It has been an amazing journey. Initially, I proposed the idea of an attachable shoe bag because I myself experienced the inconvenience of carrying my gym shoes around a lot, and I was so glad that Mari also became interested and we could further develop the idea. I also feel so gratified to witness our little “babies” coming out.
Mari and I made a great team as we are both self-motivated and we made equal contributions throughout the production process in different ways, such as I focus more on the practicality and Mari is more concerned with the appearance, and I was mainly in charge of Chinese conversations and she mainly English. We purchased quite a few items from Taobao and went through many comparisons and discussions. After we selected the final concept and used Tinkercad to sketch our first 3d model, Mari created an improved and polished version with Fusion 360. Meanwhile I started to contact vendors on Taobao in search of potential partners to outsource our design.
The existence of Taobao is one of the greatest things about making in China because there is such a big variety we could refer to and for each item we pick, there are usually many other similar goods with more competitive prices or credibility so it’s very convenient to find the best deal. It is also one of the worst things because of the exact same reason. The market is very competitive and most vendors are doing small profit business, therefore it was really difficult to get them disclose any information on their sources and invest time in a partnership with us.
After several attempts, we moved on to Alibaba. This time Mari was majorly in charge of the negotiations, and luckily we received many positive feedbacks and were able to narrow down on two factories in the end. We examined the samples they send us and decided to work solely with Roy. Mari passed the conversation with Roy to me because we thought talking Chinese would be more convenient for both of us. However, we later sensed Roy’s attitude became slightly sloppy, probably because we were using our mother languages and became less formal.
One important skill we both learned from working on this project was how to communicate. We practice drafting English messages/letters for Alibaba together, and I always explained and discussed with Mari about the Chinese conversations I had on Taobao or Wechat before responding. We found that although we had a rather clear idea in our mind, there could still be difficulties to realize it from time to time due to inefficient communication. I think it’s also because of the less formal way we’ve been communicating with our partners that sometimes we have to repeat and reassure that our messages come across. The journey isn’t over yet as the third batch of samples with 2 sizes to choose from and more ideal straps are on their way. I am looking forward to them!
(Here are some of the conversations I’ve had: