My wife, Catherine launched SoYoung nearly 10 years ago. At the time I was running a design and marketing agency so I helped her design SoYoung’s initial branding and online presence. As SoYoung began to grow significantly and eventually became too much for Catherine to manage by herself, I came on board full time.
In watching SoYoung succeed where numerous other brands and products failed, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three key factors that are essential to the success of a consumer products brand.
I call these the “3 Ps” of consumer products brand success.
The products you develop are the single biggest factor in determining your businesses success. While you will always have to work to get the word out about your product’s key features, a strongly differentiated product will generate instant interest and remove much of the friction of launching into a crowded marketplace.
On the other hand, the marketplace is crowded and you shouldn’t give up just because your product doesn’t immediately set the world on fire. Keep an open mind to feedback that you receive from buyers and potential channel partners such as retailers or sales reps. These people may provide you with a golden insight on how to tweak, refine our rethink your product that will lead to long-term success.
You shouldn’t give up just because your product doesn’t immediately set the world on fire.
For instance, SoYoung’s first diaper bag product did not get our company where it is today. Catherine spent nearly 3 years developing and peddling an initial design before a sales rep gave her the idea to develop a unisex style bag instead. This led to the development of the Charlie diaper bag, a completely new diaper bag design and our first bona fide hit.
In my opinion, coming out with a “me too” product is less likely to earn you long term success than developing an innovative design that sets you apart. The best way to do this is to think of a problem that you’ve experienced and design a product based solution.
You’ve probably heard people say “it’s all about the marketing”, but having a strongly differentiated product is your biggest marketing asset, allowing you quickly communicate the value and difference of your brand.
Nobody has all the answers and nobody can do everything. Over the long term, the success of your business will depend to a large extent on the people you choose work with, both as suppliers and as employees
It can be difficult to assess the people’s abilities in an area where you don’t have previous experience. The process of manufacturing overseas can be particularly dicey since it involves dealing with people who speak a foreign language and come from a foreign culture.
It is wise to pick your key business relationships carefully. Do your homework and get references before working with people. Don’t go all in on a new relationship until you’ve worked on a trial basis that you can easily walk away from.
When hiring employees, have a clearly defined a process in place. Check references and make sure you take the time to talk to enough candidates to get a good feel for who you think will be best suited to fill the role. I often find I get more clarity on what the role will be and its potential for the business as I’m doing interviews.
I would also strongly suggest having an accountability chart in place defining key roles before you hire employees or suppliers. This will give you a better idea of how to structure your business, what the key responsibilities are and which responsibilities you would like to delegate first.
When her first product failed to gain traction, Catherine considered giving up. However, she chose to persevere and eventually launched her first successful diaper bag which was followed in close succession by SoYoung’s linen lunchbox. The latter was an immediate hit with bloggers and brought SoYoung to an even bigger audience.
Launching and running your own business requires a lot of hard work, overcoming self-doubt, and perseverance. The so-called “overnight successes” get a lot of press, but none of these companies succeeded without a significant amount of hard work. I guarantee that they also had to persevere through serious doubts and challenges to get where they are today.
Launching and running your own business requires a lot of hard work, overcoming self-doubt, and perseverance.
The best way to ensure you don’t give up in the face of adversity to build strong personal networks with other entrepreneurs facing similar challenges. Catherine is currently a member of a mastermind group with other successful entrepreneurs and I meet regularly with a group of online entrepreneurs who are building knowledge-based platforms. Catherine has also successfully used trade shows to network and stay in touch with the broader community of entrepreneurs in her space.
For more on Catherine’s story of perseverance in building SoYoung, listen to my podcast interview with her here.
Starting your own business is not easy, but has great rewards for those who can put these three key elements together. The 3 ps are also a remeinder that with the right amount of perseverance you can overcome any product or people issues in the long run. You just have to stick with it and learn from your mistakes – and everyone makes mistakes!