What are we doing wrong?
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What are we doing wrong?

by qandabe on Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:03 pm

We have developed a kit to do sous vide cooking (but really it can do any sort of temperature control), at http://lowereastkitchen.com. It's basically a microchip with Arduino bootloader, 10 A SSR and thermocouple, with a knob and LED display for user interface. Everything is open source/hardware and available on our website.

We've had a lot of interest from people we talked to, and had a few classes at hackerspaces that were quite popular (see our blog http://qandabe.com). We even have a few dozen people who were interested in buying on an e-mail list. However, now that we have the product available, few people have bought anything.

Is there something wrong with our kit? Our website? Or is this typical for the beginning?

Thanks for your help. We are anxious about starting out. We can just keep having classes, but it would be nice to get something consistent online.
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by adafruit on Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:44 pm

qandabe wrote:We have developed a kit to do sous vide cooking (but really it can do any sort of temperature control), at http://lowereastkitchen.com. It's basically a microchip with Arduino bootloader, 10 A SSR and thermocouple, with a knob and LED display for user interface. Everything is open source/hardware and available on our website.

We've had a lot of interest from people we talked to, and had a few classes at hackerspaces that were quite popular (see our blog http://qandabe.com). We even have a few dozen people who were interested in buying on an e-mail list. However, now that we have the product available, few people have bought anything.

Is there something wrong with our kit? Our website? Or is this typical for the beginning?

Thanks for your help. We are anxious about starting out. We can just keep having classes, but it would be nice to get something consistent online.


hiya!

this looks like a good start, we do have some thoughts - but we should probably say first that we are testing our own sous vide - type kit, we're waiting for some specific parts so we're about 2 months out (we hope) our first one is sitting on our banned table being tested as we type this. but if you'd still like to hear our thoughts - let us know and we'll post them up here!

cheers,
adafruit
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by qandabe on Tue Jul 26, 2011 11:04 am

We'd love to hear your input. We are all about open collaboration. Maybe the kit is too complicated? Also, we'd be happy to sell you our kit, or work together somehow, I don't know how far you are in development.

I'm eager to hear your advice! Thanks!
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by adafruit on Tue Jul 26, 2011 4:15 pm

qandabe wrote:We'd love to hear your input. We are all about open collaboration. Maybe the kit is too complicated? Also, we'd be happy to sell you our kit, or work together somehow, I don't know how far you are in development. I'm eager to hear your advice! Thanks!


we've been working on ours for about 2 years, once we got our reflow oven working well, cooking meat & eggs was the next obvious step :) - we are about 2 months from launch so for now we don't plan on selling/reselling any additional ones. we're waiting for parts that are delayed, a bummer but we're not in a rush to release it so it's ok.

here are some quick thoughts regarding a kit biz, we think you did some of these already!

1) you likely do need resellers with a large presence, have you contacted the makershed.com ?

2) if you resell the kits with make, offer up to do some videos, articles, etc on the make site and for the make video properties.

3) the blog is great, but the "buy button" is far away, try to integrate the store and the blog more.

4) it's 2011, video distribution is almost free. why not do a weekly cooking show? have you chatted with all the video shows out there - from TWiT to rocketboom, there are tons of video folks that would love to see some food hacking.

5) educate, good information is advertising - does everyone know about sous vide? not really, maybe more informational videos, more content - this isn't salesy stuff, it's general how-to info.

6) post (more) recipes and how-tos on instructables, do a contest with them.

7) compare yours to the commercial versions, how it is better, how is it different, show how spending $80 is better than hundreds.

8) recipes are not copyrighted, take the best ones from the giant $1,200 cookbook and show how to do them yourself.

9) make your own cook book and give it away (cc).

10) you're in nyc, contact lots of media folks about your next "cooking" hacks could be fun for them and you. we think a video "reel" of all the stuff you're up to could help with that. the media is starved for great makers/projects, you should be on martha stewart!

these are some of the things we're going to do or think about, but feel free to do them as well. one thing is for sure, more sous vide kits is good. it will help all of us to raise the profile of this type of unique and hi-tech cooking.

as we said before we're waiting for some specific parts so we're at least 2 months out, but we're cooking now with our final version.

cheers,
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by franklin97355 on Wed Jul 27, 2011 1:30 am

When I went to the site linked the first thing I noticed is there was no prominent picture of a complete unit
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by nootropic on Wed Jul 27, 2011 1:23 pm

My immediate thought is that the market is probably very small. There are quite a few people interested in electronics and willing to solder. And there are probably quite a few people interested in sous vide cooking. But how large is the intersection of those two sets? Seems like a niche product, and I would not expect to sell more than a few. How many did you expect to sell? Dozens? Hundreds? Just curious. And you only have one product, so it's tough to get people to give you money when you are just getting started. If you had more cooking related electronics kits, then your site would become more of a destination. That takes time. Or you can sell through distributors like Maker Shed, Sparkfun, etc. but then you really don't make much money at all.
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by adafruit on Wed Jul 27, 2011 1:51 pm

nootropic wrote:Or you can sell through distributors like Maker Shed, Sparkfun, etc. but then you really don't make much money at all.


that depends, if they priced their kit right they'll always have about a 40% margin for reselllers and a 40% margin for themselves, if they priced too low then resellers aren't an option. our kits are carried by sparkfun and makershed, but it's only because we made sure we could afford to have resellers from the start.

cheers,
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by nootropic on Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:18 pm

that depends, if they priced their kit right they'll always have about a 40% margin for reselllers and a 40% margin for themselves


