Episode 92 – New Product Ideas – How to Decide If Your Idea is Good

Mar 27, 2019

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • How to validate your product ideas
  • How to find your target market
  • How to research and make smart decisions

Resources & Links

Episode 92 – New Product Ideas – How to Decide If Your Idea is Good

Show Notes

Why should you validate your new products?

You should know if your new product meets a few standard criteria. You want to be able to: make money with it, understand the market, know the competition and understand the business of this new product. If you jump on something because it’s an impulsive idea, you might find out it’s not what you expected.

So HOW do you validate a new idea or product? The steps are simple and deliberate.

1. Who is the target market?

This is defining who will purchase this product from you. Is it new mothers, motorcycle crews, adult recreational sports players, etc

HOW: Attend events where these people go. Visit their stores. Get to know the industry. takes notes on everything you can learn. Age, gender, interests, style, income, etc

2. What are the problems, wants and needs in this market?

Understand the personality and lifestyle this market of people live in. Are they very busy or retired? Do they have a lot of disposable income? Do they prefer a certain style of apparel?
If you understand the market, you can bring things to them that will solve problems or fulfill desires.

HOW: Survey people, brainstorm with people who know the industry. Observe them.

3. How big is the potential for this market?

If you want to focus on a fishing market, and you live in the desert, you probably wont have a lot of customers.
So how many people would purchase your products, what is the potential for your business.

HOW: How many people are in this market? How many businesses, or leagues, or population. Try to get actual stats where you can. Ask people, look online, etc

4. Who are the competitors?

You should know your competition. This doesn’t mean be discouraged by them, but know what they offer and how they do it.

HOW: Ask people and search online. Shop them (or have a friend shop them). Get to know their offering

5. What are they missing

Do they not offer short runs or same-day delivery. Do they only offer cotton or only polyester. Do they only offer it in embroidery or screen printed or single colors?

HOW: See #4 and compare it to #2

6. How exciting is the solution and whats the demand?

Is offering what your competition does not going to lead to sales? profits?
Your competition might not offer cowboy hats with softball team logos on it… but how many people are going to play softball in a cowboy hat?

HOW: Survey, interview people, ask in FB groups.

Once you have gone through understanding these… you can make an educated decision and determine if your new idea is valid and worth your time, money and energy.

Mentioned Equipment:



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Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!

Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!

Mark S: Hey, everyone! Welcome to another episode of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast! My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. Today, we’re here to talk about new product ideas; how to decide if you’ve got a good idea.

Mark S: This is episode 92, by the way. Because it’s episode 92, we decided that we were going to test out some new audio equipment, so you’ll notice an absence of a microphone, if you are watching us on video. If you are not watching on video, I just waved my hands over my desk, very expressively!

Marc V: You’ll also notice we’ve got some new shirts on.

Mark S: We do! We have Custom Apparel Startups apparel on. It only took us three and a half years for us to get something.

Marc V: Yeah, to make a shirt.

Mark S: Because the equipment is in the other room, and it’s just way too far to walk.

Marc V: Then, once we decided to do it, it took like five minutes to make.

Mark S: Exactly. Anyway, this is a great episode, I think, because it’s on our minds all of the time. Colman and Company and ColDesi are both famous for coming up with new stuff. I mean, we really broke the market for the white toner transfer printers, we developed the ProSpangle machine, we had the SpangleElite made. The Patch Kit, we invented that.

So, we’ve got a lot of expertise under our belt, with bringing out new products, and we’ve done it wrong most of the time. We’d like to save you that trouble.

Marc V: Also, we’ve said no to way more things than yes.

Mark S: That’s very true.

Marc V: So, even though we’ve got thousands and thousands of SKU numbers that we sell of all different items, people bring us new ideas all of the time. Oftentimes, we’ve got to say no, because the idea is not a good idea for us. It’s not a good idea for most of our customers.

Mark S: And this is kind of the criteria that we’re going to walk you through, is you may have a great idea, like the people that come to us, wanting us to sell their product, but it may not be a good fit for the audience that you’re talking to.

Like us, if there’s a car that runs on water, ColDesi is not going to be the best people to get that word out to the market. It’s a great product, it doesn’t fit what we’re trying to do.

