The 3D printing industry is moving to a worldwide scale where entrepreneurs are starting to realize not just the market that it can offer but also the unique services that come along with it. Scottish mechanical engineer Daniel McGuire receives 3D business mentorship to help solve some of his startup issues, like how to put value in his time and how to come up with short term goals to make him visible in the market. His mission is to make the everyday person realize what this industry can do for them. Daniels shares how he got started in the 3D printing business and what excites him the most.
We’re going to have a mentorship session with someone who is probably not at all different from many listeners to this show. I’m sure not all of you but many of you that have developed a significant interest in desktop 3D printing and is thinking that he might like to make it his career in entrepreneurial way. He is looking for some advice and some mentorship as he considers which path he takes to try to achieve that goal. He reached out to me on social media and I invited him to come on the show to do this. We’ve done this with Locknesters that create 3D print puzzle. I thought, “This is an opportunity to do that again because that was a lot of fun.” In that case, Locknesters was a lot farther along in its process and Daniel is right at the beginning.
We have Daniel McGuire. He’s from Scotland. He worked on 3D printers as part of his Master’s program there. He really just has started a new company called DMG Design and is working on what his mission is and what his focus is and how he’s going to take that to market. One of the big reasons I wanted to invite him on is because he has an issue of startup and short-term plan and mission long-term plan. You’ve got to balance the two, especially if it’s your livelihood and you’re starting out and you’re really on your own and you’re not doing this as a side gig that you’re really diving in. You’ve got to bring some money in the meantime. I think that’s a big challenge for many, many people. Let’s go right to that interview and I think it will largely speak for itself. We’ll come back and have a few final thoughts.
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3D Business Mentorship: Startup Issues with Daniel McGuire
Daniel, thanks for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
We got connected over LinkedIn. We’d been chatting back and forth about various ideas you were tossing around about starting a 3D print business and other things. Let’s step back for those that don’t have our little conversation history and start with how you got introduced to 3D printing first.
I got a degree over here in Scotland in mechanical engineering. During my final year or Master’s project, I was involved in a project which was to build an FDM printer which would be capable of printing overhanging structures without any support material. It was a very good challenge, to put it generously. That project expanded about a year and a half I think. Out of all the projects I did during my five years at university, it was definitely my favorite. The more I learned about 3D printing, the more I realized that’s what I wanted to do once I graduated.
As you created this FDM printer that could print overhanging structures, did you invent anything new as a way to do that? Can you share how you accomplished that?
At the time, I think there were four members in the group and none of us had any experience with 3D printers before. As you know if you’re starting from the bottom, it could be quite difficult. You need to get very hands on. There was a missing underlying knowledge. Instead of building a 3D printer from scratch, we decided to start off with a Prusa i3 model. We put it together and then took it back apart. We were able to install new rotating beds within the frame of the model and then we were able to develop our own slicer software.
You went for the, “Let’s not fix the machine part. Let’s fix the bed part.” I like that. That’s a good way of doing it. Rotating bed and different software, were you using polar coordinates then?
I think we used Cartesian. There was a lot of debate about which one we should use. I wasn’t the main driving force behind the software.
Do you mean you’re rotating it not like a lazy Susan sitting on a table? You rotated the bed maybe changing its orientation 90 degrees from flat to vertical?
Yeah, and every angle between. I believe we were one of two teams challenged in the same project that year. One team went for the swinging arm and the rotating bed on its Z axis. We went for an arm that could turn in the X and the Y direction.
Are there photos or images of that that you can share with our audience?
Yeah. I’ve got the paper that I would be happy to send you.
