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Ask the Expert: Product branding, production and distribution

Whether you're looking for your product to make you millions of dollars or simply attempting to build a modest business, getting it into the hands of the consumers is a critical first step. Initial sales not only create revenue for your business but even more importantly consumer feedback will direct you to make changes and better meet the demand of the market place. Below are some important areas and ideas to consider in order to ensure success.

Building Brands: Push it out in your back yard and fix it along the way!

The owner of one of the top five beverage brands in the U.S. once told me that they don't do focus groups,they simply put a new product in the market and if it sells they roll it out nationally. Being big affords them this luxury, but my take away was recognizing the importance of how consumers react to your product in the right context…when they pay for it and try it. The only way to truly learn about your product, consumer and distribution is to put your goods or services in play. Therefore, our Company makes best efforts on the key components around product, packaging, messaging and then we put the product on the shelf by engaging local markets or distributors. If you pay close enough attention and have a plan on measuring results you are more than likely going to find the changes that need to be made in your product based on what people really like or dislike.

Succeed locally and you win.

If your goal is to market a product and sell it for a billion dollars than your first milestone is to prove the concept on a small scale. If you want to build a modest business locally, your job is exactly the same thing. Through proof of concept you will have worked out your product, packaging, messaging, marketing, supply chain, distribution, etc. Once you've accomplished this,the next step of scaling up to more markets is defined and you can do it yourself in a controlled manner or you can partner with a larger company. Investment backing and distribution deals become much easier when you come to the table with success and leverage. A word of caution, although tempting, don't grow too big too fast! It can truly kill a company, unfortunately I know first- hand.

Make it locally.

If you need to do any kind of manufacturing seek out local vendors that you can drive to and ask for help, advice, pricing, etc., Chances are they know a lot about your business and may be able to help in ways you did not count on. Sign a Non-Disclosure agreement if you are worried and they will most likely have a mutual NDA. We build a lot of molds and provide precise injection molded parts to our customers. We do all of our building and molding in the USA and will continue to until foreign customers provide demand and logistically it makes sense to move production. We pay more for our production right now, but quality trumps price when you are a small player and marketing a new innovation. Our engineers are present for all production runs and in the long run manufacturing in the USA has yielded a better quality product at a lower cost through development stages. Always do small production runs of whatever you do in the beginning. Pay more for lower quantities; it won't be a waste of money.

Don't be afraid to hit a single.

Create locally, keep improving, use your product and share with your family and friends religiously. Don't ever give up and most importantly keep your day job cash flow until you absolutely know it's time to go!Things always take longer and more money than expected. If you build something that has value, don't be afraid to sell it and hit a single. The credibility will give your next venture a big head start.

Sources I use.

For trademark availability go to, trademarks, basic search and pay attention to what class the name has been registered in. If it's taken, it may not be taken in your industry category. You can file yourself online for $275. For website availability go to or and register your own domains. Look locally for to colleges for graphics, design and technical help and offers a bid system for many needs for great prices, but make sure you pick someone who has a successful track record on elance and manage them well with clear expectations. Local vendors can easily be found through For more advice, contact the Innovation Hub in Manchester They have a board of advisors that may be able to help.

I look forward to answering your questions and/or responding to your comments about this or related topics at

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About Derek Hopkins:
Derek has founded and been part of a number of startup companies from alcohol beverage, video &#-;on-demand technology, high speed internet and integrated business solutions, and consumer goods. PowerCap &#-; Liquid Health Labs, Inc., formed in 2004, develops, patents, and marries technology with beverages creating the &#';Future of Beverages&#';, PowerCap has a private label and branding business model providing technology and development solutions to the pharmaceutical/OTC, cosmetic and consumer goods markets. Derek resides in Deerfield, NH with his wife, twin children and pet cow, dog, and sheep.

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