Marc V: And there’s a lot of things to consider. Like I’m drinking a Diet Vernors. Is that a good idea, during the podcast? I don’t know. I’m probably going to cough.

Mark S: It’s never a good idea!

Marc V: So, let’s talk about it a little bit, here. You want to meet a few kind of standard criteria, when you’ve got a new idea. You just might be sitting around thinking “Oh, maybe I should get this type of equipment, or maybe I should bring in this type of shirt, or I think a lot of people would like that.”

You want to have some sort of a system to validate that idea.

Mark S: Right, because what you don’t want to do is, it’s kind of like your baby’s ugly, kind of thing. No one will ever tell you that. So, if you’re going to really push an idea out on the marketplace, whether or not it’s a new t-shirt design, or maybe it’s adding a different product into your business, going into promotional products or signs; whatever it is, test out the idea in a structured way, so you know as objectively as possible, whether or not it’s got a good chance of success.

Because there is nothing more expensive than launching a product that fails. You’ll spend a lot of time, maybe ordering 1,000 transfers, if you’re testing a new shirt design. Or maybe it’s a new process that you’re going to apply, and you do it 100 times, and they don’t wash as well as your customers expect.

Marc V: Yeah. It could be a type of apparel or type of material, deciding to switch over to. This is an example right here. I have some button-up shirts. I’m wearing a button-up shirt right now, a gray button-up shirt. And the previous ones that I own, that I’ve put toner transfers on, were a different material.

I forget the name of these, but they have something like the Easy Care, or something like that. They’re the whole, you know, stain resistant and all of these things.

Mark S: More wrinkle-free.

Marc V: Yeah. So, what happened with that was I used the same settings on my other shirt, that I used on this one. And the first time I went to put the transfer on, nothing happened. I peeled it up, and just nothing happened.

So, I said “Okay, I’ve got to change settings now.” I had to increase the time a little bit and reduce the temperature a little bit. It took work, for this idea.

Now, our idea wasn’t to sell these shirts. But let’s just say it was. Now I’ve bought 200 of these shirts, and maybe I didn’t validate the process of putting it on the garment. This validating of the process goes deep into your production, your income, profitability.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Marc V: But we’re just going to start with just kind of the basis of if it’s a good idea.

Mark S: Yeah. Is it a good idea? Let’s get into that. What’s number one? What’s the first thing that you want to look at?

Marc V: First of all, I’d say in these steps, before I say step one, in these steps, these are put in an order for a reason. Step one is not even about the product yet. It’s about who you’re going to sell it to. Who is the target market?

This is defining who is going to purchase this product from you. New mothers? Motorcycle crews? Adult recreational sports players? Youth sports? Babies? Who is the market?

Mark S: The babies are not going to buy from you.

Marc V: Well, the moms will. The product is for the babies, and the mom is going to buy it. This is something that you have to consider, in order to be able to move on to the next step.

Mark S: Here’s a good example. Let’s say you have a reputation in the marketplace, for sportswear. You do bling for cheer, you do jerseys for the football teams. That’s your gig.

Well, if you have a great idea for a baby product or a new mom product – maybe it’s a design or a type of garment – then, you don’t have a built-in market for that. Even though you may easily sell your new designs for your existing niche, if you’re working outside of that with your new idea, you’ve got to start from scratch, and make sure that there are people that want to buy it.

Marc V: Yes, and know who they are. When you’re looking at that, if you already sell corporate wear, and you’ve got a new idea for something else you could sell to corporate wear, like maybe laptop and iPad cases, and things like that, you already know who the market is.

But your first step is you want to, whether you write these things down or take notes on a computer, you want to write down who is the target market; corporate wear. You don’t really have to move on to how to find out who they are, which is what we’ll talk about next, because you know who they are. You already sell to them, as you mentioned.

If it’s a new market, you want to do a little bit of research ahead of time.

Mark S: Like we do, every single time that we come out with a new product.

Marc V: Absolutely. And even if it is people who own embroidery machines, we start at that step, just to make sure we don’t forget any details.

So, how do you determine who the target market is, you’ve got an idea for, that you want to sell to? You know that there’s a lot of adult sports teams. There’s softball and kickball and soccer, and all of these things that are all grown adults going and playing recreational sports.