We would love to see that. I know we have things to talk about far beyond that, but it’s a particular interest. We don’t hear about people doing that every day. That gave you the 3D print bug though. It got you excited about 3D printing. What part about it excites you? I always start there because our goal here is to work you through what type of business, what your business is going to look like, what your mission is going to look like. It’s like a business mentorship with 3D print relationship. Whenever we start to think about what we want to do with our business, we first have to come back to what do you love? What do you get excited about? What gets you passionate about it? What excites you about doing it? If at the end of the day, you don’t want to hang out in your office all day long, then entrepreneurship is not for you. It’s one of those things where building a business is all-consuming especially in the beginning. You better really like it. Thinking about what makes you most passionate, what makes you most interested in 3D printing, try to dial into that and think about what excites you the most.
To think about it, my first reaction is there’s a very simple reward system with 3D printing. You will print a model, if there’ll be something you don’t like about the model, you then need to work out how do I change the parameters of that print to make the model better. Once you do that and you achieve a better print, that’s a very good reward and the problem solving also that’s involved with the model. I’ve had a couple of clients come to me and say, “Do you think you can do this?” I go, “Maybe.” Then I have to sit down and work out how to do it. I’ve been able to deliver a product at the end of that process. It’s very rewarding for me.
That’s an interesting idea and that’s an interesting niche. You’ve noted to me in our notes about this that you had a hard time finding a job out of college, out of the university. That just seems crazy to us because we just did this great interview with Jennifer Killingback who is looking to fill jobs around the world for great engineers and great designers. She’s a Human Resources Consultant and has jobs to fill. You mentioned that you live in a really small town?
Yes. I live in a place called Dunfermline, which is the former capital of Scotland. Most of the big companies have moved towards Largs at East. I wanted to stay within my town. I’m very happy here. I don’t want to move away. There are job opportunities if you’re willing to relocate to England for example, but that just wasn’t really an option for me. I figured the best path would be to just start my own business and see what can happen.
That’s great because in today’s world, you can virtually work too. That seems like a great possibility. Some people are constrained. They can’t leave, their spouse has a great job and they’re in that area or they just don’t want to leave their hometown. I totally get that. That is something that Jennifer was mentioning when she was talking about the jobs that some of them are in places that people don’t want to come. That makes sense. Let’s talk about the printing company that you want to start. It’s called DMG Design. What’s your mission?
I’ve really struggled to find jobs within additive manufacturing in my local area. I think you touched upon this lately in an episode you did a while back, your 500th episode. You were discussing about how 3D printing hasn’t really taken over in the way that lots of us would imagine it would have by now. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the everyday person hasn’t realized what 3D printing can do yet. It’s mostly engineers and designers who are using it, whereas I think it needs to be the everyday person coming up with their own ideas and realizing the potential of 3D printing. My main mission is to increase my own employability within the field for 3D printing but also to show others what 3D printing can do.
I think that’s a really hard challenge though. That’s part of why we started our podcast. We thought, “We will be evangelists about it and we’ll get people all excited about what it can do.” At the end of the day, what we really found is that people don’t want to know. They don’t want to know how their products are made. They don’t really care. They would like it to be just a replicator and push a button and have it come out. There is a segment of the market who’s very interested. I want to go back about what you said about you liking the challenge of the idea that there might be somebody out there to help them solve a problem that they think is not solvable, they haven’t found a solution for yet. They have a burning idea, they have a burning invention, they have a burning product but they can’t figure out how to get it done. That might be a great niche.
That’s the service that I’m looking to provide for people. One of my family friends has approached me and asked me to create miniature versions of a golf trophy that he needs in a golf tournament that he’s putting on. He doesn’t want to fork out lots of money to make small replicas and he’s realized that 3D printing could be a viable solution to that. I think it’s examples like that, the little things.
You should probably start with some of these case study type ideas where you’re really showing applications that can be great for. You live in a town that doesn’t have a lot of 3D print industry or industry has moved outside of it. What kind of businesses do you have? Do you have main street trophy shops? Do you have main street bakeries? Maybe you want to start in 3D printing food. This is something that we like to encourage for people to go out there and say, “What are the industries that are right here right now that I can help service, and show them something that they didn’t imagine they could do before?” We could collaborate together to get this challenge happening for them, whether it’s efficiency or productivity improvement or rapid prototyping or doing something that’s just so not personal and yet cost-prohibitive. You’ve got to make a big old run when you want to do a trophy.
