than most people would at creating a product, right. That some data shows that you can’t do it and you just are going off your gut feel, or you’re going off of that’s something you think could be, could be great. That is a problem. I think you need to let the data guide you in your decision-making all throughout the process. So not only just researching the product and finding the opportunity, but then once you get into the design and engineering side of it, you start getting feedback from your friends. I think you’ve done this well with Pick Fu and other places that you can actually get feedback along the way. There’s really low ways to de-risk the entire design process, right? Pick is not that expensive, but you can go get objective feedback on your product with sketches and sketches are not that expensive, right? You can pay a couple hundred bucks for a good sketch. Then once you get into that next phase, again, I think assembling the team is there’s another point of failure that most people overlook, which is making sure that you have the right people on the team to assemble your product, make sure that they’ve made a product and mass manufacturing that they’ve engineered a product that’s been a mass manufacturing, similar to what you’ve made, going to Upwork and finding someone who’s really good at making a 3D sketch or 3D rendering is awesome.
Zack: But is that going to get you to where you want to be, which is creating a 6, 7, 8 figure product, probably not. So you need to make sure that you have people who have actually made that product next. And then I think finally the biggest mistake I’ve seen is not getting the manufacturer involved early enough in the process. A lot of people think, well, if they see my product, they might just do it themselves. There’s no incentive really for the factory to take a risk to make a product that you put in front of them. If you haven’t proven the sales funnel. There’s also ways that you can protect your collateral and your investment with things like N&N agreements and patents and stuff like that, both in China and the US, or in Vietnam, US, Mexico, wherever you’re at and decide to manufacture the product. So again, think of it as if you’re trying to launch the product, make sure that you have the right team, the right research and get the factory involved earlier on in the conversation. So you know and get feedback earlier on if your product can actually be made in mass manufacturing.
Tim Jordan: So you’re talking about a lot of pre-production planning. You’re talking about looking at a lot of data, looking at a lot of information and really educating yourself, but that’s freaking hard, right? Because in this space where entrepreneurs can jump into entrepreneurship so easily with e-commerce, we do run off of emotions, right? And you and I, we see all the time, people just they’re convinced that their product, which actually sucks, isn’t going to suck. And then it sucks. And they’re all off because it sucked. Right. Do you think that people don’t look at the data enough and that we do run off of too much emotion, which leads to some problems. And if they do run off of emotion, do you think it is more likely to be like, just conviction that people will love our product? Or is it the emotion of, Hey, everybody else has done it. I can too. Or is it the emotion of I’m just desperate to get into my nine to five, like this has to work? Even if the data looks bad, I’m going to freak and make it work because I’m going to make it work. Where do you think that people get led astray the most based on emotional? Decision-making
Zack: That’s a good question. I don’t know the correct, or the absolute answer to that, but I would say, from what I’ve experienced, people hear and see what they want to hear and see. And I think having that time to reflect in a calendar where you can get away from the day-to-day, take yourself out of the business, manage your schedule and really reflect on what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re trying to do, get your head kind of out of both of that emotional and data set in front of you. And you can make more rational decisions. I think if you do things like meditate or reflect on a daily basis, so you don’t make those types of decisions. So, I don’t know if I can answer, like, do people do that often? I can only talk about know things that I’ve seen successful, both for myself and other entrepreneurs, where they actually have mastery over their schedule. They can set time specifically for things like research and analytics for a new product. They set specific time for meditation or reflection or journaling or whatever it is. And then they can step back into the realm of like, okay, I want to get this product out, or I want to do this. I want to do that. I want to market my product this way. I want to go sell my product this way. Being able to do that and actually have time set aside for all those different things, I think sets apart the average person from the person who’s going to succeed or have the willpower and the mindset to succeed.
