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EXECUTION From Idea to Reality: Progress Thread

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McDrummerSLR

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Hey guys, newcomer to the site (intro HERE). Thought I would start with a progress thread to keep myself accountable and so anyone interested can track progress.

Where I started:
So I've been a flight instructor for a couple years now and was set up to fly for the airlines. It's been a dream of mine ever since I was a little kid. That was supposed to happen back at the end of May, but of course the travel industry is wrecked now so to go to the airlines now looks like at least a year - if not more - of waiting. Before COVID, the industry was welcoming; we reached a new level of traffic in the sky and opportunities were available left and right for every up and comer. The ultimate draw is the allure of making 300k a year as a major airline captain that flies only a couple times a month. The most ironic part about this is, everyone at my level (barely airline qualified flight instructor) talks about this as though it's something that will happen in a couple years when in reality it's probably about a 15 year journey. If everything goes PERFECT. And it never does. Anyway, I digress. The recent chain of events got me more and more interested in starting something myself, especially as my company has started to feel more unstable. Finally after reading books about finance and digging for info on the Internet, I stumbled across Unscripted. And it blew my mind. I realized that I've been feeling some of these things that get discussed in the book. How there has to be more than selling my soul to a company in a most volatile industry. From there, I started digging around and exercising my brain for ideas on where to start.

Where I am:
I came up with a pretty good idea in the form of a product about a week ago. I evolved the idea into something clear that solves a problem and has sparked interest in those I've talked about it with. Some people are actually really excited about it, including myself - I know I'd use the heck out of it. Especially because it hasn't quite been done before, at least not this way ;) I've got feelers out on folks who can design said product, including one who has resources to take it all the way to manufacturing which is cool. I'm a little terrified to find out he will come back with in cost because I'm a one man show right now with a tiny budget, but I do have a back up in case that happens. We've got an NDA in place for security of the idea as well. While I wait for his quote, I've asked a lawyer friend of mine to take a look at the two brand names I thought of and see if there's any reason legally I couldn't use them. The same friend offered to help me with an LLC as well which will be awesome when I get to needing that. I'm a little stuck on what else I could work on right now while I wait for these results , so I'm just letting my mind wander on how I could brand, scale, and expand and so far there appears to be some good potential.

Short Term Goals:
I want to lock down a brand name and get the design process rolling in the next week. I've got a pretty good idea of how to brand it and I know almost exactly how I want the product to look, so if this main guy comes back with a good quote, I'll roll with it and go. If not, I'll go with my back up and just figure out the manufacturing side of things when that time comes. My back up doesn't have the same level of resources but that's ok. I'm lucky in that my job these days is almost exclusively managing; I rarely flying with students, and the lighter workload in general means way more free time so I'm able to do a lot of this stuff in my free time at the office. I'm actually sitting in the office right now typing this... don't tell my boss!

It is ridiculous how pumped I am. I am constantly thinking about the idea, to the point where I can't sit still sometimes. There have been times in my life where I was more motivated than I ever thought possible and I haven't been able to - or rather chosen to - tap into that until recently. Having a sound idea that is possible made it much easier to harness the power of motivation. It's also terrifying. It will cost money for sure which is my biggest fear having accumulated some debt from flight school, and I'm playing it close to the edge given the nature of my Slowlane industry and place of work. But I believe in the idea and the possibility of it working so I'm going to go for it and see where it takes me. More updates soon!
 

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Flint

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Welcome!

Fantastic. I'm just starting myself too (with my own progress thread), so I can completely relate. We're in different points in life, industries, locations, but it all sounds so familiar.

The thing I repeat myself is that it's all about having a big goal and solving one problem at a time. And if you solve enough problems...
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDYCLFE86Po


If not, I'll go with my back up and just figure out the manufacturing side of things when that time comes. My back up doesn't have the same level of resources but that's ok.

I wouldn't worry about it too much. Not everything will be done with people you already know. You'll find new contacts and build new relationships. All good.

Also, another option could be a license. Have a look at this approach:
 

McDrummerSLR

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Welcome!

Fantastic. I'm just starting myself too (with my own progress thread), so I can completely relate. We're in different points in life, industries, locations, but it all sounds so familiar.

The thing I repeat myself is that it's all about having a big goal and solving one problem at a time. And if you solve enough problems...
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDYCLFE86Po




I wouldn't worry about it too much. Not everything will be done with people you already know. You'll find new contacts and build new relationships. All good.