That’s an advice I haven’t considered going towards local business. I think that’s a different route I should exploit.
When you’re starting a business, the hardest part is getting clients. If the hardest part is getting clients, if you can align yourself with either another organization who’s already finding clients with problems, that might be a networking association, a chamber of commerce, you’d be the guy to come to when they have this challenging industrial or mechanical problem. That’s a great way to position yourself. Our son-in-law is a videographer. He had done a project where he did it for a real estate agent where he was taking a drone and he was doing drone photography and then putting that into a video and doing these overviews of properties. Once one real estate agent did it, they all wanted him to come and do it. He carved out a little niche within that marketplace by doing one flagship highlighted case study that he could show to the next client. It made closing that next client easier and easier.
A friend of mine approached me and we had a discussion about a career in 3D printed components for retro motorcycles, which aren’t produced anymore. The way he pitched it was that people have a need for retro motorcycle parts that aren’t being made anymore. If they want them, they have to get them imported from Asia, like from China for example, and they have to fork out large shipping costs, whereas they could easily be 3D printed and obviously if they’re locally sourced, the delivery is going to be less and they will be cheaper altogether. That’s something I could go into.
We met someone at Inside 3D Printing who was doing retro car parts. He was doing some of those things and what he found was really interesting. A lot of the companies have libraries full of these drawings of the parts and stuff, and he was able to access them because the repair parts for the repair shops, everything he needed was already there. He didn’t always have to have a part in hand. Sometimes he needed a part, but he didn’t always have to have one. He could find basic raw drawings and go from there. 90% of the work could already be done for you too if you aligned yourself with some libraries like that. Then it makes it even faster.
That’s a solid principle for which we have to go through. That sounds really good.
What you’re talking about is really dialing into a niche community like that. Retro motorcycle enthusiasts congregate in specific places. They are easy to find online. You can find Facebook groups. You can find LinkedIn groups. You can find whole websites devoted to retro motorcycles and the events where they get together. That’s a really great way to grow a business. You can even write an article and put it up about what you did like you did this part, “Look how cool it looked and look how it came about and here’s how I developed it.” The next thing you know, they are just sending you emails saying, “Can you make this part for me? I can’t find it anywhere.” You’ve got a business resource that is just continually sending you leads that way.
Based upon what you just said, do you believe that the best model for a 3D printing business is just to go straight into a niche in the market as you described and become a specialist?
I think it’s a very good short-term plan. You asked me that in our topics for discussion, “What would be a good short-term plan?” It’s a good short-term plan because you don’t have to reinvent everything, which is how people find you and how you market to them. You can reach out through an organization or through a group of people that’s easy to find. That saves you a lot of work right there. If you also already have a great network within your own town, that can work as well. It’s really difficult. You’ve got to find a big enough market that you’re going to be able to sell enough services or enough parts to. There has to be a certain volume. You’re looking at local businesses in the area. If it’s a small town, there’s not going to be a whole lot of local businesses nor is there a very large population of people that give business to that local business. You’re trying to add on and do more business with the same customers, I don’t know if the approach I would take is with tagging along with other local businesses unless there’s some common need that every local business in the area has that you can serve to all of them. That might then be a reasonable opportunity. If there is something having to do with because it’s a remote community and there’s not as much inventory of certain types of things locally that it would make sense to 3D print them and have people buy them instead of wait for things to be shipped in or delivered in from other areas, that might be a possibility.
Find a model that works that’s what we are saying there. If you find something that you can do for one company that translates into another or for one niche group that can translate into another, championing that and starting that and getting a success story with that in one particular area like retro motorcycle parts is great. It’s going to translate into retro jukeboxes and there’s a whole bunch of these communities. What you’ve done there is a model that will work in other places, different types of cars. There are all kinds of people who are approaching that rare parts and rare antiques, but they don’t necessarily have the kind of skills you have and challenges to apply to them to be able to fix them.
