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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Even a well-conceived, uniquely designed product with universal appeal can still benefit from improvement. This is especially true with artisanal handmade products, like a backscratcher, that require skill and workmanship to produce.

A prototype is rarely a masterpiece - it's a conceptual design that improves as the maker creates successive copies. An actual example, from concept through production, is my ItchThatBitch back scratchers. The original idea came from the design of the old-fashioned fly swatter - a twisted wire with a piece of screen or later, plastic mesh on the fly-smacking end. The thought was that several wires twisted together would make a decent back scratcher. The idea was not to make the best back scratcher in the world (though it now is), but to make a funny and useful Christmas stocking stuffer for my three grown children.

As an avid do-it-yourselfer, I am proficient at many handy man household tasks. I learned these skills on my own, before the era of YouTube and with only a few “how to” books to guide me. But when I started making backscratchers, I quickly realized that proficiency does not always equate to mastery, and it doesn't guarantee truly professional results.

I bought a roll of galvanized steel wire at the hardware store, and using a common shop vice and vice grip pliers, twisted the wires to form the original ItchThatBitch backscratchers. They were kind of rustic, but also kind of cute - and most importantly they really, really worked. The family encouraged me to make more and try to sell them online or at craft shows, but I was pessimistic. I really felt the design needed more - something to set it apart from cheap disposable imports.

A year later, while still procrastinating and not much further along, I considered making a backscratcher out of long-lasting stainless steel, so it would be unbreakable. I made up a prototype, added the numbered ID tag and wrote up a lifetime warranty, and decided on a name I thought would be memorable: ItchThatBitch.

It took another five months to get a web site built, write product descriptions, take photos, and go live. In retrospect, I wasn't really ready, but if you wait till you are, you'll probably never start. I was soon breaking even and happy about that, but our review services were sending some negative feedback about the backscratchers being too bendy and even too scratchy.

It's a real wake up to get a product complaint, especially since I'd received good reviews so far. But I was listening. I started using a heavier stainless steel wire with a polished finish. I also switched to jewelry-grade brass and copper wire trim. In addition, I made small but important changes to the manufacturing process and began including a small piece of wire file with each purchase. All this resulted in a sturdier, easier-to-use backscratcher, and a way for customers to adjust “scratchiness.”

The favorable reviews went up, and something else happened, too. After making close to 100 ItchThatBitch backscratchers, the handle and fingers were more uniform and the models with wire wrapping had neater, tighter coils. Now I regularly get feedback from customers that appreciate my product for being “well made” and “professional.” My now multi-year process of creating, making and continually refining and improving ItchThatBitch backscratchers has made me especially appreciative of professional artisans, craftspeople and jewelers.

I’ve learned that even though the original design needed improvement and the original fabrication was less than perfect, something now exists that otherwise would not. Along the way I went from apprentice to master of a narrow niche: the best back scratchers in the world!

Bill Grant



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The dilemma: A friend, relative, or loved one is having a birthday or a significant life event. Or maybe it’s a holiday, Christmas, Father’s or Mother’s Day, or Valentine’s day... and you want to do something special.

For most of us, that something special will be limited by budget. After all, most of us aren’t celebrities or tycoons with a lot of funds for high-priced gifts.

But that's okay, because choosing a thoughtful and meaningful gift can make an impression far beyond monetary value. It says you care, and are thinking about that special person and their feelings.

For major gifts like graduations, anniversaries, weddings and retirements, most people fall back on the standard gift cards, or something from a registry, or even a charitable donation. But it's always better to take some extra time to learn about what the recipient wants and needs. In other words, the gift is not about you, it’s all about the recipient. 

Here are five tips to make your gift-giving a success, and your loved one very happy! Your gift should be:

Thoughtful – So the recipient will know that you really care.

Useful – Don’t just give something that will be re-gifted. Your gift should be of actual use to your loved one.

Memorable – Pick something original, cool, and neat and not something everyone else has. It should show original thought or knowledge about the recipient's tastes.

Needed – The last thing you want your special friend to think is, “What am I going to do with this?” For a lot of us, what can be more needed than a good back scratch from a friend, or – a back scratcher that really works?!

Personalized – It's rare to receive a one-of-a-kind gift that fits all of the above requirements. It is even more rare and special to receive something personalized and unique.

I personally know of one product that fills all of the above five requirements, because I make it!  

It's the ItchThatBitch Backscratcher. Reasonably priced in the $20 range, my backscratchers are hand made in the USA out of stainless steel with copper, brass or silver solder trim, and each one comes with a unique stamped serial number and lifetime warranty. On request, I can personalize the serial number tag with a short engraved note to your giftee.

This is a new and truly unique product that only a few people have. It's only been available since June 2015, but our rave reviews show that people really love our backscratchers! 

Give the perfect gift today! You can also see how these unique backscratchers are made on YouTube.