Business of Craft Season 5 Episode 3 Product Development with Nicole Schneider

Business of Craft Season 5 Episode 3


Welcome to Business of Craft, a show designed to help entrepreneurs with fabric or fiber businesses become more successful. Our guests share best practices and teach effective marketing skills, that help crafty business owners learn to grow and scale. Let’s start crafting a better business together!

My guest today Nichole Schneider is the founder and CEO of Coley International, a product development company for the craft industry. Nichole specializes in helping craft companies bring a product from concept to retail ready. She has over 20 years of buying, sourcing and product development and is an avid sewist and knitter. 

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#1 If you’ve ever wanted to dream up a new notion or a quilt ruler or a garment you want to mass produce, you will have to undergo a specific set of steps to get there. I saw in your presentation that there are around 13 detailed steps you guide clients through, but maybe we can just start with the first one which is the generation of a great idea. (1:50)

#2 You say you should be brutally honest with yourself before investing a lot of time and money chasing a bad idea. What are some of the other tough questions to ask? (6:10)

#3 We’re getting into a bit of new vocabulary here. You talked about open market and molded products. Can you teach us a little bit about what that means and what’s the difference between them? (14:05)

#4 One of the steps you recommend is to do a lot of research. What do you have clients focus on for this step? (18:55)

#5 I’m an SBDC consultant and when someone has ANY idea, I always tell them about the “fail fast” or lean startup method, inspired by Eric Ries. Can you tell listeners a little more about that concept and why it can be useful? (23:00)

#6 How long do you typically give for an estimate for how long it takes to bring a new product from an idea to a real product ready to sell? (25:20)

#7 Let’s say our hypothetical client has determined that their crafty widget is still viable. Next, they need to consider manufacturing and you help them narrow down whether they look domestically or internationally. What are some pros and cons of each? (29:00)

#8 Let’s touch on Alibaba for a minute. I know a lot of people start there when looking for products to source. Tell us a little bit about what that website is and what’s your feeling about Alibaba? (33:45)

#9 How long does it take for clients who work with you to go from start to finish? (40:50)

#10 And then, of course once the heavy lifting is over and you’ve placed an order, now you need to focus on our favorite step–which is marketing the product. Where do you think your clients struggle most with the marketing? (42:45)

Key Takeaways:

Focus on what your product can do or what key problem it can solve – it doesn’t have to do everything under the sun, just solve a problem that crafters have.

Developing a product is a business. You need to treat it as such – invest in good legal advice (re: patenting, etc.), design, prototyping, etc.

Even if you can find an open market product, should you use it? Don’t step on someone else’s toes, introduce something new. If you’re just introducing another product to the market that already exists, you’re just adding to the noise out there.


Connect with Nichole: Coley International | LinkedIn | Facebook

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries