The November Issue

Month 1: The Far East Company

How we started down this path is a good question, but here we are, trying to “build a business”. Over the summer I had a simple, but empty-headed thought “I’m not happy with my backpack. How about I make one!”. In the past, maybe ten years ago, ideas like this died quickly, and for good reason. Not for my generation though. When you think you can make a backpack, of course, you can. You can achieve anything you set your mind to like my mom said, and if you miss, at least you’ll land among the stars, which is from a number of Instagram posts.

So with this encouragement in mind, we started simple: buy materials and make a prototype ourselves. Which makes sense, we’re on a budget and we needed to understand the best dimensions and features before approaching a manufacturer. Design and materials experience is for the birds, YouTube and Google are enough, so we marched forward.

First was finding a fabric, a challenge for the inexperienced, doubly fun in Hong Kong’s chaotic materials market. What denier did we want? “Something like this” (shows store owner the backpack I decided I didn’t like). As you can see, maybe we weren’t prepared, but dreams rarely have all the answers, merely the direction, and we were on our way.

When 3 yards of fabric arrived I immediately began sewing. By immediately, I mean after work, on my floor, with a beer in hand. If you decide to make a bag or any clothing product, the first step is measuring the fabric. Your standard 12-inch household ruler isn’t a great start I recommend the paper measuring tape available (for free) from IKEA. Forty-eight inches is (almost) all you need and a sharpie and you’re (almost) a designer.

So I measured, cut the fabrics, and began sewing. By hand. Terrible decision, but I don’t have a sewing machine and entrepreneurship is meant to be hard. This is what I deserve. Pain in every finger from pushing a small needle through the thick fabric.

Even those of you that haven’t sewn a backpack before can imagine, getting the shape right without a frame to sew around isn’t difficult. It’s nearly impossible. The first model looked more like a handbag than a backpack, but that’s okay. Fail fast and iterate, right?

So we set out to build the frame, which was relatively easy. Being a lean startup, we found some cardboard by a trashcan on the street. It passed the sniff test (didn’t smell like shit), so met our quality standards. With some masking tape and a little bending, we had a decent box shape that met the vision.

Okay, cut ahead a month and we made significant progress. We ditched the completely useless prototype we sewed by hand and instead used a 3D model, compliments of an overpaid Fiverr designer. The 3D design served it’s purpose and gave our manufacturer enough of a starting point to produce an end product that met most of our expectations.

From a problem to a solution, in only three months. Not too shabby, but definitely not in line with the expectations YouTube and Instagram have set. Maybe entrepreneurship is a little more difficult, but we’re still on the path and still moving forward.

This is the first post of many to come as we continue to build our business.

This post originally appeareed in Medium: