By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs + Services
Learn how to develop and launch the right products for the right customer—with the right methods!
The four days of the 2014 International Home + Housewares Show will be packed with events as well as educational sessions. In these final weeks before the Show, we preview presentations that will take place in the Innovation Theater in the Lakeside Center.
Today we are speaking with Chicagoan Jon Lindholm, panel moderator, and New Yorkers Steve Cozzolino and Samantha Rose. These three designers developed products with Kickstarter funding, which propelled them to form start-up companies. Be sure to mark this program on your Show schedule to learn about how new technologies and communities support new product development from the ground up.
Panel Discussion: Designer + Kickstarter = Entrepreneur: How to Launch a Company with Kickstarter
Jon Lindholm, Baker’s 13, moderator, Steve Cozzolino, Nickster Toys, Samantha Rose, GIR—Get It Right
Monday, March 17 3:30 -4:20 pm
Innovation Theater, Lakeside Center E350
Moderator Jon Lindholm (pictured left), a Chicago industrial designer turned entrepreneur, started his latest company, Baker’s 13, in April 2012. He has designed products for Phillips, Hansgrohe, Waterpik, Microsoft, Motorola and Lowe’s. Jon has always loved the kitchen and the products that make kitchen experiences enjoyable. “MORE OUT OF BAKING” is what Baker’s 13 is all about.
Steve Cozzolino’s (pictured center) work fuses art and science, form and function to identify market opportunities and consumer needs to deliver memorable experiences. He has designed products for many housewares brands including OXO, Nambe, Umbra, Hamilton Beach, Jarden Consumer Solutions and Wahl. Inspired by his young son Nicholas, Steve created Nickster Toys, a series of educational toys for small children, funded by Kickstarter.
Samantha Rose (pictured right) is the founder of GIR. Her experience in strategic brand development and product creation, along with thousands of hours spent in the kitchen, led to the launch of a company wholly focused on “getting it right.” GIR’s mission is to re-imagine everyday household products and make them better – more functional, more beautiful and more fun.
What is the most exciting or rewarding part of your job? What inspires your passion in your work?
Jon: I love seeing reviews and getting phone calls from customers who say that they love Baker’s 13 baking mats. Little victories – one happy customer at a time. Of course the creative part of my job, creating inspiring products, is the most fun and frankly the easiest part of my job. I am inspired by art, popular culture and a driving force to make things better. For example, we have a wall of art and design icons that we will turn into amazing graphics for future baking mat collections.
Steve: Being a product designer, the most exciting and rewarding part of my job is to design experiences and create brand stories through iconic, memorable product. Highly functional, unique yet beautiful objects are what inspire me.
Samantha: As a creator, you can’t ever be sure if everyone else will love your creation as much as you do. I love GIR’s products. They make me smile and they make me think. Hearing that other people love our products, too, is the most exciting part of my job. Two things wake me up in the morning: thinking of new ways to get stuff right, and making our customers happy. (Occasionally, one of those reasons is replaced by hearing my 1-year-old Jack toddling toward the bedroom.)
In the past few years, what has changed most in your business? How has your company met these challenges in the way you do your work?
Jon: Change is happening quickly and we are riding its wave. We embrace change and are determined to stay ahead of the change curve. The market has become more open to new ideas because many long-established brands are complacent and buy product off the shelf in China. Retailers know they need to take more of a chance to create an identity. Young disruptive brands like Baker’s 13 can deliver a little freshness to a retailer’s assortment. We are determined to keep things fresh in the kitchen.
Steve: How shortened the product development cycle has become. Speed to market continues to be critical for consumer product success and through newer, improving technologies such as 3D printing, companies shorten product development timelines and requirements. In order to adapt to tighter development schedules, we have increased communication, becoming even more available, accessible and flexible in how we collaborate with clients, vendors and manufacturers.
Samantha: GIR itself is the product of various recent changes in the way household goods are brought to market, particularly crowdfunding and the “maker movement.” Platforms like Kickstarter are allowing individuals and companies to market-test their ideas with an audience that also supports that product’s very creation. The wealth of knowledge shared by members of these communities has empowered individuals to take charge of the creative process. It’s amazing to see how many new products and companies have originated recently from this activity, and the trend continues to pick up momentum.
Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
Jon: I have been going to the Housewares Show for many years and always enjoy the presentations at the Theatre. I am forever an advocate preaching that design can bring tangible value to companies. Here is my chance to explain that Kickstarter is the perfect venue for energetic designers to test out their entrepreneurial curiosities. Plus, we are exhibiting in the Discover Design area, so I’ll be able to dash over the bridge from the South Building to the Theater.
Samantha: We’re here to introduce everyone to the world of GIR. The opportunity to share our new and colorful product line with the world was too great to pass up! I’m also excited to connect with a new generation of product creators and exchange ideas. GIR is a first-time exhibitor in Discover Design, so I’m really looking forward to the energy at the Show.
Tell us what you will be speaking about and how and this topic is important for Show audiences.
