You’ve heard it before: if you want to spend your days designing cool stuff then you should get a job as a designer and not become a business owner.
When I started Po Campo, I was prepared to say adieu to my days at the sketch table for the opportunity to try and bring a good idea to market and make it a real business. For the first 2.5 years or so, I had a partner, a fellow industrial designer, who led the design and production efforts while I led sales and marketing. After my partner and I amicably split and I gained control of the whole company, I quit my day job to make time for my new responsibilities. I was excited to have design become become part of my daily job again, as I do love designing products, especially soft goods and especially bags.
Except it didn’t really turn out that way. It turns out that it takes a lot of money to start a business, which means sales and marketing always demand most of my attention, followed by thinking of ways to cut expenses. Whereas I used to preach to my clients about how important good product design was, and how its value warranted every hour I billed for it, I now consider it a “treat” for rewarding myself after spending a week doing things that I dislike, like cold-calling.
Recently, I indulged in some product design to develop Po Campo‘s Spring 2013 line. I turned off my email, turned off my phone, turned up the music, really worked out my ideas, and boy, was it fun. I put together a nice 23 page presentation about my inspiration, market trends, sketches and schematics and shared it with one of my buyers at REI. When we reached the end of the presentation, he said, “I can tell you really enjoy this stuff”. He’s right, I do. It beats the pants off of sales projections and cold-calling any day. It sucks that I can only do it 1% of the time. But it’s even more fun because I feel like it’s laying the foundation for my company’s success. Which means I still believe all those things that I used to tell my clients about how important design is, and that’s good. I’m glad that hasn’t changed.