You probably know this situation.. You’ve put all this effort into cooking a delicious meal for your family or guests and as you set the table you ponder: “It would have been nice if the table had reflected all this time and care”.
You might have grabbed some decent looking paper napkins in the supermarket earlier, but the table is still not particularly exciting to look at.
The moment passes since no ideas for how to decorate the table spring to mind. I’ve been in that situation several times myself and this was one of the reasons why I started FAY&MAMIE: after a socially deprived lockdown year I hope to help you host more than just lunches, brunches and dinners but lovely, memorable occasions with a thoughtful table setting as a backdrop to your gathering.
From faymamie.com, I make and sell handmade table decorations, such as napkin rings and placemats, sold as do-it-yourself kits enabling you to add a personal touch to your table. The website also hosts the free online magazine BORD* with ideas of how to set a gorgeous table mainly using items from around the house (and a couple of FAY&MAMIE kits).
My name is Sidsel (pronounced ‘sessel’) and I’m from Copenhagen, but I’ve lived in London for the past 10 years. In January 2021 I took the plunge and started FAY&MAMIE after a career in innovation strategy consulting and healthcare marketing – something far removed from hand painted candles and do-it-yourself placemats.
Are you considering starting your own product-based company? In this brief article, I share some of my learnings on how to kick off product development for your start-up even though you don’t have a design background. I hope you find my tips useful.
How to design when you’re not a designer
So how do you go about creating your own product portfolio when your educational background is not in design? It took me six months of evening work to come up with a series of table decoration kits for FAY&MAMIE and I’m really pleased with the final result.
- Do you have a corporate career under your belt?
- Have you spent most of your working life managing multimillion dollar marketing campaigns?
- Has 90% of all your work so far taken place on a laptop building large excel spreadsheets?
From my background in innovation consulting, I believe that we can all ‘design’, it is simply a question of having a process in place to keep you focused. If your answer is yes to the above questions then to get off to a good start with your product development, I suggest three crucial tips:
Persona: Create a profile of your ideal customer
Set some time aside to build your ideal customer. What is her name? Where does she live? What are her hobbies? What makes her happy and excited? Where does she shop?
FAY&MAMIE’s persona’s name is Kate, she is a 40 year-old woman, she owns a house, she has a creative interest in interiors, knitting and cooking, but does not have a lot of time to pursue her interests because of work and family commitments. She likes to host, not necessarily fancy dinners parties but lovely gatherings with family and friends.
Why create a persona? Creating your ‘Kate’ helps you to focus your product development. Make sure that any products you are considering address her needs from product functionality to aesthetics and packaging.
Product requirements: Set specific requirements that the product has to fulfil
With your persona and the mission behind your business in mind, consider what specific requirements you have for your products. For example: Do they need at least 12 months shelf life? Should they be made of sustainable materials?
Though such requirements may feel restricting at times, in the long run they help you focus and create consistency across your products.
A FAY&MAMIE kit needs to be:
- Easy to assemble: the kits should take no more than 15-20 minutes to assemble and there is no sewing required.
- Reusable: all kits are intended to be re-used, in other words they need to be durable and have to come with a storage solution (e.g. box or bag).
- Affordable: in comparison to most quality tableware, such as tablecloths, a FAY&MAMIE kit is affordable and probably no more than what you pay for a bouquet from a florist. Bonus: you can keep re-using the kit!
Process: accept a non-linear process
Though the above two tips help you structure your work, a creative process can be rather non-linear, meaning there are days where you will have lots of ideas and make big strides in your planning, and other days where you won’t. Try not to get too frustrated, this is how it often works.
At the moment, I’m particularly proud of my LEO napkin ring kit which helps you to easily create four animal napkin rings that can function as a stand-alone decorative item for the table and my SNEBÆR** kit, containing a bunch of delicate crepe paper flowers and berries, which you can use to create a light and airy centrepiece or a range of lovely napkin rings. One kit took an hour to conjure up and the other a couple of weeks!
At FAY&MAMIE, I’m constantly improving and changing elements of my portfolio based on feedback from customers and fellow business owners; I imagine this to be an inherent feature of a start-up where you are still trying to find out which product aspects resonate with your target audience and what factors of your business drive your sales.
Good luck with your business!
Sidsel is the founder of FAY&MAMIE, a start-up DIY tableware business based in Richmond-Upon-Thames where she lives with her husband and daughter. She started her career in market research and innovation strategy consulting and moved onto a number of different marketing roles for large corporations. She is a very enthusiastic crafter and can be found in and around Richmond with her sewing projects to hand while enjoying the many beautiful spots in this gorgeous part of the world.