Saturday, December 27, 2014

Perfecting your craft.

I think we all, at some point, become inspired by others and their craft and find inspiration to dive into our own. It is inevitable that to be a crafty person, you seek and absorb stimulus from around you, what you seek, and sometimes from that which may have been unintended. I go in kicks - Fits of intense study and observation and eventually practice. I reserve a spot in my thinking chair often and surround myself with those articles of inspiration that fulfill my desire to engage in something creative.  Currently, my MacBook, the Toro Bravo cookbook, my Taylor guitar, and a residue of smoke salmon and cheddar knob in a small fiesta bowl litter my surrounding. Each of which has something to do with the fiercely creative mood I am in. Yesterday, I was able to find some walnut veneer to work into hangtags for Company 944, and in this morning's travel picked up 5 rounds of fir tree trunk that will play nicely into some form of retail POS. All in all, a wonderful weekend start mixed with the work I love and the inspiration I desire.

I had the extra special pleasure of taking my son to Tasty & Son's this week - Arguably the best restaurant on the planet (this week...) He tried something completely new - Chicken liver pate - and was marginally accepting but more likely not as impressed as the word liver means something somewhat negative to him. It's OK though, because he went out of his comfort zone and tried something new - something we can all take notice of and learn from. I loved the pate. It was the best damn pate I have ever had - made by a true artist who continues the pursuit of perfection of their craft.

Don't leave well enough alone. Continue to push yourself. Continue to explore and try new things. Turn things on their head, and back again, until the visual you see matches the abstract you were seeking. Get out of the comfort zone and try something ridiculous. It just might work.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Last US Bag Publishes Company 944 Catalog

LUSB has presented the newest member of the family, Company 944. This line originates to support one effort - Job Creation. In our efforts to revitalize a portion of Skamania County that we occupy, we fell short. We were unable to sustain the plant operations we hoped for, and reengineered our efforts to build from the ground up. The results? Remain to be seen, but we are confident we'll hire 4 new FTE's in 2015...

Take a look and see what we are up to...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

When Others Doubt You...

Use it as fuel. I have a few detractors in my life. Those that continually doubt your ability, tell you you 'can't' or 'aren't,' are those that most likely see their own shortcomings and wish to reflect those upon someone other than themselves. It is common for this type of bullying tactic to take place in the schoolyard, but when it is prevalent with those of a more mature age we have to question what might be holding them back. Here are two solutions to remedying this issue in the workplace:

1. Fuel for your Fire!

Place these fine words of 'encouragement' on your wall for motivation. Prove 'em wrong! Subtract the detractor from your equation by showing what you are made of. I do this all the time and it helps to build confidence over time.

2. Turn the Table!

No point in arguing - Ask the dark cloud in your life how they can help you succeed. Often times, they don't have anything to offer and this is a sure fire way to get them to realize they might not know everything as they think they do. If they are wise enough to recognize you are promoting a teamwork approach, maybe you can build a relationship of cooperation.


At the end of the day, it is you that make the difference in your output. If others try to keep you back, send them to the rear view mirror and keep looking forward,

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11

Seemingly many years ago, although not as many as one might think. I remember my friend Roy calling me that morning telling me to turn on the TV. He believed it was the start of world war 3. While that might be a bit exaggerated, it isn't far from the truth. With no immediate years an exception, the world has seen a fair share of disruption caused by us humans. War, poverty, oppression, and a disregard for others has created a volatile world, continually in flux over religious beliefs, property lines, natural resources, and of course, the differences we might hold in skin color, contribute to a boiling pot of aggression we do not seem to shake after years of learning otherwise.

Hopefully, and I have some faith in the thought, we can eliminate our incessant need for selfish behavior in either direction and attempt to change our ways.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I have been absent for nearly a month! I apologize... Summer fun and frolic have interfered.

Thought I might catch those of you up on some new things happening at LUSB. Our outdoor brand, GOTE Gear, has gone under significant design changes on the site to better improve performance and ordering for our consumer. While these changes are always intended to go smoothly, we always encounter a few issues that mess with our intentions. After a few weeks of fixing bugs and issues, we are close to having the site finalized.

Preparation for the NEW Bluefig site is underway. A new platform and all new look and feel will be happening in September. Keep an eye out for our newsletter for more information...

LUSB site will follow right after that. This will allow for full e-commerce of all of our goods we currently sell, including our industrial line!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

College of Textiles

NC State is nestled in the research triangle, one leg of a powerhouse trifecta of academia. On a recent trade mission to NC State's College of Textiles, I learned that the academics institution's leading textile laboratories are a cornerstone for the industry I work in, although I would venture to say that few in our industry are aware of the power and influence such an institution has.

