This is the second installment of our Customer Spotlight Series with Nina Cheng, founder of Wild and Woolly. The first part of our conversation covered what it took to leave her job in finance and launch a high-end accessories brand with no previous experience in product development or manufacturing, and how outsourcing her 3D printing needs enabled her to launch her business.
To finish up our discussion with Nina, we talked about fulfilling a high volume of orders with 3D printing, how an organic endorsement from the Kardashians catapulted (or should we say, katapulted) her brand to international success, and her sage wisdom for budding entrepreneurs.
What is your timeline like from developing a prototype, to printing it with Voodoo, to getting the final product in stores?
It depends on how many stores want to order each new size, and where the store is in terms of their budget, but we can make them pretty quickly. If it’s not a huge order and we don’t have anything else lined up, we can probably fulfill an order in about two weeks.
As a business owner, what’s your favorite part about outsourcing 3D printing to Voodoo?
I really like that you guys take care of cleaning and basic post processing. If I bought my own printers, the amount of resources and time I would have to put into QC would probably be too much for me to handle.
On top of that, you guys started making quality improvements that never occurred to me, like torching the inside of the case to refine the surface. It’s almost like torching a crème brulee [laughs]. The technical knowledge and familiarity with materials has really helped because I had no prior experience with 3D printing materials or engineering. Having the team at Voodoo serve as my sounding board has been very beneficial for the growth of the company.
Do you have any new products coming out soon?
There are a lot of new products that we just put up on the website, like scarves and bag charms. We also just started using this pretty revolutionary technique, at least in terms of fur, for earrings. They’re mink earrings, but they’re made with 24 karat gold so they’re metallic, and I think it’s probably only the second season that anyone has started using metallic fur. As far as our retailer knows, this is the first time anyone’s used metallic fur for earrings specifically. The brand has done really well so far in terms of getting into new stores. We got around forty retailers in the last year, and they’re all top retailers. So it’s been a good year [laughs].
That is extremely impressive! There’s a picture of Kim Kardashian rockin’ a Wild and Woolly case on your Instagram. Who else has a Wild and Woolly case that we should know about?
Kim and Kylie are the two biggest, probably. There have also been some bloggers like Bryanboy [who have a case], and actually a lot of royalty too, which is kind of random, in the UK and Germany. Celebrities have definitely helped.
Do you have any advice for emerging entrepreneurs who are launching a product in general, or specifically through 3D printing? What do you wish you had known two years ago, three years ago?
Something that comes to mind is this quote that I really like from Teddy Roosevelt. He said something like, “do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
I spent a lot of time working on this other tech startup, where I wasn’t the person making the products because I wasn’t a programmer. I wasted a lot of time trying to recruit people who could make the idea happen. With the ease of 3D printing, I was able to do something that didn’t require any technical skills on my part, aside from describing my idea to a designer. And the whole thing initially cost me less than a hundred dollars.
Had I tried to do this ten years ago, it would have been more expensive, and probably something that I would not have considered as a business. I wish more people would stop getting so mired in the tech startup dream and just do something unique that takes advantage of this new wave of technology, but isn’t necessarily another app or website.
Nina Cheng is the perfect success story for anyone who is inclined towards 3D printing but has no clue where to start. These days, it’s easier than ever to bring a 3D printed product to market, and outsourcing 3D printing expertise can be the fast track to commercial success. Her brand’s story shows how accessible and cost-effective 3D printing can be for a new entrepreneur building a lean business.