THE PRODUCT PATHWAY
Nicole de Larzac has over 20 years of marketing and consulting experience. She has worked with large global brands, such as Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods, where she built new brands and also scaled mature brands. In addition, she worked internationally in Australia where she started a new product business, growing it to $2 Million in sales. She is proud to have launched The Productpreneur Podcast, featuring inspirational female ‘productpreneurs’ and valuable marketing content to grow a product business. Her podcast is charting in the top 200 for Business: Entrepreneurship on Apple Podcasts in Canada and Australia. On a personal note, she is a mom to three amazing children, which is her biggest accomplishment yet! She is passionate about fitness, skiing and binges on self development and marketing content.
In this episode:
- Starting a product business is a great way to challenge yourself, grow in many ways, and to build a flexible work/home schedule.
- The product pathway involves taking time to get clarity on the type of product, the type of business model, and the steps to move through to go from idea to action.
- Our kids are watching us. They can be inspired by what we do and they can sense our happiness when we remember that we are important and that our dreams are important.
Connect with Nicole:
Podcast: The Productpreneur Podcast
- Specific episodes mentioned by Nicole:
Nicole’s Online Course: The Product Pathway
- Course starts on January 25th. Sign up by January 23rd.
- Register HERE
Imagine you have your dream product business planned out and a winning product concept that you know people will buy. You can’t wait to get it launched because you’ve figured out your suppliers and you’ve started on your prototype. You’re so excited that you’ve registered your website url and applied for your trademarks. You just know this product is going to be a winner! You can totally do this! And NOW is the time! Ecommerce is booming and it’s only going to accelerate more this year.
The Product Pathway is an online course that’s designed to get you from product idea (or no idea) to prototype and business plan. It’s way more than a course – you get weekly group coaching and one-on-one mentoring from Nicole to keep you accountable and on track towards your goals. Through a proven system that’s used by major brands and multinational companies, you’ll go through the course step by step to get your idea off the ground:
- Module 1: Ideation – Come up with winning product ideas to stretch your thinking and choose the best ideas to validate with your target consumer
- Module 2: Build Concepts – Bring your product ideas to life in a visual/written way so that people can better understand and evaluate them in testing
- Module 3: Get feedback – Test your concepts with your target audience so you know which of your ideas will be a slam dunk
- Module 4: Refine – Refine your winning idea based on feedback and start building your magnetic brand to attract your ideal customer
- Module 5: Develop – Go from concept to product through prototyping and finding the right suppliers
- Module 6: Build the Plan – Build a business plan that will help you be profitable, fund your venture, and launch it successfully
On this episode of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast, I had a fantastic conversation with Nicole about her motherhood and work juggle, how a product-based business can be a great option for moms looking for more flexible and part-time work, and the product pathway that can take you from idea to action.
If you prefer to listen, check out Episode 29 of The Part-Time Jungle Podcast.
Nicole is someone that you immediately feel comfortable with. She is warm, kind, and so easy to talk to. It was fun to learn that we are both moms of three kids who are at very similar ages!
FINDING HER GROOVE
Nicole doesn’t feel that she has ever been able to find the right “balance” but feels that this is a common feeling for moms. She has struggled with the feeling of not doing enough for her career or not doing enough for her family. It has taken her time but now she feels that she has found that right sort of groove.
MOVING TO AUSTRALIA
Nicole was pregnant when she and her husband moved to Australia. She was working full-time at Coca Cola in corporate marketing. Nicole loved her job but it was pretty grinding. The hours were tough, she was putting a lot into her work, and she couldn’t see herself giving less than 150%.
LOOKING FOR MORE BALANCE
When Nicole had her first baby, she felt this real tug to be there for her child. She didn’t want to go back to that corporate life where she felt like she was not going to be the greatest career person or the best mom. This led Nicole to ask herself what she could do to have that balance?
STARTING AN IMPORT BUSINESS
For Nicole, she realized that starting a business would be a way to achieve this. So, she started an import business in Australia where she imported products from South America. She then sold these products to companies including big retailers such as Kohls and Woolworths. This was the start of Nicole’s entrepreneurial career. Nicole grew her import business to about 2 million dollars in sales. She was incredibly proud of herself because it really took her out of her comfort zone and forced her to do things that she had never done before.
