Advances in technology are making it easier than ever to turn a passion into a profit. But always heed good advice to ensure your venture delivers long-term results.
The world is gravitating to a new era of accessible and affordable printing and creative technology. As software becomes more powerful, the machinery housing it is shrinking. Equipment once only available to large-scale firms is now boxed in desktop sizes at prices more practical for smaller businesses and households.
Leading the charge are 3D printers. Forecasters predict at least one million desktop 3D printers will be sold annually by 2020 as unit prices continue to fall and more of us understand the opportunities and capabilities additive printing technology has to offer.
For those with a bent for computer-assisted design (CAD), desktop 3D printers are already helping turn ideas into household items through both prototyping and customised end products. Head over to Etsy and you can pick up a 3D-printed vase, plant pot, name tags for your pets, jewellery and much more.
Then there are laser engravers and cutters. Small, new models are a popular choice for creatives wanting to maximise revenue opportunities from all manner of decorative and functional items. Personalised cake toppers and signs often appear at weddings, corporate events and birthday parties.
The new kid on the block is the direct-to-garment desktop printer. From under $7,000 you can get a business in a box. Personal designs and even your own photographs can feature on T-shirts, pillowcases, cushions, canvas bags and so on. A new round of innovators will quickly see the opportunities here.
Start with a solid plan
Like any business idea, budding entrepreneurs need to take stock of their enthusiasm to create a solid and achievable economic model for their venture.
According to Geelong-based business builder and mentor, Scott Brown, there are two key elements every manufacturer needs to consider: “What are you going to make and who will need it? It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that … what comes out of that is tier two – what are the next steps?”
Those steps include identifying your place in the supply chain and whether your target market is other businesses or direct to consumers. Research shows the top reason most start-up businesses fail is a lack of market need for their product.
Scott Brown advises: “Look at the target market’s ability to pay … ask questions, conduct surveys and research. Look around in the space. Are there any other parties? What and how do they do it?”
Do your research
New printing technologies are changing the way many businesses approach their activities.
A 2018 survey of business leaders across Europe, Africa and the Middle East found 69% see new printing technology unlocking extra revenue streams for the future. Over two-thirds believe it will provide them with a competitive edge. Almost four out of every five leaders surveyed identified new printing technologies as integral for maintaining trust in their business.
However, any investment in new equipment must be well-considered.
Scott Brown: “You need to think about what you need from the technology. Some things may be expensive but will last a long time … you should also understand the full capabilities of the equipment. Will you be able to use all the capabilities? Are you over-buying or do you need extra coverage to grow?”
And, as Scott points out, technology is rapidly changing: “Are you prepared to upgrade your equipment as the technology evolves. Technology should be based on your three to 12-month business plan. Think about the growth of your business. A business is constantly moving and evolving – more like a video than a snapshot photograph.”
Importantly, you also need to consider access to support and advice. Ensure your supplier can provide service contracts and is easily contactable for help, especially if you are not a technician.
Avoid rushed decisions
The number of businesses operating in Australia is growing. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are now more than 2.24 million actively trading businesses across the nation. The momentum is unlikely to subside any time soon. More attainable technologies, easier access to advice and a thirst for being your own boss are fuelling the start-up enthusiasm.
However, remember that your passion needs to be shared by others for it to become profitable. And, don’t get boxed in to making rushed decisions. Always seek extra advice and guidance when considering an investment in the latest printing and creative tech equipment.