Touring the facility allowed us the opportunity to see how the College has enabled it's students and faculty to deliver innovative solutions, and much needed technologies to support the growth of the textile industry in the US. From a raw bale of cotton will come thread, engineered textiles, mildew-proof duck, fashion fabrics, and more. The shear breadth of technical understanding is thoroughly amazing, and the output unparalleled. While it is unfortunate more of this industry has not remained in the US, we should all be thankful for the hard work and diligent efforts these folks have made in building a world leader in textiles.

Of particular interest to me was the fact that the College of Textiles can work from 'molecule to market' - a completely vertically integrated supply chain within the four walls of the college. Remarkable in this day and age to see an industry so decimated by offshore competition thriving and succeeding in delivering the next great engineered solution. NC State is literally a beacon of hope in this still struggling fabric industry in the US. While academics and industry do sometimes collide, here we see a representation of where the two are paired perfectly. My only hope is that industry sees the remarkable value of NC State's College of Textiles and rewards it by investing further. Of concern was the fact that so few of our largest industry stalwarts seemed to represent themselves within the College. I hope that changes soon...

Friday, July 11, 2014

North Carolina State University Trip

Hey, been absent this week but back at it again. This week I am traveling with fellow companies Oregon Aero, Tactical Tailor, Bespoke Accessories Group, and Heather Clark of Alterations by Heather. We are visiting NC State's College of textiles, the world leader in textile design and engineering. This fascinating institution has a wonderful staff of educators dedicated to continuing the long history of excellence in textile development in the US.
Hunt Library at NC State
We were fortunate enough to have Dr. Istook and Dr. Leonas work with us for two days, along with the most passionate lecturer Debra McClendon, on a new endeavor to bring a formal, and much needed, industrial sewing school to the NW. We finished on Wednesday evening and were all inspired to get back to PDX and begin a series of action steps towards reaching our goal. Special thanks to Tony Erickson and Lisa Maxim of Oregon Aero for arranging our travel, and Senator Betsy Johnson of Oregon for contributing to the success of our mission.

I will write more soon on the impact of NC State and it's great programs.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Manufacturing Trend Update

Recent trend update:

For manufacturers, activity continues to recover from winter-related softness at the beginning of the year.Manufacturing production has risen 2.8 percent since January’s decline, with 3.6 percent growth over the past 12 months. Capacity utilization for the sector increased to 77.0 percent in May, its highest level since March 2008. Similarly, manufacturers in the New York and Philadelphia Federal Reserve districts reported strong growth in their respective June surveys. More importantly, respondents were mostly optimistic about future activity. More than half of those taking each survey said they anticipate increased new orders over the next six months. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve report also noted that 73.9 percent of its manufacturers predicted increased production in the second half of this year, with nearly 48 percent forecasting output growth of more than 4 percent.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Avoiding the Troll

We spend far too much time exhausted from the effects of Trolls in our life. We are not talking about the Troll under the bridge, however, the analogy is really the same. Trolls, as I will define, are those that like to suck the life out of you in attempts to A. Feel better about their unhappiness, or B. Feel better about their unhappiness. No mistake there, it is always their intent! It is the Troll's primary directive in life to make those around them miserable, constantly criticizing and determined to make life, and in this case, work, more difficult than it should be. they offer little in the way of support, and unless you are feeding their ego or paying a toll extracted through intimidation, they have little to offer. Now, you might ask, why do we become involved with Trolls at all? A complicated question... We typically find that Trolls can be engaging, almost charismatic, upon meeting them. They might lure you with some sort of carrot often times followed by a large stick to the butt. Beware of falling into their traps. They love to take advantage of you, covering you in negative energy disguised as helpful advice that really only serves their purpose, which as we stated, is to elevate their temporary elation over their self by beating you into submission.

Being involved in a small business for the last 13 years that has seen it's fair share of ups and downs, I have come to learn one key thing during my tenure - Trolls come in many different forms, use many different tactics, and always consider themselves the smartest in the room. Where they tend to realize the err in their ways is when they are found out and challenged, and even realize they might not be as clever as they thought, and beyond that, realize they are damaging the business more than they realized through the use of their intimidation tactics.

I would recommend anyone involved in any business be mindful of those around you. Are they the support team you need, or the weight that drags you down? Do they value recruiting intelligent help, or do they prefer the downtrodden that they can manipulate to feel better about themselves? It is often times not very apparent at first, but if you ever feel as though you are in this kind of relationship at work, stop. It is not worth the emotional stress you are under. Step back and take inventory of what is good for you, and make a move or remove the Troll from your life.