Tom has a Karmann Ghia and it’s from 1972. He’s not a purist about it. He was talking about, “Wouldn’t it be great if I had a cellphone holder in here.” Some of the people who own these are not that purist about it and they might have fun challenges like that where they say, “I want to preserve the look of the car but I want to be able to add this because of safety reasons. I have this issue. I’m really short.” In the older cars, they didn’t have that place that held the buckle a little bit lower for the seat belt, so it’s always like cutting my neck, so if I could have just a little clasp that would help hold the buckle. These are challenges and problems that probably come up on the forums within these communities that might be really great for you to be able to say, “I think I can solve this challenge for you. Would you be interested in that?” From there, you either could do two models of business. One is that you then resell the design within the groups or within your own site or some other way that you resell the designs or those designs become the property of that person if they paid you enough. You could have two models of revenue.
That sounds like a solid business plan to be honest. I think I’m just going to steal that from you.
That’s why we’re here to help you get started. The best thing you can do is to take action. In that action, you’re going to start learning something about what people’s problems really are. When you dive deep into their problem, it’s going to be easier for them to find you as the solution.
If I’m approaching these people in forums and an individual with a potential solution, how would you recommend I go about putting a value on my time? That’s a very gray area.
Here’s where the problem lies. As an individual, a solopreneur which you are right now, maybe someday your business will grow significantly and you will just be running it and there’ll be lots of employees, but right now it’s you and you need to support yourself. It’s all too common that people in your position undervalue their time and they price what they’re going to be offering their customers based on what customers are willing to pay, what they think that the value for your service should be, not what the actual reality of your cost, of your own time is. It’s a bit of a conundrum. It doesn’t matter if reality is you need to be making so many thousands of dollars a week or a month. You break that down into how many hours you’re going to spend doing it and you eventually come up with an hourly rate. By the time you charge someone what the real cost is for you of making some customized part to meet their need of a replacement part or whatever it might be, you might have to charge several hundred dollars for a part. The reality is their expectation is they want to pay $50 for the part. You’re going to have a disconnect between the reality of cost and what the “market” is willing to pay for that. The market doesn’t have the understanding of how much time and energy has to go in to modeling or creating this part in the first place, forget than printing it.
You have to go into a non-comparison place. That’s really where I recommend most people when you’re starting. You go into the place of the market, you’re not going to go into the people who have retro motorcycles and they can find these parts by the dozen in China even with the shipping cost. At the end of the day, it’s going to be easy. What you want to go in for are the ones with the rarest machines that no longer have parts. You might want Indians or something. You really want to go for the ones that are the hardest to do, the ones where the people have meticulously cared for their machine, but maybe they don’t have the skill set you have to make this replacement part. That’s the problem you’re solving. It’s not about the money. It’s about getting it right. When you find that type of community, then it’s a lot easier to go and start to have that conversation.
There is a challenge though when you’re starting out. It’s a problem. You come out of school, you’ve got to have job experience, you’ve got to have a portfolio if it’s in the design world. Building that means speculation on some cases. Being smart about that speculation is the most important thing because it’s going to happen. You’re going to have to do a little project at cost or you’re maybe even for free. If you do it with the right influencer or you do it with a company guaranteed to give you referrals, if you do it with a person who makes the most noise on the forum and when he says, “Everybody try this,” they do, that’s the person that you want to work with and that you might even approach and say, “Do you have a challenge I could solve for you? All I would like in exchange is you to refer me within this forum and endorse me.” Just doing one small project like that might save you months of time of not getting traction.
