A year and a half ago, I was offered the opportunity to design home decor products. It’s something I had considered. and even hoped for, for a long time, but it just never came together. I was such a hands-on creator that I struggled with trying to communicate my vision to someone else. I also had to learn how to design something that could be manufactured (and shipped) on a larger scale.
Well, the opportunity was “learn-as-you-go” and I have learned a lot. It took designing hundreds of products to learn what would sell and finally, some of the products that sold, have hit the market. (It takes a long time!)
A few of my products have been floating around for a while, but none of them were branded. The other day, I received a message from a followers on Instagram. She had found some enamel signs at Hobby Lobby labeled with my Miss Mustard Seed hang tag.
“Are these yours?!”
I was so excited! I didn’t know these had hit stores!
So, of course, my mom and I had to make a trip to Hobby Lobby the first day she was here, so we could hunt them down. After searching half of the store, we found them on one of the display “islands” towards the front of the store.
And, of course, my mom and I had to buy one of each! Even as I was putting them in the cart, it seemed a little silly. But, even though they are just simple, black & white, metal signs, they are something I designed and they are being sold in a store with my tag on them and I wanted to celebrate that.
Here is how the design started…
Of course, I designed dozens of variations with different words and fonts and shapes. Design work of this sort can be a buckshot approach – design a lot, make a lot of samples, and see what buyers like. Hobby Lobby picked up six of the designs.
(Market, Welcome, Laundry, Ladies, Gentleman, and Farmer’s Market.)
They also picked up this wooden sign…
They wanted a chicken instead of a pig, so the sign was modified to meet their request. This one didn’t have my hangtag on it, though.
Another product I designed that hit the market, but didn’t have my branding on it was this Christmas tree sign…
I designed it over a year and a half ago and, this Christmas season, I finally saw it for sale!
I have many more designs that have been purchased, but I don’t know where they are being sold or even if they hit the market, yet. Since I’m designing for the manufacturer, not the retailer, I’m pretty far removed from the customer. So, the life of a product is something like this…
- I design and submit a product
- The manufacturer makes a sample of the product and takes it to the retailer/wholesaler market and/or shows it to buyers who visit their factory to buy direct.
- Buyers order a sample of the product to take to a retailer’s market, like AmericasMart in Atlanta. (Some larger retailers will skip this step and order a large quantity for their own stores, cutting out the need to take it to market.)
- If a retailer likes the product I design, they place an order with the wholesaler who then places an order with the manufacturer.
- The products are then produced, shipped to the wholesaler, then to the retailer, then they are available to the end customer.
Whew! This process means it takes a long time for products to become available for purchase and they jump through a lot of hoops to get to market. It also means that I don’t always know who buys what and where the products will end up. So, it’s like a little treasure hunt and it’s always exciting when I stumble across one of my designs that was sent out into the world.
One of my favorite designs that just hit the retailer market is this ice cream sign…
I designed it over a year ago and had the opportunity to fine-tune it when I was in China.
(My hair tools blew up the first day, so I was doing my best!)
My licensing agent just spotted it in several showrooms at AmericasMart last week…
I am hoping to get my hands on one! (Update: One of my readers found the ice cream sign for sale HERE)
I have learned a ton going through a full design life-cycle with a few products. I’ve learned that there are satisfying moments, like filling my cart with products that finally made it to a store, and there are frustrations, like when my favorite designs don’t get picked up, because they are too bulky to ship or too expensive to reproduce. I’m also having to learn a new customer base. I knew what would sell at Lucketts, but on the mass market? That’s a totally different animal that I still don’t understand completely.
I don’t know where this design work will lead. Maybe it will just be a little side thing, as it is now, or maybe it will grow into something more. As I’ve shared many times, though, I started this business simply to earn some grocery money. It has far exceeded any hopes I had for it, so I view opportunities like this one with optimism, but not with expectation.
And I’m just going to soak in each little victory as it comes, even if it’s a small metal sign with my tag on it…
Oh! And I just found another one…