You haven’t sold to this demographic before, but you know they exist, because your brother plays on a soccer team. So, this is the how of how do you do this.

You attend the events. If it’s retail places, you visit their stores. You get to know the industry. You go to their online forums. You join, possibly, a group, if it’s something that makes sense to do that.

What you’re looking to do is you’re looking to determine all of the demographics of that. What’s their age? What’s their style like? What are some things they might be interested in? What’s their income like?

Mark S: Can they buy it?

Marc V: Yeah. Can they buy it? Do they have a lot of disposable income that they want to buy a really high-end version of your product? Or do they have a minimal disposable income, where you’re going to have to make it very affordable? You’re going to have to determine all of these things.

For example, if it’s like the adult sports leagues, one of the things you could do is go to some of your brother’s games. Go to some of the other games. Watch, talk a look. Look and find out if they have a website, if they have a forum, if they have Facebook group.

Join these things. Learn about who they are, and then you kind of build up a profile.

Mark S: I think that’s a good idea. We won’t get into it too much, but that’s a customer avatar. What you’re looking for is to make a kind of composite person that might buy your product.

If your new product is in the new moms section, then maybe what you want to do is go where a bunch of new moms gather, and kind of develop a profile of them. How much money do they make? Where do they shop? What else do they buy? And take a look at your product, and see if it fits in with that kind of ethic, or that group of people.

Marc V: Absolutely. Now that we know who your target market is, and you’ve kind of built that avatar, and you’ve written down as many details or noted as many things, with regard to their age, gender, interests, style, income; anything that you can break down, that can help you define what they do, you move on to the next step.

What are the problems, wants and needs of these people? You have to understand kind of who they are, what they’re doing. So, if you’re selling to the local small businesses, corporate-type of a thing, and you realize they’ve already got the shirts and all of these other things, but do they have bags that are branded? No.

That might be kind of a problem or a need or a want, that you’re going to define. You can actually just go and ask this market. Say “You currently buy apparel right now, custom apparel. Is there anything that you wish you could customize?” Or “What else do you carry with you to every meeting, to every event?”

They’ll start to tell you different things, and then you can start to kind of create a wants and needs list.

Mark S: What you’re looking for, because you’re approaching all of this with an idea in mind, what you’re looking for is does it really match? If your new product idea is in the cheer space, for example, and it’s a warmup suit with a rhinestone design on the back, and an embroidered design on the front, and it will probably retail for about $150 each, that may work great in some areas. That may be too much money.

Like you said, if you’re in a more economically challenged area, or that’s the school profile, then you may not be able to sell a $150 outfit. You might have to scale back.

Marc V: So, the want for that might be, or the need for them, is they desire a complete warmup outfit, something that they can wear completely, when they’re not completely dressed, that’s affordable. That’s the want and the need that they have, because normally, this entire set might be $150-$250. They’re really looking for something they could buy for less than $100.

Mark S: Right. So, you just changed your product idea for your target market. You’ve found a good application, that they do want those things, like Marc said. But the design that you have in mind, the product that you have in mind is too expensive for the area, or for that specific set of people that you’re targeting.

So, you either need to look for a new market, or you can adjust your product idea to more match what the customer wants.

Marc V: That’s kind of all part of this exercise. Who are you selling to? What do they want and need? What are their desires? And then, is this matching up? Then, you continue to alter either your idea, or you just trash the idea, eventually.

If you think “Oh, I can do custom laptop bags,” and you go around and find out that all of the businesses that you sell to, none of them use laptops anymore. They’re all using like iPads.

Mark S: Yeah. You’re not solving a problem. Right? And that’s what you said, is you need to solve a problem, or fill a hole in the marketplace.

Maybe a problem for a landscaper is that they’ve got polos on all of their people working, but they’re all wearing their own hats. They’re wearing Gilligan hats, and that’s not the image that you want to project. That’s a problem for some business owners. So, you can walk in with the solution for that.

Marc V: Exactly. So, you know who it is, and then you go ahead. How do you kind of identify these problems, these wants, these desires and needs for your target market?

For one, if you’ve got a big enough group of people available, you can survey them. You can literally go to an event, and you can create a log, and just ask people. You could do it online. If you’re a member of a group, a Facebook or a LinkedIn group or anything like that, you can put a survey online.