Yes, agreed. I price my products exactly using this formula. My point is that by going through a reseller, you make 37% of the profit that you would make selling directly. So you need to hope that the reseller sells about 3 for every one that you could sell directly (and the reseller certainly might sell that many!)
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by adafruit on Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:40 pm

nootropic wrote:Yes, agreed. I price my products exactly using this formula. My point is that by going through a reseller, you make 37% of the profit that you would make selling directly. So you need to hope that the reseller sells about 3 for every one that you could sell directly (and the reseller certainly might sell that many!)


yah, usually a seller/maker/kitter will require a reseller to order a certain qty, for example, for most resellers right now we usually say $500 min order to get the qty discounts. that usually means the reseller will be buying many (and your example 3 to 1 or more). some orgs do a "everything" is 30% off, no qty required for resellers, but a min order. there might not be a "best" way, it might depend on your specific products. for us we've tried to optimize this so we can have hackerspaces (lower min) and resellers all sell our kits and also keep us in biz, our resellers and hackerspaces seem to be happy with this so for now we're just considering other things as we sell more items.

cheers,
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by nootropic on Wed Jul 27, 2011 3:54 pm

Yep, if you can command a minimum order, then that definitely helps. Another upside is that even though selling to a reseller is less profitable, it reduces inventory risk. The reseller now has product on the shelf, and the maker has been paid regardless of whether they sell or not.

Most makers I've talked to aren't all that intereseted in operating a retail business, but I happen to love it. After 2 decades in the intangible world of software, it's been refreshing to deal with the physical world. Parts, bins, boxes, bags, labels, solder smoke, shipping logistics, and of course, bubble wrap. I think it's fun.

Regards,
Michael
http://nootropicdesign.com
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by adafruit on Wed Jul 27, 2011 4:08 pm

nootropic wrote:Most makers I've talked to aren't all that interested in operating a retail business, but I happen to love it. After 2 decades in the intangible world of software, it's been refreshing to deal with the physical world. Parts, bins, boxes, bags, labels, solder smoke, shipping logistics, and of course, bubble wrap. I think it's fun.


yah, it's almost split down the middle, some just love to sell to resellers and not deal with customers directly, others geek out on shipping and logistics (we do, we love it).

cheers,
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by qandabe on Wed Jul 27, 2011 5:21 pm

@adafruit, thanks so much, very helpful advice. We've been working on some of it, but there are a lot of good ideas we haven't thought about (like teaming up with video segments). We will work on talking to makershed as well.

@franklin, very good point, we are going to fix that and add some pictures from the blog to the home page. Good ideas!

@nootropic, it seems to me like most people cook, so if you are a maker why not make something to cook with? But as ada pointed out, we need more exposure for the technique.

We are going to raise the price to get into sparkfun/maker shed, right now since we are just starting out and have no rep we thought we'd keep the price as low as possible. We don't have the volume available for retail right now anyway.
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by lyndon on Thu Jul 28, 2011 12:59 pm

One thing I've noticed over the years, is that most niches are larger than they seem at first. Especially if you're a small company, you can make enough of a profit selling directly into tiny niches. Figure out the minimum level of profit you need to sustain the business and see if you can make at least that.

Also, as mentioned earlier, you need to make your site more of a destination. Get people to come there for that "one product" you have. I learned about sous-vide cooking from a post on Hacker News months ago. I wouldn't attempt to advertise there, but it shows me right away that there is a substantial group of technical people who like to experiment with cooking methods. You're probably better off starting in that direction than trying to find non-technical cooks who would like to build their first kit.

Maybe start a sub-Reddit on sous-vide cooking. Do you have a blog? If not, start one and then mention it in every online forum discussion you find on sous-vide, etc. Gotta keep that marketing hat on :-)

And now this thread has me interested enough to build my own sous vide cooker. Unfortunately I'm not likely to be a customer since I already have all the components I'd need on hand.
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by audioman on Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:40 am

I watch a lot of cooking shows and I like to cook but this is the first that I have heard of a sous vide cooker. Since what you have is a temperature controller, you could add other cooking abilities to it like yogurt maker, bread rising box, more accurate oven control, and look into other temperature control needs, such as tropical fish. With all of these keywords on your web page, you will get more hits.

Also, it would help if you had more kits to get more traffic to your site and find other site that are willing to link to your site.
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Re: What are we doing wrong?

by itcamefrommars on Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:34 pm

adafruit wrote:
nootropic wrote:... others geek out on shipping and logistics (we do, we love it).

cheers,
adafruit


I'd love to see more about that! I'm totally geeking out playing shop. It's all play to me! That's why I like the idea of taking a shot at kitbiz.

I always do, but this is the first time I've done anything requiring regular shipping. I used to specialize in medical databases and hospital net security and writing bills got so boring I started to only end up billing about 50% of my clients at the end!

Anyhow, that's tangentionalating, but something I've found useful while getting prepped to open shop is selling on eBay to fund stocking and studio rental.

It's getting me into the swing of shipping, and helping discipline a schedule and workflow that works best for me.
I'm not selling kits on eBAy but vintage vacuum tubes, vintage computer and video game items, and some components I've gotten huge quantities at stupid prices using the biz name and logo to pre-promote. It works great and I have a following waiting for shop to open!

Anyhow... that's some thoughts about getting into the swing of selling, pricing, getting into a workflow, and getting free advertisement and market exploration.

Still, I'd love to see a discussion about shipping hacks that was stickied or something to see a nice long list of ideas.
Another one on marketing for the "just getting started" level would totally rock too! I love guerrilla marketing techniques - And I think that the kitbiz has alot of potential for some creativity and fun!

- Cheers - Mars - Looks like I rambled on a little again :) It's the way I roll I guess.
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