Our Journey

Come and see Letterblox at the Coventry & Warwickshire Business Expo! March 05 2015

Come and see Letterblox​ at the Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce Business Expo!

Date: Friday, March 13th 2015
Time: 10am - 3pm
Venue: Ricoh Arena, Coventry

FREE ENTRY!

http://www.cwexpo.co.uk

 


LAUNCH! January 01 2015

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and wishing you a very happy new year! As promised I’m delighted to announce the launch of our new business:- LETTERBLOX

 



I still can’t quite believe the journey we have been on and how we ended up inventing and patenting this product. You can read all about our journey on the rest of the blog.

We have a You Tube channel where you can see videos of how Letterblox works and is installed (it’s dead easy!) We will also be adding videos as we go when we install Letterblox at our properties. You’re welcome to send us your videos of Letterblox too and we’ll upload them to the channel!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChtzCEISa0FHg9FLRiB7iOQ

We also have Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest channels so be sure to like and follow us. We would of course be delighted to receive your feedback and comments either directly or through any of our social media channels and of course your orders!

This is the first stage of Letterblox; we have some more exciting products coming later this year so watch this space.

Finally I can’t mention Letterblox without saying a huge thank you to all my wonderful Facebook friends and friends, family and businesses offline too who helped us in immeasurable ways with ideas, advice and support – thank you so very much.

Wishing you every success with whatever your journey is in 2015 x

 


That's it we're ready! December 22 2014

Lisa: I am having to do something really hard for me now and that is overcome my inbuilt perfectionism and procrastination genes and launch!

We have our payment systems (new card machine arrived today), we have our delivery systems and we have a pile of stock. 

The website has been finalised (thanks to all those who helped with their thoughts and ideas - you can't see the wood from the trees at times!)

I can do no more except launch.

So I put it out there. I have told Facebook and thus the World (!) that we will be launching the business on 1st January 2015 - it seems kinda fitting!

Excitement and trepidation...


Santa has been already! December 19 2014

Oh crap! We took a delivery today of some of our stock and have nowhere to put it!

Time to find new premises I think!


Patent Published! December 03 2014

We are delighted to announce that on 3rd December 2014 the Letterblox patent No.GB2508818 was published.

This also makes Stuart officially an inventor! :-)


Patent Granted! November 04 2014

Wanting to go to market as quickly as possible once we had our final product we were frustrated by the patent process.

Our lawyer advised that under certain circumstances we could apply to accelerate the patent process. One of those circumstances was being ready to go to market so that's what we did.

And on 4th November 2014 we were ecstatic to receive our grant of patent No.GB2508818.


“Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett September 22 2014

Setting the price was one of the hardest aspects of the entire project and something all businesses grapple with. You always have in the back of your mind that people want as much as possible for as little as possible; let’s be realistic!

We’d done a bit of research and had a price in mind initially but that was for one Letterblox not a complete kit and it was clear from the manufacturing costs that original price was way off.

Frustratingly from some consumer research we did that price was also similar to what customers expected to pay.

But we now knew the costs to produce the kit, we knew we would have overheads and additional business costs and of course we had to make a profit and profit is not a dirty word!

We needed a way to help set our price in the marketplace; it didn’t matter what the customers were prepared to pay for it we had to look at competing products and we had to look at our costs – these two would help us set the price not our own or customers’ expectations.

We recalled a great technique we had learned on the MAS course in Hampshire.

You simply take a large piece of paper and stick on pictures of similar products with the price. You then order them on a chart of cost versus quality.

Then you see where your product fits on the chart and that helps you set your price. Effectively the other product manufacturers have done some of your research for you as they’ve set their price based on costs, profit margins, customer expectation so you just leverage their research.

So Lisa hit the internet and went back to all the research we had done so far looking at our competitors.

There’s numerous letterbox protection products so we had a good selection to choose from but not one had our USP of being reusable which was a real bonus for us. Every other method involved effectively permanent fixing to the door or existing letterbox thus had a one-time use and also damaged the door. Also some products wouldn’t fit some types of door or letterbox. Ours was far more universal, another USP.

This proved to be a really interesting exercise and most definitely helped us to set the price of our product within the marketplace.

But while we had now set the price were we confident of its value? Well at that point we had the fire what would we have paid to have been able to have stopped it happening? A lot more than the price of Letterblox that’s for sure!


Back to the drawing board September 01 2014

One of the really interesting things about getting your product into production is how much research you have to do into how the customer will use you product. That may sound obvious but it isn’t; when you invent something it’s often from your own need as we did with Letterblox. But actually considering the customer’s needs is very different.

You see letterboxes typically come in two different lengths and doors in 5 different widths so our plan was to have two different versions of Letterblox that you could buy with knobs to adjust to the width, choosing which one you needed once you’d measured the letterbox size.

During our discussions and research however it occurred to us that our main user, landlords, likely wouldn’t have a clue what size letterbox was on their property and if they were going to check and secure a property they’d want to take a Letterblox with them and know it would fit. It may even be that they would be travelling many miles to get to their property wanting to take their Letterblox with them. Agents, property managers, locksmiths too would all want to have a kit knowing it would fit most properties they’d attend, not have to measure up then go and get one. Added to which we wanted it to be reusable so having to buy several sizes simply wasn’t an option.

So we went back to the drawing board.

We had to come up with a universal model, that wasn’t easy at all given so many variations of the same thing. We also had to remember that once in place Letterblox couldn’t move or be prised apart due to ill-fitting in too large a gap.

