"There is no real failure if you are moving forward and learning." - LUMINNO Founder
August 12, 2016
Introduce us to your business, how you got the idea, and how you sourced any materials.
Since the 1990s, I've been serving a diverse range of clients through my independent San Francisco-based industrial design consulting practice, Metaform Product Development (www.metaformdesign.com). I've worked on everything from consumer electronics to medical devices, computer products, scientific instruments, sporting goods, and even a stint designing Star Wars toys. Now I am taking that experience to develop my own simple products via a new brand called LUMINNO which is a combination of “luminescent” and “innovations”, in other words, “bright ideas.”
LUMINNO™ (www.luminno.com) produces top-quality decor, safety, and energy-saving wayfinding products which combine advanced luminescent technology with innovative design. GlowaSwitch is our first self-developed product launched on crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter in July 2016 (http://kck.st/29LK4zb).
The idea for our first product, GlowaSwtich, was literally inspired by “bumps” in the night. Our aha moment actually came as a result of living in the tourist destination city of San Francisco. We often hosted out of town guests and noticed many of them had difficulty navigating our home at night and would struggle to find light switches in dark and unfamiliar surroundings. People often bumped into things searching for the light switch on their way to the kitchen or bathroom resulting in stubbed toes and damaged furnishings. That was when we saw the irony in needing light to find the light switch. This conundrum is akin to needing to see clearly in order to more easily find a misplaced pair of eyeglasses.
The special photoluminescent plastic used for GlowaSwitch is custom formulated and required exhaustive and costly experimentation to tweak both its chemistry and the processes of injection molding it consistently. Achieving superior glow performance and a repeatable, quality cosmetic finish was no easy task. It took a few years, on and off, to perfect.
How did you go about manufacturing your product, as that is a major obstacle for many entrepreneurs?
Having been a professional industrial designer for many years, I’ve learned a thing or two about value engineering and cost-efficient manufacturing. When I designed Star Wars toys for a living earlier in my career, I picked up the knowledge on how to design products to do many things with minimal parts. For a self-developed invention, I knew this was especially crucial as every additional part and process added to the bill of materials (BOM) and labor costs. Less parts and less moving parts means less chance for lower cost and higher reliability. I needed to design this product as efficiently as possible and employing tried-and-true manufacturing processes like plastic injection molding and die-cutting.
Since I didn’t use exotic manufacturing processes other than producing the special luminescent material, it was not overtly difficult to find quality factories who can produce it. That simply required leg work in scouring sourcing sites, comparing capabilities and quotes, and asking for referrals.
How do you handle the logistics and inventory management of a crowd funding campaign, not knowing how much product you will end up needing?
It is very difficult to forecast demand and inventory on a totally new product so safest bet is to make calculations based on worst case scenarios and minimum order quantity (MOQ) figures provided by the suppliers.
We source some parts locally in the USA and others in Asia so it is a good idea to work with a freight forwarding company for the offshore component to manage the logistics of getting parts from the factory to the assembly and kitting site. They are worth their weight in gold coordinating the entire importing process from factory to container ship, customs clearing, and eventual delivery to our location.
You need to have accurate quotes on manufacturing and logistics before you structure your crowd fund campaign rewards otherwise you might be in for a big surprise when it’s too late. I suggest doing a dry run or at least a small batch run through the entire process to know exactly what it takes and how long it takes. Without this exercise, you can’t safely and intelligently structure your pricing and delivery date estimates.
Tell us about the backend of your business and if there is any online tools or apps you use to stay organized?
For now I am keeping it relatively simple. I don’t have any special online tools at the moment other than using local and cloud-based standard spreadsheet and calendar apps. Depending on how things go I will start looking into online shipping management tools and fulfillment providers.
How have you been able to get the word out about your product? Any direct or online marketing tips?
