As product developers, inventors, and marketers, we often get caught up in the complex process of product development, manufacturing and marketing. One common mistake that causes failure to launch products successfully is employing shortcuts without thinking things through. So many things could go wrong: from unveiling your product too soon, to enabling copycats to steal or tweak your original idea, to picking the wrong factory, as well as a host of other factors that could result in sub-par products, and most probably a looming PR disaster for your brand. Thankfully, the risks of failure could be greatly reduced with ample preparation. Crystelle Desnoyer of Genimex, one of our highly trusted brands in manufacturing, gives a sweeping preview of what you can expect from the monthly dialogues with our Genimex experts, who will answer your questions on product development, design for manufacturing (DFM), product engineering, quality control, industry trends, and all other relevant marketing aspects in between. Get advice from seasoned industry experts through our membership discussions here on Product Launch Hazzards.
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I am so excited to have you meet a new Product Launch Hazzards expert, Crystelle Desnoyer. She is with a company called GENIMEX. GENIMEX is absolutely and completely unique. They have such a full service and the product development all the way through to production process that I wanted you to get to meet her and get to know what the company does and get to know her because she’s going to be here answering your questions on the platform. Crystelle, thanks for joining us.
Thanks, Tracy, for having me on the platform and being an expert. Product development was a reference for that stuff. I’m very happy to be here.
Why don’t you start by telling me a little bit about GENIMEX and how you came to work for them?
GENIMEX is a family-run company, 40 years in business based out of Shanghai. It is managed by three brothers as it was started by the father 40 years ago in Taiwan. Two of them are actually located in the States in New York City, as am I. The last one was left behind in Shanghai to manage operations with our team.
Like any product development projects and everything that’s going on in a company, I’m sure they are all traveling all the time, which is why David, who is the main partner who will be occasionally showing up on our platform to do some Office Hours when he’s available, they’re just so busy.
I happened to be David’s right hand and I fill in the gaps and for me to attend his meetings. I am not as well-informed in product development techniques and details as David might be, but I’m his right hand and in control with it as much as I can.
You also have a great marketing perspective as well because that’s part of your role. Understanding how those things dovetail nowadays, which is so critically important. You have been doing a lot of work with a lot of startups and Kickstarters. Explain why you are especially poised to do that.
I started working for GENIMEX a year and a half ago to give the company a big push as a lot of the companies were coming through referrals of friends and family. The business was coming through our current client. I was hired to start developing more partnerships and grow the company as its current brand.
That’s exactly how we met.
Yes. In that making, as I’m located in New York City, it was very easy for me to go to Kickstarter and start getting to know the team back and it turns out, we became good friends because we already had good Kickstarter projects under our belts, which was a bit random for us at the time. Now, we have a strong partnership with those companies. We referenced some of the Kickstarter resource page for manufacturing specifically. That’s how we get to work with the Kickstarter team and we really enjoy working with them. It’s fun to be close to the headquarters.
If those of you out there are considering a Kickstarter or in the startup phase, it’s something that I’ve come across as to being I knew it was a problem but I didn’t know how common it was. That is that there are many companies in Asia that are trolling Kickstarter and when they see something, they’re like, “Let’s make something similar,” and they beat you to market. A lot of that is also because our Kickstarter companies are inexperienced with the product development and the manufacturing process, so they are not fast enough to market, and they maybe planned the Kickstarter too soon in the product development process, so there’s still also so much they don’t know. Do you advise them on that whole part of it so that they are timing right?
Yes. There’s definitely a program that we’ve seen. A lot of the companies on Kickstarter are more and more sophisticated. They’re not just somebody with an idea anymore. Kickstarter is a PR tool, a very strong tool. You don’t want your idea to be up there too soon without having all your manufacturing and everything lined up because if your product isn’t delivered within two months, you have your Kickstarter deadline, but if it isn’t delivered to them and even with an actual sales plan after the Kickstarter, then some people might copy you in it. It’s not any Chinese or Asian companies, but it’s a little bit of a stereotype. It’s honestly anybody. We’ve seen a lot of companies write to us and the American company saying, “We saw this on Kickstarter. We want the same but we want to add this and take this out.” It’s funny that we got a lot of American companies do that also.
