Nathan and I have started to make some pannier prototypes. We plan to make about six different panniers, then take them out and get feedback from everyone we can. I’m talking bike shops, college campuses, random people on recreational trails, neighbors, networking meeting attendees, commuters in the street, business start-up mentors, dogs, fish, trees….you name it! The picture below pretty much describes my game-plan (and for those of you who know me personally, you know this is believable).
As an incentive for people to give us their opinions, and as a show of our gratitude for their time, we are planning to give everyone we talk to a coupon so they can buy our products at a discount when we launch. I’m hoping that the coupon will make people eager to talk with us and also be a great promotion for Natril Gear. I was thinking that the coupon would be for 35% off, but since we don’t even know our profit margin yet, this number seems a bit premature! What do you think though – would a 35% discount be a good incentive for you to go check out a business’s website and consider buying their products? Or would you just throw the coupon away?
Back to the prototypes, here’s a rundown of how the production process has gone so far: We’ve already managed to break two parts on one sewing machine; it turns out I’m not very good at buying fabric, and I think I bought twice as much as we needed (aka: I SPENT twice as much as I needed. Bummer.); and some of the parts we wanted to use on the panniers are out of stock or not being sold currently, so we’re having to improvise or just wait.
Also, it turns out sewing machines and I don’t seem to get along very well (I jam them up a lot). While this makes sewing challenging sometimes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel (for me AND my poor sewing machine): Nathan and I just need to make our prototypes, then after getting feedback and deciding on the final designs, we’ll turn things over to a manufacturer, and they will produce our bags from then on out. Phew!
In good news, we have parts of four of our six pannier prototypes completed so far! Hopefully we'll get all six finished soon.
Here’s me cutting out some fabric and getting ready to sew.
Here’s Nathan looking under the hood after the sewing machine broke the second time.
Here are the bottom parts of four of our bags - two that are more girlie and two that should appeal to guys. They still need tops, straps, backing, and mounting systems, but this picture gives you a pretty good idea of what they’ll look like. The one on the top left is made of "outdoor cotton". Top right is oil canvas. Bottom left is a mix of polyester and acrylic (sort of like awning material). Bottom right is duck canvas. All materials are sun-fade resistant and either water resistant or waterproof.
So what do you think? Do you like the colors? Do you like the overall shape (note the rounded corners instead of sharp corners on the bottom)? Do you have an opinion about the fabric choices? Any recommendations?