Later, when copycats started to crop up, I planfully innovated with new ingredients that would define our sensitive skin, charcoal, soap, and oral care lines and allow us to maintain a competitive edge. Without my maker mindset, I would have had to rely on third parties for innovation, which would have resulted in lost time and products that looked similar to offerings already on the market.
Maintaining in-house manufacturing.
As a maker brand, there comes a point when the decision must be made to continue making in house or to outsource production. As CEO of Schmidt’s, I established and maintained in-house manufacturing, growing from batch sizes of thirty deodorants on my stovetop to fifty thousand in a full-scale facility with 150 employees. Needless to say, the challenges were massive, but I attribute much of the company’s success to this decision. By manufacturing in-house, I was able to ensure quality control and directly stress test our capabilities. Making in house also ensures the confidentiality of your formulas and allows for flexibility when offering limited-edition product runs, allowing you to stay nimble and innovate quickly. Another benefit is less pressure in forecasting, which can be problematic when working with co-packers who require months of notice and are not able to produce on the fly.
Iterating on customer feedback.
I spent my earliest days of the business selling at farmers markets, street festivals and craft shows. This offered an incredible opportunity to talk face-to-face with my customers and to incorporate feedback on my core product. Whether it was textural tweaks that could be applied to my formula, the adjustment of scent levels, price sensitivity, or changes to the packaging and sizing of my products, my community served as a no-cost focus group. Recognizing the significant improvements that resulted from this process as the company grew, I continued to lean into this feedback loop by commissioning surveys, clinical studies, R&D, and collecting insights to plan our next moves.
By successfully balancing a maker mindset with keen business sense, it’s clear that maker-born brands are equipped to tap into significant competitive advantages. And I believe that as the industry experiences a cooling over the coming year, that the time is right for makers to capitalize on this opportunity.
For those refusing to recognize the power of this movement, consider the following phrase: "You’ll never win playing a game somebody else loves more than you.”