I’ve been a business owner for over 35 years: 20+ with a patented nursing pad product design. With both wholesale and retail clients across the country and some in foreign, and 6 years with a major distributor, we watched our influence affect the breastfeeding market. We are not a big business, but a cottage industry which is very seriously tuned to the nurturing of our ladies who choose to breastfeed. My industry adaptation is crucial to small business success.
As in writing, you need to know your audience. You need to make changes when they make changes, but you also need to keep solid the things that work. Long before organic and green became popular (a good thing) we were paying the money for untreated cottons which came from organic sources. We recognized the need to provide a healthy environment for the lactating breast and were determined to keep it. We kept vigilant on keeping the fabrics which were conducive to this goal.
When I got calls or comments from at least 3 people about a variety or need – even a possible complaint, I started thinking about how to re-evaluate. When you are working as an individual, you can adapt more easily to these needs. Producing small amounts at a time allows change. When a big company produces 1,000,000 pieces of an item and then finds something is not quite right with it, they must find ways to sell it to you anyway.
My response was to finalize the nursing pad with various options: white and cream lace tops, pastel color that is still a natural fabric, and a moisture guard that really IS breathable. It took about 8 years to figure out how to accommodate the woman who “leaks tons!” But, we did find a solution. Now, we’d like to incorporate a fun pattern but those fabrics are very often treated and not a good choice.
In production, it helps to experiment with different ways of producing the product so that, in the end, you are minimizing the efforts and time involved. You find what works and what doesn’t. But, if you minimize the handling of the product, you can produce more within an hour without compromising quality. Some of the women I contracted with could sew during short breaks between their children/babies effectively because we had figured out a per piece payment. They could create their own raises, or just take their time. And each pad took on a bit of their personality.
In the beginning, I didn’t realize that the sources for finding material would constantly be changing each time I ordered fabric I might go through half a dozen companies. There are a lot of adjustments. One time I might get 45” fabric and the next 36”. I had to figure out how to arrange the fabric so they could always work together. This had to be determined along with how long a sheet to cut that wouldn’t twist up in the dryer. Or how to make the combination of birdseye weave and diaper flannel ready for the final product since they shrink at different rates. What is the most economical way to laundry wet down and dry? For many years, we used the rollers on a vintage ringer-washing machine to wet and wring; a huge savings in time and money from using a conventional washer cycle/spin.
I found that in order to produce your design invention, you had to keep inventing ways to make it, and then keep adapting to your current circumstances, which I’m doing now; by adapting to the social media changes.