TSH 23: How to design a product from scratch

product Dec 31, 2023

Reading time: 2 mins 10 seconds.

When you don’t want to buy or white label a product, but you want to design a product that isn’t on the market, what do you do?

I had this question from one of the students in my course this week - and it’s a great one.

Lets recap the ways you can start a product based business:

1. Buying from Other Brands: Selling wholesale products at a retail price.

a) Simple and effective. Just pick products from established brands and sell them.
b) Example: Nike and Reebok products.

2. White Labeling: Also known as ODM manufacturing (Original Design Manufacturing).

a) Add your logo to an existing product, offering a slightly unique touch.
b) Example: Approaching a manufacturer with your logo for a product they already make.

3. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer): Manufacturing your own design or product

a) Collaborate with a manufacturer to bring your designs to life.
b) Example: Sending your unique toothbrush idea to a manufacturer


Within OEM, we have two sub categories:


  1. Designing your own version of the manufacturer's products. For example, you’re a fashion brand that designs a floral dress for women, your manufacturer shows you a cut or style that you agree to use, and you send your design, or print to use on that product. You can also open your own ‘mould’, which means that the cut or shape of the dress is also unique to you. When I owned my footwear business, I would combine using my own leathers onto existing shoe molds, and I would also occasionally open my own moulds, to get something new and unique to the market. 

      2. The second sub category is to invent or create a totally new product. This is the Joolca example I             give later in this article, or the Theragun (which I talk about a lot). You then take your design files                 and plans to an OEM manufacturer, who works on creating that product with you.


The first step to creating a brand new product: Product Designers.

Now, let's talk about the heroes of the product creation journey – product designers or engineers. These individuals bring your ideas to life, creating detailed 3D renders and design files. Whether it's a self-flushing toilet, or or an environmentally friendly toothbrush, these professionals are your go-to.

Here’s one based in Australia that I am using for a current project. 

Considerations when designing a product from scratch:

Time considerations:

If you're ready to invent a product, be prepared for a journey. It's not a sprint; it's a marathon. The process involves investing in a product designer, creating prototypes, and, eventually, opening moulds for production.

Cost considerations:

Creating a product from scratch isn't cheap. Designing a toothbrush, for instance, could cost around $30,000 for the design phase alone. Opening molds for production can range from $40,000 to $130,000, depending on the complexity of your product.

Considering the idea:

Of course none of this should be attempted without a great idea for a product. Again, the principles of the idea remain the same, except for one thing - I generally say you don’t need to have a new idea, just a better idea. If you do have a new idea, then you’ll need to go down this path of product design.


An example of a brand I’ve worked with that does product design:

Joolca created a hot outdoor shower that can be used for camping, and had immense success. Their product was constantly sold out due to the fact that the demand for this product was strong, and the supply in the market was limited - the old concept of supply and demand never fails.

This family owned business has strong ties to product design and development, and has R&D (research and development) at the core of its operations. 

It’s better to invest more into R&D before you start pumping up your marketing spend. Having something great to actually market, is a solid way to improve your marketing performance.


Recapping the steps to creating a product from scratch:

  1. Find the idea, and validate it.
  2. Find a product designer. You can use Google to find one in your local area, or try Upwork for a cheaper alternative. 
  3. Conduct R&D with your product designers. Research material options, competitors, and possible solutions. 
  4. Complete design files with your designer - your idea’s blueprints. 
  5. Find an OEM manufacturer. Product designers will often help with this process, and you can also try Alibaba by filtering via OEM manufacturers. 
  6. Prototyping, testing and revision process commences. Usually multiple rounds of prototyping are conducted often via 3D printing to save on opening your final mould. You test your products and give feedback. Expect several rounds of revisions.
  7. Create the final mould based on testing of products.
  8. Commence manufacturing your products.


In conclusion, creating a new product is a slow process that can cost significant capital. However, if you get it right, you could be onto a billion dollar idea. Bringing a brand new concept to market that solves a problem, increases your chances of ecommerce success exponentially. 


Until next week,