Sometimes especially freelancers or consultants or designers, engineers, they all undervalue themselves in terms of hourly rate or amount of time it takes to do a project. In fact, I’m giving a speech to entrepreneurs about this particular thing. The whole thing is about the art of pricing because it’s not a science. Thinking about that is there is a cost to the amount of time it takes you to get enough clients. If you can shorten that with the right relationship, think of it like sinking in marketing cost. You might have to do advertisements. Doing a free project or at-cost project with the right person might be better than advertising. If you’re thinking about it in terms of parts that cannot be replaced, like there isn’t a place for them, no one sells them, there’s no comparison. It allows you to set your own value. That’s a good territory to be. That’s an opportunity gap.
What do you think of my current short-term business plan? Basically, I’ve been making these personalized plaques of wood with sound waves 3D printed. The printer I purchased came with a laser engraver. My short-term plan is to continually sell those because I’ve got a lot of demands because there’s always a market for personalized items with Christmas and the Valentine’s Day coming up in the future. My idea is to find someone within a network who can give me the referral, and then I can shift my focus onto that.
I think the problem is that most of the resources for selling them is difficult. You want ultrasound waves. You’re having a baby and you get your ultrasound waves at the heartbeat, that would be so cool to put that on the plaque and you can totally see that. Prospective moms aren’t shopping on Shapeways and Sculpteo and i.materialise. They aren’t there. They don’t know that exists. They don’t even care about it. You’ve got to be in the place where they are. They might be on Etsy. If you can partner up with another seller who’s successful in those areas or you want to call it like a distributor, someone who is that referral, that’s a way better model because you don’t have to reinvent that access to that right type of person who will buy that.
That type of a business where you’re going to do customized gift type products, certainly that’s a great fit for 3D printing because it’s uniquely capable of producing those things and you said the machine you have is a 3D printer and a laser engraver, so you can do it all in one machine. The trick to it and the difficulty in that type of business is how are you going to scale this business beyond the time of day that you have to spend on it? It may work initially, maybe there is a lot of demand. I don’t know how much people are willing to pay for these things but at the end of the day, if you can produce enough of them in a period of time with a minimum amount of your personal time to create them, if whatever you can solve them for is producing you a good value for the time that you’re spending, that’s a good start to a business. You’re going to find that eventually you’ll be limited by the amount of time you have in a day. Even if you’re very successful and you fill up 40, 50, 60 hours a week of your time doing nothing but creating these customized plaques, awards, gift items or whatever they are, you’re only going to be able to grow that business so much.
How would you scale it beyond you is another thing that I think you need to think about in terms of, “Overall, is this a business I want to really invest my time in and build?” It’s not going to be any small effort to get a reputation and to figure out how you’re going to acquire new customers in an efficient manner. When I think of this type of business, I always want to find out, “How much am I going to allow to be customized and how much is going to be standard that the customers don’t get any choice on? Whatever is customized, I want to be able to accomplish that in the shortest amount of time possible because my time is the most valuable thing I have and it’s going to cost me the most.” There are other things to consider. We have thought about all kinds of different customizable product businesses, and where it always gets tricky is the labor required to do this customization. There is not always a way to automate that and take you out of that. If you can, then that’s really awesome and then that changes things. That might be the challenge for you because that actually might be the bigger business. You may have to prove it on yours but if you figure out the way to automate that and make that work, that might be applicable to all other types of product businesses. Now you’re licensing software or you’re licensing whatever your technology might be in there. That’s translatable and scalable.
One of the things I’m actually trying to develop right now is to use a 3D print slicer to be able to record for the laser engraver itself. Right now what happens is I make a document in Inkscape which is a bit of Photoshop, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. There’s an add-on that will make the path for the laser but there are only one or two options. One is I would do an outline which is a lot quicker, but it doesn’t do any shades and/or any depth for that. The second is called a raster which takes significantly more time because it has to cover every hair of the print area even when the laser’s off. By using the slicer, I can cut down on the print time or the laser engraving significantly.