You’ve got to be careful with that. That’s interesting because in the eCommerce selling world, that’s the way they work. We call that in product development, potato-heading, Mr. Potato Head. You just change some parts out. It’s technically styling and there’s an episode in our Product Launch Hazzards Podcast about the difference between design and styling. That’s what is called styling. That’s the official term. It’s interesting because that is not actual product development that you and I know, that your company knows that. Real product development involves dialing in deep and saying, “What is the best way to make something? What is the best way to develop this and how can we create a competitive advantage in that standpoint?” We want to try to do that with intellectual property, but we also want to do with where we’re making it and how we’re making it. It’s the most efficient and cost-effective from the beginning and your company is uniquely poised because it has such a broad experience in types of manufacturing.
We do a lot of consumer hard goods. We have a team of six engineers that are based out of Shanghai and they are extremely experienced. We definitely work on what you mentioned when the design the stage comes in. We mostly focus on the DFM part of things, meaning design for manufacturing. I’m sure there’ll be many podcasts and workshops and seminars through your platform on this very specific topic, a very large topic. We definitely work on designing products for brands that not only have the needed features, they also include a nice to have, but we want to make sure that the needed features are included and that they are cost-effective as possible.
It’s not just the needed ones, it’s those needed ones that are needed because they matter to the consumer, not because they matter to you, the inventor or the designer. They matter to the consumer the most and no one else has them.
You definitely want to keep your competitive advantage through those features but without having a ton of customers.
When you’re talking about design for manufacturing, one of the things that we feel we’ve been very successful in and we designed for manufacturing as well, but we were very limited in the projects that we take. We don’t have an engineering staff and for us personally, when we have something that we see that needs a lot of engineering, we call you and we refer our clients to you. We have this collaborative relationship because they do overlap. We can do the same things, but sometimes you shouldn’t. That’s where we draw the line carefully here at Hazz Design that we say, “It’s not our core expertise and it would take longer to work with us because we have to go find the right engineer to consult with and work with. It’s just so much easier for us to give them to you and have you guys because we know they’ll be well served there.” That is one of the things that we try to do here well. We are very similar to you in that we don’t have a particular alliance to any factory or manufacturing type. That’s really important. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
I wanted to thank you for the compliments. You have a lot more of the creative side that we don’t always have. We’re very pragmatic, very engineer and you guys have more of that creative feel. Also, the fact that you’re American, you know what Americans like, we do have to say that. Regarding the factory, what’s cool in a way that GENIMEX has a reputation, 40 years in business. We’ve been working with very large established companies that have been around for twenty years or more and that had been through all the different stages in China and are still around basically. We do have our preferred partners and core team, especially for injection molding and silica. The core type of materials, you want established partners that you’ve been working with for a while. You know that things are going to be the best. What’s core is we also work with many different factories. For instance, for each project that’s a new product and sometimes it’s not injection molded, something more complex that needs a more complex supply chain with multiple factories. We’ll go and audit those specific factory, make sure that they tick all the boxes on our list and we’ll work with our clients as well if they have to. Certain certifications are required. For instance, if it was to sell to Walmart, factories have to be specifically audited for Walmart.
You’re meeting both the factory requirements and the product requirements. It’s sales, QC, all of those things have to be in iteration.
There’s no strategic alliance, we’re not double-dipping like so many other tricks.
We referred someone to you because I saw the red flags of lots of double-dipping on the price structure. When you see something like that go on, that’s what I say, “You need a whole new accompany to quote this because I can see there’s so much margin. There’s no way that this material costs us.” I can only know that because we’ve done a lot of products with you. As a new person getting a quote, you’d be like, “That sounds okay.”
Experience is so key in this industry. I feel that it’s a shame in a way, but experience and your experience is very important.
That’s why Product Launch Hazzards is here because we’re here to give you insider secrets and to be your insiders for you because it’s so critically important to making great product.
