Rapid Product Development: Creating Products By Embellishing, Remodeling and Refurbishing
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
In my article "Product Creation: Old is New Again," I suggested that when creating new products you should simply create something that is an improvement on an already existing, popular product. So a cell phone is an improvement on a landline phone and a smart phone is an improvement on a cell phone. Today, I'm following up on that suggestion with this: rather than creating a new, improved product from scratch, you can save a great deal of time in product development through buying already existing products and transforming them by embellishing, remodeling, re-packaging or refurbishing.
Please understand that I mean that you actually buy, not copy, the product. You become a reseller of a product with "value-added" changes.
In the past, the most common products I've seen this done with in any quantity are apparel, fashion accessories and home furnishings. However, in more recent times, I've seen folks making good money transforming and reselling everything from t-shirts to high-tech.
Embellishment: Just as vendors like CafePress and Zazzle can print your images on a wide variety of products, you can buy those same and similar products and print on them, sew additions onto them, paint them, dye them and otherwise alter them to make them more attractive.
As I said earlier, apparel is a common target of embellishment. In the craft shows I went to to help my parents with their craft business, I saw many folks who bought plain t-shirts and turned them into works of art. They added ruffles, beads, sequins. They tie-dyed them. They painted pictures on them.
I've seen guys do the same with computers old and new. Paint them. Skin them. Decoupage them. I once saw an embellished computer that had wheels and looked like the front end of a truck.
People constantly take things like plain toss pillows and add buttons and ribbons and other goodies, transforming them into designer quality and getting designer prices for them.
Remodeling: You can take your target object apart and put it back together again in a way that makes it look better or function better. Or even makes it function in a new way, for a new purpose.
You can remodel cars. Motorcycles. Leather gloves. Shoes. Clothes. Plants. Dressmakers' dummies. Hats. Put your thinking cap on -- but remodel it first. The field is unlimited.
Again, I've seen as many remodeled tees and sweats as I've seen embellished ones. I remember the lady that had a booth next to my parents at a fair. She had stacks and stacks of sweat shirts she had remodeled by cutting them down the front and making them into button-up cardigans. They sold so fast that she had to close her booth two hours early.
An example of a quick remodeling that requires little effort is something I just fixed up for myself recently. My house has high windows in the living/dining area that are difficult to clean. I don't want to climb a ladder in a room with a 20' ceiling to wash windows. Sure, you can get a kit with a squeegee, sponge and extension pole, but I've never had good luck with them -- the pole can get a little wobbly and even with good protection on the floors, the sponge/squeegee can drip water on the window sills and walls. So, I took a painter's extension pole and a painting pad (which is a kind of sponge) and slipped the pad into it's holder with a pre-moistened glass cleaner wipe. Works like a charm. No drips. Don't you think homeowners might like to have a kit like that that is designed for high window cleaning. No one is making them yet. Go for it.
Refurbishing has long been a way to develop products. Manufacturers even do it for their own products.
There are lots of used and broken appliances -- especially high tech stuff -- that can make you money if you have the skills. I know a man who makes good cash on the side by buying slightly older, but still very functional computers that need a little TLC to make them candidates for resale. He might have to install a new hard drive. Perhaps more memory. Repair a small defect. A new graphics board. Whatever. He then sells them on eBay and makes a nice profit. Of course, he is a computer professional with a day job in the field.
What products do you know that you can make like new again? Or better than new?