This article inspired my diatribe this morning:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Forecasting Change

Occasionally, one might find his or her self at a crossroads in business. Businesses change, markets change, people change. How you handle change is the key factor in success in my opinion. Many business people, and I will pick on the tenured store owner or 20+ year veteran of ownership in any business, find themselves hanging on to old ways and old habits, thinking that continuing on the path the same way will deliver a different result even though their market has changed. Failure to identify the impending changes coming and lack of a proactive approach may result in businesses faltering or contracting rapidly.

We recently installed new automation equipment in our cutting department. This machine is a wholesale change from the past. We have moved from archaic, old methods of fabrication to seamless transition in process, allowing for a greater throughput and more efficient use of time and resources. The difficulty with this is that it affects all the processes surrounding it, and those processes must change, too. When we made the decision to automate, did we thoroughly think through how it might affect the rest of the business processes, and were we prepared for the changes to those that must be made? Time will tell, however, I might suggest we always underestimate how simple insertions into our lives often create larger, more complicated ripples of influence that must be addressed.

Last year, we moved to a new ERP system so we could allow for better tracking of production and digest internal data more easily, and more visibly. This seemingly reasonable change to our business process has created massive amounts of work in addition to the already heavy workload we all carried. There were mistakes made initially that have caused us to revisit the entire system, however, with a concerted effort and a can-do approach it is getting done and we are making progress. This does not come without pain. Tempers flare, exhaustion ensues, and hope is sometimes dismissed as a fantasy. Personally, I have been through two ERP transitions prior to this one, and neither looked any different than what we are experiencing. Having a reasonable expectation and knowing the process will be a long one can mitigate so much of the frustration that walks along side.

When your market changes, how do you react? Did you see the writing on the wall or were you complacent that things would always stay the same? I am guilty of not acting fast enough in some cases where one or more of our markets is changing and we need to be proactive about how we handle it. The alternative is to wait around and react to the change when it is too late. In those cases where we are reactive, you typically exhaust more resources trying to catch back up, lose market share, and generally fall behind the innovation curve. Being proactive, and even creating those 'Blue Ocean' markets prior to an immediate need, make sailing the seas of business a slight bit riskier, but much more in your own control overall.

Change comes. When it does, are you prepared to meet it head on, or were you anticipating that change prior to? In order to meet change, sometimes we have to change the way we think about change itself...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Slug Runs Circles Around You...

Walking out of the house last weekend I spot this:

Look closely. That there is one confused, and apparently dead, slug. Poor kid slimed his way through the loop-de-loops like he was at Disneyland amped up on Mountain Dew. I can only imagine what he was thinking - "One more time and I will be there for sure!" Poor little slimy gastropod thought he was going to eat someone's garden, but instead withered on the concrete like a grape in the sun.

This sure does relate to the process we recently discussed on product development. In fact, we find ourselves in this same conundrum often, spinning in circles until finally the product dies from exhaustion, or despair, or both. Sometimes, this is a good thing. sometimes it destroys our ambition, but mostly, it is part of the process we must respect and identify as necessary.

Failure is NOT A BAD THING. It teaches us lessons, and lessons are sometimes the most important part of the process. Success is wonderful, no doubt, and the journey to get there is often the reward.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

UK sees similar revival of Homegrown Product...

Call it trendy or lip service, but the emerging trickle of domestic demand for homegrown products is not isolated to the U.S. As evidenced in this article, we see an infant-like resurgence of domestic product being built and sold to a small, yet loyal, consumer. The talk of this has been going on for some time, and while many of us in the industry still feel that it is a tiny percentage and not quite the swollen tide some media outlets might report, it is a positive trend moving in the right direction.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Autometrix Day 7

OK, so I skipped days in between! Things are going slower than we hoped. Still getting the hang of running the machine and learning about what we need to be successful with it. Anytime you introduce new processes and procedures into a company you have to remember that change is not easy, and will require some patience.

Tomorrow we should run some more test cuts on the machine to learn about how different patterns are affected by airflow and the pressure of the circular knife itself. This all might sound like mumbo jumbo to you, but basically we are in the learning curve of the process and have to flush out what it is we can and can't do with this machine.

I'll do my best to get some video uploaded today if possible.

Special thanks to Trish in Melbourne for writing in on the blog posts. Nice to hear from some of you once in a while...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Autometrix Day 4

Day 4 started off with a major setback. A blown controller has forced us inside to the software training all day. None of these issues are the fault of Autometrix, however, so we have to be careful to alert folks that this company is wonderful to work with. Jordan, our installer, is fantastic. He's been a perfect help and very knowledgable. We are thrilled to be working with them overall. Most of the electrical stem from the facility. MAC Electric (Ryan) has been great as well. He had some issues this morning that we were worried about, however, he found a solution working with Autometrix and we will be fully operational tomorrow.

