Learning Product Development From a Candy Maker

A few years ago, Nina Wanat moved to California. After working as a screenwriter and attending law school, she figured out what she really wanted to do was attend culinary school. Nina decided to start a blog called Sweet Napa to, as she put it, "remember all that I was learning -- everything from preventing exploding pies to shaping chocolate dolphins."

It turns out this blog was more important to her upcoming business strategy than she most likely realized at the time. When she later conceived of her business idea to sell high-end candy bars ($5 a piece), her blog became the testing grounds for various recipes she was coming up with. She created prototypes for orange, whiskey, coffee , banana, and coconut flavored candy bars and solicited feedback from her readers to gauge their interest. Her transparency not only helped her see what worked and what didn't -- it also attracted a loyal base of readers. These people would become her first group of paying customers when she later launched her candy bar business at BonBonBar.com.

Here are three lessons we can learn from Nina:

  1. Be public about your product ideas. Don't develop products in isolation and then solicit feedback only after you've invested hundreds or thousands of hours developing a production-ready product.
  2. Business strategies should be focused, but not product-specific. If your business is contingent upon the success of a single product, your chances of success are much lower.
  3. Try out lots of ideas, but be selective about what you actually release to production. After trying all those candy bar recipes, BonBonBar had two candy bars available at launch (they have four now).

Kevin is Viget's product design director in our Falls Church, VA, HQ. He concepts, launches, and optimizes products for the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, Privia Health, and OPOWER.

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