That sounds like very useful and that would be something translatable and licensable, if you solve a problem like that. Whoever company who you’ve bought this printer from, you might be able to go straight to them and license it right back. Sometimes the most obvious solution is the easiest because it is way easier for someone to just buy what you’ve got when it’s already packaged with a big red bow ready to go than it is for them to try to reinvent that, especially if it’s a challenge that they didn’t even realize because they aren’t working in application with their own machine. That happens all the time. We see this when we test out 3D printers. They basically test the same five, six designs all the time on the printer. We do very intricate challenging prints all the time and when we go to use it, the printer doesn’t work. They don’t even realize this because they’ve never tried something outside of their box. They didn’t even know it was a problem and they didn’t understand that’s why their printer’s not getting rave reviews and why it’s not taking hold and taking traction. Solving a problem like that gives it broader application and better competitive edge.
I guess this is probably one of the main challenges that people get stuck and been static on this, there are just so many different things or applications I could be putting my time in.
Shiny object syndrome, you get all excited about all the different shiny things that you could be working on and the different fun things. I think there’s no shame in the fact that you have tons of ideas. That’s a great thing, you’re lucky considering the people with way shortage of ideas. It is a matter of focusing. You have short-term needs. Everyone has to pay their bills and feed their family and pay their mortgage or the rent. You have issues like that and that is a reality of business. It hampers us all the time still and we’ve been doing this for 25 years. It’s one of those things where you have to balance and say, “I see really great potential,” whether it’s speeding up the laser engraver. I go out there and every time I talk about it, people latch on to it. They’re excited about it. They get more excited it; as Jay Samit put it, “A zombie idea.” It doesn’t die. It gets better and better, and I get more informed and I get more excited about it. You’ve got to find a way to work that in and keep working at that while you have your day job. That’s what we’re doing here with 3D printing ourselves. We’re passionate about it and we’re excited about it and we don’t want to give up on it. If we had to rely on it paying our bills, we’re not there yet. We’re successful in the scope of things. It’s just not at the level at which it’s scalable for us yet. That’s the reality for so many people, so you’re not alone. Don’t give up on that great zombie idea as long as every time you go out there, it’s not your friends and family going, “You’re great. It’s wonderful.” It’s people who really would use it who are going, “You need to get that out to market. I need that. I will buy that. I will pay good money for that.” That’s the idea you keep going on.
You’ve really got to focus in on where’s the biggest opportunity and maybe where’s the opportunity gap of enough potential customers. You’ve got to have a large volume of customers for whatever you’re going to do and not get distracted by everything you could possibly do. Concentrate on one thing, do it very, very well, see it through, make that work, and then it will give you the opportunity to expand and potentially move on to the next thing. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Just because a 3D printer can print anything doesn’t mean you should be doing anything with your 3D printer.
That’s definitely probably the biggest personal challenge that I’m finding, deciding what to put my time into.
It’s a creative challenge for all of us, trust me.
I feel bad I’m neglecting my own ideas.
You don’t have to neglect them. Ideas can stay on the shelf for a while. We call it the discard pile here. If you haven’t listened to that episode but we call it the discard pile. You know you’ve got to put them down. You’ve got to have what’s in your hand. It’s got to be good. You’ve got to keep your hand the best that you can play at any given time. That doesn’t mean those ideas aren’t going to come back. It’s important to recognize when there’s an opportunity that opens up, that something that you discarded is good and you need to bring it back up again. That’s the time to be able to focus on that. We do that all the time here. Technology catches up to our ideas sometimes. That just happened. We were doing an interview and we were like, “Now, this idea we’ve had for this is possible,” where it wasn’t before. It was just cost-prohibitive before.
Sometimes you may also need to look at a potential market differently. There may be an unseen concern, an unseen pain point in the market. People don’t even realize they have a problem and you may have the opportunity to solve a problem or make their lives better, make something they do easier to do. It may not be just so obvious that it’s right there in front of you. 3D printing has a lot of unique capabilities and opportunities to solve a whole range of different problems, problems maybe that some people didn’t even know they had. That’s the difficult part is to figure out what those things are.