Also, another option could be a license. Have a look at this approach:

Absolutely! I totally love that part of the movie; I've quoted that to so many students. The advice of not trying to tackle too much all at once is so important. It's all about what's right in front of you; easy to get overwhelmed otherwise.

Thanks for the link to that article; I've been wondering about how I should go about that. That seems like a no brainer, especially being able to write it myself without need for legal council, although I'd probably consult my lawyer friend just for kicks.
 

McDrummerSLR

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So a little update: I've had some more back and forth with the designer and the numbers I'm seeing are reasonable for me to handle so far. I've got a fun name for the product and am working on branding ideas.

My biggest internal battle currently is in full swing now that I'm at the point where money will begin to be needed to pay people. When the first cost figures came up, my heart sank a bit and I felt myself get nervous; that's the slowlane side of me that I've grown accustomed to my whole life. I have debt from flight school that would simply remain longer if this whole thing crashes and burns. It keeps me reliant on my day job which could disappear in a couple months if the borders stay closed. But then I come back to feeling secure in moving on this by the fact that everyone I've talked with about the idea wants one and thinks it would be very useful. My battle is simply that I could either pay this guy to work up the designs and prototype the idea for me, and likely have the ability to manufacture this thing on a larger scale relatively quickly, or I could have people I know help me with the designs and have to worry about prototyping and manufacturing myself. So I spend money and save time, or I spend time and save money. I'm tempted to move on spend money save time because I believe strongly in the idea, but I am aware that this is the "easy" route so to speak so I am open to feedback on this if anyone would like to share!

Edit: a little more content
 

McDrummerSLR

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Made the decision this weekend to go the save money/spend time route. My considerable flight school debt along with several potential expenses coming over the next few months led me to the decision. I don't think it'll affect my timeline for releasing this thing by much though which is nice, but it will give me a couple extra steps to worry about which is ok. The biggest steps that I'll need to tackle myself now will be 3D printing prototypes and sourcing a manufacturer. Challenge accepted. Goal for the week is to file for an LLC and get the design process rolling; brought a friend on board to start helping me pull this thing out of my head and into reality. As soon as that process begins, a 3D printer will be ordered.

I'm happy with the decision to do more myself; I'll learn more about the process and be more proud of the end result, it'll keep me more accountable, and I'll save some money in the process. I estimate about a 40% total cost savings.
 

McDrummerSLR

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Having fun with my new 3D printer; first couple of prototypes have already been made. They are incredibly simple but have provided an excellent starting place. Already very happy with choosing to involve those I know, between that and working directly with the printer and prototyping myself, I feel a lot more in control of the process while saving money at the same time.

Did the opposite of what I intended this week, I ordered the 3D printer before filing LLC. I decided to wait on filing the paperwork for that as I've been stuck on the timing of it. Is it too early? Should I have a really good prototype first? Just mulling it over has me coming to the conclusion that 1) I've probably already spent too much time thinking about it; 2) it really doesn't matter because it's a small one time payment and I own the corp for life regardless of whether or not this thing works out; 3) it'll be nice to have it squared away when it comes time to launch. So this week's goal will be truly to get that paperwork filed. I have a minor medical procedure in a week which will put me on my a$$ for a few days so the goal is to file the paperwork before that happens along with continued design back-and-forth and prototyping.

Starting to play with the idea of doing some social media teasers; that's really why I think I need to move on LLC paperwork and perhaps even a trademark for the brand name. I haven't specified what it is exactly I'm doing and that's on purpose; I know everyone here encourages sharing, but I just have this gut feeling that I should keep it to myself until I'm a little further along in the process and I've got the legal stuff in place. So far as I can tell, my idea has not quite been pursued in this way, but it would not be difficult to replicate quickly for someone with established business relationships. Feel free to call me out if that's a ridiculous thought... this is all still new to me so I might just be overthinking, but that's the belief the research has led me to.
 

McDrummerSLR

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Alright, LLC filed. That was easy. Should take about a week or week and a half or so to go through. I think a trademark on the name of the product would be wise too as my goal is to win peoples' hearts through the branding of this thing. Was going to originally wait until I start selling, but I read some horror stories on here and given that I have a pretty good name, I should lock it down now rather than wait and risk someone snagging it. That will be the next goal, although I'm thinking I'll need to wait for another paycheck first. Lol. Going to research that process next while I wait for my designer to send me some updates to print. For now, at least I'll own the name through my business.
 