Say the sports one that I mentioned. You join the local sports Facebook group or any type of online forum, and then, if you’re allowed to, you post a survey on there. “Hey, question. What are your favorite custom apparel to buy for your sport, that you wish you had?” Or “What are some things that you wish you had, or you don’t have, or something that you wear now, that you don’t like?” And see what people say.

Mark S: Or you could even be more direct, and say, if we use the cheer warmup outfit idea, you could even go to the cheer site that I hope you’re already a member of, and you post a picture of it, or of a mockup of it. And you say “I’m thinking of developing this product. I’d love your feedback. It will probably retail for $150 to $175, depending. What do you guys think? Is this something that you would buy?”

Then, you’ll get all kinds of answers. You’ll get answers like “That’s way too much for me,” like we do, when we put prices in ads. “That’s way too much for me. I could never do that.” “Oh, that’s a great deal! I’d love to get three of those.” “Do you sell them wholesale, because I’ve got 11 cheer groups?”

You could get any of those responses, or you could get crickets. And if you get no response, that’s also a response, because what they’re saying is they don’t really care. You’re not inspiring anybody.

Marc V: And it’s important when you do this, too, the tricky part that you get into – and this is kind of how people react nowadays online, whether they’re talking about news or online surveys. “I posted something online. Everybody loved it!” Really, you posted something online, six people responded, and started conversing back and forth, all positively about it. One person didn’t like it.

So, that’s a very small group to look at. You said six people like it, which is great. But you want to go further, any time that you can. Don’t just rely on six people saying thumbs up, in a forum with 5,000 people. For one, it’s on Facebook. A bunch of them might not even have seen it.

Mark S: True.

Marc V: And these might be the people who are busy working, not on Facebook. There’s all types of things to consider.

What you also want to do is conspire and chat with people that are in this target, if you’re not already. So, somebody who is in this demographic, if we’re talking about cheer or adult sports or corporate. You go and you talk to customers that you already work with, people that you know, like your brother who plays soccer.

Ask them directly. Survey them. Survey people who you trust and you know will give you as much inside information as you can. Also, see if you can get people they know to answer the survey, as well. What you do is you go to your brother and you talk about the soccer team, and you say “Hey, do any of the people that you play with hang out like before or after a game, that I could go and just ask a small group of them individually, kind of ask them the same questions?”

That will give you another direct face-to-face with a group of people that you can trust, who will provide you with a good answer.

Mark S: I agree. We actually did a survey on the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group, about how people validate their new ideas now, and the vast majority put mockups on their website, or they make small runs to show off.

I like both of those ideas, because it’s like doing a survey. If you put a mockup on your website, for “Hey, new product idea,” or “Coming out soon,” and you get a lot of response to it, then you’ve validated that idea.

If you make a small run, if you have that capability, and I think if you bought anything at all from us, if you’re one of our customers, you do have that capability, you could make a few, and rather than just doing the paper survey and asking, you could show them your idea.

And in a collaborative way, “Here’s a mockup,” or “Here’s a sample of something I’m thinking about producing. What do you think? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it? What do you think of the fabric? What do you think of the colors? How about the sizing? How much would you pay for it? How much would you expect to pay, if you wanted two, or 100? Do you know anybody else that would buy this kind of thing?”

Those answers are gold.

Marc V: Yeah. That’s really how you’re going to dissect and figure out, really. Because this step right here, I consider to be almost multi-steps. The way I would really break it down, if we wanted this to be a really long list, would be; first, observe. Then, ask. Then, bring mockups of some sort, whether they’re physical or drawn ones, or whatever it might be.

Because first, you’re observing them. You go to the game, and you’re watching what they’re doing. You notice that all of their hats have kind of a sweat stain around it. So, “Maybe I could get a better quality cap for them.”

Then, you start asking them, “Hey, how do you guys like the caps? Do the stains on it bother you? Would you prefer to have something that looked brand new, the whole season?” If everyone says “I don’t care,” then maybe your idea is not that great.