In an efficient and cost-effective way.
The other thing about it is that when you have the alignment for getting tooling down and all of those things, you’re right, it’s speed, accuracy, quality. Those are the things that go wrong. They go very, very wrong. You can count on that. One of my favorite things is that David, you, and I did an Inc. interview with you and there’s an article that came out about it that’s about the hiccups that happen from Chinese New Year and what and how far had you have to plan. It was fun because David and I are sitting there swapping war stories. That’s what it was like. I was like, “I’ve got a scar here from Rubbermaid and I’ve got a scar here from Walmart.” It’s like that’s the way it is. It is so that way. We had to learn and that’s so much of what happens. You have to learn from the things that go wrong from the hazards of product launching and that’s where you develop these relationships and processes and systems and documentations.
Having a good relationship is so key in this in manufacturing in general but also manufacturing in China.
What are a couple of the common questions you get and topics you’ll be covering as an expert here on the platform for us?
I think just a lot of the initial questions that you might be considering and having in your mind while you’re about making your product. There’s so much to think about ahead and everything goes into the planning. The execution is hard. The DFM is so big, we’re going to cover so many topics on that.
Design for Manufacturing has so many different areas of it that you want to cover. Things that touch on cost, things that touch on quality. We’ll probably cover it multiple times.
The fact that GENIMEX is moving more towards a sustainable manufacturing even in China, yes.
I go to China all the time and they have way more sustainable factories that we do here sometimes. I’m like, “You’ve got a whole solar heating system. You’ve got water that’s all completely recycled. You’re recapturing all of your plastics.” I see some forward-thinking things that have been going on for a decade.
China’s going through this industrialization a lot faster than the Western world basically. The government has shut down so many factories in order to make the factories a lot more efficient and effective and clean. Even China is definitely a pioneer in manufacturing and I’ve seen a lot demand of brands and companies in the US to be more sustainably focused, especially in the manufacturing side of things, including the DFM. It’s product but also the factories. As we’re moving more in that direction, working on becoming an equal and all those things, the materials related to sustainability in designing a product will definitely cover that in some of the videos that we’ll do with you and giving general advice on case studies that we’ve had and general questions that we got a lot.
One of the things that is important for people to also understand is that this is something I was talking with some other experts about is that we also have a very large labor trafficking problem here in the US. Labor trafficking is defined by slave labor, child labor, that’s also a case. If you underpay for goods, it’s illegal here in the United States. In other words, if you haven’t paid a full wage, you are taking possession of stolen goods. They call it hot goods. This is a growing concern about how audits happen and we need that for US companies as well as Asia companies and worldwide. It’s a problem all around the world. Making sure that we understand our whole chain of manufacturing is critically important. I know you pay attention to that.
That’s important because it puts your brand at risk and when you’re trying to bring a wonderful brand, especially these and I meet them all the time because like the Kickstarters and the startups and the inventors, they’ve got this brand that is going to bring so much good to the world and they believe in it and they’ve worked hard to make it out of the right materials. Then they run into this issue of, “Where are we making this?” Everything starts falling apart because they can’t audit it. They don’t know they should audit it and things sneak in and it causes quality problems later or bigger brand PR nightmares later. Having someone who really knows what to look for and watch for, that’s one of the things that I believe in very strongly.
So do we, for sure. We talk about that maybe the first meeting or maybe the second meeting. We talked about it.
I’m so glad to hear that because that is something I don’t always approach with my clients but it’s always on my mind when I’m picking a factory. We recommend to our clients’ factories. Most of our brands are bigger, so they have their own staff. If we’ve designed something new, in a new area that they don’t normally have factories for, we’ll recommend them. We’ve vetted them way before we even present them. Why present them someone and have them have to go through their audit process if they’re going to be any good to begin with? We get caught up a lot of times as inventors and product people that we get caught up in our thing that we’re like, “The first factory that comes along, but that’s maybe not the right thing,” and taking a pause and taking a little bit longer in the process.