McDrummerSLR

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Medical procedure done thankfully. Recovering slowly but surely so far. Took a couple days off from this project to recover but I'm back at it again. Printed a bunch of new prototypes, I daresay they're actually somewhat functional at this point which is cool. Having my own printer is nice because it's allowed me to print what I need when I need; I can duplicate things if I want to experiment and so forth. It's allowed me to work out kinks in the product so far and even expand functionality which will help me reach more people.

Really diving into branding this thing though, I keep coming back to the thought that the brand is the most important part of this project. I've got the name locked down and I'm currently working on a logo; once that gets done I'm going to trademark. My goal is to have the logo down by the end of the week. Shooting for something simple that conveys what the product does and is memorable.
 

McDrummerSLR

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Logo design is complete! Really going to try and use Instagram to get some interest before I release the product, so I turned my IG page into a business page and slapped the logo on it. Going to start posting as soon as I have some working prototypes that are close to what the final version will look like.

LLC was approved as well. I assume I need to wait for paperwork to come to me, so I'll see what comes of that and then request an EIN for it once I get a little closer to beginning sales. After some further research on trademarking, I decided that I want to post a bit to prove that I'm using the name and logo in conjunction with the product. Going to keep that timeline tight though, the name has become incredibly important to the brand. But there's a TM on the logo and by the name and I own the name as an LLC, the domain name, and the IG page so hopefully that's strong enough for now. I hear first to use is better than first to trademark in this case, but if anyone has a different thought on that please let me know. I've read the horror stories.

Next big goal is to research who can make this thing when it's ready. All in all a good week!
 

McDrummerSLR

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It's already been almost a month since I posted an update! Honestly been a little slow going the last couple weeks, basically just going back and forth with my designer and printing updated prototypes as needed. Her computer fried so that created a bit of a delay. Guess that's what I get for relinquishing control over that aspect of the project, but we oughta be back up and running pretty soon. Still hoping to have this available for purchase by the holidays but I see a couple potential roadblocks that would push things back farther. It'll be what it'll be, best thing I can do is just keep moving forward. The good news is we got approved by the company who created the CAD software for a start up license which means we have full access to the program for free for the foreseeable future.
Started posting some teasers on my IG account which has been fun! Downloaded a camera app on my phone that's easy to use but is better than the stock camera and has cool editing features allowing me to really spruce up the photos.
At this point I've got a few places chosen that I'll be reaching out to for info on manufacturing this thing; I don't think I can really do much with that at the moment because we're still working on the design of the product and I'll want an accurate quote, but in the mean time I'm just going to continue posting on social media and try to build up a following before release. So far I'm at 3x per week posting but I'll up that as I get closer to release and if I find I have more ideas on what to post. I know the general consensus is to post every day but I'm more interested in starting with consistency which I'd argue is more important.
I'm finding that aside from prototyping and social media, there's seemingly less to do right now while we work on the design; if anyone has suggestions on things to think about that may not be totally obvious to a new guy like me, I'm all ears!
 
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McDrummerSLR

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My Instagram account seems to be ever so slowly picking up a little bit of traction. The first couple of weeks were really only spent posting with some relevant hashtags attached; for some reason it didn't really occur to me that I should actually use the account to search related topics and posts and then follow/like/comment on those posts. I've organically acquired my first few followers just in the last couple of days by spending a little bit of time each day scrolling through my feed and interacting with different posts. My product deals with writing instruments, so essentially my photos so far are of pens in different places with entertaining (or so I think) captions. I've got a Fisher space pen that I've used for a couple photos and they actually responded to one of my posts with some comments and ended up following my account which was a neat little event.
As mentioned in my last update, the designer is really doing the legwork right now (her computer is back online... yay!) so I'm taking advantage and allowing myself some relaxation time so that when the time comes to buckle down, I'm ready to rock and roll. When we finish the design for the product, I'll be ready to go with my next steps as I have some manufacturers selected to reach out to as well as places to acquire more potential manufacturers should I need it.
Admittedly I sometimes feel like I have too much free time, especially with how slow the day job is. So I'm going to get back into learning coding in Python; figure it'd be a useful skill to have for future projects and I had spent some time with it before starting this project.
 