The machines did cut yesterday, albeit only a very minimal run. Here is an image of the table completed and waiting the new controller (arriving in the AM.)

Autometrix Radium Cutter ready to roll!

Ryan of MAC Electric - Great guys to work with...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Autometrix day 3

Houston, we have a problem... Electrical issues in our new building are forcing a delay in hook up. Unfortunately, this is a costly issue for the company and we are looking at potential ways to resolve... Here is the table as of today, waiting on electricity...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Autometrix Install

I know, I know.. How may times are we gonna update this install?! Here's a pic from this morning. Our electrical panel in the leased space is faulty, so we are awaiting a new buss for that to get the electrical completed. We should have that done tomorrow. For now, we are getting the crates unpacked and the parts sorted. Jordan, our Autometrix installer, arrived at 7:30 AM and is hard at work getting stuff organized. He's a pretty eager chap and I can tell he knows what he is doing. We look forward to working with him this week on training and installation.

We'll be plumbing in the air lines later today and tomorrow.

Autometrix being sorted for assembly.

Jordan - The Autometrix installer!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

New Automation from Autometrix!

Our newest addition to the family - A 40' CNC controlled fabric cutting machine designed and built by Autometrix for Last US Bag Company. We are installing this machine this week. I'll post progress reports as I find time. We'll be offering cutting services in the very near future!

Autometrix Radium Cutter Arrives!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Our Best Intention...

I think this is a great illustration of the product development process...


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Time to celebrate Mom. She wiped your butt when you were small, fed you and kept you warm, and was there to grab you off the bus after school. She's the hardest working person in the household and arguably close to being superhuman. Let's all raise a glass to Mom today and thank her for her hard work and love.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Company 944 Nears Launch

We are close the the launch of the 944 line, a heritage of American craftsmanship inspired by Camp Hemlock (our current factory site) and the men of Company 944 that lived there during the depression and New Deal. Here's a sneak peek at the development of the line - The Kwantlen Tote.

We are all very excited to see this line come to life. Special thanks to the team at LUSB for putting in the hard work and effort on getting this to market.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"It's Free To Be Wrong" #99uconf

I am just finishing attending the 99u conference in NYC. Brilliant event and much needed. Behance has done a remarkable job corralling the creatives and establishing some process guidelines we might all use to better execute our ideas.

Of particular note, but by far only one of many resonating crumbs (wait - more like meals) left on my shirt to digest is Seth Godin's statement in the title of this blog post. I wish I could portray the context of how this message was delivered, and how I received it, in a clear, concise way, however I may fall short on this one. Take it for what you need it to mean...

Monday, April 28, 2014

5. Am I the right person for this project?

Time to visit the deep within. Most of us think we can do this - It's not that hard, right? Look, if you have a hard time finishing a bowl of cereal without being distracted, maybe you should consider having someone else follow this through. If you get mad over things like the toilet paper roll not being changed - probably need assistance! If you can't boil a hot dog without starting a fire - get someone to help. We don't possess every trait needed to find success, and relying on others is critical at times (most of the time) to getting to your goal. The key is not to consider yourself as failing if you require assistance - consider yourself intelligent for knowing your limitations. Find the appropriate avenue for development, and reap the rewards.

I know what I can, and can't, do. It has taken me some time (10 years) to realize this and even more time to accept it, but it is true - I have a group of skills but sometimes I cannot execute on the plan. I find those around me that can help that plan get to reality. This is the key. Granted, I am not always successful, but the more failure I find, the more I seem to overcome. Experience teaches us lessons that we can choose to accept and learn from, or choose to ignore. I prefer the former. The one kernel of advice I might suggest is to be brutally honest with yourself, and others, about your capabilities. It makes the expectations realistic, and the outcome more fruitful overall.

Monday, April 21, 2014

4. Do I know what resources I need to get this thing done?

Product development is a complex process, often times requiring the skills of many different subs to fulfill your vision. More often than not, the inventor does not hold all, or even some, of the disciplines and resources to get to the output of the product, and the projects can become paralyzed by the the inventor's ignorance of where, and who, to assist. This is not a criticism of the inventor, rather, an objective look at the reality of our capacities - I may believe there is a better diesel engine to be designed but I am most likely not the right person to go machine parts for the cause! Our skills and experiences cannot be all things, so we rely on others and their skills and experience to get us where we need to go.

I mention building a 'resource tree.' This handy illustration is often times sticky notes attached to whiteboards, or an Excel spreadsheet with lists and lists of names and companies. However the method chosen, building this is a critical step in diagramming the processes and 'stops' along the way to success. A great method for doing this is to write the names of those categories you will need, such as the illustration below:

This list will, and should, continue to grow over time. Don't forget, there is no limit to who and how many people and resources that this list shall hold, and even friends and family can be considered for these lists as well.