RETURNING TO CANADA
Nicole and her family moved back to Canada, This was prompted by her mom being sick at the time and then, her mom did pass away. Nicole realized that she just couldn’t be away from family. It was too hard. With this move, Nicole decided that she needed to get out of her business because it was very hard to serve her customers in Australia.
CONSULTING & CORPORATE
Nicole had to decide what to do next. She started by consulting for Coca-Cola. Then, she thought that she should go back to the corporate world and build up her career and start to climb that corporate ladder again. Nicole thought that this change was what she wanted and she saw a lot of her friends doing this. She started working for another company and realized that this wasn’t in fact for her. Nicole felt that she couldn’t do this full-time career and be the best mom that she could be.
WANTING MORE CONTROL
Nicole ended up being let go from the position. At the time she was devastated. However, it was probably the best thing ever because she realized that it wasn’t what she wanted to do. Nicole wanted to be able to have control over her life and the ability to say yes to projects that she wanted to do and no to the ones that she didn’t.
She returned to consulting and now works with different larger companies and smaller companies. Nicole also felt this tug to help other women, like herself, who want to start their own businesses and who wanted to have a more flexible work-life balance. So, Nicole started a coaching business to help women start their own product businesses and also to help them grow their businesses.
FINDING HER WAY
Nicole doesn’t know if there’s ever a perfect way to be a mom or to be that career person. You have to find your own way and you might have to try a lot of things, which Nicole did. Nicole says that things are not perfect for her right now but she’s really happy with where she is at. She will see where this journey takes her and she will continue to tweak it as she goes.
STRATEGIES THAT HELP NICOLE WITH HER JUGGLE:
- CLARITY ON CORE VALUES: One thing that has helped Nicole with her decision-making with her motherhood & work juggle has been getting clear on her core values. Nicole found that working with a coach really helped her with this. One of the main values that came up for Nicole was freedom. Nicole has been offered full-time positions, through her consulting career however, this doesn’t align with having freedom.
- FIVE-YEAR VISION: When an opportunity comes up, Nicole also reflects on whether or not it is going to take her to where she envisions her life five years from now. She asks herself if the opportunity is going to help move her towards or pull her away from her goal. For Nicole, full-time employment would take her further away from her goal.
- PATIENCE: With being there for our kids and also having a career, running a business, or whatever it is you do, you need to have patience. You need to give yourself the grace to not need to do it all. Sometimes we need to focus on one area versus another area. it might be that we’re focusing more on our family and that’s not a bad thing. You don’t need to feel guilty for not doing your career or business juggle. Sometimes we are focusing more on our career and our business than our family and that’s okay too. We need to be patient with ourselves that we will get to the other thing. It’s just that at this moment in time one thing needs most of our concentration. Nicole tries to give herself patience and grace. There are times when she beats herself up or that she has these bad days. She feels like she isn’t doing the right thing with work or with family.
- PRIORITIZING: Nicole says that she knows that it sounds cliche and everyone says to prioritize but it is so key. It’s important to know when to say no. If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no. So knowing that if you’re not feeling that urge or that real pull to do something, then maybe you should just turn away from it for now and say no.
AN EVOLVING JUGGLE
Nicole’s motherhood and work juggle has definitely changed throughout the years. Her kids are 14, 11, and 9 so they are at an age where they are more autonomous. They can do some of their schoolwork on their own. They’re pretty much independent. This makes things so much easier. It has allowed Nicole to focus more on her business and on her work now compared with when they were younger. Nicole reminds us that if you have kids and they’re at the younger stages, you will have more time eventually. It’s still busy but it’s just different. Now, Nicole is more involved in taking them to their extracurricular activities and helping them with their homework if they need it. When kids are younger, you really need to be there and you might just need help.
ASKING FOR HELP
Nicole had a nanny who helped their family when she needed to get work done, when she was working full-time or when she was working on her business. You just have to figure it out as you go. Maybe this is the time and stage for you when you need to be more present with your kids. Things do change so much over time. It’s okay to ask for help. It takes a village to raise children. You don’t have to do it all on your own and you don’t have to feel guilty about not being there a hundred percent of the time. In fact, it’s nice for your children to see that there are other people that can also help and that they can also look to others for support. You have to find the way that works for you.