Tim Jordan: And I think that people don’t do that enough because we are emotional. Like we want to see stuff work. We want to base decisions on gut instinct, which doesn’t always line up with the data. I tell people all the time, like sleep on every decision. Like there rarely is a decision that I have to make today. Like I can sleep on it. I can wait until tomorrow. I can wait till I’m not stressed out, or I’m not too excited before I make that decision. Let me jump back into our initial train of thought. You’ve mentioned a few times and I made a note here to hit it scalability, right. And I know that you’ve talked before about building to scale or building with the ability to scale, right. And a lot of times we think short-sighted, we think about how much is it going to cost to do one production run of 2000 units, or what’s it going to cost to do my launch when there’s probably some advice that you can give us pertaining to, maybe doing a little more work or even spending a little bit more money. I don’t know if that’s a more expensive mold that’s going to last longer or more units or whatever it is, thinking about the next 9, 12, 18, 24 months. How are we going to go to scale this? Does it have to do with– would your advice have to do with finding a manufacturer that might be a little more expensive at the beginning, but can scale faster? Or what would that be? Because I see so many people running into this situation where they look too short-sighted and they’re not thinking about the next 24 months.
Zack: Right. Well, I think you’re absolutely right. For any business, there should be some sort of long-term, 10 year goal of where, where do you want to be, right? And then you have to chunk it out and like, okay, what does the next five years look like? What do the next three years look like? What do the next 18 months look like? What are the next, what does the next quarter look like? So, if you can start thinking in that longevity, that’s great. So if your goal is to create the world’s best X product, and that’s where you want to be in 10 years, what’s going to get you on that path to get there. So again, I think like you’re talking about that’s kind of high level, the long term thinking that needs to happen. If you want to break it down into more conversational on what factory decisions and stuff like that, my advice is always have multiple offers on the table for whatever you’re trying to do so that you can make a decision based on those types of data and those types of feedback you’re getting from whatever you’re trying to do. And so, with customers, for example, that I’ve had, I’ve seen examples where they’re evaluating three different, three different manufacturers, and they have three different offers for one’s cheap, one’s mid-tier and one’s tier one or whatever it is. The things that matter the most are going to be the quality, the longevity and the time, right? How quality is the product that’s coming out there? How long can you actually work with this manufacturer? And how quick can they get your product out in the market? And so, if you’re evaluating on those three things in the manufacturing world, that’s what you need to be looking at from a long-term perspective. So, I’ll kind of go into specific there. So what do I mean by quality? Well, obviously they need to be able to make your sample mass production.
Zack: So, we need to have gut checks along the way before you launch the product to tell you and inform you that they can make a high quality mass production of your product. I’ve seen tons of factories that do a really great sample, and then can’t match the sample of mass production, especially in the cut and sew, especially in cut and sew. With injection molding, it’s a lot easier because it’s a mold. With cut and sew, there’s so many different factors that go into how many stitches per inch, how many stitches per millimeter, all those types of things that go into it, when you hand sew it, it’s a lot easier to do that, but can a machine match that? Can the template that you have from the machine match that initial sample? I don’t know. So, that’s the sampling process. You can start evaluating that the next step would be to get a pre-production sample to make sure that you can actually make that product with machines in mass manufacturing. So, that’s how you evaluate and have different options from a longevity per spirit perspective on that. So that should inform you right away. Maybe you want to make, again, if you’re evaluating factories and looking for long term, you probably want to not just say like, well, this is the samples and it cost 150 bucks and I only have 150 bucks. Maybe you want to go test out a few different factories with those samples. Injection mold that gets a lot more challenging because molds are really expensive. They can be tens of thousands of dollars. So that’s where you have to get even more succinct and make sure that you can actually work with that factory. So, the next step after the sample and quality is to assess the longevity.
