- Think Space - Goal Dot - Write Walls - Scenes-
Where does the name come from?
McIntosh and McLeod became Tosh & Leod, pronounced ‘Tosh & Loud’, not Tosh & Laird or Tosh & Leeoud. We are both Tosh now, but the McLeod name is synonymous with South Head, where Jana comes from. So keeping this in the name of the company was special.
As many of us do, we were trying to be more organised. We were looking for a shopping list whiteboard to plan meals for the week ahead. We looked but didn’t find anything that we liked. So, we designed one, well not one, we designed about 5 different options and started testing. Whilst they worked, we did not like the rigid structure. It did not work for us as we weren’t the same every week, so we wanted something more flexible. We decided that a plain whiteboard with no template would work best. Yet, it seemed drab to have a white one, so whipped up a couple of coloured options. We started using these at home and found them to be as legible as white and they looked better. Then the light bulb moment. We researched what other options there were in coloured whiteboards. There were very few. We learned that colours have an effect on legibility. Yellow background with black text is the most legible for non-dyslexic people. For dyslexic people, a peach or a cream colour in the background can be more beneficial. This gave us 2 of our 4 original colours, Yellow! and Peach. For more information see this study by Luz Rello and Ricardo Baeza-Yates.
Now we had the basis of an idea for a product line. We needed to design and test these products, so we went back to the beginning; What is the problem we want to solve? “A space to organise little pieces of your life, by getting them out of their head and written down”. To organise, shopping, to-do lists, the home or office, planning a sales target or marketing goal. A product that was not utilitarian, something that we would use in our home. This posed more questions, 1) How is this best achieved? 2) What should the product look like? 3) What should we make the product from?
1) We started with pre-formatted shopping lists and schedules, but they lacked flexibility. We settled on a blank board that had a coloured background. This looked better than a normal whiteboard. We chose colors that made our product a feature, not a tone of white and beige, that blends into most interiors.
2) We trialed a rectangle-shaped whiteboard. We found that for use around the home, often this did not work. The wall was either too small or when used in portrait, the lower part of the whiteboard was not used. A square shape seemed more apt. The addition of radius corners looked better and meant that the edges would not lift.
3) For months we tested materials. Acrylic, glass, metal, and vinyl substrates, each having their own positive attributes. We settled on a vinyl decal rather than a board because of 2 reasons. It would ship better, and the laminate we found was far superior to anything else. Even permeant marker comes off (with isopropyl alcohol and elbow grease).
After months of testing different combinations, we were ready. Finally, we got there. We had our first product, the Think Space. later we added successive products, Goal Dot & Write Walls.
We needed to build a website. We are busy with kids and 9-5 jobs, so we decided we did not have time to build it ourselves, we thought we’d outsource this. We used an overseas virtual assistant company to assist. This was an experience. The issues lay in that we had never built a website before, and what we wanted was not going to be in a template. We looked through the templates they offered. Found one we thought would work and said great, now go and create a website. The first thing they came back with was where is the content & product shots. We started creating content based on the template, but it did not work. There were too many sections that were not relevant. The style did not go with what we had laid out in our initial conversations with the company. After persisting for a while and not getting anywhere we realised we needed to have a custom website. We designed the linework for the pages at night after our daughter was in bed and had the base for the website. We came up with content, well enough to get us started, but not enough as we found out later. After sorting shipping and the payment gateway, we had a minimum viable product stage (MVP).
Anyone can build a website, but getting sales was another thing. We had what we believed to be a great product and we had built our website, now where were the sales? They were not there. We needed a cheap way to get our product out there, so people could see it and use it.
We conceived a plan.
A collaboration with our manufacturing company, Signwise, to their customer base. Companies and individuals set to plan out the year, to get things moving in the right direction. These sessions are often done on whiteboards. But sending a large whiteboard to everyone would be expensive. We could send a desk size whiteboard to people and that would get the product out there and get people using it. I have a 400mm/16in one on my desk. I use it every day to write down what I need to get done or doodle as you will see from our Instagram feed.
This made us realise that we had not finalized our packaging issues, we didn’t have markers, or cloths yet. We searched Alibaba for deals on these items. Asking for “sample” orders from suppliers which is a lower quantity than the manufacturing companies minimum order quantities (MOQ). We found cloths and pens, but we could not justify buying enough to get them branded in China. So, we bought them and decided to brand them here in New Zealand. The boxes still alluded us, they were more expensive than we could have imagined. The sizes we wanted were not off the shelf, or even close, and forget about branding, too expensive. After talking to friends at Cube, a printing company in Auckland. They said we should try mailing tubes with a decal. Whilst this was not what we had in mind, this did enable us to buy low quantities and brand them ourselves. It was amateur, but it would suffice. We were finally ready to get the product to market and do our collaboration with Signwise’s database.
We also decided that we needed more help on the digital marketing side, so we engaged our friends at BE Business and learned that there was plenty more that needed doing. Our design had legibility issues, it was not optimised, and so on. We needed organic traffic to the website, not only throwing money at Google and hoping for the best.
Whilst we had not made any sales at this point, it felt like we had momentum. Our digital marketing team was working away on the website. Our manufactures were making the product. We were busy writing more content and organizing how the gift launch was going to come together.
The launch went out to customers, and now we waited for feedback. After what seemed like ages, we finally had an email, one of their customers had received the gift. They loved it! Soon there came another, and another. We checked the website and could see that we were getting traffic. And then, after the journey 2 tears from concepts, we had our first sale. Yahoo! We had gone from 0-1, and now we could build on that.
Next, we need to build on our success from the collaboration and our first sales and build new products. We have more ideas for our Write Walls, wallpaper that you can write on. Our first pattern, Extinct Birds of New Zealand is great. We want to create more unique wallpapers. Develop a chalk blackboard product. We have also been looking at interactive play scenes for children. The future is exciting. We cannot wait to see where these take us.
Our customers are people at home, and people in an office, or people with a home office. Whilst this does not adhere to the marketing theory of picking a customer segment and focusing on it, we didn’t care, we thought that anyone could use these products. Today, office interiors are well designed, as good, if not better than homes (certainly ours), so we wanted to make a product that was fitting for the modern interior. Thus, the Think Space came about and the other products from this. Colourful whiteboards, that look and function better than standard whiteboards.
We only produce as required, or in small batches, if we are shipping to another country for distribution or bulk order. We can do this easily because of the production process.
Our products start off as a white piece of self-adhesive vinyl. We then print on this with Latex (water-based & solvent-free) inks to create the colour. After printing, the print is put through a laminator, combining it with the clear whiteboard/dry erase laminate. Once combined we process the film through a plotter which cuts kiss-cuts the film, only cutting through the film layer, but not the backing sheet. From here we manually trim the product, pack, and send.
No 9 – 5, just a good brand.
Making the functional, interesting.