BENEFITS OF A PRODUCT BUSINESSES
- FLEXIBILITY & RESIDUAL INCOME: Nicole talked about how building a product business is a great way to build a part-time income and a flexible work & home schedule. A lot of people start with service-based businesses. These are great because there’s not a huge investment of inventory or product development up front. However many times with service businesses, you’re trading time for money or hours for dollars. If you’re not working, then you’re not getting paid. What’s great about product businesses is that if you create something once you really can leverage it over and over again. It gives you a residual income stream.
- WORK WITH YOUR SCHEDULE: You work on it once and then you basically market, sell, and deliver. It’s not like you don’t have to do work on it ever again, but you’ve got something that you can sell multiple units of, for example. Also. you can work on it when you have the time and not on someone else’s schedule. For example, in some flexible service-based businesses, people book time with you when it suits them. With product-based businesses you can choose when you work on it during the day. This could be during nap time or when your kids are at school.
- BUILD EQUITY: As well, with a product business, if you ever get to that point where you want to sell it, you can. This is harder to do with a service-based business, because it’s usually you providing the service. If it’s a product business and if you’ve built some equity and you’ve got recurrent customers, you can sell your business.
GETTING STARTED & MAINTAINING AN INCOME STREAM
Nicole often sees people having a mix of a product-based business along with a service-based business or people developing their product-based business while they are working full-time. You do want to have some kind of income stream coming in while you are working on a product. Nicole advises people to have something else in order to have the cash to be able to keep going. Sometimes service-based people offer products that align with their service business. For example, journals or planners would be something that coaches would use. Owners of a retail store, for example, might develop their own products for it.
TYPES OF PRODUCTS
There are 4 categories of types of products:
- CONVENIENCE: These are products that people buy frequently. There’s lots of locations where these can be bought.This would include things like food, staples, and commodities.
- SHOPPING: These products are bought less often. There are fewer locations and people tend to shop around for these products. Brand is more important. This would include products from the fashion world or in the beauty industry.
- SPECIALITY PRODUCTS: The third category is specialty products. This takes special effort and people really have to do their research here. Brand is very important. This could be products like cars or luxury brands. It’s where a product or brand is super important.
- UNSOUGHT: The last category is called unsought. People don’t actually look for these products or even know that they need these products. It includes things like new innovations. For these types of products, you’ve got to build the brand awareness. If you’ve got a new invention, you really have to build the awareness that this type of solution exists.
TYPES OF BUSINESS MODELS FOR A PRODUCT-BASED BUSINESS
- MAKER: You could be a maker of products. This includes being an artist or making your own soaps or candles. If you want to get some ideas, look at Etsy and you will find a whole bunch of different maker type products. This option allows you to control the whole process from manufacturing to distribution.
- PRIVATE LABEL: This involves looking at manufacturers and just using a private label for the product. The product might already exist but you’re putting your brand on it. This means that there’s less involvement on your part in developing the product.
- INVENTION: You could look at developing an actual invention. This is where you are thinking about something totally new that solves a problem. Typically you’d patent the idea and get a manufacturer to produce it for you. This option is more involved because you’re looking at something from the whole process from product development all the way through to selling.
- RETAILER: You can also be a retailer. This could be an e-commerce store where you sell other people’s brands.
- SUBSCRIPTION: The subscription model has become increasingly popular recently. You either take your products that you have or you’re curating products and putting them together in a box that satisfies some kind of need. People are then subscribing and receiving these boxes every month or every quarter for example.
OUR KIDS CAN BE INSPIRED
Our kids are watching us and how we live our lives. If you’re living in alignment with what you believe and if you are starting things that are new and they’re not perfect, they’re going to model that. Nicole’s daughter recently shared that she wanted to launch a new business. The details are still under wraps! She wants to make products herself and then, with Nicole’s support, she will market them and build a website. Nicole is so excited because her daughter is following her own path and her dreams.
