Have you ever wanted to take a peek behind the scenes here at Cara Supply? Today’s your lucky day! We’re lifting the curtain on the process of designing & creating our exclusive teethers & beads! There are so many facets to this process and so many people involved, and we wanted to share some of the excitement with you!
In this blog, we’re hoping to send some love to Kelly-Ann and Dorothy, our product development team, and to give you an idea of how hard they work designing products that you will LOVE!
First we’re going to dig into how we do our purchasing - the ‘why’ behind our products. Then we will share a case study with our brand new exclusive horse teethers - basically we will give you the scoop on how we develop exclusive products from initial sketch to final launch! Cozy up in your favorite spot, and let's get into it!
Our focus and goal at Cara Supply has always been to provide you with high quality, safe and well curated products for your silicone crafting supply needs.
We strongly believe in supporting our industry. When deciding what items to carry in our shop, we do our due diligence and thoroughly research what's on the market to ensure we carry products that are created with utmost integrity, originality, and care. We like to support other small shops, and we take great pride in carrying designs that have been lovingly created by other talented entrepreneurs - see our amazing brand partners on our website here: Design Partner page.
On top of supporting original designs and concepts, our product development team works with reputable manufacturers for unique and well designed products. Our goal is to ensure that your craft supplies are safe, aesthetically pleasing, and of course, perfect for teething gums!
Beyond supporting original designers, we’ve also seen a need for specific themes in the silicone teething community that are safe, tested and well designed! (If you haven’t picked up on it yet, these are the things we repeat to ourselves all the time!)
So how do Cara & Co's custom designed, exclusive products begin? Let's find out!
1) The first step starts with YOU - Customer Requests!
When customers message us requesting products, it's often because they aren’t available in the market! All of your messages and requests are cataloged and saved. Yep, that’s right! If you send us a DM, email, or comment with a request, we record it and our product development team is notified. They begin communicating with our manufacturers to find a suitable product. If there’s nothing in the market for a particular request, our team begins discussing if Cara & Co should design a custom teether. Do we think manufacturing, designing, and paying for a custom product will be a success?
If the request is in line with the market trends we’ve been following, we start to move toward making the concept come to life here in our own studio. After lots of discussion, the team decides whether it is a "go!" and then initial sketching begins!
2) The second way we brainstorm original and exclusive designs is by carefully following market trends!
This one is a little more straightforward, but also takes skill and lots of research! Our team is constantly keeping tabs on baby and children’s fashion - we see trend waves work through our industry, and they’re often prompted by in-style children’s apparel or children’s decor themes.
When we notice trends that are really beginning to take hold, we try to match them up with the requests we have received. It's even better if we can get ahead of the curve with a trend so that we are early to the market! If we are going to design a product, we want to be sure that there are customers who will enjoy and want it. We don’t want it to be simply a cute product that sits on our shelf!
Once we have identified a trend, we narrow in on a specific design idea to meet the mark. For example, if "outer space" is popular, is it a good fit to make a planet teether? Maybe a star? Or is a rocket teether a more sellable fit? Is this trend popular enough, and does it have the longevity to support a custom product designed for it?
Case Study: Cara & Co Exclusive Horse Teether
Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of how we select products to develop, let's walk through our recent launch of our new Horse Teether to see how the process of making an idea into physical reality happens!
For the last few months, we have noticed an increasing interest in farm specific and western themed trends. We scoured through available items, and realized there was a gap in the market for these themes.
Our creative wheels began to churn!
Dorothy, our Product Designer and resident artist, came up with a few recommendations for product ideas that we could create to fill this gap. Out of all her initial ideas, two were chosen to be the western themed products we would design: a Horse teether and a coordinating Cowboy hat bead!
Step One: Ideas to Sketches
After concept approvals, Dorothy began to dream up and sketch a design using the following key parameters: avoid a likeness to any existing original designs (anything even remotely related, such as unicorns or other similar animals), ensure the design will be safe so that we are confident it will pass safety requirements when we send it off for third party testing, and design a teether that is intricate and intentional - our signature detailed designs make us unique compared to other brands in the market!
The initial sketch is always started as an outline that will be subject to a choke test. Our goal is to design products that are inspirational and beautiful, but more importantly, compliant and safe. Dorothy will often first outline the shape on paper, cut it out, and pre-flight it with a choke test to see if the shape will most likely pass.
Why is a choke test so important? A choke test simulates the shape of a child’s expanded throat. If any piece of the teether can be seen through the other side of the choke test, it will not pass initial safety requirements and ultimately be an unsafe teether. This is a vital step in our process that we take very seriously. Some elements of the design may need to be changed or exaggerated to ensure that the entire teether or parts of it won’t pass through a choke test. If any part of it fails, back to the drawing board Dorothy goes! You can find our safety choke tests here for your own preliminary testing of any teething toy or design you make as well!
In the case of our Horse Teether, Dorothy made the design decision to revise the teether sketch and make the mane and tail extra large. This was to ensure that the head or legs wouldn’t be able to pass through the choke test. Ultimately, after the final mold and teether have been produced, we will then send samples of the finished product to our CPSC compliant testing agency, in order to ensure we have certification for the design. It's important to think conscientiously about safety at every step of the design process.
