Sew Make Do – A Lean Startup Experiment

I’ve been an advocate of applying lean thinking to software for some time, and learnt a lot form Eric Ries’s blog. I’ve just finished Ries’s book ‘The Lean Startup’ and naturally am looking for opportunities to apply its ideas in my own work place. However doing so will take time and more immediately I wondered what would happen if I started on something smaller.

Mrs Fragile recently bought a hand made lamp shade online and was disappointed with the results, as a keen crafter she wondered if she could do better, and perhaps even sell some of her own creations. While initially suspicious of my gallant offers to help her run things on lean startup lines so far she’s tolerating my efforts.

I thought it would interesting to document progress through fragile and perhaps receive some feedback/advice along the way. The nice thing is that since this is not a serious venture it should be possible to be more open then would other wise be possible. The project is named Sew Make Do.


We started with the following assumptions to test.

  1. People would like to buy Mrs Fragile’s lamp shades
  2. The people that would like to buy the lamp shades are female and in their late 20’s to early 40’s.
  3. 30cm and 20cm drums will be most popular.
  4. People will pay ~£28 for a 30cm shade
  5. People will pay ~£22 for a 20cm shade
  6. People will suggest custom fabrics to drive product development.

Of these assumptions by far the most risky is No 1. We have no idea if anyone will actually want to buy them. Therefore it makes sense to prioritise testing this assumption. To this end Mrs Fragile set up a shop on Etsy and presented a choice of 3 lamp shades offering a range of styles and sizes. This is our MVP for assumption 1. There is no reason to assume that long term Etsy will be the main distribution channel but it does provide a very quick way to put the product in front of potential customers.

Once, assumption 1 has been tested sufficiently to give us hope to persevere it will be easier to address the remaining assumptions, since all are dependent on sales.

Thoughts on metrics

The lamps shades have been up for a few days now, so far there have no sales but a good number of people have ‘admired’ them. It will be interesting to see if there is a link between the number of views, the number of admires and the number of sales. Longer term it would be interesting to perform cohort analysis on these indicators.

For now though we’re just hoping for the first sale – or possibly our cue to try something else…..



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