If “Yeah, that would be nice. I’d like to actually wear this cap when I go out playing golf, but I look like a hot mess, so I don’t do it.” Now, we know you’ve got a good idea. Then, you get some hats that you find, that should be stain-resistant, things of that nature. You make them a sample. You bring them, and then you ask them again.

So, this can be a multi-step thing. It’s really just going to depend on your idea.

Mark S: This will pay off. It really will. Like Marc Vila said, we say no all of the time. We say no, constantly. And saying no has paid off. We’ve offered products, we’ve brought in customers to take a look at products, and we’ve made changes, based on their feedback, and that’s made for better products.

So, don’t think about just how much money you can make, if someone likes your idea. Think about how much money you can save, if someone doesn’t, and you don’t go ahead with it.

Marc V: Those are both two huge points. All of this that we’ve done so far, we’re talking like a handful of hours of work, tops, so far. Because you’re thinking of the idea, you’re identifying who they are, you go to an event or you survey online. These things take minutes.

Maybe going to some sort of a networking event or a business event or a game might be a couple of hours’ worth of time, there. But again, you’re doing more research. You’re observing, and it might help you to come up with more ideas.

Once you’ve kind of brainstormed with them, you’ve observed them, you’ve come up with some ideas, you’ve asked them questions or you’ve had them maybe even sample a product, then you really want to look at, okay, how big is this potential now?

You’ve done this in stages, on purpose. Because if you try to go with how big is the potential first, but you don’t know who your demographic is -.

Mark S: You’ll get stars in your eyes, and you won’t make a good decision.

Marc V: Yeah. So, how big is the potential market? If you’re talking about the cheer one, and you say “Okay, in my area and all of the groups that I go to, I have the potential to sell to 500 kids, and 1,000 parents,” and so on and so forth. You kind of do some math. “This is how big the market is for this.”

Also, it’s a churn market. A couple of times a year, they need new stuff.

Mark S: And they may need more than one.

Marc V: They may need more than one, exactly. So, compared to, say the iPad case idea, the market might be quite small on that. “Okay, how many businesspeople do I know, that I work with? Here’s the number. How many of them use iPads? That’s a smaller number. How many of them don’t already have a case, or cared about, when I surveyed them about it? Alright, that’s really small.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad idea, yet. You have to determine the effort going, involved; the investment. I would not invest in ordering from China, 10,000 of these custom iPad cases that you’re going to decorate, because you can get them at a good deal, if you only think you can sell a couple hundred of them.

Mark S: Agreed.

Marc V: You kind of need to – this is part of the process.

Mark S: I really like the point number four that you make, here.

Marc V: Sure, okay.

Mark S: It’s mostly because that is probably 40% of what I do here at ColDesi, is competitive research. You want to see who your competitors are in this, for this new product that you’ve got, in that marketplace, and how does your new product stack up?

Marc V: You do. You have to know your competition. And this is another thing that goes in stages. For one, the first rule of this is you can’t be discouraged, because somebody is already doing it. That’s the first thing. Oftentimes, I’ve heard this so many times. People get discouraged.

“I was thinking about doing this t-shirt thing, but I realized there’s already like two screen print shops in town.”

Mark S: Right. That’s like saying “I was thinking about opening up a Burger King, but there’s already a McDonald’s.” That’s not the way it works.

Marc V: It’s true. If you actually look at a lot of these things, like Burger King and McDonalds, or if you have CVS and Walgreens as your drugstores in your area, you’ll notice that one is typically open very close to another one. CVS is right across from Walgreens. And Burger Kings are right by McDonald’s, or whatever it might be.

So, the competition is healthy, but you really want to break down your competition, and figure out what are they not doing? What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? Is there a spot you can fit in, there?

Mark S: I would say one more thing about the competition, is if there is competition, and they’re doing well, that’s actually an encouraging sign. Because if you’ve come up with a new idea for a product, and there’s someone else selling something in the space, and they’re doing well with it, then you’ve got kind of a market validation there.

You know there’s a big enough market for a similar product, to make this company famous for it, or they at least appear that they’re doing well, selling it. That’s a little bit of validation right there, just by looking at your competition.

Marc V: And if there’s only one person in your area you can find doing it, then there’s room for competition. Because right now, they’ve got a monopoly on that market, so you can come in and you can possibly offer something different and new.

