I’ve done some exciting things in the world of commerce since my last post. After Pumping Station: One got a laser cutter I started cutting stuff from Thingiverse and thinking of products I could make with it. I fixed the Thingiverse files for Tetris blocks and made some of those. Then I thought of making glasses out of the Look of Disapproval from reddit. Then Gretchen wanted me to make her something on the laser, so I made her a pendant with the kiss emoticon. After a while I put all these things on my etsy store, Optical Awesome. The Look of Disapproval Glasses started really taking off, and I’ve now sold over 150 of them! Exciting stuff. I’ve decided to move all my e-commerce to etsy since they make it so easy and deliver me traffic through their search.
I also sold things at Maker Faire NY, which was great. My necklaces and t-shirts were big hits and I just about made enough money to cover the expenses of the trip. (Lesson #1, don’t dig so big a hole that you have to have a ton of success to get back out of it.) I kept track of a few things I started out doing wrong and did my best to fix on the spot, so hopefully those mistakes won’t happen again:
- Post a price or people don’t know it’s for sale. With all the makers just exhibiting things, it’s easy to get confused.
- If you put t-shirts out on a table people will look through them for their size. Either have sizes out there or hang them up behind you.
- Don’t underestimate the number of girls there. I didn’t think necklaces would sell well, but a ton of girls came by and loved them.
- People loved trying on the look of disapproval glasses and sending pics to their friends. If I had a kiosk to do that it would be nice for collecting emails.
Also I got a bunch of new product ideas from people coming up to my table. I haven’t acted on them yet, soon though!
A few months ago I decided that I wasn’t going to tolerate excuses any more and it was time to get started with my own business. Since that time nothing has gone as I planned, but my quest to owning a business couldn’t be developing any better. I have my hands in three different businesses right now.
The first is RuggedScents. I mentioned this a little bit in my last post. Sacha De’Angeli and I started this business half as a goof to enter in the BARcompany competition at BARcamp Chicago 2010. Surprisingly we won the competition, so we used the prize money to develop a production process and start selling our line of masculine colognes. We have the process figured out for our first product; Smoque, a campfire scented cologne. Our products will be available for purchase soon.
The next one to come along was Maker Tees, though it has its roots in some things I did much earlier in the year. Pumping Station: One wanted to sell logo t-shirts, but nobody was interested in making that happen. As they were crippled by indecision, a group of members including myself stumbled upon a separate awesome t-shirt idea, the “Sir, I Practise Hacking” shirt. I had no choice but to have those shirts made, and since I was doing it already I made the Pumping Station: One shirts too. I carried around a big box of shirts, selling them in person until I broke even, then I temporarily dropped out of the t-shirt business. The process was so simple and appealing though that I decided to take it larger scale and sell a wide variety of maker themed shirts, and seek to sell shirts on behalf of hackerspaces.
Finally, I’m a big part of another venture that’s just getting some momentum. A few months ago I had the idea that a social network for hackerspace members could be very popular and useful. I mentioned this to a fellow PS:One member Jordan Bunker, and that mention along with some discussions he had with the Space Federation led to us working out a set of features, a few possible business models, and deciding to actually build it. We will be building this software and developing the community around it in the coming months, and with sponsorship from the Space Federation we may actually get paid to make it.
This is definitely a very exciting, and far too busy, time in my life.