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One decision you have to make when you’re starting up a physical products business is what kind of business do you want it to be?  Your options are a cash flow business – this means that you’ll buy and sell  (or manufacture and sell) products – with making money being your primary goal.  I’ve read about people who buy things cheap from China, or from clearance sales, etc, and make a decent amount of money selling them on Amazon and eBay.

The other option is to build a brand.  This is a longer term strategy, which means that any money you make from your first sales you’ll re-invest into more products (and these need to be products that complement your first product) and keep doing this to grow the business.

The idea is that if you build a brand you could end up with a business that’s worth selling at some point.  (If that’s your goal.)

So the key things about building a brand (in physical products) are that:

  • You need to have one customer in mind. (So parents/people buying presents for parents is mine.)
  • Your products need to fit into one niche/area (mine is baby bedding) and ideally complement each other – i.e. your second and subsequent products would be something that people who brought your first product might actually buy.
  • Your products need to look like part of the same brand – if you make the decision, as I have, to create your own.

I want to build a brand, as definitely see this as a long-term plan.  (I’m not sure I have the time or energy to become an overnight success!)  With this in mind, I wanted to make sure I had a logo, products and packaging with a clear brand that all worked well together.  I don’t know any designers to work with, so decided to use 99designs – an online service where you enter your brief, set a price, multiple designers pitch their ideas and you narrow them down until you end up with one you’re happy with.  The whole process takes about a week – but you can fast-track it if you need to.

How I’m building my brand

I started out with the logo (as this made the most sense to me), put together a brief, and within hours entries came flooding in.  At the end of the competition, I’d had 139 entries from 26 different designers.

After 4 days you narrow it down to your favourites and continue working with those designers for another few days (on refining the work) until you choose a winner.  I struggled to choose out of 3 entries, so decided to run a poll to get some feedback from friends and family.  I think this is a great feature and it was interesting to get everyone’s feedback.

Speaking of feedback, my key bit of advice if you decide to use 99designs is to make sure you put aside time every day (I’d suggest around an hour) to review all the new entries and revisions you’ve had and give feedback on what you like, don’t like, and how you think they could improve. The more time you can spend doing this and the more specific you can be, the happier you’ll probably be with the end result.  A clear brief is also key, of course.

Our final logo

Our final logo

I had the product packaging and the products themselves created on 99designs too and love the results. You also have the option of working with the designers you’ve chosen on a 1:1 basis for future projects. I will definitely be contacting lovely Laura soon for our next round of swaddle designs!

You can get pretty much anything you like designed on there, so I would definitely give 99designs a go if you want quality design on a budget.  (You can spend way more of course, if you wish to, but I’ve been very happy with the budget option so far!)