We’d effectively had only two versions of Letterblox at this stage; the original bolted letterbox and Stuart’s handmade model but following this quest for a universal model we ended up with at another 4 versions in a very short space of time!

Each new model created more questions and issues to resolve and we also had the problem that our patent application had been sent off so we had to stick to the basic principles of Letterblox.

This was where working with John and Andy really helped; it’s so easy to ‘fall in love’ with your invention but you have to have an outside view.

But we got there in the end and created the ‘Letterblox kit’. A single set of plates and multiple adjustable knobs that based on our research will fit the vast majority of letterboxes in the UK.

This did bump up our costs hugely and of course that knocked onto the price, which is the subject of my next blog post, but we had a universal kit that could be kept on hand or chucked in the back of the car or van and would likely fit the letterbox of most properties and was reusable time and time again. It was also significantly stronger then the original model due to some essential modifications so we were even happier with the robustness and security of the design than we were before.


A match made in heaven June 09 2014

John and Andy ran a business called OneFlow http://www.oneflow.co.uk they both had manufacturing backgrounds and discovered that getting a product into production wasn’t as easy as it might appear and companies and inventors just like us had the ideas but then hit brick walls with production.

They offered a brilliant set of services whereby they worked with you to find your suppliers and get you to production stage. You can just walk away at this point on a ‘consultancy fee’ basis armed with all of the contact’s, pricing and research they’ve done for you or you can continue to work with them afterwards whereby they’ll effectively offer a sort of ‘drop ship’ service delivering your completed product to you. We initially thought we’d opt for the consultancy service but they’ve been so great to work with it was a no brainer to ask them to manage it all for us. We’re still busy with two other businesses and may be launching another business next year so we wanted to leave it to the experts and leverage their skills and contacts.

We weren’t sure what to expect but these guys way exceeded anything we could have hoped for.

Yes we got a ton of advice on getting a product into production but they took Letterblox under their wing as if it were their own and as if it were their own money being spent. They drove down production costs and minimum orders for us, bartered with suppliers and manufacturers and went out of their way to find parts and materials that didn’t just do part of the job but way exceeded it.

Take our paint; we knew it needed to be weather proof of course but Andy didn’t just find weather proof he found marine standard paint. Yes the same quality and robustness that ships use is the paint used on Letterblox!

They also did all sorts of testing for us; their accuracy over measurements went down to fractions of a millimetre and they helped us identify the strength needed to prise a Letterblox apart; about the weight of a small car!


Into the Den… January 15 2014

Another year passed us by as we approached Christmas 2013. We were still waiting on the patent application (4 years remember!) and not a lot had happened since.

We were busy with our other businesses and one week slips into the next.

We had our patent pending number so told a few people about our idea and everyone loved it. The most common phrase we heard was ‘why don’t you go on Dragon’s Den?’

But we had no intention of doing so; we had a good ‘story’, we knew who we were going to market to and how, we had a good product and we didn’t need the money to get started as we didn’t intend to do so on large scale and certainly didn’t want to give up a large chunk of our business to anyone else.

But we did need advice from someone that was for sure so we looked back over our notes and recalled the patent lawyer’s suggestion to speak to the Manufacturing Advisory Service and so Lisa contacted them. We were put onto our local contact who fired a bunch of questions at us including ‘how many did we want to make?’ Arrrggghhh!

He also asked us what materials we wanted, what coatings, etc. etc. and I’m sure these are all very valid questions if you’re already in manufacturing but we had no clue how to answer these questions and needed help doing so but unfortunately that was not to be at that stage.

Lisa went onto the MAS website and discovered they ran a number of training courses.

One seemed to fit the bill perfectly Turning Product Ideas into Reality, it was 16th December 2013 and this course was 15th January 2014 in Hampshire! There were no other courses similar anytime the following year so we moved a few things around and booked ourselves onto it immediately.

On a sunny but chilly January morning we went off to Hampshire for the training course.

Lisa made us sit at the front and asked a bunch of questions throughout (being the shy and retiring type she is!) but his turned out to be the best thing she did!

It was actually ran in conjunction with MAS and a design company who helped you get your product designed and into production. The seemed like a great company to work with though being in Hampshire wasn’t great so we noted to try to find a similar sort of company back home but at least now we knew what type of company we were looking for and it started way before finding a manufacturer. In fact the one thing the course taught us was we still had a long way to go before seeing our product in production.

We picked up loads of really useful tips though including a genius session on how to price your product; another difficult decision we had yet to come to.

We were just packing up at the end of the course and a chap came up to us, this was how the conversation went:-

John: ‘Hi, I’ve heard your questions and I’m really intrigued by what your product might be?’

Lisa went on to explain what our product was, describing our story of the fire and the drug dealer as this is the best way to describe the product and its use.

John: ‘Well it sounds to me like you have a great story, you have a great idea and a working prototype, you know who you want to sell it to and how you’re going to do it but you’re missing the bit in the middle?’

Lisa and Stuart in unison: ‘YES! Exactly!’

John: ‘Well that’s what my company does.’

Lisa: ‘Wow that sounds exactly what we need, where are you based?’

Remember we are all in Hampshire…

John: ‘We’re in Coventry, where are you?’

Lisa remarked afterwards that a chill actually went down her spine at that point!

We couldn’t believe it, fate had played her hand exquisitely – thank you universe!

The following week we met with John and his business partner Andy and so began a beautiful partnership!