At our core, we are paper makers, and guess what? We love it.
The feeling of taking in our community’s post-harvest banana trees and recycling them into beautiful artisan paper is extremely rewarding, but it’s not enough to keep the lights on. We create value by forging our banana fiber paper into plant based products that can be used on a daily basis, just like we did with this new slim wallet design - Available NOW on Kickstarter.
So what does it take to bring a product idea to life at Green Banana Paper? – I’ll give you a hint, a lot.
Although this case study only scratches the surface of what really goes on under the hood, it may help with your next big project or entrepreneurial venture.
The decision to focus and design our first slim wallet was a no brainer; it addressed the feedback we got from our first generation wallets and solved a problem.
Frankly, many of us don’t have that much to carry around in a wallet these days so we prefer a thinner alternative to a thick leather bifold wallet. The available options for a slim carry made from sustainable materials were pretty sparse, so our team got excited to make our own version of this classic style wallet.
Having just a few cards and cash on hand is more than enough in a modern age of digital banking and skinny jeans; even the cab drivers prefer plastic now.
What makes a product idea a “good one"?
There’s no magic formula to create a widget that everyone will love and spend their hard earned money on.
Whether you create wallets, cutting boards or even write code for a piece of software, the following checklist is where we start before pursuing a new design:
Keep in mind that no matter how many ideas you can come up with, they have little value unless you have the resources, energy, and motivation to see the process through from start to finish.
What brought you to this idea in the first place?
Who is your target audience or user?
How does your idea help people?
These are just a few questions that can get you started. Keep it to a single sentence, two maximum. If you get lost down the road or need to refocus, just refer back to your ‘why statement’ to keep you on track and accomplish your goals.
Here’s what we came up with for this minimalist wallet: To create an affordable and sustainable slim wallet that can hold 3 or more credit cards and cash with banana fiber paper.
The paper itself also has its own 'why statement' which involves being eco-friendly and to create a positive economic impact for the local island community.
Okay, so you have your product idea, discussed it with friends and family, and even got a working prototype made after countless nights and weekends tinkering away in the garage.
First, you need to live with your new product and be the alpha tester day in and day out; bring others on board to do this as well. On top of that, you need to put it through the metaphorical ringer as far as testing the durability and limits of your prototype are concerned.
Just like writing and rewriting drafts for your college application essay – your product needs to go through iterative development to make it better and better before you ever accept money for it.
"You’ll often hear that it takes passion to start and grow a new business, but discipline will see you to the finish line."
The day-to-day hustle, critical thinking and problem solving is what ultimately brings a concept to fruition in the form of a functional and aesthetically pleasing prototype.
From the spacing between the stitching to the exact thickness and composition of the paper used, every detail is meticulously scrutinized and tweaked to ensure the finest quality vegan-friendly wallets are made.
eCommerce products face an interesting challenge - your customer likely won't get the chance to hold and feel your product before buying.
Bring your product to life with high quality photographs and animations. Graphic design and photography are two skills that every entrepreneur needs in their tool belt.
Plan every shot ahead of time and always create an outline or script to organize your story.
Animations and gifs can be extremely powerful tools, but they make the page load longer. It's important to use these sparingly and only when they convey an idea or feeling in a better way than text or images alone.
Now you've validated your idea, tested a prototype and created plenty of visual content for your product. How do you get the word out for your new gizmo?
Pick one or a few very select distribution channels to focus on and devote your attention to those. Whether you go door-to-door, hit the phones, sell directly on Amazon, or you run a crowd-funding campaign, give it your all.
We’re way out here on a remote island, so Kickstarter seemed like the best place to start with our product, beautiful story and innovative material. In March 2017, we launched a Kickstarter project to the world for our first generation banana fiber wallets.
Once you find a distribution channel that works for you, double down on it for your next product launch.
Otherwise known as that fickle beast that determines whether anyone actually discovers your creation and wants it enough to try it out.
I’ll save you the generic ‘Top 10 ways to launch your new product!’ that you can easily pull up on Google.
Marketing a new product is really all about genuine relationship building with friends, family, influencers, writers, and industry experts. One of the best pieces of advice that I can impart on you is that if EVERYONE is doing it, it’s not the best way to reach your audience anymore.
We came across this gem when we were looking for places online to submit our creation to and knew that we had to do something different to stand out.
“Also, if you’re emailing us about a slim wallet you’re funding on Kickstarter, your email will be ignored. The world does not need another Kickstarter-funded slim wallet.”
We chose to take the contrarian approach for our outreach strategy and do something against the grain. So we designed and printed an invitation card on our mixed banana fiber / recycled printer paper greeting cards.
After that, we packed and stamped 100 envelopes with the invitation, our new slim wallet, story card and a sticker to everyone in our network in addition to some big name journals and magazines.
The important difference between what we did and other potentially draining marketing efforts we could have pursued is that we genuinely loved and enjoyed the process. Our goal is that this comes through when each recipient gets their letter in the mail.
With the envelopes mailed, Kickstarter video finished, and some social media posts setup on the calendar it was time to bring the team together for our internal viewing party.
Bring your family and friends on board and enjoy the finished product together. At the end of the day, it's important to take a step back and reflect on how far you've come.
Remember, success doesn’t happen overnight.
Keep hustling and learning from your mistakes until you find out what that works.
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A big "Len wo!" from Kosrae to the Pacific business community. Here's an e-interview we did for the Pacific Green Business Centre.