That’s true and there’s a lot to think about when you’re building, especially your first product. You’re brand building. Your company is making sure that everything’s set up right domestically. There are a lot to think about and that’s also why companies like GENIMEX or others are also here to focus on.
This is probably going to be the most common question you get. How long does it take to do this? I’m sure you get that all the time and you’re like, “I wish I had a crystal ball and say we’d be done with your project on this date and you can launch on this date.”
We used to go to the question, but a lot of the companies that come to us now understand the basics and have already fallen a few times.
That’s usually the problem. When they’ve fallen a few times they’re like, “I don’t care what it takes to make it right this time.”
Six months to twelve months, depending on how complex the product is. In a realistic but not conservative way, it could take longer. They say shorter than six months for you then we’re on our way.
If they already have a factory they’ve worked with before for designing multiple products, new products, that’s fast, three to six months depending on how much the product invention has to happen or tooling has to happen. It’s rare that we can do one with brand new, like go out there, find factories, do all of that, design it, and do all of that in less than six months. It not going to happen. Our typical is nine to twelve for that and then very in line with the stage at which you normally get them. We get them a little bit earlier in the idea stage. That’s very common and very typical. What I hear from some people, especially a lot of the Amazon sellers out there is they’re so impatient. They’re like, “I can introduce something in two months, three months.” The difference is, is that when you take the time to product develop this right, it will take you less time when you don’t make all the mistakes along the way. You’ll think, “I can do this in three to six months” and you won’t.
You will fail on it, and then it will take it will take you longer. Also, there will be this idea that it won’t stay in the market as long. If you’re not introducing something as original and where you’ve worked hard to work with a factory that’s not just any factory that is going to go and make this for anyone else too, then you have something special. The length that it lasts on the market is a profit center. This is an important thing. When you have something that is built properly, designed properly, costing properly, it’s going to last a lot longer and your investment’s going to be worth that extra time you took.
You want to make sure that you develop a product but thinking already a few products down the line. You want to make sure that you have multiple products, not just one that makes everything. You always want to keep updating your products anyway. If you have something, you want all the accessories that goes with it. You have to already think ahead, not just for that product and then once it’s on the market you’re like, “Now, I’m going to think about my next product.” You have to keep thinking ahead and being on top of everything.
If you’re building a brand, if you’re working with us, you’re not making one single product. You have a future plan for a brand or you wouldn’t be investing in that style of business. Is there anything else you want to tell our members about an introductory side about you or about GENIMEX?
If you are working on consumer goods, we always try to be nice and always happy to help. We mentor a lot of companies. The office in New York City is very much open to startups even if you’re not ready. There are companies like Tracy’s.
By talking to me or by talking to you, you have an extension of all of our referral partners. We can also help you with that.
What’s great is we’re very much aligned as well in objectives and we like helping. Even if we don’t end up working together, we’re happy to help each other and whatever you need. We have covered quite a lot.
Do you do products that have software interfaces as well or apps?
We don’t do that here.
It’s not in our office, but yes, we do that as well. We have an app purifier that we use for our office in New York City that has an app. It’s pretty slick-looking as well.
Personally in our business, we don’t do anything that has apps or software interfaces. We do things with circuit boards because it’s hard to avoid, but it’s usually predefined like the functionality or something, but because software and apps have a whole different type of engineer that they need that it’s hard to keep up on it.
The testing standards and quality control for that type of products, they’re very different.
Keeping up on the updates and the upgrades and what’s going on in the industry and so because we don’t do those projects enough, it’s never made a sense for us to have that type of engineering. That’s always been one of our referrals and so I was so excited to find you to be able to have another referral out for that because I was like, “I’m not so sure my current one is doing that, the quality level that I want.”
Always very happy to help with that stuff. We don’t do the tiny micro-electronics and things like the wearables and stuff, but we do appliances, small appliances, housewares. Anything that you would have in your house, we do except big appliance.
What about food products? Do you do have a division that does food?
The edible portion of the food, no. The containing portion of the food, yes.
That’s important too. Crystelle, I’m so glad you are on our platform. I’m really excited for GENIMEX to be a participant.