limited production :: hand crafted :: high performance :: rechargeable :: premium flashlights

This is my blog about creating a startup LED flashlight business. I'm a designer, fabricator, and strategist and I'm passionate about making ideas real. I believe that products are about people, that they should be built to last, deliver real value, and that we need to do a better job than we have in the recent past.

Most of my career has been contract or freelance work and I've crafted products and strategies for both big international companies and startups. I also used to work in the "industry" fabricating special effects for film and TV, along with the occasional hot rod. Bottom line, I love making things.

I'm starting this blog so you can follow along, from day one, and see what it's like to start a business, or fail in the process. Only time will tell, but I hope you find this interesting enough to stay tuned, comment, link, like, tweet, and (most importantly) participate in turning this idea into something tangible and valuable.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

"machined" finish light, what do you think?

So I've been doing a lot of "fancy" surface finishes but I do love a nice, raw machined finish. I've been playing around with the idea of offering this as a standard "retail" light that I will sell through other online and brick and mortar retailers. You'll still be able to buy the fancy finishes directly from me.

Raw machined body with flame colored titainum clip
I've also been considering having an outside machine shop make these lights in higher volume that is practical for me to make in my shop. Again, this version would only be available through other retail outlets. If you want to hear a little more about why, and see another photo, read on after the jump.

So I'm trying to figure out how to scale my business. Machining lights takes quite a bit of time. Even though I'm using CNC, all of the grooving is done on a manual lathe and that is labor intensive. A machine shop with more advanced tools could pump these things out in no time. I would still assemble each one. I know the $200 retail price is pretty high, and I'm hoping if I can have them manufactured by the hundreds (as opposed to 20-30 at a time) I might be able to drive down the retail price. This means less margin for me but hopefully more sales.
isn't that purdy? 
I'm also looking ahead to what kind of product line I will carry and how I will differentiate them. Right now I'm looking at 3 tiers of product. High end custom (what I'm making now), a high end retail version that is the same light but raw machined instead of fancy finishes, and then (down the road) a fully manufactured light that will be lower cost and higher volume, but they will be 100% made by a factory.

Thoughts on the new design and/or this three tier (three price point) plan?


  1. I like the knurling on this light, but would like the smooth head better on it.

  2. Hi Jason,
    Yes, this new design, especially the grooved head, is very purdy. Your designs just keep getting better and better. The raw finish just doesn't pop like the stunning polished and brushed ones do, but might be more appealing to some.
    The three tier price plan you are proposing, sounds like it would free up your time while increasing revenue. However, your brand's status as a high-end custom light maker could suffer. I am reminded of when Benchmade came out with their Gold, Blue and "best in value" Red classes and a Benchmade was never looked at the same way again. Suddenly, you had to ask, it a "real" Benchmade or one of those cheaper mass produced wannabes? I believe I read that the Red class was deemed a failure and discontinued. I guess you really need to think this one over carefully, because once you lend your name to a product, whether it's good, better or best, it's forever.

  3. Hi Cheryl,

    Thanks! It's hard to make everyone happy to I hope I can offer a couple of different designs in the future. Of course I can make a one-of-a-kind light if anyone is interested :)

    You make a good point about diluting the brand. It's a very tricky situation. I hope that if I can differentiate the product range enough, in appearance and features, that I can maintain a clear line.

    Another option would be to create an entirely different sub-brand. For example, Snap-On tools are the best out there, and their price point reflects that. However, they have a sub-brand called Blue-Point that is a much lower price point. Of course Snap-On's brand color is red, and Blue-Point is blue. I think this helps...but do I buy Blue-Point tools? Not so much :)

    I'd love it if more people want to join in this discussion. As a craftsman and as a new business, this kind of strategic planning is really where the rubber meets the road. How do I grow and still stay true to the values that I want to embody my work?