You Want to Become a Maker But Don’t Know What to Sell?

If you want to become a Maker and don’t know where to start, here are a few ways to figure out a successful product and whether it’s worth pursuing.

I’ll also give you insight on categories of companies that I have seen lacking when we have markets, so hopefully this gives you great ideas!

Find a Product People Already Buy

One of the biggest keys to success I can give anyone is to find a product people already buy and make it better. Or have a different take on a popular product.

Included in this are products that people buy repeatedly. Companies like jewelry companies or apparel can be successful in the beginning because all of the potential customers that they have in a city buy their product, but then they already have a type of jewelry or t-shirt design, thus forcing the company to innovate and change up products more than someone like a candle company.

A great thing about candles, food, plants, baby, and pet products is that they are consumed or used and you need more. Someone may light their candle and want the same scent next year, or they eat their food and want more next time. Plants can sometimes die (if you’re anything like me) or grow out of their area so you need new ones. Babies grow, so the next time someone comes back they want the same product, but in a different size. Dogs eat their toys, bones, etc.

When you have a one-time sale type of product you’re going to not only have to innovate but find new customers often. This happens a lot with expensive bags or boutiques. These types of companies are constantly switching out various types of products and styles.

Wouldn’t it be great to create a new take on a product like toilet paper or soap that no matter what, people need to survive and use all the time?

Jewelry Pros and Cons

Every market we have seems to have 30-50% of applications coming from jewelry companies. Which is funny, because it’s how I started as a maker.

The saturation of this category is also why we only waitlist certain categories. We may have 100 spots and out of 400 applications over 150+ are jewelry makers. We are itching to fill categories other than jewelry so when we get another application and see that it’s jewelry, we sigh.

First, let’s start with the cons:

  • This category is highly competitive which makes it very hard to get into a market sometimes when you’re just beginning.
  • Many boutiques and other companies try to also sell jewelry in their booth, making it hard even when you are in the jewelry category to be one of the few jewelry sellers at a market.
  • Jewelry can break or tarnish easily depending on the quality and materials, so returns may be high and customers may be more demanding.
  • Trends in jewelry are ever changing, so your stock may go out of fashion before you know it.
  • Even if your product is unique, others may catch on and products similar to yours will start popping up, like the latest trend of clay earrings.

Now, for the pros:

  • Jewelry can sell well and it can have a high markup on the price. So when you do get into a market you can do better than others.
  • Jewelry is lightweight so it is easy to ship and travel with.
  • Jewelry is a very common gift, so sales will always be stable for quality jewelry.
  • If you have unique packaging and products it can make you stand out from the crowd and make it easier to get into a market.

Category Popularity:

Here are a few categories that are highly competitive and fill up quickly. These are more competitive but they also sell well:

  1. Jewelry
  2. Accessories
  3. Candles
  4. Body Care
  5. Boutiques
  6. Baked Goods

Here are a few categories we’re always trying to fill and sell very well:

  • Baby & Kids
  • Beauty
  • Food & Drink
  • Home Decor – (Macrame, Reusable Utensils, etc)
  • Pet supplies
  • Plants & Seeds
  • Enamel Pins

Ways to Stick Out from the Crowd

  • Great branding + packaging
  • Better booth display or presentation
  • A great website or social media
  • Signage
  • Outfits or “uniform”
  • Better customer service
  • Take a category and find one product to sell specifically, like chapstick, and be a specialist in one area when you start, later expanding into other areas.

Inventing

If you have invented a product, that’s awesome! But beware you may have the obstacle of teaching people what your product is and this can be another step someone has to go through to purchase your product.

Working Backwards

Know your target customer and research their needs. Sometimes working backward can be helpful! Surveying your target customers, like moms, and then finding out what they wish they had a better version of is a great way to find products.

Artists

I see a lot of artists only sell original works of art, and not have much success. This is because people only have so much wall space in their house and not everyone is looking to remodel their house or add art.

Also, people are not always able to afford original pieces of art. 

I always suggest to my artists to look into creating more than paintings but putting art on prints, greeting cards, shirts, iPhone cases, notebooks, on the back of jackets and more. You can do so much with art, and each artist is different.

Baby Industry

It’s wonderful when you can get into a business that has a recurring revenue (something people keep buying regularly). Baby products like baby wipes have recurring revenue, but this ends after a few years. So be aware that you may need to find new clients every few years, but the great thing about moms is that they talk and refer each other to their favorite child resources!

Enjoy What You Sell

Most importantly you need to like the product you’re selling and enjoy it! You need a lot of tenacity to push through the tough times and you won’t if you don’t like your product.

If you’re starting a company for babies and kids, just ask yourself whether you’ll want to continue the business when your kids are grown. I’ve seen a lot of baby companies do great but disappear because a mom wants to try new things. (Which is fine, just a good thing to think about.)

If you love what you do you never have to work a day in your life.

Pick a Product That’s Easy to Expand

Think about what goes into making the product. A lot of people love candles, but it’s messy and doing larger and larger batches requires certain equipment and facilities. I’ve seen a few candle companies grow rapidly and then they struggle to get to a certain size of production to meet the demand they’ve created.

Companies in jewelry do not have this problem, but bakeries do, which is why there are so many local bakeries and sometimes small-batch goods taste better.

Another question to ask yourself is, can what you do be taught to others or can what you’re selling be made in quantity? If you have a goal of being all over the world, and you paint furniture a specific way, you not only have the problems of shipping furniture around the world but if you can’t teach your technique, you’re always going to be a one-man show. And that can be ok! Just manage your expectations and don’t start by setting yourself up for failure.

How Much Does It Cost To Get Started?

Lastly, certain types of products require more money to get started. I talk about this in another article about how much you should invest in your company when you start, but taking a look at what it takes financially to get started may help you make decisions.

Final Thoughts

Don’t try to be everything. When you try to be everything you spread yourself too thin and people get confused. Stick to one thing or one topic and go from there.

Picking a product people like, working on your product packaging and making your product a better version or a new take of what’s already out there, is a great way to have success. You’ll know when you’re on the right track when complete strangers start buying your product.

Here are some great articles from Shopify on selling pet suppliesartmakeup, and much more

Have ideas of niche categories to get into as a Maker? Share them below!

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