This is not a suggestion for you in terms of your business, but I just want to use it as an example of a market that did not exist maybe five or ten years ago where people are spending lots of money for very small inexpensive amounts of plastic material that could be uniquely done in a different way. I don’t know if you have this over in Scotland but it’s a children’s toy called a Shopkin. These Shopkins have tons of different designs of these tiny pieces of plastic and they charge lots of money for them. They’ve made an object that’s desirable, that didn’t exist before. These are not major characters from movies. They’re not long-time brands. They created them from nothing. They’re very small amounts of plastic and kids are buying them as collectible things and they’re trading them. It’s become this whole thing out of nothing. At the end of the day, they’re selling what is probably $0.15 or $0.20 worth of plastic for dollars. That’s scalable and it involves creativity. It involves a lot of marketing dollars. I’m not saying this is a model necessarily for you, but it’s an example of you’ve got to figure out something that will be desired and of interest to a very large group of people.
When you’re starting out and you don’t have a lot of money and you don’t have a lot of leverage, that’s where you have to go for other people’s resources, other people’s leverage, other people’s connections to the marketplace. Reinventing all of that is not how a company takes off. You can’t reinvent all of that without tremendous amount of resources and time wasted, and you won’t be able to test out whether or not you have a good idea with the right marketplace. Go for wherever you can leverage your maximum marketing, maximum access to the people you think want it, and then try it. If they don’t want it, that’s a sign to keep moving and move somewhere else, whether it’s maybe you learned, “These people don’t want it but these people might. Let me go over here and test another market,” or, “My product is wrong.” The biggest thing that goes wrong, 56% of failures of ventures, startups, is because there is a mismatch between the product and the market. Either the market doesn’t want what the product is or the market doesn’t even know that the product exists because they’re in the wrong place. You have this absolute mismatch between the two things. They must match. It’s hard to do both. It’s hard to build a market and build a product.
I guess that’s one of the big challenges that you will face pretty much every day, isn’t it?
Right. You’re a product guy. You can build a product. You can build a technology. You can build a software. You can build stuff. Building a market on top of that is hard. Whenever you can tap in and say, “That’s not my core strength right now. I don’t have enough resources in that area. I’m going to tap into somebody else’s market and solve their pain point and problem and be that solution guy. If I see that that’s translatable into this next market niche, I’ve got success that I can now scale and remodel in another place, model again.” That’s a great way to do it.
That reminds me of a story of one of my friends in my network who lives in Germany. In Germany, they just go nuts for personalized embroidered stuff. Basically, she just makes some new design every day. It takes her an hour or so and then she puts them out online. People just buy it for pennies pretty much. She’s been able to be really successful that way, out of nothing pretty much. I think that is just about finding or providing a service that matches the need of the market.
Thank you, Daniel, so much for reaching out to us. I hope that we’ve helped you. I’m sure that we’ve challenged you so much that you’re not going to sleep. You’ll be thinking too much. We really appreciate it. You’ve got to keep us posted please.
Absolutely. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to meet with me.
3D Business Mentorship: Startup Issues – Final Thoughts
I think that Daniel has a classic challenge of many entrepreneurs. It doesn’t matter what industry it is, whether it’s 3D printing or service-based businesses with the entrepreneurs we talk about every day, people who are starting their podcast who we talk to in our other company, Brandcasting You. We have issues all the time of them focusing on figuring out what they should be working on, what their long-term mission is, what their core business is, what their opportunity gaps are. These are all really translatable things. We’re lucky because we basically are serial startups. That’s what we’ve been doing. We launch products every single week, every single month. We’re constantly launching products. It’s like being in startup mode all the time. The startup mode isn’t fearful to us. To some people there’s risk profile or risk tolerance is not well suited for what we do.