Zack: If you’re looking from an injection molds perspective, one of the molds is going to break. I need to ask that question to every factor you have. So you have to understand when you’re gonna have to pay for new molds and also how much of a production run can they sustain, right? And so if you know that one mold can make 10,000 units per month, but it will only make a hundred thousand units. You have 10 months to work with that factory or that mold before you have to replace it, or you’re going to start seeing breakage. So then, you may want to say, well, maybe I want to open up a second mold with them, knowing that I need to get to and scale to 200,000 units by the end of the year, or 300,000 units, right? You can make those informed decisions by asking those types of questions upfront. And then finally, you’re talking about timeliness, right? Where in their supply chain are they getting the raw materials from? If you’re manufacturing, places like Vietnam, we don’t have a lot of access to raw materials like the China in India does. Make sure you assess that before you go into mass manufacturing, what’s the lead time. Do you have to add all these things into the puzzle, which is getting this product launch before you start paying the big bucks for a deposit on a production run, right? Because that’s going to probably be the most expensive part of the entire process, not the design, not the engineering, not the samples, not the mold. It’s going to be the first and second and third production run fee to actually continue to scale your business. So those are the types of things I think, from a high level and a little bit more granular level as well that you should be thinking about as you try and scale your business beyond the first production run.
Tim Jordan: It’s a little bit discouraging to hear all this, right? Because then I think that over like the last 30 minutes we’ve been talking, this is not easy. It’s not simple. It’s not something that we can take lightly to actually build unique products and products that are scalable. And we’re talking about investment cost, things like that. But again, if I overlook the initial discouragement, it’s actually encouraging, right? Because by going through an actual product development process through the research process, making sure that quality is good and spending the time to do this and investing the money to do this right. Like that sets us aside from 98% of the [inaudible] that were competing with all these marketplaces that aren’t doing it. Right. And it’s encouraging to know that there are systems because a lot of the stuff you’ve talked about already in this episode, a lot of our listeners have no clue what we’re talking about. A mold only– what does opening a mold mean? A mold can only do 10,000 runs. And what does stitch per inch mean? If that’s intimidating to you, just remember we don’t have to know all that stuff. There are people out there and systems out there that are much more mature even than the e-commerce industry that know how to do this. And what’s cool is a lot of this more mature enterprise level mindset, solutions and services are now focusing more on the e-comm entrepreneurs and making this stuff possible. Folks like Gembah have always existed. There’s always been product developers and product engineers, but it’s just become recently that company like Gembah has become accessible while understanding the plight of, and the mindset of an e-commerce seller, right? So now, if you’re an e-commerce seller and you want to do things the right way, you have readily available access to these resources and systems and procedures and processes and wisdom and experience that folks like Gembah bring to the table. So, that’s actually really, really encouraging to know that those resources are out there. Is there anything that you tell people to stay away from. I know you’ve talked about some of the complicated stuff like electronics, and this is– just because you’re so heavily involved in the supply chain and the research of feasibility and production and designing and engineering like. Is there one thing that you tell people just stay away from that crap, don’t even go near it, or are you like, oh, anything’s possible?
Zack: Inherently, I want to say I don’t. And the reason I say that is because it’s not my job or my duty to tell people and crush their dreams or tell them that something’s not possible. I think the part of what I personally like doing is problem solving. And so if my company or I can help find a way and make those dreams come true, make someone the value of their company, go up, I’m going to say, let’s do it. But then you have to talk about reality, right? Like what’s going on in the supply chain right now, what’s going on in raw materials right now. Like what would I advise someone to go build a house right now in lumber prices are going crazy. I would not do that, but if you have the means to do it, and you want to build your dream house and you have the means, like, you can afford that, then great go do it, right. That’s not for me to say. But I would say, the first step, if you’re going to go down this path is data research and feasibility. And if you can, if you can prove out through the data, you can prove out that your idea is feasible. Why not go after it, right. You only live one time and I know that’s cliche, but you really do. You really have one opportunity or one shot to try and make your dreams come true. And the entrepreneur in me is always going to say, you can find a better way, right. And so I would suggest that if you have a great idea and you have conviction, and then you can go validate it with a feasibility study or some data, go after it. Absolutely.
