How to Turn an Idea into a Business

A step-by-step guide to developing a product, branding, packaging, production and launch!

This guide will take you through the main stages involved in launching a new product and turning an idea into a business. The article aims to give a good overview of the various steps involved but this is a big undertaking and so certain areas will be touched on with links provided to more detailed articles on the various stages.

If you are interested in developing a textile product, then you are better off viewing this page: Textile Product Development before coming back to this page to understand the business side of the process.

Phil Staunton from D2M

Hi, I’m Phil, Founder of D2M Innovation. I’ve developed over a thousand products with various clients from entrepreneurs to SMEs over the last 15 years. I’ve, spoken alongside government ministers on innovation, won various awards and even launched my own products into John Lewis. I hope you enjoy this article and do get in touch if there’s something my team can help you with: Contact us

Getting Started

Turning an idea into a business starts with defining your product brief in clear terms. For example here are just a few of the key questions that your product brief should answer:

  • How the product is used
  • Benefits of the product to the consumer
  • How is it different from competitor products
  • Suggested target retail price
  • Target customer
  • Any key requirements such as weight, dimensions etc.
  • Any specific materials that should be used
  • Key aesthetic requirements such as finishes, patterns or colours
  • Details of the range if it is part of a wider group of products

Always, always, always start with your target market, after all that is where the project ends (with your target market buying your product) and so why would you start anywhere else? This really is the first key point if you want to turn your idea into a business.

Multiple Prototype Development

Start a Business

Pretty soon you will need to start spending money on your idea with product designers, patent attorneys and many other key professionals on your journey. It is best to start the physical company now and also register for VAT so that you can reclaim the VAT you will pay on all these professional services. This also means invoicing can be done through your business keeping all the key paperwork in one place. It might be best to find a local accountant to do the company registration and VAT registration.

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      Concept Development

      When turning an idea into a business you will probably need the support of a product designer to develop your concept. I strongly suggest that you do everything you can to keep this process as quick and smooth as possible to avoid higher than necessary professional fees. For example your project brief should be as specific and detailed as possible and you might want to have made some rough prototypes yourself before approaching a professional product design consultancy to quote for your project.

      Read more about choosing a product design consultancy here: Choosing a Product Design Company

      MVR Product Styling Sketch

      Commercial Viability

      An experienced product developer can, at this stage, start to assess the commercial viability of your project by running  costing exercises and getting a rough idea of tooling, development and unit costs. If your costing is not going to work for your desired RRP, then the project needs to be reassessed to try and establish if it is still a viable project that is sensible to pursue. 

      Read more about surviving a viability assessment in one of our recent blog posts: Product Viability Assessments.

      commercial viability risk

      Funding a New Product Idea

      There are many different funding options available when designing a new product. You will need some initial funds to get you started first to complete a few stages of work. Later on down the line you can approach potential investors who are interested in your product and there are many different grants you can apply for to help fund the rest of your product development process. 

      There are also crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Crowd Cube that allow you to upload a promotional video of your product and secure backers to help fund your product through the production process. 

      Funding A product idea
      intellectual property services

      IP Protection

      Intellectual Property protection may also be key considerations before moving beyond this milestone. 

      CAD Development

      Computer Aided Design

      Detailed design with full consideration of materials, usability, manufacturing, functionality and ergonomics follows and this will be integrated with the necessary prototyping to prove various key points of the design.

      This design stage will result in a 3D virtual (CAD) model that can be used to check basic form and function. The resulting virtual model can be viewed from all angles and then photorealistic visuals can be produced to visualise how your concept is likely to look in production. 

      Prototyping

      Prototypes are a crucial stage in developing a product idea so that it is ready for presentation or manufacture. Prototyping can be very expensive and so it may well be prudent to ensure that the details are correct on the CAD model first. Reviewing the product development to date with a focus group of your target market is a great way of building confidence in the end product and that the project is still on track. 

      Alternatively, or as well as, you might want to talk to key buyers or potential licensees within your industry with the prototype. Most projects go through multiple prototype iterations building on the quality of finish and closeness to production item each time. 

