Small Business Strategies: Introducing a New Product Line

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Welcome to May’s edition of Small Business Strategies! This month, I’m joined by the incredibly sweet and kind Nell of Whole Parenting Family. Not only is she one of the most natural mamas I know, but she’s a talented sewist as well. Have you seen the adorable leggings she makes? Love. We’re here today to talk with you about product lines – specifically, new product lines. How do you come up with a new line? How do you determine its fit with your current offerings? How do you introduce it?

Nell

We’ll look at each of these questions – and others – in a Q&A format. As both Nell and I have a new line, you’ll see both our responses below. Twice the fun! …and twice the ideas. Please share your thoughts in the comments as to how you’d respond to these same questions; this is such a great opportunity to learn from each other!

Let’s get started.

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WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO INTRODUCE A NEW PRODUCT LINE?

Nell:  I wanted to introduce a new line of headbands for my Whole Parenting Goods shop because I’d always loved headbands on my little girl. Actually, all of my baby & toddler products have emerged from the same desire to find something modern and lovely for my own kids! I love easy style coupled with a crucial hair function: keeping it out of your face! My baby and toddler leggings have been very popular for the last year or so and I wanted a new companion line to freshen things up and be affordable at the same time. The headbands fit newborns through 5 year olds as they’re easily adjustable.

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Photo courtesy of Whole Parenting Goods. All rights reserved.

Jen: I love quilting – it’s one of my go-to hobby when I have time. Sewing is a wonderful outlet, and the hum of the sewing machine instantly gives me a sense of peace. However, quilting – even making baby quilts – takes a *lot* of time! The smallest patchwork baby quilt, complete with hand binding, can take 20+ hours. The custom Baptism name bags are also a hit, but they, like the baby blankets, appeal to an audience with young children. I wanted to introduce a fun new product that took a bit less time *and* appealed to women regardless of where (or if!) they were on the motherhood journey. Besides sewing, I also love wine. Ha! I thought it would be fun to create a product for fellow wine lovers, so I started making faith-inspired wine bags. Each bag comes with six coordinating wine charms, which are a great project to make on the nights I need to take a break from sewing. Having this new line balances out the “baby only” products I had been offering.

HOW DID YOU DETERMINE WHAT PRODUCT WOULD BE A GOOD FIT? 

Nell:  I knew headbands would be a good fit for my customer base after noting how many purchases of my organic knit leggings were for baby and toddler girls. About 65% of my sales were for that age demographic. It made sense to offer an affordable add-on to accompany in matching fabrics.

Jen: The wine bags and charms were a bit risky in the sense that it is something that I *hoped* would appeal to a broader customer base. Many moms like wine (like this one!), but I wasn’t sure if they would deviate from the “baby-centric” purchases that they were already making from my shop. However, I knew my customer base appreciated quality sewn goods, and this product is in line with what they appreciate.

Jen Wine

Copyright 2016 Jen Frost. All rights reserved.

HOW DIFFERENT IS THIS PRODUCT LINE FROM WHAT YOU CURRENTLY OFFER?

Nell: My offerings span the gambit of baby and little kiddo products from bandit-style bibs and contoured burp cloths (offered in gift sets, too), crib and stroller triple layered organic cotton blankets, sun caps  organic knit leggings, and now headbands too. The headbands are similar in that they are specifically matching to another product, leggings, just as the bibs & burp cloths are. But their biggest difference is the price point and ease of purchase. They’re only $5 and free shipping if added with another product.

Nell Products

Photo courtesy of Whole Parenting Goods. All rights reserved.

Jen: It’s very different! Not only are they not focused on babies, but they are completely unique to the buyer. Each bag is made to order around a theme, and coordinating fabrics, along with the custom charms, make each one different. It’s been so much fun to make them for weddings, anniversaries, and graduations! My favorite set made so far was for a wedding where the couple had his name, her name, their last name, the date, the church, and honeymoon location stamped into the six wine charms, and the bag made in colors to match the wedding. I also really liked a set created around the theme from 1 Corinthians: “the greatest of these is LOVE.” The bag has the scripture reference embroidered, and each charm is stamped with the word “love” in a different language.

HOW DID YOU ROLL OUT THE NEW PRODUCT LINE – SLOWLY OVER TIME OR A BIG BANG?

Nell: I did a big bang roll-out of new summer leggings fabrics along with the headbands as they match! My newsletter subscribers always get first dibs (which is helpful as I do limited seasonal releases) and a secret discount code. Sometimes they end up buying all of one fabric up before the general public gets to it! That subscription link is: http://bit.ly/20Emcfv

Jen: Slowly over time. I added the products to my Etsy shop and started selling some pre-made sets on Zelie and Co.  I’m letting word-of-mouth be my marketing strategy. It’s definitely less proactive than the big bang approach, but since each is a custom order, I’m enjoying the slower pace to really work with the customer and make a set that is unique to them.

Jen Wine 2

Copyright 2016 Jen Frost. All rights reserved.

WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE WITH THE NEW LINE?

Nell: I’ve found the biggest challenge with launching a new line is to make it stand out from what others offer that is similar. In my case, I chose to go with fabric matching leggings to appeal to the matching mama in all of us. I also evaluated market pricing for similar products and decided to price mine lower than the norm, not because of lesser quality but because I found the market to be inflated in pricing. Also, spreading the word via social media, especially Instagram, has always helped me to reach my audience which can also be a challenge.

Jen: Time is always my biggest challenge. Prioritizing orders when they come in, alongside existing products and business needs, is something I’m continually juggling.

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Your turn! How would you respond to the questions above? What new lines are you working on? I look forward to hearing from you!

Copyright 2016 Jen Frost

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About Author

Jen Frost is a Catholic quilter and crafter who evangelizes through fabric and loves talking about small business strategies. She’s a pattern writter, quilt designer, and book author. When she’s not in front of her sewing machine, she can be found at the beach with her husband and son, toes happily buried in the sand. She loves Instagram , and writes and quilts each week at Faith and Fabric. Join in the fun every other Monday at 12pm PST.

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