Tracking the Resource Tree is critical. Whatever you do, make sure to edit this list often, removing (or at least commenting on) those that did not perform well and replacing with some that are hopeful. I will sometimes rate each performance an a scale of 1-5 or something similar, thus recording my experience for future consideration of those resources. It is also a good idea to place the reference from which you might have come across this resource as they can often lead to even more resources for your use.

If you just don't feel you can go it alone, and would rather consider using a developer to push your idea forward, then I would encourage interviewing at least a few different companies to see what their history and successes are. For example, there are many inventor resource companies that will offer marketing and potential licensing opportunities for your product, in exchange for a flat fee. This fee can be large and the results unpredictable. I would use extreme caution in presenting your idea to any of these firms, rather perform due diligence with others that can deliver more tangible results. Consider only paying for milestone achievements, ensuring that work and results are in handle prior to paying out large sums of cash. That cash can be utilized elsewhere, trust me!

Sometimes, we just do not have the resources necessary to get the project done, and the best thing inventors can do is to be honest with themselves about their knowledge of how to get it done. Walking into this process blind can raise massive frustration levels, so read the blurb on patience ( prior to setting out! Either direction, going solo or enlisting others, or even a combination of the two, will at times be rewarding and at other times be as frustrating as anything. Having the proper road map of folks to help, however, may make all the difference in the world to your project becoming a success.

Monday, April 14, 2014

3. Am I willing to fund this properly to ensure success?

Whoa, Nelly! Answering this question can hit hard and fast. Funding any project is a challenge when self-funding, and can be even more challenging when outside sources are assisting in the effort. We'll discuss some different options here, and also tell of some real-world experiences that have occurred.

The Self-Funded Project and the wandering 'Bootstrapper'

Ah, being self sufficient and able to rely solely on your own bank account, credit line, credit cards, or some combination of the three. The challenge here is that with most projects the 'patience' needed has a direct relationship with the 'funding' at hand. Imagine that, you start running out of money, and 'patience' hitches a ride out of town with it! Now, most of us will properly budget and know the constraints of our funding and the goal we desire to reach, carefully balancing each obstacle with it's investment needed (notice I do not say 'cost' here,) trading perhaps a heavier investment now and finding a way to cut a corner or two later on in the process. I always think that when it's your hard earned money on the line, the story is a bit more dear to your heart, and the manner with which it is utilized might be soundly judicious. The key with any self-funded project is your planning for it, knowing the obstacles will come, and guaranteeing a reserve of capital somewhere that can stretch your budget, or at least make it more flexible. Just remember to keep an eye on the goal and not get too distracted as you will incur costs that might not truly be relevant to the goal.

My name is Will, and I am a 'bootstrapper.' (you say, "Hi Will") This is the practice of taking from one successful business to fund another venture and eventually develop it into an autonomous entity. A difficult method of building a business, one that often moves slowly and truly tests your patience. I have, successfully and unsuccessfully, built businesses this way. This method is NOT easy, and will often times be parasitic of the business that is doing the funding. If the goal is true and the aim correct, effort diligent, and the parties involved on board for the long haul, then this can and should be a success. I caution anyone attempting this to make sure the buy-in from the primary business is there, because if it is not, it will be ugly before you know it. Bootstrapping can and should work if the planning and execution stay contained and manageable. One of my biggest mistakes building an outdoor products company a few years ago was going too broad in product offering and not staying deep and focused on the primary breadwinner. Going broad typically leaves each channel exposed to greater risk, and while we all hear that 'bigger is better,' that typically is not the case here. Focus your energy, and funds, towards the goal and don't allow for 'scope creep.'

I've Got Friends and Family

Maybe the self-funded cash is limited, so this new great idea is going to have to rely on Aunt Louise and your BFF Peggy. They believe in the product, and they believe in you, but do they know the process their money will be put through? It is always a delicate situation when you enter into this relationship, so be cautious, and thoroughly vet both your intentions and those of the other party, carefully detailing the expectations, risk, and process you will go through to get to your goal. Constant communication, or at the very least, consistent communication can solve many of the problems between investors and those they invest in. A good display of action steps and goals met, and goals not met, can often times solicit positive assistance from the investors, even if their skill sets were not looked upon for guidance. Sometimes those of us deep in the trees fail to see the forest as a whole, so a clear and objective perspective from outside the daily routine are helpful. Building a relationship, and showing your work, will develop a stronger trust between you and those who invested in you.