You really just want to do as much research as you can on this. How much are they selling it for? What do they offer and not offer? Are there color limitations, artwork limitations? What’s the turn time on the production? Are there things that they won’t do?

When you surveyed your customers or your potential customers, you asked them some questions, and you asked for some specific needs. Is your competition offering something with that? One of the best ways to do it is you directly shop them or have somebody you know and trust shop them. Have your brother who plays ball, shop them.

Ask some of those direct questions. “Hey, we surveyed about 30 people between your team and online, and a handful of people said they were interested in some sort of a stain-resistant cap.” Ask the competition “Hey, do you offer anything that’s stain-resistant?” See what they say.

They might say yes, and show you the price. Then, you say “Wow, I actually have an opportunity here, because it looks like they don’t want to do it. They’re overcharging.” Or they might say “No, we work with these two caps. They kind of just are what they are. If you want white, they’re going to get stained. I’d recommend black, if you don’t want that.”

Now, you know that they’re not even offering it.

Mark S: It’s the same thing with the warmup suit example. For example, if you find somebody else that’s doing cheer wear in the area, and they also had that $150 track suit idea or warmup suit idea that you did, and you go into the store and they’re not selling, or they are $150.

But you did your homework, and found out that maybe an $80 option would sell better. So, you shop your competition and see. “Okay, this is why, because the expensive solution is already taken care of in this area. If I can offer something less expensive or more budget-friendly, then maybe this will be a hit.”

Marc V: They might offer it for $150 online, but if you visit their location, you might see that they have a sale on there. Or you might, when you’re surveying people, you might even find out it’s $150, but it’s always on sale.

So, that’s kind of, who are your competitors? Actually, we dove a little bit into it, but what are they missing, is number five. So, who are your competitors, and what are they missing? Is there a price option that they’re missing? Is there a physical product, like some sort of a stain-resistant lapel?

Mark S: Maybe they just do t-shirts, and they don’t do caps. Or maybe they only have a very limited selection of clothing that they’ll work with.

Marc V: If they only screen print, they probably won’t do any short runs. They’re probably charging per color. So, a team or a business has a logo that’s got an actual graphic in it, so there’s tons of colors in it, and the screen print shop is going to cut that down. Or if they want to do something more realistic, they’re going into “Oh, we’ve got to half-tone it. We’ve got to use our auto-press, so you’re going to have to buy 50 of them, and we can do.”

You’ve got a transfer system or a heat transfer vinyl system, and maybe you could do something in a short run that they can’t do. So, what they’re missing is not necessarily a product, but it’s also a price range, it’s also the graphic, it’s the turn time. They don’t offer anything the same day.

Mark S: And you’ll know all of these things, because you took those steps that we talked about in the beginning. What’s your target market? What problems, wants and needs are you going to solve? How big is the potential?

By the time you identify these things that competitors aren’t doing, or they’re not doing well enough to serve the market, you’re really close to knowing that you’ve got a hit.

Marc V: Yeah. Then, the last one we’ve got here is, how exciting is the solution, and what’s the demand of that? I think this is kind of the end of the phase to know, okay, now it’s time to really kind of dive into this product, if you can get here.

Basically, the question is, is offering what your competition doesn’t have, and all of these things from above, is it actually going to lead to sales?

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: Are people actually going to buy it? Is it actually going to be profitable? And this last step is really just kind of where it gets really, I think, like a long tale. Because you’ve got to look at “Is it going to be profitable for me? Does it seem like I can actually sell this product? Can I produce it quick enough?”

Because you’ve kind of gotten these ideas, and you’ve continued validating them through your competition, through surveying, through knowing your demographic and all of these things. But then at the end, now you’re having to dissect all of that information.

Mark S: Right. For example, just here at ColDesi the other day, we had somebody approach us with a product that looked good. It looked like it was going to be a really good solution, and would fit you guys. You might like it.

But when we looked at the numbers more closely, we realized that it wasn’t a good fit for our company, because we do a lot behind the scenes, to help make you guys successful. And the product just didn’t fit the model of us being able to add that service, like the online training and the one-on-one support, and the video camera help.

