Last Sunday we were joined by Craighton Berman, who was in town for NYC design week, and graciously agreed to spend the afternoon talking about his design studio and the adventures of moving from maker to manufacturing to building a brand. This was also our first event at Makeshift Society Brooklyn (!) so it was a good chance to test the flow of things.
Craighton recently completed a successful Kickstarter for the Manual Coffee Maker no. 1. Besides being an affable fellow who’s always up to interesting things, we were excited about Craighton’s talk because we wanted to spend some time focusing on how you grow something. In this case, how you grow a business out of a project. The gloss of Kickstarter and a flurry of press can make the production of a new brand, a new product, a new company seem easy or seamless. But as we learned from Craighton, that’s usually far from the truth.
I want to highlight two points from Craighton’s presentation. The first is that making = easy and manufacturing = not. In recent years, as ‘the maker’ has become a cultural phenomenon; there’s a certain glamor associated with it. At the same time, it’s never been cheaper (and often easier) to make a one-off product or prototype.
And yet, as Craighton explained, when you need to take something to scale, there are far fewer options. For the Manual coffeemaker there was literally no one in the US that Berman could find to manufacture the glass with the craft and quality required. Making is easy. Manufacturing is (still) hard.
Craighton shared the very careful planning behind his Kickstarter. Secret tips: lots of excel spreadsheets, tons of effort to line up press in advance. And yet, despite all of his effort on strategy, the development of the coffeemaker is also dotted with moments of pure serendipity. When his first manufacturer decided to triple the production cost, Craighton’s planning was thrown out the window. Shortly afterwards he happened to share this during a talk at a local business school. Someone in the audience happened to have a father who works as a manufacturing agent in China. That led to a new working relationship, a whirlwind trip to Shanghai, and now Manual no. 1 is a product of globalization. Strategy and serendipity are not binary choices.
And then we made coffee and enjoyed the pleasures of a calm Sunday in a quiet corner of Brooklyn.