Engraved Project / Personal Startup Business / 2013-2016
from a school project
to a $24,000 Kickstarter project
to a full online business
This was a project that started out as an assignment from my Entrepreneurial Design course. The goal of the project was to utilize my skills and create a business that could make $1,000 profit within a month. I decided to sell laser etched wooden business cards on Kickstarter and was able to raise approximately $24,000 in less than two weeks. The project was a great success and I actually ended up limiting the orders after two weeks with more than half the campaign period left. From this point, there were numerous requests to continue the project even after the Kickstarter campaign. I soon opened an online store and developed Engraved into a full online business.
Why Business Cards?
Many people asked me why I would want to sell business cards. It was a product that is out in the market literally everywhere and was a mundane object itself. I told them that was exactly why I wanted to work on it. Because everyone had one and they pretty much all looked the same, I believed there was a chance if I could make a single card stand out of the crowd.
Was the project successful?
The cards were unique and memorable. And everyone loved them. The Kickstarter raised $24,000 in two weeks and the online business was sustainable with approximately $1,000 profit each month. Everyday I received 10-15 emails inquiring about the cards. In fact, Engraved was featured on many websites and blogs. A few of the examples are displayed below.
What have you learned from this project?
Before Engraved, I have never even imagined about starting and operating a business. Going through the whole process, from ideation to final product shipping, was a huge difference maker that I never experienced before. Once I was done with the project, not only did I gain confidence but also learned many lessons that I wouldn't have learned anywhere else. While I learned many lessons about promoting, manufacturing, shipping and etc., I believe the biggest takeaway was learning about the importance of bringing all of those together and designing a system to keep it sustainable.
Once I raised a good amount of money through the Kickstarter Campaign, I was happy for three days and then started panicking. It hit me that I actually had to make the products now. In the early stages, I manually worked on each card and used a laser cutter in my grad school lab to cut out the cards. Obviously this was not an efficient method and I soon realized it was unrealistic for me to be able to fulfill all the orders this way. Knowing that I would be receiving even more orders once the Kickstarter Campaign was fulfilled, I needed to create a system where I could utilize outsourcing and automate a good portion of the process. In simple words, I needed a system that would allow the minimum effort and time from myself. From that day, I focused on contacting manufactures all over the world (Yes, even overseas!) and searched for potential partners. Eventually by forming a good relationship with Fabberz Lab in New York City and by utilizing the USPS product, stamps.com, I was able to build the system which is displayed below.