The problems we faced with the design of our product, along with the manufacturer were the most significant obstacles in the way of turning Clipboard+ into a business. Essentially we didn’t have a product we could sell, and it was too expensive for us to earn a healthy margin.
- Problem Design: After we received funding we took our prototypes to the manufacturer and asked them to make the design changes we needed, and that we had previously discussed. Those changes were adjusting the bends to be more ergonomic along with making sure it tightly fit the iPad. They ended up charging us a whole lot for engineering and they had to go through way too many iterations. This contributed heavily to our delay, and even worse they couldn’t even get the iPad tightness right!! It was a crushing blow when we received the clipboards and realized that an iPad would slide out if held upside down. There was little recourse we could take with the manufacturer so we took it in stride and realized that we could hand bend the clipboards to the correct tightness ourselves. Once again this added to our delay and made the product un-scalable at the time.
- Problem Manufacturer: In addition to the design problems we discussed above, the manufacturer used for our Kickstarter run was a specialized job shop that mainly did work on precision parts for research and other high performance projects. Because of this, their labor cost, and ultimately the price we paid for the clipboards was very high and made it impractical to try and scale using this manufacturer.
- Solution Design and Manufacturer: I wish I could say it was as easy as finding a new manufacturer. Unfortunately, finding a manufacturer that meets all of your needs and is willing to work with inexperienced entrepreneurs is way easier said than done. Several months had passed since we shipped the Kickstarter rewards and we had received feedback on all sorts of new features/design change ideas from our backers. We spent a lot of time deciding if we should completely redesign the product, or stick with our simple and functional design. Ultimately we realized that as much as we wanted to design a radically different version, we didn’t have the time, money, or engineering experience and doing so would have been a mistake. In the end we used the outstanding sourcing site MFG.com to find the perfect manufacturer that fit our needs. Our new manufacturer is great to work with and they were able to solve all of the iPad tightness related problems without charging for engineering.