My series of articles about makers who launch a side business activity keeps going. In this second interview, I talk with Jeff Murchison, solo maker of Simon Says kits, Arduino shields and Open Source Foosball Scoreboard. Get your daily shot of maker business ideas !
When he is not doing IT and motion graphics for a video production studio in Toronto, Jeff Murchison plays with electronics and microcontrollers. He shares his experiments on his personal blog and occasionally turns his projects into products that he sells in his store on Tindie. And he wants to keep going.
In this interview, Jeff shares his story, how he got started, how he finds his customers and some of the tools he uses. An inspiring story that shows that it doesn’t take that much to get started!
For extra advice on how to start a side maker business using Tindie, listen to MakingSociety Podcast Episode #4 !
MakingSociety: Tell us more about your store and how you started it.
Jeff Murchison: In late 2012 I designed an Arduino shield. The shield was really a project for myself – I didn’t have any intention of selling it when I first designed it. After assembling it though, I still had 9 PCBs left over (since the minimum amount I could order was 10). Tindie had just launched a month or so prior and I thought, well why don’t I buy some extra components and try and sell the rest of the shields? As it turned out, people liked the shield and so I kept making it and improving it with new designs, and this started me on the path to designing products specifically with the intention of selling them on Tindie.
MakingSociety: Do you live from your store or do you also have other activities?
Jeff Murchison: I have a fulltime job at a video production / post production shop in Toronto where I do IT as well as motion graphics. My Tindie store is just a way for me to make extra money to fund my personal electronics projects.
MakingSociety: How do you find your clients? How do they hear about you?
Jeff Murchison: I would say the majority of my customers come from Tindie itself, or word of mouth recommendations. I do occasionally post my projects on my blog, Twitter, Reddit, and other forums. This year I also attended the Ottawa and Toronto Mini Maker Faires where I sold some of my products and showed off my foosball scoreboard project.
MakingSociety: What are your biggest challenges at the moment? Marketing? Manufacturing? Logistics?
Jeff Murchison: At the moment my biggest challenge would probably be trying to find bigger markets / marketplaces for my products. Selling individual kits on Tindie is nice, but it would be really great to find a store to carry my products. I recently sold a large batch of my simon says game kits to someone who wanted to use them to teach younger kids how to solder. That was awesome not only because it was a large sale, but because something I made is helping people learn, and they get to have fun with it too.
I still have the occasional manufacturing / logistics issue, be it a shipping delay due to a Chinese holiday, lost packages, or errors in my own design, but I like to think I’ve got logistics and manufacturing down pat for the most part. I’ve even built my own Filemaker database to track inventory and print customs and shipping labels. The database interfaces with Tindie using their new orders API really helped speed order processing up – I can have an order ready to ship in a few minutes from the time I get it.
MakingSociety: Are your products open source, and if yes, what are the main benefits for you?
Jeff Murchison: All of my current products are completely open source, from the design to the code. The main reason I decided to open source everything is because it helps me when people can look at my design, look at my code, and give me feedback on how I can improve it. It also lets people do more with their products – for example, I had someone reprogram their simon says game to include other games as well. To me it’s really awesome to see someone expand on your work and make something cool or useful from it.
Read the other articles in the series:
- Tindie Series #1: Jason and the MIDI Noiseboxes
- How to Start a Side Maker Business, with Emile Petrone, CEO of Tindie