Crazy Custom Coasters Edit
The Venture Team Edit
Our team consist of MacRae Collie, Nate Hulver and Pamela Sanchez. As ambitious seniors majoring in Business Management, we decided to get together and manufacture something novel, affordable and easy to customize. But it was quite difficult. Our original idea was to produce resin-made jewelry, but our process was not good enough to provide high quality pendants. We also tried to decorate small boxes for jewelry, but the resin leak out of them. After intense brainstorming sessions and couple of trips to Michael's, we decided to keep using the same material we used for our jewelry to produce customizable coasters. It took some experimentation, getting our hands dirty and feedback from potential customers to master the process. After a couple of trials and errors, Crazy Custom Coasters was created.
Innovation Questionstorming Edit
Our first Most Viable Products were a plastic coaster with a sprinkle design and a thin cork coaster with a shiny design. After asking our friends and random people around JMU “what can we improve from our MVPs? What do you like/dislike about it?” we learned that most of them liked the sprinkle coaster, but would like it better if it had some felt or cork underneath. In the case of the cork coaster, people thought it was cool but too light. We also showed our pendant made out of resin. Girls did not like it at all because it looked too childish and low quality. Hence, we decided to stop producing pendants and improve coasters.
Throughout our journey of improving our coasters, we asked questions related to the shape and type of coasters. From a group of 22 people, nine preferred round wood coasters, six round cork coasters and six square tile (Survey Results). We wanted to try all three types of coasters to see which one will be more popular, but after review costs and shipping times we decided to use round cork coasters. After doing some research and watching a lot of online tutorials on how to use resin, we learned that we could use a wide variety of materials for our designs. We were thinking in offering coasters with JMU designs, or sorority and fraternity letters, but we were not sure how popular they would be. So we asked our potential customers what designs they would prefer. Surprisingly, the most popular one was “original art by local artists” followed by “random artistic designs” (Survey Results). We went to Michael’s to buy different types of paper designs to start our non-custom designs! Since professional sport teams and JMU related designs were also popular, we decided to expand our horizons and allow people to pick the logo or picture of their preference for a small premium. We even made a set out of old bottle caps!
As a team, our main concern was pricing. From previous experiences, we learned that our margins should be high enough to decrease the number of units we must sell to reach our target. At first, we wanted to sell our set of coasters for $20 non-custom, and $25 custom. But after acquiring enough information from our target market, we determine that our product should be price no more than $15 for non-custom coasters and $20 for custom coasters. We wanted to position our product as high quality and differentiate ourselves from the rest of coasters in the market (Survey results)
Big Idea Hypothesis Edit
For male sport fans aged 20 to 40 years, male college students aged 19 to 22 years, and female college students aged 19 to 22 years with a passion for decoration but with constrained budgets who want to protect their furniture from water stains caused by drinks, we have brought you Crazy Custom Coasters which guarantees protection to your furniture. Unlikely average coasters found at department stores, Crazy Custom Coasters not only donates part of the proceeds to Toys for Tots, it also offers classy, durable, customizable and high quality coasters.
Key innovations Edit
Process innovation: Edit
Our first MVPs had a thin layer of resin because we did not know how to make them thick. Pamela tried to use cardboard to avoid even out edges afterwards, while Nate looked online for molds. Neither of them was successful. After watching YouTube videos of artists using resin, MacRae suggested we used painters tape instead and sand paper to even out edges. Our first coaster set was a little bit uneven, since we were not measuring the resin we put per set. Because we could not really see the measures, Nate marked the cups we used with markers. Then we divided 3 ounces for four coasters.
We had difficulties cutting our designs even after purchasing a circle cutter. To make it easier, MacRae cut the cardboard leaving a trace, so we can cut without our paper moving too much. We also learned that designs should be glued to the bottom because if not they will not stay at the bottom of the coaster once we put the resin on the top.
As a group, we decided to move from plastic coasters to round cork coasters, because quality was not good. We throw our plastic coaster and then our cork coaster to the floor. The first one crack while the second one was intact. We also moved away from double side design paper to one side design paper, since it was cheaper. For custom coasters, instead of using normal printer paper, we used photo paper to print out designs. We also invested on a special circle cutter to cut them accurately!
Channel Innovation: Edit
We used direct interaction as our main distribution channel. Pamela created a Facebook webpage with pictures of our coasters, but it did not benefit us at all. People preferred to see the coasters since they were different than normal ones, so we carry around samples, especially during Thanksgiving break. It allowed us to connect with our potential customers and show how our coasters look like!
Revenue stream innovation: Edit
At first we wanted to offer two different qualities of coasters, but our plastic coasters were not good enough to do it. Later, we approached a different strategy by offering custom coasters for five extra dollars compared to our non-custom. People like to have different options in term of pricing.
Early Adopters Edit
Our first brave customers were our female friends between 19-22 years with an interested in decoration but with tight budgets. From them, we got a lot of feedback related to the edges of our coasters. They were not smooth, so we use sand paper to solve it. Packaging was other point our early adopters pointed out: it lacked class. We were just tied ribbon around it to separate them, but if you move them too much they will fall down.
We tried plastic and cork coasters from Michael’s and Walmart, but they were not well received by our market. After some research, we found WidgetCo which sells different types, sizes and thickness of coasters. We ordered 4” x 1/2” round cork coasters from them. The epoxy resin (64 oz) was bought from Amazon while paper designs and circle cutter were purchased at Michael's. Walmart was our supplier for painter’s tape and cardboard. We also relied on YouTube tutorials on how to use resin as "Art Tutorial How to Resin Your Painting" by Sonia Semone and "Candy Resin Jewelry Tutorial" by CraftKlach
Minimum Viable Product Evolution Edit
Final Business Model Edit
Lessons Learned and Advice for Future Entrepreneurial Students Edit
Nate: Start as soon as you can. Use your time wisely because once you begin doing assignments for others classes, time passes you by fast. Prototyping takes longer than expected. Start early so you can figure out how to make your product and master the process fast.
Pamela: Be passionate or interested about the charity you will be donating to. Connect your potential customers with it and emphasize how they are helping others. If you are able to create an emotional connection between your product and your customers, selling it gets easier.
MacRae: Start early. Ideally it will be nice to have a product that does not have a long production time. While customization adds value to the customer, it is more time consuming. Hopefully, you will get the whole semester.
Special slideshow Edit
For more information about Crazy Custom Coasters visit our blog: http://crazycustomcoasters.tumblr.com/