The Ever Evil Bank, Jerry the Angel and Shark Tank

Let's face it, banks like success stories, and your product idea is still just a glimmer in your eye. Attempting to get a bank to fund an idea will typically only work if you are in a good personal financial position in the first place. And if so, they are not necessarily looking at your idea, they are investing in you, and typically it is only a loan or home equity line, tightly secured against your assets. Now, there are great options using the SBA for smaller start-up capital in the micro loan arena, but again, your personal financial statement needs to be buttoned up tight. Personally, I would not recommend attempting traditional bank financing on speculative projects. It is better to risk money you have, than money you haven't earned yet. If you do, however, find this a clean option for your development needs, just be prepared and follow the same advice I prescribed earlier by developing a strong relationship with your banker and keeping them informed.

Jerry the Angel is a weird sort. Almost too good to be true, somewhat unreachable, and always a carrot for development. Jerry's a great guy, loaded with cash, and invested in a wide range of projects, some earning, some not. You call Jerry's firm one day and begin the process of pitching your idea. Jerry's jacked - He loves it. His team wants in, and delivers to you nine pounds of legal documentation and financial scribble for you to digest. Woohoo! This is gonna happen... Well, maybe, maybe not. Let's get serious here, angel investors and similar forms are smart, diligent investors that don't leave t's uncrossed and i's without dots. They are thorough and will require you to be as well. The great piece behind angels is that they can typically fund the entire project easily and get you rolling with a small staff, resources, and capital necessary to make a success. They will, however, take a piece of the company and reduce your equity. That is a high price to pay, however it sometimes is a whole lot better than attempting to do it on your own and never realizing the success or losing the opportunity when you had it (technology kids, beware - tech moves faster than development...) Research and find the appropriate party for this type of funding. Deep pockets are not always the right pockets, and sometimes the ones that seem to be oppressive are the ones that will do you the most good. Be objective, study the interested parties well, and make a decision based on the best available resources offered without compromising too much equity or product integrity.

Swimming in the Shark Tank on TV looks like fun! That Kevin, he's funny! Beware the idea that this is an easy process. My friend Matt prepped for weeks, went on the Tank, pitched his idea, had his partner slapped around a bit, and walked out thinking they had a deal in hand. One year later and no money delivered, the deal fell through after the legal crew demolished the hope. The fortunate part was that the exposure was huge, catapulting sales and driving the business to success. While the money, and mentor ship would have been welcome, it turns out that these deals are not sealed as often as TV might suggest. Yes, there are success stories, but I might caution the starry-eyed traveler to Hollywood that the process is far more than the 12 minutes of air time you receive. Just being picked to be on the show has pretty rough odds. This one, my friends, is a long shot, but nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Hey You, Fund Me!

Kickstarter and Indigogo and Rockethub. All great crowd sourcing options. I love these platforms and they have spawned so many great success stories. This is a wave for the future and a very viable one indeed. While they are not perfect by any means, they give anyone with a smart phone and an Internet connection the opportunity to fund a project. I have spent many hours assisting folks with these processes and I will tell you that the effort to tell your story is so critical. People will buy into the story more than just the product, trust me. Be prepared to write and script the best possible pitch, have a sound product/project, and make sure you can actually deliver. Of the projects I have worked on, 3 have successfully funded, 7 have failed to fund, and 1 earned the attention of another investment group to the tune of over $1 million in funding. Now, one of the projects I assisted with funded successfully, only to have the owner of the project default on the investors and is now running scared with people after him. This is not free money (although Kickstarter assumes no liability) and should be treated seriously, and only those with the resources to deliver on promises would enter this arena. In other words, have your you-know-what together and be serious about the project.


There are many ways to fund your project. Experience suggests that as much planning into the development cycle must also be paralleled on the financial side. Whatever your course of funding, be prepared for any combination of the above to get you where you need to go. I encourage you to pursue any and all, and the best of luck and good preparation to you!

Below are some helpful links to info on some of the before-mentioned funding options:

Sunday, April 6, 2014

2. Will I be patient enough to carry through the process?

I don't know, will you?

I can tell you that the deep sigh and a prolific exercise routine are what I use to get through the long, seemingly unending obstacle course that is product development. Believing that you will avoid all of the pitfalls will only make the process seem longer, and potentially, discourage you from following through or executing tasks that you need to finish. The unfortunate result of high expectations are the incredibly demoralizing lows that you experience when it just doesn't go the way you envisioned. Patience, that all too annoying nemesis, lurks just beyond the reach of most of us, unfortunately.

Some recipes for patience I have found useful during the process:

- Exercise regularly. That endorphin rush is no trick! It will relax you and make you feel a burst of positive energy. A perfect time to combat a failure by turning it into a wonderful learning experience. Something as simple as a one mile walk might be just the elixir for an ailing project lost in the development cycle. I find I can be much more patient when my mind and body are in a healthy state.