Tim Jordan: That’s a lot to digest. And I agree you only live once. Get out there and do it. I still tell everybody to sleep on every decision. Go out there and do it, but do it with just a little bit of, what’s the word I’m looking for– a little bit of caution.
Zack: Yeah. Be cautiously optimistic.
Tim Jordan: Be cautiously optimistic. And like I said before, it is nice to know that there are people way smarter than me out there that can help me figure this crap out, because if there weren’t, I might not ever get that stuff done. Zack, you’ve got an interesting story. I know that you come from logistics and kind of saw what was happening in the e-commerce space and decided to serve the e-commerce space with experience and specialty that you have. And you’ve brought on team members that are exceptional, that know all this stuff, but you’re watching entrepreneurs. You’re seeing them every day. You’re seeing some succeed. You’re seeing some fail and you’re an entrepreneur yourself. There’s a lot of wisdom that comes from that. Knowing who this audience is here, the AM/PM Podcast, if you had to recommend one book that you would tell every listener to go out and read a book that maybe gave you just a golden nugget you needed, or a mindset that you needed, or something that really made a profound change in the way that you look at business, what would that book be?
Zack: I think there are a couple books I would recommend. The first one is the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It tells you and gives you the power to understand that you are in control of everything you do around you from an emotional response, from a physical response, and then habits that you can start developing to help you better understand how humans interact, how humans relate and how you can actually be effective at your job or your life or your family, whatever it is. The second book I’d recommend is Traction. I think it gives you the entrepreneur operating system, which is a highly effective way to run your business. As an entrepreneur, it tells you, it makes you think through and document. They have sections throughout the book where you actually document, core values and what are your rocks, and what’s your hedgehog, your 10-year goal and all that type of things. Things I talked about earlier in this podcast. Those are two great books that I would recommend to any entrepreneur anyone’s thinking about starting their own business, or even is already on their business journey, has read those books, I would recommend them.
Tim Jordan: Well, thank you for that advice. And I write these down and my bookshelves are filling up from all the books that people recommend on these podcasts. And a lot of you listen to this and send notes to us and say, Hey, thanks for that recommendation. That’s really cool, actionable stuff. So thank you, Zack so much for being on. I know you’re a busy guy and I caught up with you a couple of weeks ago in Austin. I know in a couple more weeks, we’re going to see each other at Prosper in Vegas, going to be nice. I know that they’re approaching a thousand attendees at that, which is great getting over this COVID slump of not being able to see everybody. So, getting back in person in place is going to be awesome. I’ll look forward to seeing you there. If someone were to track you down, I’m sure you’ve got great content, great information, great process, kind of listed how your system works at your website and that’s gembah.com, right? Is that right?
Zack: That’s right.
Tim Jordan: And I’m sure people can follow you on LinkedIn or some other social if they want it to?
Zack: Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn. That’s the main one that I would be posting on. You can follow Gembah on LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter. But yeah. If you’re an entrepreneur or you’re, you’re an established business, and you’re thinking about getting into developing your own products, or are you having issues with supply chain or anything like that. Again, if that’s not your expertise, I highly recommend finding someone or a company to do that for you so that you don’t make mistakes along the way that other experts have seen and can help you through. I think that’s the biggest piece of advice outside of the books and everything that I can do that can sum up today for the listeners is just know your strengths, play to them. And anything that you feel like is not your strength, outsource. Get people in there that can do it better than you.
Tim Jordan: Yup. Amen. Well, thank you Zack, for being on. Thank you all for listening. As I always request, if you found any value in this, go drop us a review on whatever podcast platform you’re listening to this on. Make sure to follow us on social. We’ve got a Facebook page, AM/PM. You can track me down on social, Tim Jordan. I’ve got a website, Private Label Legion, and we’ve got a free Facebook group that I run Private Label Legion Facebook group. And then make sure to give us a like, if you’re watching this on YouTube and subscribe to the channel. Thank you, Zack. Thank you all for listening. We’ll see you guys on the next episode.