We’ve also weeded out a lot of the rookie errors that happen along the way, which is a process thing. When you’re starting up, you’ve got to take things of risk out of their equation. You’ve got to take the riskiest, most expensive things out of the equation and test, “Is it a good idea? Is it a good product? Is it a good plan?” You’ve got to test all of those things along the way and then either pivot or discard. We want to do that in the process with as little money spent and as little time invested spent where we can be testing out our ideas because that’s where you burn through a lot of cost and money if you’ve gone and just said, “I’m going to build all this inventory and I’m going to do it, and then I’m going to see if it sells.” What a mistake. We’ve seen that go wrong so, so often.
When I give my speeches all over, I talk about striped shirt. The striped shirt model is like, “Why wouldn’t everyone want to buy a striped shirt instead of wearing their team’s logo as an identifier?” There was a fundamental flaw in that and a fundamental way that she went through the program. It took her five years to crash that business. Five years later, she had to kick stop her business. That’s a huge lesson. I don’t want it to take five years for you to figure out it’s not working. I want it to take five weeks or less and have you be able to say, “If I’d only done this differently at the beginning, I would have been in a completely different place right now.” That’s how small a pivot can be. It can be five degrees that makes a tremendous difference in your trajectory later.
There’s one other interesting aspect of Daniel’s path that maybe is where we can end on here. He really was taking the approach that he wants to explore with his own business what kind of market he can seek out that will be large enough that he can make a go of this with his passion in 3D printing. He also realizes that if he spends a year doing it and then he ends up failing in that first endeavor, and there’s nothing wrong with failing on that. You learn a tremendous amount. He has a good attitude that at least if he fails at that, then when he goes out and applies for other jobs he’ll have so much more 3D printing experience from this that will make him more desirable on the job market. He may need to move to another geographic area in order to get that job. He may not be able to stay in his local rural community, but maybe he will be able to. There are more and more virtual jobs going on, it depends. I never really advocate splitting your focus between what your backup plan would be and what your primary plan is because you do need to go with something all-in in order to make a success of it. I do think he’s right that no matter what he does, even if that business fails, he’ll be able to pick himself back up and he’ll have still valuable experience that will serve him well regardless of what specifically he goes on to do next.
We do that all the time and that’s why we started this podcast. It was a test to see if there was interest in our market and we said, “At worst, we spend eight hours a month working on it and at best, we learned a whole tremendous amount.” A hundred episodes later we say, “Forget it, we’re not going to do it.” Five hundred plus episodes later, we’re still doing it because the learning process has been so valuable, the test process of us being able to test our ideas has been so valuable and honestly, the business that it’s created for us in a residual way, not directly in 3D printing, but the value that podcasting has added to our lives has been tremendous for us. We got a benefit we didn’t even know we would find and that typically happens when you go in with that all-in attitude. You find residual opportunities, especially if you’re open to them and looking for them.
I hope Daniel is successful. We’re going to be checking in with him from time to time. He’s going to let us know how he’s doing. I’m sure at some point there’ll be a follow-up episode. He needs a bit of time; maybe late 2018 by the time we do that. I enjoyed offering some thoughts and things for him to consider, and I think he got value out of it and hopefully all of you did too.
Thanks again for listening and make sure to visit 3DStartPoint.com and/or the Facebook page @3DStartPoint, and share some of your ideas and some of your thoughts and some of your projects and businesses that you’re working on. We always love to hear from our listeners. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time. This has been Tom and Tracy on the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
About Daniel McGuire
I am a Mechanical Engineering Graduate with a Master’s degree which I earned at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. After working with 3D printers during my Master’s Project I knew I wanted to work in the additive manufacturing industry. However I found that 3D printing companies in my area were really scarce and finding a job would be difficult. Therefore I decided to start my own 3D printing company, DMGDesign. `The ‘mission’ of this company is to raise awareness of what extrusion based 3D printers can make and how they can be used. The main backbone of the company is to sell personalized laser-engraved, wooden plaques which have 3D printed elements glued onto them. The aim is then to evolve into a consultant for clients who are starting their own small business and want to know if 3D printing could be part of their company. Another area I want to offer in the future is customized prints for specific purposes such as retro motorcycle parts for example.
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