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15 steps to starting your own electronic-kit business - ladyada's tips for success Answered

Voices: 15 steps to starting your own electronic-kit business

Ladyada, of MintyBoost! fame among others, gives EDN the step-by-step process for building a successful kit-building business. I've seen her operation, and she's a total pro. If you're interested in doing this yourself, this information is gold.

After Limor Fried received her master's degree in computer science and electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2004, she started her own business designing and selling electronic kits, targeting customers who want to explore embedded-microcontroller-based designs or create their own GPS (global-positioning-system)-based systems, among others. She has made Adafruit Industries into a successful electronics-kit business, and, based on her own experience, offers these 15 practical steps for engineers who dream of starting their own kit business.

Plus Step 7:

Put basic documentation of your project online. You can use the Wordpress.com or the instructables.com site. Put the picture at the top of the project page. Below that, place a one-paragraph description of the project with specifications. For example, if you built a DMX-controlled RGB LED light, your paragraph should describe how bright it is, the DMX-control functions, how many LEDs it has, and why it's innovative. People who will give you publicity are busy, and you should make it as easy as possible for them to copy and paste your photo and description to their blog posts. Repeat this step for each project.

Check out her site at http://ladyada.net/

19 Replies

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ladyada (author)2008-08-14

what is totally awesome about this article is she printed the phrase "money shot"

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user

That phrase has moved into the common vernacular, I've heard it used on CNN and the local news.

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user

should add "especially from sports reporters".

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user

that's just because Terry Bradshaw's a perv... ... eww... blech!

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ladyada (author)2008-08-14

instructables -> profit! :)

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zachninme (author)ladyada2008-08-14

I've wanted to ask you about PCB's. I read your rantings, and you say you love Advanced Circuits. I used them once, I ended up spending $100 for some fairly nice PCB's. Although it was quick, I had a hard time shelling out that much cash. I know prototyping PCBs are expensive, but they feel way out of the pricerange, even moreso when you factor in the multiple iterations.

What I'm getting at is if you have any tips for prototyping, including decent board houses. I'm getting some from BatchPCB, and I might see how that goes. The 20-day to-doorstep time didn't seem to long when I ordered, but now its looking as if it might be a hinderance if I'm running multiple iterations...

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user

You'll feel the time crawl by very slowly... One get around is to have a huge amount of spare proto-board, so when you order you have a completed project... In school the technology dept. tech was stoned all the time so 20 day waits for board prints were the norm.

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user

Really? We usually just went in at lunch, grabbed what we needed and made them ourselves in about 20 mins.

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user

did you miss the bit about the stoned techie.

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user

Thats what the "Really?" was for.

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user

Ah right, well it's kinda hard because of the whole lack of anything being ordered, we had to wait for the acetates sheets to arrive and then get the computers to actually print... The next school could turn four boards out in half an hour, with pretty quality results...

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user

Its better than the nothing that our school graciously offers...

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user

Yeah but that's because the tech was really dead on, he used to help me with crazy projects even though I wasn't taking the class... How gracious indeed...

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user

Oh, I forgot to mention why I don't just make my own/use protoboard, I tend to use components that are exclusively SMT sizes. The QFP's in particular have traces that I don't think I'll be able to make.

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user

Ah right, it's ok when they have simple arrangements but any odd shapes in traces make it hell to do the board, unless you consider printing your own, it's not that bad but it does require nasty chemicals in the house, plus smaller traces have the chances to go wrong...

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Oh, I've done it before, I have all the chemicals. But as I said, for some stuff, it just can't be done @ home.

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Honus (author)2008-08-15

As someone who has owned their own manufacturing business I can say this is some great advice. I've also ordered from Adafruit.com and have been extremely happy with the quality, service and support.

As for people wanting a PCB service, check out http://www.batchpcb.com/

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Brennn10 (author)2008-08-14

I am definitely going to implement those tips into my business. Here is my situation. A company wants to buy around 30 kits of mine, but they told me they are busy and will get back to me. Should I wait and let them make the move, or is there anything that I should do?

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Zeppelin37BDF (author)Brennn102008-08-14

I don't think that a follow-up email or call would ever hurt.

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