Using the Power of the Internet to Build a Manufacturing Business: An Interview with Laina Gossman

Getting a product-based business off the ground has unique challenges compared to service-based businesses. Not only do you have to deal with marketing, branding, finding leads, and growing customers, but you also have to handle the designing and manufacturing of a physical product. Not knowing how to convert the idea into a mass-produced product has stopped many budding entrepreneurs, but I’m here to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to you and your great ideas. In my latest interview, I spoke with Laina Gossman, who is sharing tips for sourcing and manufacturing your products, based on her success with her custom orthotic, Soul Insole.

The Limitations of Handmade Products

Laina is a foot specialist who has been creating custom orthotics for over 11 years. In the process, she saw that there were striking similarities among the people she was helping. Many were unsatisfied with the insoles currently on the market because they didn’t fit into the shoes that they wanted to wear, whether it was a pair of Tom’s shoes, pumps, or ballet flats. They were also experiencing similar foot problems that could be relieved through the various insole geometries that Laina was designing.

Laina knew that there must be a lot more people out there who had the same pain points (figuratively and literally!) “How many people can I help, one by one, handmaking these insoles? There’s got to be a better way,” thought Laina. Not that there is anything wrong with handmade products, not at all! However, for some product-based ideas, mass production is a better model.

Soul Insole Is Born

With that in mind, Laina began pursuing her idea of designing and manufacturing a universal insole that could help even more people. She started out by talking to various sourcing and manufacturing experts that were referred to her by friends and family. These experts were the best of the best, but unfortunately, things didn’t work out.

“If you want to succeed you have to move as fast as the world is moving these days,” says Laina. But the experts she was working with weren’t moving fast enough. Laina was the little guy with not much money to spend, and the experts were prioritizing their more lucrative clients, which caused delay after delay in Laina’s designs.

“So at a point when I had hit a couple walls, and I was about to give up, I had this realization: No, I need to get this done! This is something that is going to help a lot of people, and this is part of my purpose in life, to create this insole so people have a better option. I’m going to push forward.”

Laina decided to turn to the internet, where there is a sea of highly skilled individuals & companies and where she could find a better match for her project. She researched manufacturers until she decided upon the manufacturing company that was the best fit. Meanwhile, she set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund her manufacturing costs. At the time of our interview, the Kickstarter campaign had only 1.5 days left to go, and it had already reached 250 percent funding! Now that the campaign is over, you can visit the Soul Insole website to purchase your own Soul Insole orthotics.

So how did Laina handle the most difficult aspect of getting a product-based business off the ground – sourcing and manufacturing? In our interview, she shares her winning strategy.

Laina’s Tips for Manufacturing Your Product

Learn About Your Manufacturing Needs

Laina started by researching manufacturing to understand the terminology and learn about the type of manufacturing and mold making that she’d need to create the Soul Insole. Afterward, she used sites like YouTube to learn more. Company videos allowed her to see factories performing that type of manufacturing. Having a deeper knowledge of manufacturing would help her know what to look for when choosing potential manufacturers.

Locate Manufacturers

After understanding her manufacturing needs, Laina turned to websites like Alibaba. These are sourcing websites that allow you to find companies with the manufacturing skills needed to make your product.

From Laina’s research, she located about 60 potential manufacturers for the Soul Insole. She gathered names, phone numbers, email addresses, and manufacturing capabilities into an Excel spreadsheet, then began to narrow down the list.

Narrowing the List

To narrow the list, Laina wanted to learn more about each company and allow the companies to learn about her product and needs to see who would be the best fit.

  • She spoke with each company to see who would have the patience to work with her during the design phase.
  • She had companies send samples so she could evaluate their work.
  • She assessed the companies based on how organized they were, their samples, and who had the best communication.

The Final Selection

Laina’s final selection was the company that she says did everything perfectly – they were clean, organized, and good with communication.

Another deciding factor was that she got to see the factory. She had been communicating with the company via Skype and one day she asked out of the blue if she could see the factory. Using Skype video chat, she was able to walk through the factory without having to get on a plane to visit. She liked what she saw and had built a sense of trust with the company, so she chose them to manufacture the first order of Soul Insole orthotics.

Click play above to listen to the whole interview. You’ll learn more about Laina’s experience with the manufacturing process, and also how she used the internet to create her own logos and branding elements. Everything is just a search away, so if you’re trying to launch your own product-based business, just turn to the internet! For Laina, “The internet has been an amazing resource for me to accomplish everything I’ve needed to accomplish to move forward with my business.”

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