Robert Caplin for The New York Times
Mario Marsicano needs to find someone to make his whimsical home furnishings.
We’ve just published a case study about Jellio, a maker of whimsical home furnishings that is based in New York. Mario Marsicano, a former advertising agency account director, had long collected old toys — Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots were among his favorites. He collected so many that he decided to experiment with embedding some in a table made of Lucite. When his friends started asking for their own Rock ‘em Sock ‘em tables, he figured he might be on to something. He and Chris Lenox, a co-founder, introduced Jellio with a Web site in 2005.
The products have been well received but Jellio has struggled to figure out how to make enough of them — and how to make them at a price that people will pay.
We asked several manufacturing specialists to offer their advice. Please read the article as well the comments below and then tell us what you think. Next week, we will publish an update on how Jellio is doing.
James Dyson, chief executive and chief engineer of Dyson Ltd., a British-based manufacturer of vacuums: “Committing to produce something yourself is terrifying. But if you have a product you believe in and a market for it, it makes sense if you can secure the capital. It gives you total control, particularly over quality, which is incredibly important when you start out. To keep costs down, it’s essential to pick the right suppliers and develop good relationships with them. A bad supplier can hold you hostage. But, ultimately, I believe it’s better to sell a better product at a higher price than an inferior one for less.”
Paul Fichter, president, Tap Handles, which manufactures beer marketing products: “I suggest adapting the designs, currently optimized for one-off production, for manufacturability at volume. For example, find a way to hollow out the GummiLights while getting nearly the same effect, to save material and shipping weight. It’s the difference between an original hand-painted painting and a print. Jellio customers should get a choice: Do you want the $250 original Marsicano/Lenox-made GummiLight — $125 is too cheap — or the $50 print from China?”
Garret Hirchak, owner, Manufacturing Solutions, a manufacturer in Morrisville, Vt.: “Jellio is creative, good at invention and launch, and even small-scale manufacturing. I would encourage them to focus on invention and marketing while developing a regionally local manufacturer that can respond quickly to changing demand and design. To find one, get leads from contacts and suppliers, reach out to manufacturers of like items, or try the New York economic development agency. We work with Vermont’s version. With the right partner, this model is low-cost and low-risk.”