Once the design is approved internally, Dorothy and our manufacturers will turn the sketch into a 3D drawing so that we can have as realistic of a design as possible before approving a mold. The cost of a mold is expensive, and so it is important to ensure the design is completely perfect before the mold is made.
Our goal with our exclusive products is to design teethers that are beautiful and intricate. Every color, design depth and tiny detail is an additional layer on the mold that needs to be manufactured so we can get our final product just right!
Our exclusive teethers are intricate and multi-layered for a number of reasons. We find that it makes a more beautiful design! Variety is the spice of life, and the same sentiment is true of variation in depth, details, color, shade, etc. It also sets our brand apart, as it provides an extra layer of originality and careful thought to make our products stand out! Complex molds create a unique design that will be instantly recognizable - we want you to know our teethers when you see them! The high expense of our detailed molds also give our product a level of finish that is difficult to replicate or copy.
Step Two: 3D Printed Mold
After the initial design has been passed back and forth between us and our manufacturer and all tweaks and changes have been made, a final version of the teether is 3D printed in plastic and shipped to us. This allows us to see the tangible version of our idea, prior to the expensive cost of the final mold needed for production.
This is a crucial step for us to examine the shape and design of the teether in person. A lot can be lost in translation between sketches and renderings, so having a physical representation of the teether gives us an opportunity to review any design decisions we’ve made. Think picking paint colors for your house: sometimes what you think looks good on a Benjamin Moore website looks completely different in person and on your walls! We can stare at our computer generated images all day long, but there’s something so wonderful about holding the physical version of our design. At this point, we also triple check safety (again!) and adjust any sizing to ensure full compliance.
When we receive the 3D plastic model, it is produced in all white plastic (see the picture above!). It can be a little tough to envision the final product when it's not in our colors. To help with envisioning the product, Dorothy will often take a few markers and color in the design. This step is a lot of fun and has helped us spot errors and design issues (like backwards lettering- ack!). The colors won’t be accurate, but it gives us an idea of what the final product might look like.
Step Three: Final Details
After we approve the 3D plastic mold, we begin to finalize our color selections! Matching silicone colors to our standard lineup is really important to us because it makes YOUR design process easier! You put so much thought and care into the items you create, so we want to make your product selections are as EASY as we can make them. We either select colors that we already have in our standard lineup, or we decide to use brand new colors with the understanding that we may need to incorporate them into our shop moving forward.
Hole placement is also finalized at this stage. We try to give you options. If only one hole is possible, we make sure that wherever the hole is placed, the way the teether hangs looks natural. For example, if we place a hole at the bottom or side of a teether, it would hang upside down or incorrectly - not ideal! Our horse teether actually has 4 compliant (meaning thick and strong enough) hole options!
Step Four: Final Mold
Once all the details have been finalized, we give our manufacturer approval to make the final mold. If we need to make any changes after this point, our mold is no longer useful and a brand new mold has to be produced (and paid for!).
A few final silicone teethers are then submitted for third-party testing. Once the product passes official testing and we receive our certification, we can then begin to start full production of our new teether in large quantities! Hooray!
Step Five: Production & Packaging
Waiting for our new teethers is always hard. They can take weeks to produce due to the complexity of the molds... but they are always worth the wait!
Our exclusive teethers are carefully placed in our own branded packaging. When the products (finally!!) arrive, our wonderful team quality checks samples, counts them and then enters the new teethers into our inventory system.
Naming our product is also a fun part of the process! Up to this point, the product has been known by a simple name like "Horse" (which in this case remained the final name). However, the two variant color options needed names as well!
Of all the ladies here at Cara Supply, Dorothy has a special knack for coming up with creative names. Dorothy also gives everyone at Cara & Co an opportunity to either help her brainstorm name ideas or vote for the names they prefer! It’s a unique way to make sure the entire team has a hand in helping our product come to life!
Step Six: Marketing & Launch
Once a brand new product has arrived, it gets passed to our Creative and Marketing team! Together with Product Development, they review a timeline for launch. They also again review the "why" for the product - why are we carrying this item? Who will be purchasing it? Why is it special? All of these details will help them market the product to you in the best way possible - so you can create endless possibilities!
Once a time frame for launching has been selected, the products will be photographed and included in our content planning. Content will be produced using the new product, and the launch will be scheduled in our content calendar!Phew! What a process!! From pencil sketch to Instagram launch, our journey for the Horse Teether was approximately 6 months long! By the time a product has been launched on our social media, we are all SO eager to see it go live and read your responses. So much time, effort and love has been poured into them, and we appreciate all of your support and feedback!
Producing our exclusive teethers and beads is truly a team effort. It requires your input as our loyal customers, and so many people on our team to safely and responsibly create a product that we feel confident we can attach our name to. We love knowing that the product we’ve brought to life is beautiful, responsibly made, safe and unique.
Did you find learning about our process interesting? We would love to hear from you! Feel free to pop any questions in the comments below.
And if you have product requests - remember: we record them! We always hear you and are constantly working to try to provide you with the supplies you love and want! Happy crafting and happy teething :)!