- Limit your influences. Surrounding yourself with every new opinion on every obstacle encountered can sometimes get you into a zig-zag motion, all the while a straight line was the shorter path. Obstacles can be ran around, but they can also be jumped over! Remember the goal, and limit the plethora of friends, colleagues, and advisers that have the next best opinion to offer. While sage advice should be collected and processed, too often we see folks get sidetracked in their mission by others not necessarily connected to, or qualified enough, to give input.

- Reduce your daily tasks, and delegate. This is almost always a mental procedure that builds confidence and reduces the frustration when things go wrong. Think about it this way: Your Monday is full of tasks, stacked back to back with barely a moment to blow your nose or have a snack. In the 2nd hour of your 12 hour day, the phone rings. The project from yesterday just hit a snag. It will require you to run to a sub helping you on your product development, killing 3 hours and delaying everything on Monday. Frustration builds, and you become depressed, and fall even further behind. - Think about this - most of the tasks we load ourselves with are because we are control freaks of our babies (the product we are developing.) If we limit our Action Steps to those most important (say, three critical per day) and delegate the simpler or less critical tasks to those that surround us, we can offload some of the stress and build bandwidth to tackle those unforeseen issues that bite the ankle when you least expect it.

- Consider if you can lead this project. If you aren't patient by nature, and get frustrated easily with surprises, perhaps you need to reconsider piloting the aircraft. Sometimes self-recognition of our weaknesses can play in our favor. Perhaps finding a partner to guide the development cycle is a better option to success.

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

1. Have I researched and planned enough for the development process?

Taking from my last post, we revisit this question in a bit more depth as it pertains to product development...

I would break this down into two categories: 1. The Research, and 2. The Planning, in that order as well.

Performing the necessary research is critical. Number one, is this world-changing idea actually already on the market or in development somewhere else? Simple Internet searches can find all sorts of would-be competitors of your product. And while we all live in our myopic worlds, the reality is that there may be someone else in the world with the same idea, and they may just be light years ahead of you in execution. Let's say you find nothing in the world like it - better make sure there is an actual market. In some cases, you may build your own market (read or invent a need or trend others never would have thought of (see the famous 'Snuggie'). Typically, the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention is somewhat accurate. Although in some cases, I might disagree - nobody really ever needed a Snuggie, except maybe Canadians. Why not, Canada, they're fun like you!
But I digress. The point is that researching prior art in patents, locating similar products, understanding the consumer and defining the needs of that consumer are critical. You can have the greatest idea in the world but it might not solve a big enough problem, or becomes too much of a novelty to take seriously. Therefore, it is only really great to you. Now, don't be discouraged. Most of us who love to invent new products or revolutionize a daily routine will no doubt, in the many attempts at finding the right one, actually deliver on a solid idea. DaVinci, Edison, Ben Franklin - All of them had more ideas on paper than they ever carried forward. Sometimes it is just a matter of timing. The one diligent effort all three of the aforementioned made was the research leading up to the development.

Planning can be boring. Most of us in the creative process look at planning as something to throw to the business analyst at the end of the hall. While we abhor the process of planning, the fact is that we deliver a far superior end result as a direct descendant of the planning process. Be diligent here. Take time to think the process through. It will never be perfect the first time or even the 10th for that matter, however, following through with a detailed plan can thwart so many of the pitfalls you will always face during development. I know very few products that went through a development process as planned. Typically, the plan will morph to the obstacles you encounter, and as I stated in the original post - LEARN from them. These are great opportunities to develop skills you might not have nurtured previously. I like to keep notes on the sidelines of my planning notebooks. Little comments and anecdotes on how things progressed. Sometimes these notes become invaluable in future planning sessions as well. If you feel planning is not your thing, hire a business coach or similar to assist. It is worth the investment and can allow for big rewards at execution. We use a business coach monthly to help us track our goals and keep our eyes focused on the bigger picture, all the while recording the details to make each venture a success. Whatever the method you choose, I would always suggest that front-loading a comprehensive planning session will often times help you sort out important details you may miss if you fail to plan accordingly.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Product Development Cycle Part 1 - Asking the fundamental questions.

Yes, I am actually going to publish on the blog. Amazing, I know...

Whether you are a seasoned inventor, a hobbyist turned business owner, or even the average schmuck who stumbled into a revolutionary idea, there are some fundamental concerns you need to address before going down the road of product development. All too often I see those that truly do represent a good, solid idea for a new product, however, all too often they misfire when attempting to realize their success in execution.

