Process Cat Q&A!


It’s time for Process Cat Q&A!!!

Ever wondered what other Maker/Manufacturer Entrepreneurs are working on?  What they’re struggling with?  What questions they have?  Well lucky for you, Process Cat decided to invite his friends over to drink coffee and read letters from people around the world!  

Princess Capybara reads the first letter

Princess Capybara reading the first letter
It’s from an American living in India!

Hi Process Cat! I have a business making wall-mounted bottle openers. My most famous one looks like a puppy is opening your beer for you!  Due to the success of this product, I’ve decided to start training a few employees to help me with production.  What’s your number 1 piece of advice?

Ivan in India

Thanks for your question, Ivan!  Basically it’s this:  

You need to start thinking about legal requirements early for two reasons:

  1. You don’t want to end up getting in trouble for breaking a law you didn’t even know existed! 
  2. Things get harder to change the bigger your business gets.

There will likely be some things that don’t apply to you when you first start, and that’s great!  But start learning about your local laws now so you’ll know what you need to do as your business grows.

As for the safety stuff?  Same idea: start right. Or, at least be aware of what you’ll need to change as you scale, rather than being blindsided and having to fix things later!  (For more on that, check out this article.)

Oh boy.

You have too many “musts,” Cosmo!

Look, this is a great list of attributes for a product.  But if you try to get all of them into the first version of your product… you’ll probably never actually get anything out the door! Start with 1 or 2 of these goals.  

For example, you might decide that you’re going to make an educational toy from the most environmentally-friendly out of all the widely-available materials that makes a good product, even if the first version isn’t fully compostable.  And if you pick those two goals, probably the first version won’t be the most affordable thing out there.  But remember, this is just your first product!  Future iterations can be less expensive and move towards being fully compostable.

Or maybe you’ll decide your main goal is to make a toy that’s fully compostable.  Ok, that’s good too – but in this case, maybe let go of the very first toy having to be educational.

Now, as for this part about making enough profit to fully live on in the first year… honestly, if that’s your main goal I would recommend you start a different type of business.  (Speaking candidly as M.G right now: in my own experience, the only “business” I’ve ever made profitable in the first year was my side business of being a small-time landlord.) 

Some suggestions I have for you (which will depend on your specific situation) are

  • Keep your day job for now
  • Find ways to cut back some of your personal expenses
  • Build up some savings
  • Depending on your circumstances, see if you can get any friends or family to invest in your business (that could be money or also free part-time work.)
  • Quit your day job but only after finding a part-time job to take some pressure off your business
  • Work hard to grow your business, but keep your expectations realistic and your attitude positive.

Good luck, Cosmo!!!

Last Question

Um, Process Cat?  Can I ask my own question?

Of course you can, Rhonda!

I never seem to know when my products are good enough to sell and when I should keep refining them!  How can I decide?

-Rhonda in the US

I’m sorry, Rhonda, but unfortunately, that’s the one question I can’t answer for you…

Because this is something you’re going to have to decide for yourself.

Some people tend to err on the side of being too perfectionist and never getting anything actually done, whereas others tend to rush and get products out that they can’t really be proud of.  Both can be expensive mistakes.  

But all I can really tell you is, be honest with yourself about which end of the scale you tend to fall on.  Be aware of your tendency, and catch yourself when you’re being self-defeating in either direction. 

(Do not sell products that don’t meet legal requirements for safety or effectiveness! Obviously.)

Weekly Challenge:

Think about these things and decide whether you can apply any of them in your own business.  Also, do you have a burning question that wasn’t covered here? Email it to us!  And be sure to put “PCat Q&A” in the subject line.

Ps. Yes, these are real questions that I (M.G.) have been asked over the years.  No, these are not people’s real names or identifying details 🙂

M.G. Rhoads shares her deep engineering

through engaging stories that make manufacturing principles easy to use and understand.

“I show makers, inventors and entrepreneurs the secrets big companies use to run a successful manufacturing line!”

About Zattatat