Jon: I organized the “Kickstarter” panel. I am ready to share my experiences, both good and bad, regarding Kickstarter. I have done three projects to date – two were successfully funded and one did not get funded. Kickstarter is a great way for new companies to find a market.
Steve: I will be sharing lessons learned, mistakes made, and how we created a successful Kickstarter story through perseverance, communication and networking. How we reached our goal—“what to do” and “what not to do” while managing expectations during a crowdfunding campaign. We did a lot of research and planning beforehand and would like to share not only what we learned, but also our process, challenges and observations along the way. It will be important for the audience to see and hear a range of different perspectives on the Kickstarter platform.
Samantha: I’ll be speaking about how GIR created its first products and launched them on Kickstarter – how we used crowdfunding to turn a little idea into a huge success. I hope that our story provides some insight and inspiration for others looking to design a new product, develop a brand or launch a company.
This is your first time presenting at our Theater. What are you looking forward to most from speaking at the Innovation Theater?
Jon: I am delighted to have a platform to tell our company’s story. From Kickstarter to the housewares Show in a year and a half. I see the housewares Show as a “launching” party for Baker’s 13, we hope to meet many new buyers.
Steve: Since this will be my first time presenting at the Theater, I’m looking forward to connecting with others in the industry that have very different experiences, knowledge, and expertise across a broad range of categories.
Samantha: GIR has a very fun story to tell. And collectively, with the other individuals and companies presenting at the Innovation Theater, I’m looking forward to presenting the very latest in product design. We’re living in a very exciting era – it’s an honor to be here among the trend-setting products of the day. And of course, since I spend my day in the world of GIR, I’m excited to see and hear what other innovative teams are coming up with.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products?
Jon: Consumers are naturally driven towards quality but seem to always be pushed back to “value” because of cost concerns. When consumers buy “value,” the products don’t last very long and their future expectations drop lower. With lower expectations, they then will be attracted to “extreme value” products found at the dollar store. Everybody loses in the race to the bottom.
Steve: There is such a large assortment of new brands and products available online with unnecessary features, unique materials and new technologies that it can become confusing and even overwhelming at times for consumers. Consumers are trying to find truly innovative, unique products that address real needs for the home. It can be hard to discover new housewares products that provide excellent solutions at a higher level of quality and performance yet are available at affordable prices. This is where designers can play an important role by helping build brand identity and differentiation through product design and creating unique, memorable brand stories.
Samantha: Two years ago, I was simply a consumer of housewares products. My biggest concern at the time was that my spatulas kept breaking. Now, I have to believe that consumers out there will share my enthusiasm and love for getting it right. I have to hope that everyone is hoping for a better spatula, or spoon, or tool that doesn’t exist yet. And if GIR can be the company that delivers on that promise and extends the same approach to the entire kitchen and beyond, we will have a lot of happy people on our hands.
What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals and/or retailers face in the housewares market?
Jon: Product development professionals add enormous value to products and brands but it is easy not to see it. Brands suffer when products are designed by overseas factories. When brands are weaker, retailers are not as compelled to include those products in their assortments. Consumers are becoming smarter and more astute regarding brand dilution. Many can see a brand weakening and might see that weakness as a reason to try a different brand.
Steve: As design professionals, we need to deliver higher quality design and create brand stories in a much quicker and more efficient way in order to continue to shorten time to market while increasing brand relevance. To continue to add value through product innovation and differentiation without adding cost. To achieve this, companies will need to leverage design and manufacturing more than ever before.
Samantha: Crowdfunding has been a powerful generator of new products. I think it is disrupting the marketplace – mostly for good. And of course, GIR is a direct beneficiary of that activity, so I’m delighted that it exists! But there’s a harsh reality to the crowdfunding scene: Turning a bright idea into a successful funding campaign, and that campaign into a successful company, is an immense undertaking. If consumers and/or retailers buy in to a project that can’t overcome those challenges, their investment is lost.
On a second note, consumers are demanding ever-greater transparency, from product creators and retailers alike. People want to know what has gone in to the making of new products, and as product developers I believe it is our obligation to be honest and forthcoming with that information. A small example, particular to GIR, is the way we’ve chosen to talk about heat resistance in our materials. We’ve resolved to be brutally honest with these numbers – even at the expense of competitive labeling. Today’s hyper-informed consumers not only demand this sort of transparency, but they deserve that it be willingly given.
The final program at the Innovation Theater on Monday afternoon has traditionally been the venue for annual presentation by the Industrial Society of America’s Housewares Section. Designers active in housewares product categories offer the latest trends in design thinking and their perspectives on challenges in this design-driven market.
Thank you, Jon, Steve and Samantha. I’m sure your panel discussion will energize and surprise the audience. You’ll inspire ideas just waiting to sprout! We look forward to seeing you on Monday, March 17 at 3:30 pm to the Innovation Theater, Lakeside Center E350.
Visit Baker’s13 at S4180 and GIR at S3478 in Discover Design. Learn more about the work of these path-
breaking designers at:
Find us on facebook at: Bakers13
Samantha Rose, CEO
Lauren Berman, Sales Director