All of those things are expensive to do. You may have something similar in your business. So, it may turn out that “Okay, I’ve finally got this idea boiled down to the $80 warmup suit, quick turnaround time, full color.” You look at the numbers that you’re going to sell, and you look at the cost where you can find the warmup suits wholesale, and “Even after all of this, I’m not going to be able to make enough money to make it worthwhile.”

That’s a decision that you’re going to have. Your customers are going to like it, if you can sell it at that price point. The design is good. The product is good. The competition isn’t in that space. But maybe you have a supply problem, that you can’t buy it low enough to make it profitable for you.

Or maybe what they want doesn’t really match your decoration system, in the end. Maybe what they end up wanting is embroidery, and you don’t do that. You could get all of the way down this line with a great idea, realize it is a great idea, just not for your business.

Marc V: Also, not only is this the beginnings of helping to decide if you have a good idea, but this is also taking your idea and regenerating new ones from it. Or if you feel stumped for an idea, this is how you do it, as well. This is the creation and validation of an idea, by going through and hitting certain steps, and making sure you do them all of the time.

Then, you chop off bad ideas, and new ones get created, by doing these things. You start off with an idea about you just want to supply shirts to these sports teams. Then, you go out there and you realize the opportunity of a cap. So, this is where you’re looking for ideas, and validating them constantly, along each step.

Sometimes, you get to step four, and you realize that your idea is so saturated in the market, that it’s not worth it for you. But it creates a new idea. Then, you kind of go back to the top, and go back down.

Then, once you’re completed with this, and you get toward the end, like you’ve realized that it’s exciting, it’s great, people are going to buy it, you can make money. Then, we could kind of get into probably a whole other episode of what you do after that, to continue. Because you’re not quite ready to sell it.

Mark S: I like that. Maybe we should do that, because there are a couple of things that come to mind. One is, and you know this, Marc, ColDesi has been around for a long time. We have actually brought in containers of products that we didn’t validate, and literally never sold. Literally, Goodwill ended up with containers of promotional product [inaudible 32:23] blanks that we tried to sell for years, but we never asked our market if you really wanted to buy that.

We didn’t look at pricing, and we didn’t look at competition. We just got excited about this really cool idea, and bought a bunch of them, put them up for sale, and nothing happened. That’s the horror story you want to stay away from, because that was a big loss.

The good story about what you just said about finding that little side market, when you do the research – I heard a podcast with the founder of Mint.com. Mint is a company that does, artists post their art online, and you can pick original creations to put on your business cards. It’s a really neat service. It’s kind of like crowdsourcing original artwork for business cards.

But that’s not what they started doing. They started doing something completely different. It was an online stationery store. They went out and they got big funding from venture capitalists. This was the real deal.

Two years into it, they realized that none of that stuff was selling. They were going to have to close. But they had this little small project they had been working on, on the side, with these custom business cards. The market told them that this was what people wanted. So now, that’s basically all they do, and they’re a billion-dollar company.

So, if you’re going through this process and you’re validating that idea, and making sure there’s a market and everything, do like Marc said, and look for those side opportunities that you found, just like this big company Mint.com found, pushing a product that they didn’t validate enough in advance, and finding a little gem, as they did it.

Marc V: Yes, and you can’t let your emotions get involved in what happens here. Because what happens is you’ve got a great idea, you asked your brother, he said it was, too. You assumed he was being honest. Then, you start going through all of this process, and everything is cutting it off. Competition is not good. Other people aren’t really liking it. There’s not really a want or a desire for it.

All of a sudden, you get down, and one or two things happen. You either get cocky about it and say “I know it’s a great idea,” and then you run with it. Or you get discouraged. “I can’t come up with any good ideas.” Then, you really put yourself down, like “I thought this was a really good idea.”

You’ll find that the chances are, you’re not this gem entrepreneur that has this genius idea that nobody has had, that everyone thinks is bad, and you’re running forward. You’re not like Steve Jobs.

Mark S: It’s not likely that you’re that person.

Marc V: Yeah, so do you want to risk everything you’ve got, on this idea? Or not everything you’ve got, but the thousands of dollars you’re going to invest into this, that you could put into something else, especially if you’re a one or a two-person shop. A few thousand dollars of investment can be huge for you, so you want to play a safe bet, by going through these steps.

