I then spent three weeks sewing prototypes in our sizes and then hand embroidering the labels on them.
Although environmentally sustainable, the bags were not fit for purpose. A fabric that was see through, which is a key element of why the bags work, wasn’t strong enough to hold it’s packing shape.
Let’s be frank, the hand embroidery was beautiful but timely indulgence when I was seduced by the thought of languid days working from home.
Over two years later, four of my fabric bags are still waiting for a bit of embroidery to be finished.
After this experiment, I went back to my original design.
I was so clear on how I wanted the product to look, the font and colours of the labelling and branding, the feel of the bags.
This meant I went into the conversations about manufacturing with the end product in my mind’s eye.
This held me in good stead for the rabbit warren of conversations I would have to go down to have them eventually made.
Now we have the product for sale, the bags have barely altered from that first vision although there were many times I wondered if the bags could ever get made.
I have always been really clear that I wanted the bags to be BPA free, reusable and recyclable at the end of their life.
Fortunately I found there was an international plastics fair hosted here in Melbourne.
So I loaded the two children in the double pram, and spent a long morning doing laps of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.
There were hardly any women there and certainly no women with babies in prams there.
I was told time and time again that its would be hard to make the product to my design in small runs.
The fair was my foray into the real world, out and about having conversations about manufacturing.
I felt like it was an exciting step, although I still wasn’t sure I had found anyone to make the product.
We hit capacity, the one year old was starving apparently and the baby was screaming.
As I left, I noticed one of the last stands in a row and took their card.
I left feeling a bit overwhelmed, but in hindsight it was such a valuable experience to see the scope of plastics manufactures and start the production conversations in earnest.
I engaged in conversations via email and over time zones with exhibitors I had met in Melbourne, but also through the Alibaba site.
At one stage I was speaking with around seven different manufacturers.
I had found examples of like products, and sent images and specifications of the design and dimensions. I had to be really clear on my knowledge of plastic and what specifications I required.
After literally months of emailing and back and forwards, I couldn’t find the right fit overseas.
Shy of going overseas and visiting factories, or paying a broker to do this, I didn’t feel confident that I could guarantee the bulk quality, or the smell of the plastic.
These seems like a small and silly consideration, but one that was important to me.
I had got so caught up in the idea that it was a better cost proposition to have the bags made overseas.
I realised that I needed to go back through my local research and find an option I felt I could better manage from home.
I found the card from that very last site I saw at the plastics expo of a plastics manufacturer in Brisbane and began conversations.
I felt for my contact, who almost daily would receive another question from me about plastics, look and feel.
We went through lots of couriered samples, and finally I felt we were getting closer to the product I had held so clearly in my mind.
We were able to come up with a product that I had dreamt of (I never thought I would be saying this about plastic bags, dreaming of plastic) by a company I felt comfortable working with, that were Australian made and met all my criteria within a reasonable budget and at a relatively small production run of 1000 pieces.
There are nine individual bags in each set, so the next challenge was where to put a pallet of 9000 bags owned by a business being run from the kitchen.
The original packaging idea was going to be a mailing tube, printed with our simple logo.
This was one of the first things I designed and again, I was so clear on how it would look. I felt it would be a great option for mailing too, and serve double duty as packaging and mailing.
As the process went on and I got a better feel for the bags and the instruction sheet, as well as adding other products to the website.
I knew I had to be more flexible with this vision for packaging, so began the research process again for mailing and packing options.
Our current packaging is environmentally friendly tissue paper and stickers, but I’m not happy with these for display purposes and also as it isn’t a robust pack.
My next challenge is finding a packing solution that I am happy with for online customers and can work if we make the decision to wholesale the product or display at expos.