This is my first crowdfunding campaign and I know now I should have started the public relations outreach far sooner, even weeks before the campaign launch. So far, social media ads like Facebook have garnered a lot of views and likes but have yielded very few actual conversion to pledges. It’s probably better to find ways to reach actual crowdfund site members instead of just the random general public. The most effective early return on investment (ROI) thus far has been in personalized emails to friends and family on Facebook as well as professional connections on LinkedIn. There are online tools and services that automate this process. I’ve also enlisted help from a crowdfunding PR service for the press release and outreach management as this can be time consuming if you don’t have a couple of teammates dedicated to doing it. I’m also attending demo events to present and show the product live at local meetup events. It’s important to have a downloadable press kit stored on the cloud to make it easier for journalists and media outlets to cover your story. Some crowd fund creators have told me it might be a good idea to practically write the news story for them and submit that as it may give you a much higher chance for publication.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. There is no real failure if you are moving forward and learning. Also, test your product idea with a few trusted people early and often during its iterative development. Like many inventors, I was a bit too guarded with my idea at first could’ve benefitted from feedback earlier that would’ve saved time and money. It’s always hard for a new, first generation product but the market and potential customers will naturally give you invaluable feedback and suggestions when they see a physical model or prototype.
What tips do you have for crowd funders and entrepreneurs, from making a crowd funding video to making a website and selling product?
Although I shot my video myself, I do think a more professional-looking video is a worthwhile investment. People view videos more than they read text so it should be the key element and showpiece over the rest of the presentation.
As for websites, there are many quick and easy online website builders now that don’t require a lot of technical knowledge so using those preformatted site builders is a good, cost effective way to at least get a professional-looking landing page or website up.
This is my first experience crowdfunding and selling a product of my own after having designed them for clients for a couple decades. It has certainly been a new and eye-opening experience requiring me to grow thicker skin and not be afraid to put myself, my money, and my reputation out there. You simply have to keep tirelessly getting your product seen and your message out. You have to be sincere, genuine, and passionate about the product and the value it brings as well as the greater issues it addresses.
As a professional industrial designer, I often think about the consequences of the products I am commissioned to work on and struggle with the dilemma of how many of them are likely destined to be e-waste or landfill in just a few short years. In an increasingly technology-driven material world where many products become obsolete, bricked, and replaced quickly, our mission with the LUMINNO brand is to create truly affordable, sustainable, and useful things of lasting value. The brand’s larger cause is manifested in the individual product(s) and we hope that will be what resonates most with our customers. We want them to love our individual products but equally, if not more importantly, we want them to share and appreciate our sentiment and the bigger picture values our brand represents. We want our brand to be known as the antithesis of disposability.
Lastly, what should consumers know about your product that is different from what is already on the market?
LUMINNO GlowaSwitch offers some of the most striking functional innovations to the ubiquitous light switch plate since the toggle wall switch was invented in 1916. GlowaSwitch is a photoluminescent light switch plate that not only acts as an aid for anyone trying to locate a light switch in the dark, but it's also specially made to insulate the switch from air leaks. GlowaSwitch's purpose-driven design takes into account both aesthetics and function. Made of state-of-the-art, long-persistence photoluminescent plastic ensures that it remains illuminated throughout the entire night. Its jade-like, translucent appearance is pleasing to the eyes and also facilitates light transmission through the entire piece for maximum charging potential. A unique, convex form facilitates omnidirectional visibility. Every GlowaSwitch is paired with a fire-retardant white foam sealer gasket which insulates the switch receptacle and reflects light to optimize the glowing effect.
Typical light switches in use today don’t effectively address the age-old fundamental problem of being easily located in the dark and many embedded light bulb or LED solutions require electricity to work and cumbersome wiring to install. Other glow-in-the-dark switch-finding products don’t offer true overnight glow performance and often use less visible small accents made of inferior, traditional glow materials that don’t work well enough for this application. All things considered, we believe GlowaSwitch is the ULTIMATE light switch plate.