Mark S: I absolutely agree. I’ve got a – he’s not a customer yet, but he’s been calling every year or two, and talking to me, because we made a connection on Facebook. I really like him a lot. He’s got a terrible idea. It’s a bad idea.

The logo and the kind of graphics, let’s say that they’re not current, and he hasn’t been able to identify a market that will buy those, but he is in love with this idea. So, he keeps trying to find a way to get this one idea out into the world.

I admire that a lot. I appreciate that, because that makes for greatness. It does not make for good everyday business.

Marc V: Well, and he’s still not in business.

Mark S: He’s not in business.

Marc V: So he’s, for years, been sticking with this. And again, that’s dreams, and we want you to follow your dreams and achieve your dreams and all of that. But at the same time, you have to kind of, why are you doing it? Are you doing it for the sake of the art?

If that’s the only reason that the guy is doing it, then find your market, if you only care about the art.

Mark S: If you’re the creator that doesn’t care about money, then don’t worry about what you’re selling.

Marc V: Don’t worry about any of this. Just create it. But if you’re saying “I want to do this because the dream is I want to have a storefront where I sell custom-made baby clothes. That’s my dream. I want to do that, and why do I have that dream? Because it’s part of the art, and because I know that that’s going to be very financially rewarding for me and my family. So, that’s the dream.”

So, your ideas, you need to play like a good bet on your ideas, and invest your time and money into this. And if you get a few hours into doing all this work, and you realize your idea is probably not the best one, accept it, and get excited for a new one.

It’s a bit like selling. When people are in sales, you get told no, no, no. That cliché thing is “every no is one step closer to your next yes.” So, as you come up with bad idea after bad idea, then idea number six is going to be “Wow! I’ve got it! It checks off everything!”

Mark S: Hey, it’s WD-40. It’s not WD-20.

Marc V: Oh, yeah.

Mark S: So, if you are just a podcast listener, and you haven’t watched the video, you haven’t been to the CustomApparelStartups.com website, I would definitely do that, because we put the synopsis of what we’ve talked about in the show notes. We are also doing transcription, so literally everything we say, Marc Vila, is in there.

That’s why I say your name, so when people are Googling you, because you’re becoming more and more famous, they’ll find that.

Marc V: I’ll say Mark Stephenson more often!

Mark S: You can look in the show notes. Just go look for episode 92. There will be coherent steps written up in there that you can print out and go by. Stick it up on your wall, so you can – you’re welcome to listen to the podcast again and again, but you can also take this cheat sheet and maybe let it guide you the next time you have an idea.

Marc V: Yeah. And I think, don’t take this as the absolute rules. Take this as a guide for you. Then, if you figure out that there’s more or less steps or things involved for your business, then put this idea to work for you, to go do it. Because if you were to ask me to write one specific for corporate wear, I’d alter this list a little bit, maybe.

So, really take this stuff, and I think that’s the next thing to do, is to go either to YouTube or to CustomApparelStartups.com. Take a look at the podcast and the notes. Print it out or copy it or rewrite your own version of it, and then start. Find an idea to run through it.

Or go through these things to find an idea. Then, check all of the boxes, and then see if you come out with a new product.

Mark S: I love that! You know, we didn’t tell any jokes in this episode, but you did do closeup magic while you were talking. So, if you haven’t seen him do that on the videos -.

Marc V: And I finished a Diet Vernors.

Mark S: Which I’ve never done, so congratulations on that! Okay, folks, thanks very much for listening to another episode of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. What we would really appreciate you doing next is wherever you listen to podcasts, if you’re on iTunes, just give us a fair and honest rating.

Marc V: Five stars would be best.

Mark S: Or better. If you are a YouTuber, if you love spending time on YouTube, then visit the ColDesi-Colman YouTube channel, and we post all of these video podcasts up on there. If you just don’t have anything else to do this afternoon, visit CustomApparelStartups.com, and poke around there and see if there’s anything interesting.

Marc V: And please feel free to share our podcast or our videos with other small business owners that you know, because what we hear from folks is that the advice is perfect and great for custom apparel, but it really applies to all types of small business. So, thank you very much!

Mark S: Alright, everybody, this has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.

Mark S: You guys have a great business!

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