What have I learned from this project?
During this project, I have learned that prototyping and creating minimum viable product have many benefits and works as a great learning curve. I have seen this when we used the paper to create the first mockup of the bowties as we could see an improved version and get the gist of how the final product would look like by not spending a lot of expensive resources. When we tested our products with different materials, such as cardboard paper, we had a clear idea of the shape of the bowtie so it was easier to translate it into the digital version, in our case using Adobe Illustrator file and latter produce the final version for the laser cutter on the wood. By doing so, we avoided potential wasted resources, so our final product on the wood looks just as we prototyped from the paper in the first place future failures in terms of shape.
In terms of social media strategy platforms, I learned the important lessons, which is that having engaged audience and engaging with our users on a daily basis is more important than just having a big number of followers. We were able to build a small but very strong community of followers in these ten months of running a project, engaged with them and iterate our product according to their needs. What it really counts at the end of the day is a user engagement and how many of them were actually ready to support our cause and buy our product.
The gender equality cause behind our brand made our product speak for itself and added value to our brand, so our customers were emotionally more connected and willing not only to buy our bowtie but also make an additional contribution and support our cause. Therefore, adding value to the branding really matters. We also realised that unexpected little gifts could so whoever make an additional contribution for the case also got a special wooden card with engraving words 'Thank you'. This always left customers happy when they left our counter at the trade fairs shows or elsewhere.
Regarding the customer feedback, I have learned the importance of really listening to users' feedback as our ignorance at the beginning of the project almost cost us a lot of lost sales and invested money. By approaching our early adopters at Kingston University and executing design research around the Kingston University campus we have realised the important fact that most of our potential customers were not ready to spend £15 on the wooden bowtie. Therefore we pivoted and made smaller bowties with the sale price of £5. Coming to conclusion to produce a smaller bowtie which people would wear as a symbol to support gender equality was, therefore, a really good choice as the company break-even within the first six months of trading. The purpose of the design research, therefore, played a vital role to help us to maximise the sales, have a better margin., but most importantly designed the product that our users would actually buy and support. When we changed the sizing we were also able to produce more bowties on the wood surface, which cost us on average £0.32 per piece.
Design thinking for start-ups module thought me the importance of doing design research in order to understand our customers, their pain, gains, their needs and adjust accordingly. Keeping in mind these factors is crucial when creating a product, branding strategy or even a social media strategy by only using relevant social media and appropriate marketing channels for the users.
The project was overall successful as we prepared a clear strategy, as well as executed data-driven user research before producing a massive amount of products and most importantly pivoted a few times according to the market needs to then produce the product-market fit at the end.