Kit Biz


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so for the last year we've been talking open source hardware and watching that progress...there are more and more open source hardware projects, to the extent that you can get venture funding now for OSH (ie buglabs)

one thing we only mention briefly, is the business model of how this works

i started my OS hardware business 'formally' in 2005, after seeing the proliferation of MP3 player projects online that were backed with webshops (such as

a lot of my friends, seeing that my business is sustainable/profitable have asked me
"limor, how can *i* get the wealth i deserve using the internet?"

i believe that every good business starts 'by accident', but here are some hints that may help you know if its accident time

a) theres only one of you - starting a biz with more than one person is exponentially more difficult and complex
b) you have a current job (or are coming out of school) with 'middle class' income
c) you are very computer literate & the internet does not scare you

start organically, only get what you need not what you want - this will get you thru the unpleasant first part

1) you will need some skillset that can be allayed into a product. i have no idea what it is that is. think of what you like to do. for me its electrical engineering
COST: ???

2) think of a name 'brand' for you/your company. this doesnt have to be crazy insane like SuperMegaTronixLLCinc. It could be your name! (Kip Kay/Ben Heck) or your handle from hax0ring days (ladyada)...whatever, just pick something. you can pick a 'logo' but id wait
TIME: 1 week
COST: none
WHY: you want to be remembered

3) register a domain name - do this first because man it sucks if you cant get what you want cause some jerk snagged it and has trannie porn links on it. the domain name does not have to be short but it should be memorable (sparkfun, hackaday, instructables)
google the name, make sure theres nothing out there that will be confusing. do a trademark search as well (this is free). get the .com, .net and .org but you can skip the .info, .biz if you're short on cizzash.
this is something you will have choose on your own. cycle thru #2 and #3 until you're happy
TIME: less than a week
COST: you can register domains for really cheap, lets say $15-$20 each, so $50 on ave
WHY: if you cant be found you cant sell something

4a) file a DBA. you most likely do not need to LLC or incorperate. DBAs let you do business under your chosen name instead of your given one. they are very very easily, do it by mail or in person. costs maybe $40
4b) open a bank account under your DBA, a free checking account. you'll be writing checks!
4c) get a credit card under your DBA name, if you have the credit, get one with rewards or cashback.
4d) go to the library and read every relevant book by Nolo press
TIME: 1 week
COST: $40
WHY: you can do business under your company name!

5) get, borrow a digital camera, and some bright lightbulbs. i have an SD200 it was $200 4 years ago. seriously, do not go crazy here, you will not take significantly better photos with a SLR. however, you cant use a webcam. build a simple lightbox (using a diffusing gel)
COST: $250
WHY: a good photo will be used over and over and over again

6) make a lot of stuff. the only way to 'get good' is to make a lot of stuff. dont tell people about the failures (yet). get maybe 4-5 projects under your belt. purchase everything related to your biz on the bank account/credit card. this makes your bookkeeping hella easier than 'receipts in a box'. hopefully you've done some of this. take lots and lots of photos of progress.
TIME: 2-12 months
COST: $500-$2000
WHY: to get experience building things

7) Take very nice photos of your one-off projects. spend a few hours. take many many photos. find good photos of pictures online to get a sense of what is good. Do not take just pictures of just a circuit board, there is nothing more horrifying than a photo of a PCB. take photos of your project

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  • Kit Biz

    1. 1. Limor Fried Adafruit Industries Phillip Torrone Senior Editor, MAKE Magazine
    2. 2. 1. Your skillset: I assume you can do something that can be turned into a product or service. It should be something you are creative, driven and skilled at. Your friends will probably be able to tell you what that is. Get some ideas at Maker Faire!
    3. 3. 2. Brand-name: You’ll need something that will be your ‘brandname.’ This will make it easy to identify your stuff, and differentiate it from others. It can be your name, “Kip Kay” “Ben Heck” It can be your handle, nickname, etc. It can be a ‘made up’ word, “Make” “Sparkfun” “Buglabs” Pick something unique, use google, USPTO search, etc.
    4. 4. 3. Register: You picked something good in step 2, so make it stick: • Register domain names - all of them (.net/.com/.org) - $50 • Register a trademark (if you want, its not necessary) - $200 • Register your business with a DBA -$40 You don’t need to LLC/Incorporate yet.
    5. 5. 4. Bizwork: Open a bank account under your DBA name (get free checking) Get a credit card under the DBA. If you have good credit, get one with rewards Business cards, simple black & white - $50 Go to the library and read all relevant Nolo books
    6. 6. 5. Input/Output: Get a digital camera, bright lightbulbs, diffuse gels, tripod. Make a softbox and learn a little photo editing so that you can take photos that don’t suck. $50 in lights == $500 in camera. Get a laser printer: Do not use an inkjet. Do not use an “all in one”. Craigslist a HP Laserjet 4 ($25)
    7. 7. 6. Make stuff: Get creative. Make many things. Some will be great. Some will be awful. Take nice ‘in progress’ photos Get like 3 projects you aren’t ashamed of. Charge everything to the card and keep your receipts.
    8. 8. 7. Take Photos: Spend many hours taking photos, take at least 25 photos of each project and choose 5. Then of that choose 1. • Don’t take pictures of a circuit board. • Take ‘action shots’ - sell the application, not the platform. • Take ‘in use’ video clips. • This is a demo, so lie. • Use those lights you bought in step 5, for chrissake
    9. 9. 8. Document: Get a website up. You can use free sites such as blogger, google pages, wordpress, livejournal, etc. and redirect with your domain names. Or spend $10/mo. Front page: short and sweet. 1 photo, 1 paragraph, 3-10 bullets Remaining pages: more photos, longer/technical discussion. Steal website ideas from other people, I sure did! (& so did they) Documentation takes a long time, but it will pay off. Spend days.
    10. 10. 9. Make a home: Fill out your site with information about you, what you like and what you do. Tell the story but don’t get all resume-y Pictures of previous projects Most importantly, make sure you are contactable and available to make/sell the project If you’re feeling ambitious, a ‘store’ page with buy-now buttons
    11. 11. 10. Publish: Once you have something to show, its time to tell people Post to related forums you frequent Email blogs that cover similar projects
    12. 12. 11. Feedback: Follow up on the publications and press from the previous step. If you got bad feedback, try to figure out what to improve (but don’t take it personally) If you got no feedback, keep going If you got good feedback, you’re on the right track Rinse & repeat, 3 or so times Keep track of the projects people have contacted you about
    13. 13. 12. Revise & Price: Pick one project, revise and simplify it as necessary. Tally up the materials (raw cost) for 25-100, multiply by 1.66 (wholesale cost), multiply by 1.66 (retail cost). If you don’t do that, you’ll end up in trouble later when you can’t resell. Don’t do people a favor and undersell, because you will lose money. Try to pick a project that you can sell for $25-$75 to start Now try to sell it! Use paypal for now
    14. 14. 13. Use technology Use flickr to host photos, S3 to store large datafiles, YouTube and other video sites, online document management, mail accounts, online webshops, etc. Ship using USPS click-n-ship (priority & express) and/or online UPS/FedEx. Get pickups so you’re not going to the post office.
    15. 15. 14. Support Create a support network for your customers. A blog, mailing list, FAQ, forums Update documentation to reduce your support load Have many examples, demos, step-by-steps, tutorials Nobody does this, because they are lazy and get bored.
    16. 16. 15. Rinse Repeat: Make new projects, with a range of prices Avoid stagnation, boredom, and burnout with variation Once you have a steady stream of income, you can hire help, buy equipment, incorporate, rent space, upgrade shipping system, getting an accountant...