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  • Joan Chamberlain

Is it cute and colorful?

Updated: Mar 16


I'm not new to entrepreneurship. For seven years, starting in 2007, I had a business based on a product I invented and manufactured. From patent to production, local markets to QVC, I sold thousands of Recipe Nests®. It was a storage product - a better recipe box - intended to hold all sizes and shapes of recipes, and it had it's moment in the sun. I had a lot of happy customers.


For all its attributes, Recipe Nest was a headache to manufacture and ship. I was enormously lucky to find a stellar U.S. manufacturer that worked with me to make it the best it could be. With their help, I was able to tweak it here and there and take it as far as it could go. It was constructed from cardboard and vinyl, the latter being finicky when shipped in extreme heat or cold. It slumped, it cracked, it misbehaved in weather extremes, which had me on a shipping schedule not unlike fine wine.


A hybrid between a box and a notebook, with a clip on the front and an easel on the back, it took several extra touchpoints in the manufacturing process, making it relatively costly to manufacture. Despite the higher price point, I enjoyed fairly robust sales to retailers throughout the country and in Canada.


Successful wholesale orders require making the trade show circuit - Dallas, Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, etc. The best part of traveling to those shows is the vendors you meet, learn from, share resources and commiserate with. One such vendor was a woman I met right in my backyard (Dallas) who sold an equally difficult item to manufacture and ship. Our stories were similar in so many ways, and I found it comforting to speak freely with someone who truly understood the challenges.


Over time, we developed a practice of meeting once a month to have coffee and share war stories. My U.S. manufacturer closed its doors (their primary business was manufacturing checkbook covers - remember those?) and both of us had horror stories to tell about manufacturing in China. We were both on the tail end of our product arcs, having taken them to a point where selling to a bigger enterprise was the only way to scale. Pushing that boulder up the hill was taking its toll. So we plotted our exits.


We laughed and swore that the next product we offered would be easier to make and would be something people ran out of and would need more of. My friend referenced an article she had read that had lipstick and nail polish as items that did well no matter what the economy was doing. While neither of us was interested in entering the crowded and highly competitive make-up market, we loved the idea of a line of cute, colorful things that people would need on a fairly routine basis.


Six years later, enter Peg Pennyworth. Sadly, I've lost touch with my friend from the trade show trenches, but I never lost sight of wanting to create a product line that is cute and colorful, and within my power to produce or easily source. Running a product-based business has its own headaches and challenges, regardless of the actual product, but offering a product that allows me to play with colors and whimsical images has revived my love of making, pitching, plotting, and building.



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