McDrummerSLR

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Good lord this is slow going. Perhaps the desert of desertion? Still trying to get the design nailed down, and we're doin less than 1 update per week right now. Designer works a regular job that appears to be up and down in regards to level of busy so I try not to bug her too much about progress. Especially since so far she's working for free on her own time. But I can't wait until it's good enough to the point where I can reach out to manufacturers. We're past my original deadline for design by now, although that's partially because of the designer's computer issues. That being said I'm gonna try and have things wrapped up within the next couple of design updates. There's one feature on this product that has been tough to design because of what I need it to do. I have feelers out on what sorts of plastics I could use for it; if I can figure out something that's flexible but strong, I think that part will actually get a good bit easier to wrap up. In any case, I do feel like we're pretty close to finishing the design, and I can get crackin on having it made.
 

McDrummerSLR

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Getting super close to finishing the designs. I totally keep saying that which makes me wonder if I'm trying to perfect it too much, but at the same time I do have to be reasonably sure that the clip portion of this thing is going to be able to do what I need it to do otherwise it's not going to work. The 3D printer has been incredibly useful for this so far but I think the flexibility I can achieve with filaments is somewhat limited, so I just have to remind myself that there's only so much I can do with it. For anyone that is unfamiliar with how they work, 3D printers take spools of plastic filament, melt it down and reform it into the shape of whatever file is loaded into it. I suspect this process removes a lot of flexibility of the produced shape so I'm playing around with different variations to get as close as possible to something that will work in the end. But once I feel pretty sure, I'm gonna call it and start reaching out to manufacturers. What I do know is I have no intention of hovering on this thing for too much longer.
The good thing about the design process taking longer is that I have more time to roll out social media content. Instagram is honestly quite fun. I spent some time learning about how to organically build a following. I used to have a bit of a bad habit of mindlessly pulling out my phone and scrolling through social media, but I've been using that habit to be a little more engaged with my brand IG account which is actually helping build up the level of activity on the page. It's a slow process but it's certainly enjoyable; I like taking photos and using the tools to make them look even better. I've got a bit of a theme for the account, so when you see the page the colors of all the different photos sorta go together and match. I have ideas on how to build exponentially more of a following as well but I need to have the finalized prototype in order to do at least some of what I want.
I am 100% in the middle of the desert of desertion. Realizing that just makes me want to push more on finishing this thing even though I've had a couple days where I've thought to myself how it used to be simple and easy to just go to work, do my thing, and then come home and have a cocktail or something and turn my brain off. But the seed is planted, I cannot and will not ever look at 9 to 5, Mon - Fri in the same way again and I have so many ideas on where I could take just this one idea. That's what's truly giving me the fuel I need to keep moving forward, as slow as it may be right now. Honestly really enjoying the process.
 

McDrummerSLR

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Alright. Had a BIG lightbulb moment the other day about the issue I've been trying to solve. I've been able to introduce a second material into these prototypes that allowed for a very viable solution, and I'm pretty excited about how well it's already working. It'll even add some flexibility with how the product can be used which will be great for sales and what not. I'm going to adjust the designs with my designer to incorporate this material into the final product and hopefully do some more printing soon to test things out. Once we get that down, we can get creative with the look of the product. It's pretty simplistic right now because we've only been interested in functionality, so the truly exciting part will be seeing what it will actually look like in the end. I've got some thoughts on what it'll look like but the designer will be the one to bring it to life. Her day job is definitely picking up so the remainder of this design process will likely stay slow, but now I'm 100% convinced we're mere steps from the completion of the design process and I'll be sending files out to manufacturers in a matter of weeks. More time to plug away at social media marketing in the mean time which is not a bad thing. Once I have a completed prototype, I'll be able to incorporate it into my IG photos to truly turn up the heat.

This is probably somewhat of an action fake, but seeing as progress is good and that I'm pleased with how the logo turned out when I made it a few weeks ago (we're actually going to try and imprint it into the product), I ordered a couple batches of stickers. One thing I plan on doing is including stickers with every order, because who doesn't like stickers? So I figured I'd do a couple small test batches and see what kind of quality is out there. And it's free marketing; I'm giving them out to people who know about this project. Also figured since Amazon does custom coffee mugs and stuff, I'd see if they have any vendors that do the same thing with hats. I wear ball caps on the daily and have been needing a replacement. And guess what, they do!! Lol. So I ordered one and it should be here in the next week or so. Hey, marketing right? All of this was incredibly cheap to do though and took hardly any time. So figured it could potentially be helpful. We shall see...
 

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