This post is a special one. It marks over a year long secrecy of what the actual product I am working on is.
Throughout my life in Australia, I tried working out at gyms as often as I could. I always had to carry hair and skin products with me in big heavy bottles that often leaked. So, I thought how good would it be if I could carry different hygiene products in one compact container in smaller quantities. That is when the idea of Paxter came to me!
I approached my friend who was in engineering and offered him a partnership in this project, but he didn’t like the idea. Instead of pursuing it, I laid it off for time being, to be more precise for over 10 years.
As you can read on this blog, too much was happening back in those days for me to decide to concentrate my efforts on bringing it to life. When I returned from Russia and was left without options after two projects I was a part of didn’t work, I decided to act on it.
I called my friend again and asked him to help me to put it together, he agreed to help and we met a couple of times brainstorming possible designs. A rough idea of what it could look like was formed and we attempted to assemble a prototype.
We quickly realised that the task requires a lot more than just pieces from empty shampoo bottles and a super glue.
I thought 3D printing must be the way and asked my friend to try and draw it in 3d software he was somehow familiar with. After a short while, it was clear that our efforts weren’t delivering desired results and that professional engineer should handle the task.
Subsequent Details from our Ideas and Product Name
While working on initial design new ideas on functionality started to pop up. In addition to accommodating only liquid products, it was decided to make a waterproof chamber for small items such as cotton swabs, nail clippers, tweezers etc., items like vitamins, sanitary pads, spare contact lenses and others could be stored there too.
Another addition was a toothbrush compartment, many people take extra care about their teeth but carry toothbrushes in anti-sanitary conditions. The project was becoming more and more interesting as the product would solve more than one problem now.
It took a few months to come up with the right name for it, eventually, the name “Paxter” was born.
I found a company in India through www.guru.com that seemed professional enough and judging by projects they worked on could handle complex tasks. I’ve contacted them and we agreed on $400 USD for the job. I provided drawings that covered basic functionality and a detailed description of what I needed the engineer to do. To make sure they understand everything right I tried to get them on Skype call multiple times but they kept coming up with excuses of why they can’t make it.
3 weeks later I received a picture that didn’t match the description. Now I understand that their English wasn’t good enough to handle complex projects and they just created a flashy look for their company to get jobs. I disputed the charge and got 3/4 of my money back.
My Search Continued
I decided to approach a professional engineering company in Sydney to find out how much their services would cost, I expected it to be expensive but wasn’t ready for a $40,000 AUD quote. It became clear that I need to keep searching for a cheaper way, I’ve already had tickets to China to Canton Fair Exhibition and hoped that engineers at manufacturing plant of my choice would be able to handle the task for a much more reasonable price.
The trip to China was quite an informative one and upon my return, I was ready to start the process with the chosen factory. I quickly organised and sent a non-disclosure agreement for them to sign and upon receiving papers back sent sketches of the product which I made on my laptop in a simple Paint program.
It took them a few weeks to give an answer that unfortunately the project was considered to be too complex. At that point, I understood that even though Chinese factories have their own engineers they mostly specialize in simple products. A bit disappointed I tried my luck with another factory which I visited as they were bombarding me with e-mails, the result was the same, complexity is an issue.
While waiting for an answer from Chinese factories I had a passenger while driving for Uber who asked me what I do and advised me to contact his friend who’s father lives in China and owns a factory that makes plastic and metal parts for Australian companies. Upon received the second decline from China I did just that. This company did not have an engineering department but they knew people who could help. It took a while to receive an information as it was a time of Chinese New Year, but when I received it, it wasn’t great, $30,000 USD. I needed a better plan.
The equivalent of Silicon Valley in Russia is Skolkovo. In the list of companies I found one that develops new products from the scratch. While in Russia I dealt with similar agencies quite often so I had some idea of how much a project like mine could cost. They quoted me $9000 USD and based on my prior experience I knew the price is reasonable. They signed NDA and we started the process.
After the first set of revisions at the design stage, some of which can be seen on products Instagram page, it seemed like I made the right choice. The project manager, the designer and an engineer who were assigned to my project dealt with issues exceptionally well and were quite professional. The quality of work presented was also quite good.
First, we worked through the design options.
Once the design was agreed upon we moved to mechanical part, things got more interesting. We needed to create a mechanics that would work reliably. Paxter has 12 unique details in it and each received a special treatment. Another feature that was added to Paxter is an option to brand it with a customizable insert.
Once I had the final design I started gathering opinions of friends and family.
Full specs of the product were shaping up to be as follows:
- Dimension: 20.5 x 8 x 5 cm.
- 3 x chambers for liquid products – 95ml each.
- 1 x waterproof chamber.
- 1 x ventilated toothbrush chamber.
- Labeled interchangeable dispensing caps.
- Wider caps for easy refilling.
- Strong unsqueezable leakproof body.
- The rubber button in the center works as a pump.
- Silicon side strips for better handling.
- Personalisation option
While the product development stage was in full swing I started researching what must be done for a successful Kickstarter campaign. Thanks to the flexibility of Uber a lot was being done on the go.
The plan was to start a Kickstarter campaign at the end of October and run it until Christmas. I made every effort to get everything ready by then and I honestly thought I could make it. Now I understand that it would be a big mistake, many things weren’t thought through enough.
One of the most demanding tasks was putting together a script and a storyboard for the video. Once again after approaching professionals I got quoted amounts I could not afford and decided to do everything myself. My mate Mike from Fashon Police agreed to be a videographer for a very reasonable price which I was pretty happy about.
Getting promo images ready was another task that consumed a lot of time. People buy with their eyes first so proper presentation is one of the top priorities.
The product will be presented in 4 colors: Black, White, Peach and Grey. Below is how I envisioned it at the development stage:
Talking about bringing ideas to live, here is how the product will look in real life:
Picking colours at the store proved to be a very challenging task, those who have done it will understand me.
3D animation as part of the video was another task that required quite a lot of thinking over. This task I decided not to outsource. It would be a very hard to explain which angles the product have to be shown from and which details would need to twist and turn throughout the video. So I have done it with my other mate Boris who is a professional 3D animator in Sydney.
The problems, The built up, The tension
The closer we were to the end of October the more pressure was building up. If I was to launch in October a few things should have been completed.
1.) Engineers would need to finalize all the testing.
2.) Prototypes should have been assembled in time for a photo and video shooting.
3.) PR campaign should have been prepared meticulously.
The first thing that disrupted our plans was a set up by a 3D printing company. They made prototypes for cheap but the quality was horrific. Since I was rushing I got prototypes just an hour prior to video shooting.
The camera crew, make-up artist, actors, everyone was on a set and ready to go. We decided to shoot scenes that don’t have Paxter in them. We’d have to finalise shooting once proper prototypes are ready.
Shooting was a lot of fun.
A short while later I got the news from engineers that minor design changes required which, once done, will need more testing. Universe was telling me not to rush it and the decision was made to postpone the launch.
With the load off my shoulders I could analyse the situation much clearer and come up with strategies to increase my chances for success…