You have to ask yourself some preliminary questions when beginning your new venture into product development:

1. Have I researched and planned enough for the development process? Thoroughly vetting the idea to ensure it has viability, potential market accessibility, and even avoiding the common occurrence that it has or does exist in a market already will allow for a better plan for execution. Jumping into the execution process can be fatal for the project if rushed. In addition, the old adage 'a failure to plan is a plan to fail' is as accurate as it reads. It took me years to become a better planner, and you have to continually improve your methods and practices. Take a look at 99U ( for some wonderful personal/professional improvement concepts.

2. Will I be patient enough to carry through the process? More often than naught, the process takes 2-3 times longer than expected, and managing the obstacles and challenges that occur can derail the train of execution. Frustration, annoyance, and disappointment will visit you often, so accept them as learning opportunities instead of hated adversaries! Granted, you do not wish to invite them for tea and crumpets, but when they do arrive you have to make the best of an unfortunate meeting! Treat every day you work on your development as a day of learning, and you will become far more cooperative with the process.

3. Am I willing to fund this properly to ensure success? Similar to question 2, the development investment will be greater than what is initially considered. Plan to have a healthy reserve, or access to additional capital, just to be sure! Remember, too, that if you are looking to protect your intellectual property, you better consider a VERY large reserve! Patents themselves aren't cheap, but the money it takes to defend them is enormous. Sometimes it may be advised to take those hard earned dollars and thrust them towards other investment needs in the process.

4. Do I know what resources I need to get this thing done? Huge question here... I build a resource tree. It looks like a family tree, except crazy Aunt Mildred is NOT on the page! Each branch is a different discipline (graphic design, injection molding, fabric supplier, etc.) that I trace out to smaller branches that are the people, companies, resources, etc. that I can go to for particular needs. If your tree is a sapling, it may be hard to achieve execution any faster than the tree grows, which can lead to question #2! If this scares you, hire someone to help you expedite the process by using THEIR tree (hint, that's LUSB!)

5. Am I the right person for this project? This is a tough question, often answered too far into the process and at the point of despair. You truly have to be honest with yourself and identify if you have the right traits and habits to make it successful. Otherwise, you will drive yourself crazy not seeing success, and likely annoy the heck out of friends and family as you continuously talk about the project but never show progress. Trust me, I've been there! You may consider an alternative route, like licensing the idea to others or selling it outright. Those options still allow you the comfort of knowing you generated the idea, some financial reward, and the opportunity to move onto to another great idea!

I encourage, but caution, everyone to pursue ideas and follow them through the process if they see fit. I do, however, believe that each of us possess specific traits and habits that can either propel an idea into reality or dismantle it into obscurity. I believe the journey can be the most rewarding part of the process, and there is more than one way to get to the end result. Choosing that path should parallel your gut instinct on what you feel you can add, or what you might take away, from the success of the project...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Repurposed for a purpose

We'll be heading to Vegas in about 10 days, getting ready for a trade show that, historically, we have generated a lot of new business and excitement over new products. This year will be no different. I am excited to launch a new line of products that will no doubt be even more successful than before. I am thrilled to say that through a lot of creative design, hard work, and willfull determination we built another winner.

For the show itself, we repurposed some old wares and some reclaimed home goods and fittingly, we repurposed an old design into our new line that should rekindle the creative spirit of our Bluefig clients.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

No Country For Bored Men

5 years ago, I wrote my outdoor blog almost twice weekly. Now, I manage a post a month, if lucky, on this platform. What has happened to that gent who could rant for hours on a cold day in a frozen marsh looking for ducks? Passion, that's what. I lost my creative drive and buried it deep in the cellar where few of my thoughts travel these days.

Fortunately, and I am sure you could all agree, events take place in your life that reconnect you to the elements of life that are worth living for, and the details are worth paying close attention to. The last year and a half have been a challenge, but only because I let them. Like the old saying goes, if you are given lemons, well, make some lemonade. I repressed my inner creative for a long period of time, and recognize the new confidence after being driven towards a goal that I am passionate about.

The events were not specific, more a matter of fate, I suppose. A conference with someone, a book I read, a deed seen in a store that did not go unnoticed, or a trip in solitude to reflect - all the little things that we constantly feel we need to one-up in order for them to have the same affect as the first time we witnessed it. Relaxing into a moment and not letting the chaos surrounding all of us, overwhelm all of us. Accepting the happiness we have instead of seeking a happiness we fabricate in our minds.

This happens every ten years or so to me. I need a charge in the ass to get going again and make something of the efforts I am putting forth. I welcome the challenge and am surprised how easily I can fall back into the role I truly do cherish.

Now, if I fall short of posting here more often than I have been, well, OK. No harm done. Carry on. I'm just wandering around through the creative process and enjoying it while I am there...