Corrections or additions?
This article by Bart Jackson was prepared for the April 17, 2002
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
The Birth of an Idea
Bringing a new product to term in this market can prove
the most teeth-clenching experience of your life. The gestation period
— from initial conception until that happy day when the consumer
slaps you product on the counter and declares it profitable —
can rival that of an elephant. Every decision of the expectant
during this time seems fraught with anxiety as to its successful
For those seeking to shorten this 24-month gestation and ease all
the introductory labor of birthing a new product,
stands as a ready and expert midwife. Her seminar, "Bringing Your
New Product Idea to Reality," will be part of the annual New
Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO) conference Thursday
through Saturday, April 18 through 20, at the Ocean Place Conference
Resort Center in Long Branch. Cost is $450. To register call
Coppolino’s program, set for Thursday at 1:45 p.m., is designed for
both the lone inventor and the established firm. She will punctuate
her product realization strategy with a series of hints on how to
cut time and cost on each step.
NJAWBO offers an ideal network for finding everything from your next
supplier, banker, or golf partner. In addition to its statewide
each of the 13 chapters each holds monthly meetings with informative
speakers. For information visit www.NJAWBO.org.
If you were a sharp young business lady from Brooklyn, with an equally
sharp sense of fashion, you might quite naturally move toward a
career with Playtex, Revlon, Charles of the Ritz, Caswell-Massey,
and Krebs personal care products. But what you probably would not
do is forsake the smooth, quiet executive offices and during your
off hours get down into the factory. And almost definitely, you would
not think to work on the assembly line, study the manufacture and
shipping process, take notes and store all this information for future
use. But Linda Coppolino did exactly that.
Thus today, when a client needs to know how long it will take to
for his new lipstick, Coppolino can tell him. Her Howell-based
& Design Depot, which she founded in l998, and its more
spin off company, Coppolino-Kenter Creative Partners, have eased the
way onto the sales floor for scores of products from skin lotions
to tractor parts.
Coppolino sees product development much like a chess game in which
you mentally follow the consequences of each move down the line before
you make it. Ticking the caveats off on her fingers she lists,
are the bottlenecks? What’s the cost in time and cash? What are your
tradeoffs?" She recommends the entrepreneur feel his way through
the process with agility. With so many variables, the startup firm
must be ready to decide and change at any stage of development.
cost factor. The general 18 to 24-month timetable for getting a
to market is seldom affected by this choice. On labor intensive items,
such as children’s products and graphics, overseas manufacturers can
bring in great per-piece savings. Also, for lighter articles, overseas
makers frequently have similar equipment more readily available, thus
cutting down on retooling costs.
However, quality control becomes a major issue the further your specs
get shipped from your supervision. Having your company one floor above
the factory where managers can run down and check on things is, of
course, ideal. When abroad, it will at least become necessary to hire
a special quality control agent to check all the work on site during
each shift. Seems expensive? Bitter experience has forced many firms
to have each piece submitted to a domestic inspector at each stage.
"Never underestimate the enormity of the language barrier,"
advises Coppolino. "You would not believe some of the errors in
graphics that I have seen come out China — both in design specs
and on packaging instructions."
to present your backers with a flat board picture of your new shoe
line. More and more funders want to can the glitz and see their funds
invested in the nuts and bolts of production. However, setting a
pair of shoes on the table before each potential funder for her
inspection beats a disc full of graphics. It also teaches the
many things. By special-ordering samples from a potential supplier,
you get to see how he works, his quality, and his ability to meet
thrift, access to experts and general convenience has been
touted. And truly for the startup business, each of these factors
becomes especially poignant. Most of all, a deft blending of
personnel, Coppolino points out, saves time. You can set several
of your launch all swiftly overlapping and thus bring your product
to market often months earlier. On the manufacturing end, outsourcing
production remains popular due to huge factory and equipment costs.
However, when seeking an outside manufacturer, few contractors make
full inventory of what materials the plant owner uses on other jobs
that can be cheaply purchased and require minimal changeover.
Yet, ever wary of trends, Coppolino warns outsourcing’s very
can lead to a loss of control when you need it most. Project teams,
if not well orchestrated, can get ahead of each other and force you
to backtrack and undo work. Further, the contract worker holds no
great loyalty to your shop and he may be working elsewhere during
those vital hours. Also, his intellectual property may very well not
fall under your control.
of business’ greatest bottlenecks," says Coppolino. It is very
hard to cut a retailer’s time schedule. The mass merchandiser wants
to see your item in January for July. Between that time, while it
passes through the hands of the buyer and the sales force, you wait
without a penny. The only hope here is to search for an appointment
and make your contacts early, so your delivery demands and your
says, looms over every step of the product development process, and
whether you should trust your instinct or objective research is
a tough call. No one can deny that business would not stand remotely
where it does were it not for continuing advances in science. And
as the scientific methods of consumer research make for increasing
predictability, it seems foolish not to rely on them. But you, Mr.
Inventor, are bringing forth a product you are in love with. Probably
this affords you a better, not more biased, view of its marketability.
In the end, exactly how your product reaches the almighty store shelf
must be your choice. Just remember, consumer research absolutely
that the coffee drinking public would never shell out the extra cash
for a cup of Starbucks.
— Bart Jackson
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