      Mealkitt Prototype

      Refine your Marketing Message

      This is a critical point to think more about the marketing of your product. We have seen people decide their core marketing message at the end of the process when, if decided earlier, the whole design of the product could have far better delivered on that messaging. Ideally decide now on one core marketing message and two secondary messages to help provide a foundation for design decision making during the next stages.

      It is also good to review at this stage from a marketing perspective to ensure that the final product is inline with what consumer wants and how your team plans to market the product. Focus groups, online surveys and talking to potential buyers at this stage can make all the difference between success and failure.

      Now is also the time to think about brand placement on the product and the packaging. Involve your team or outside agency responsible for these elements to ensure that nothing is missed before going into the expensive and time consuming pre-production stages of development. It might be that some simple design changes now can make the product easier to box, pack and ship savings valuable margin once the product is launched.

      ventz product collection
      Prototyping
      CAD Development

      Pre-Production

      This stage takes the current design and seeks to value engineer it for production. It will also add the necessary details to make it possible to manufacture using tried and tested manufacturing techniques. For example, if one of your parts is injection moulded in plastic, then an engineer will need to ensure that the thickness of the plastic is consistent throughout the part. If this isn’t done, the part will mould badly with shrinkage and a poor surface finish.

      At D2M we often complete this stage with the chosen manufacturer. This integrated approach ensures minimum cost and risk to you by ensuring that the people actually responsible for the manufacture of your products are aware of the design intent and involved in the last stages of development of the design. Read more about D2M’s approach to design for manufacture here: Designing for Production

      Business Planning

      This is a critical point to think more about the marketing of your product. We have seen people decide their core marketing message at the end of the process when, if decided earlier, the whole design of the product could have far better delivered on that messaging. Ideally decide now on one core marketing message and two secondary messages to help provide a foundation for design decision making during the next stages.

      It is also good to review at this stage from a marketing perspective to ensure that the final product is inline with what consumer wants and how your team plans to market the product. Focus groups, online surveys and talking to potential buyers at this stage can make all the difference between success and failure.

      Now is also the time to think about brand placement on the product and the packaging. Involve your team or outside agency responsible for these elements to ensure that nothing is missed before going into the expensive and time consuming pre-production stages of development. It might be that some simple design changes now can make the product easier to box, pack and ship savings valuable margin once the product is launched.

      Barry CouchCoaster

      Tooling and Production Set-up

      On almost any product, even textiles, some element of tooling will be needed to enable the product to be made efficiently in volume. For textile products this might be stamping tooling to cut out the panels to be sewn together. For metal products, extrusion tooling and bending jigs or welding guides might have to be created. For plastic products, injection mould tools will be a large part of your overall cost to bring your product to market.

      Tooling is often the reason production ends up being done in China. We’ve been quoted three times the cost to make injection mould tools in this country compared with China. When even a small part needs a tool costing at least £3000, this often means manufacturing has to be done in the Far East. 

      Injection Moulding

      Sampling your Product Idea

      Now the tooling is complete it’s time to check that the production items are the same as the design intended. It is not always possible to produce perfect replicas every time and all these production bugs need to be checked for and worked out.

      lamp product manufacture

      Manufacturing your Product Idea

      Once the samples have been approved then there are several final details to work out:

      1. Manufacturing contract
      2. Final confirmed costings
      3. Who will do the Quality Control
      4. Size of your first order
      5. Packaging design and sampling 
      6. Shipping details

      Then you can press go and wait for your first batch of product to come off the production line!

      Product Launch

      Product launch is the most exciting part of the product development journey! Once you launch your product on the market it doesn’t stop there, you need to invest time and money into marketing your new product correctly to the right target audience to ensure it sells and reaches it’s full potential! 

      Flannel Fingers

      In Summary…

      Product development is a hugely exciting  undertaking. Each project’s journey, from sketch to shelf, is likely to be different but overall the process of refining a product roughly involves the same stages. It is a difficult thing to do and most people will require the help of a professional designer or design agency to do it well. 

      Article written by Phil Staunton, founder of D2M Innovation ltd.
      D2M Innovation has helped hundreds of people and SME’s develop and manufacture their exciting new products. 
      Discover how D2M can help you to design and develop your new product idea

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