ternal comments—sometimes really crummy ones—can be on every
photo, video, or pull request. It is
challenging, but what matters is the
persistence of publishing and sharing—and liberal use of the block button. One of the benefits of being visible is it is inspiring to your customers
and your community. They not only
get to know about you and share your
vision, they become inspired to share
what they’re doing, too. For instance,
we post thousands of customer projects a year on our Adafruit blog. We
have a weekly “Show and Tell” where
kids building their first snap-circuits
come together with experts building a scanning electron microscope
(SEM), and everyone shows and
shares their projects. Through this
alone we’ve gotten to meet so many
people; many of them go on to work
with Adafruit or the author guides at
learn.adafruit.com, which now has
almost 1,200 tutorials.
In the context of a launching hardware
company, or indeed any company, I
have a pretty standard and repeatable
series of things to consider.
It’s important that you try to keep
your current job, or work in an industry that will be helpful for your entrepreneurial efforts. If you have a job,
you have some capital. It’s not all or
nothing. You’re not relying on loans
or investors, at least not yet.
When starting out, there is only
one of you. You can get a lot done, but
there are limits. Eventually you’ll have
others involved who might get more
done. But it’s important to know this
is where the complexity kicks in. So
it’s crucial to write up what’s impor-
tant to you from the start. This is your
DNA and vision. It is not necessarily
your business plan. But it is always
good to refer to it when things are go-
ing good, or more likely, not so good.
Almost a decade ago I wrote up a
15-step process to starting a kit business. I gave the presentation to a dozen people at the first Maker Faire, and
it still holds up:
1. You need an expertise/skill set/
interest that you can parlay into a
2. Think of a memorable name
for your company. Don’t pick something that is impossible to search.
3. Register a domain name based
on your company name. And don’t
just get the .com version, also get the
.net and .org versions.
4. a) File a DBA (“
doing-business-as”). It allows you to do business under your new business name rather
than your personal name.
b) Open a bank account under your
DBA name, with (free) checks.
c) Get a credit card under your
DBA name. Keep all your business accounts separate from your personal
one to simplify matters at tax time.
d) Go to the library and read every
relevant book by Nolo Press.
5. Get a straightforward digital
camera (nothing fancy, doesn’t need
to be SLR) and start learning how to
take good pictures of your projects,
which will ultimately become your
products. Phones are good enough
now; they’ll work too, more so with
videos. The best camera is the one you
have with you at all times.
6. Make a lot of stuff. The only
way to do this is to make a lot of stuff.
Don’t tell people about the failures
(yet). Get maybe 2–4 projects under
your belt. Purchase everything related to your business with your business bank account/credit card. This
makes your accounting easier than
stuffing receipts in a box. Hopefully,
you’ve already done some of this project work. Take lots and lots of photos
of your progress.
7. Photos. This is very important
to communicate what you and your
projects are all about to your audience. Learn to take good ones. Be prepared to spend hours learning what
makes a good photo and how to take
Be excellent to one
another, and you can
have an excellent
culture. Being a good
cause and a good
business is possible.
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