Tried creating this thread once. Trying again.
tldr version: I like to innovate/invent/design and don’t like business stuff very much. Looking for advice on how to start a small scale business that allows me to keep focusing more on inventing and less on the business stuff while making enough money to live off of (not get rich).
This is a question mostly for Ryan, because I think I’d like to adopt his business model as I understand it now. I’ve been working on making a product for over a year and a half now. I got into 3D printing, bought and built a LowRider to help build the product. I’m finishing up a prototype that I think I’ll move forward with. I’m not sure what I’ll do next.
I started making the product because I wanted it to exist, but it doesn’t (at least in the form I want it to). I like the challenge, the 3D modeling, 3D printing, milling, and all the other inventing kind of stuff. I have fun designing, building, and testing. In other words I’m passionate about the inventing/innovating. Additionally, and very important, I’m in control of it, meaning I get to work on it when I want, at my pace. No boss or anyone besides myself pressuring me to get it done, go faster, or do it a certain way. But in the end, I’d like to make some money with it. Not get rich, but it’d be awesome if I could live off the income (I’m pretty frugal).
With all that in mind, now that I almost have a prototype done, I need to decide what kind of business model I want to use. I could try to go full startup. Quit my job, find investors, get a patent, find manufactures, marketing, etc. The problem is all that business/legal/marketing stuff doesn’t sound like something I’d like to do. The innovating/inventing part of a business sounds like something I’d enjoy, but the business stuff sounds terrifying, stressful, expensive, and not something I’d enjoy.
Another thing to keep in mind is I’m not in the position where I hate my day job and want to start a business as a way out. I like my job. If I won the lottery or knew with 100% certainty that my business would succeed would I quit? Probably. But as far as regular jobs go, I think it’s one of the best I’m going to find, and for the most part I enjoy it. I’m comfortable where I am in life and don’t want to risk it all by going full startup.
All of this is why what Ryan’s doing sounds appealing to me, at least what it appears to me he’s doing. He has his products and runs a small scale business where he sells DIY kits himself. It seems like small scale home manufacturing. Maybe I’m over simplifying it, but it seems appealing to me to be able to start out small, making and selling DIY kits and doing some small scale advertising (buy ads, go to trade shows or maker faires, connect with YouTubers or create my own channel). Possibly get a provisional patent (which I’ve seen can cost anywhere from $130 if you do it yourself up to $5k if you hire someone) and use the year it gives me to see if the business actually makes money and can scale up to the point where it makes sense to get a full patent. It seems to me that if I keep it small I’ll be able to focus more on the inventing and less on the business stuff. But if I see the business seems really viable and could make lots of money, I might be more willing to do more business stuff. Or I could just stay small if I don’t want to scale. I’m not looking to get rich (although I wouldn’t mind :D). I want to make enough to be able to live off of if I choose to, but even if I make less than that there’s a good chance I would keep it up if I enjoy it. Oh, and keeping it small sounds like I could still keep my day job.
So question to Ryan, am I completely off with my observations? Do you (or anyone else) have any advice for someone like me? Thanks to anyone who has read this far. If anyone has any information on home based, small scale manufacturing, please share. I found this video and this video to be helpful.
By the way, some might say that product licensing is a good option. I’ve read a couple of Stephen Key’s books on the subject and done research. My general feeling is that with product licensing you have very little control and can end up wasting a lot of time and effort. Take a look at this post to see what I mean.