Developing new products for a market saturated by huge competitors with multi-million dollar marketing and research and development budgets can be a challenge for any startup, and intimidating enough to dissuade entrepreneurs from starting at all.
Jack Spencer and Alexander Boswell faced this challenge while co-founding their company, Mosevic. The U.K.-based business produces a unique style of sunglasses made entirely of denim -- frames are made from layered denim bonded with resin. While the sunglass market is saturated, with big companies such as Ray Ban and Diesel, which are making competing denim sunglasses, Spencer and Boswell still entered it.
The two designers share their experiences and offer these tips to other aspiring entrepreneurs who are considering the launch of a startup in an otherwise crowded market.
1. Iterate like a scientist or steal like an artist.
As designers, Spencer and Boswell have two sources of inspirations. The first is the great innovator, Thomas Edison, who would often iterate his experiments thousands of times only to discover something he had not originally set out to find.
Mosevic sunglasses were developed with this approach. Prior to founding the company, the two freelance designers had experimented with fiberglass, which led them to experiment with many different fibers. Focusing on sunglasses, they iterated their manufacturing process thousands of times, eventually developing a unique process for creating a solid and moldable material made completely out of denim.
The second source of inspiration is Austin Kleon, who in his book, Steal Like an Artist, emphasizes that nothing is original, and the key to tapping into your creativity is to "embrace influence, collect ideas and remix and re-imagine everything" that already exists. Spencer and Boswell did not discover the concept of sunglasses, but they did apply their new material to the concept to make a new and unique product.
2. Do not rush to market.
The idea behind developing a minimal viable product, or MVP, is that you want to produce a simple product in which you can demonstrate the key features and gauge market acceptance. Spencer and Boswell spent years developing their denim sunglasses while working full-time jobs.
Their goal was never to rush and start a company, but rather to iterate their idea until they developed a pair of sunglasses they were proud of and could test in the market.
3. Leverage the power of crowds.
Without a significant budget, one of the best ways startups can garner visibility while creating proof of concept is to tap into crowdfunding. Spencer and Boswell launched Mosevic with a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, which helped them validate their idea, build a loyal customer base and generate incredibly valuable (and affordable) PR.
4. Focus on quality.
Mosevic is growing steadily, despite competing with giant companies such as Prada or Maui Jim. While the process of creating denim sunglasses is meticulous and time-consuming, the co-founders are committed to producing 100 percent denim sunglasses, creating a premium brand and ultimately differentiating themselves on the quality of the products they produce. All of this is essential in capturing market share in today's fickle marketplace that heavily leverages reviews in the purchase decision process.
5. Delegate responsibilities and focus on strengths.
Spencer and Boswell bootstrapped their company from the start, often doing everything from marketing to office management to accounting. Because they were both product designers with no previous business experience, this meant that most of their time was spent learning new skills needed to keep the business going instead of focusing on the skill they did best -- innovating and designing.
Eventually, the founders decided to outsource the tasks that were better completed by more experienced individuals, such as finance and marketing. For other startups, this means identifying and focusing on your strengths and prioritizing the search for great partners and employees that fill your weaknesses.
Spencer and Boswell are not done. They plan on leveraging the success and experience of Mosevic to continue pursuing their passion for product design and eventually turning out other new products that will give existing industry stalwarts a run for their money.
What other tips do you have for competing in a crowded market? Please share your thoughts with others in the comments section below.