THE PRODUCT PATHWAY
- START WITH YOUR INITIAL IDEA & THEN BRAINSTORM: Getting started with a product-based business is often where people get stuck. They have an idea but then they give up because they have no idea how to bring it to life. Nicole’s first piece of advice is that although you may already have an idea, take time to think of other ways to solve the same problem. Take your initial idea and brainstorm around it because maybe your first idea isn’t the one you end up going with. Also, think about how your idea solves a certain problem. The best products are solving problems for people. Nicole usually asks her clients to brainstorm a whole list of different ideas. It might be around the first idea they had but also around other ideas. What they usually find out is that their first idea isn’t the one that they actually go with. Nicole says that you really have to stretch your thinking.
- TEST YOUR IDEA WITH YOUR AUDIENCE: Put out a survey with your different concepts. Concepts are basically written expressions of your idea. Include a visual of your product and ask a bunch of questions around that to see what people are gravitating towards. What is it that they like and don’t like? What don’t they understand? This will help you to understand how it is going to do in the market. Just because you love it doesn’t mean your target audience is going to love it. Things usually change after this point in the product pathway. From this point, Nicole takes people through a whole process of going from that winning concept to actually developing the product and then launching it.
- CREATE A PROTOTYPE: The next step is usually a prototype where you actually build a physical model of it, either yourself or with help from somebody else. This step of the product pathway involves getting feedback as well.
THE PRODUCT PATHWAY RESOURCES
- THE PRODUCTPRENEUR PODCAST: On Nicole’s podcast there are two episodes that she mentioned to support your product pathway including:
- HANDOUT: Nicole mentioned a handout called “How To Come Up With a Winning Product Idea That Sells”. It takes you through a framework of how to know if your idea is good as well as writing concepts around it.
- ONLINE COURSE: Nicole’s upcoming course, The Product Pathway, starts on January 25, 2021. In this course, Nicole supports you in getting your idea off the ground from idea to a validated concept as well as developing a prototype and a business plan.
THINGS CAN GET STRESSFUL
Nicole shared that things can get stressful at times, especially now during COVID when we are all stepping over each other in the house. Her kids have been home on school days more often due to illness and home-based learning. The house gets messy and Nicole is trying to work. It just gets stressful and chaotic. There have been days where she has been so frustrated that she has yelled. She doesn’t like that about herself and she always regrets it. Nicole wishes that she could say that she was perfect and that she never yells but it has got to that point a few times.
TAKING TIME TO PAUSE & REFLECT
When it does, Nicole thinks about what she could have done differently. For example, she could take a deep breath or she could walk away from the situation. Nicole thinks about how she could best handle things so that her kids would receive her message in the best possible way and so that she would feel good about what she was saying. Situations like this usually stem from the fact that she is just stressed out. This includes not liking how the house is looking or having her kids not respond to her when she is telling them to do something.
Nicole says that she is not going to say that she will never do it again because she knows that she will. She just has to keep trying different things, catching herself when she does it, and then, taking that pause to reflect on the experience.
YOU ARE IMPORTANT
Nicole believes in self care and taking time for yourself. You are important and your dreams are important. When you’re not happy about yourself, then you’re also not going to be a happy mom. Your kids are going to notice when you are happier. Taking that time is so important in whatever way that looks like for you. It can be going for a run, reading a book, taking a bath, or getting your nails done. For Nicole, she loves to run and work out because these things always help her to feel better about herself.
PHASES & STAGES
Nicole reminds us that it is really hard when our kids are younger and that, in many ways, it does get easier. Remember that there’s a time for everything and that there are phases of our lives that are going to be different.
OUR KIDS ARE WATCHING
Your kids are watching you. Whatever you’re modeling, they’re going to learn. Maybe this is that mommy works hard to help the family and she needs to be more present for her career at a certain point. Maybe this is that mom loves us so much and she’s there for us and she’s helping us all the time. Whatever it is, they’re going to get those positive reactions from how you’re feeling and how you’re acting.
DOING OUR BEST
Remember that there’s no need for feelings of guilt or for unworthiness because you are doing your best. We have to remember that we need to be happy with what we are doing and why we’re doing the things that we do.
Thanks so much to Nicole for this fantastic conversation and thank YOU for tuning in!