Liz Long: How to Make a Product

bag-habitImage courtesy of Bag the Habit’s Facebook page

Do you know how to make a product and sell it?

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 8.59.27 AMIf you’ve ever searched Etsy for handmade gifts (or obsessively watched the hit show Shark Tank) and thought, “I would love to design my own products,” you’re in luck. Liz Long, co-founder of reusable bag company Bag the Habit and new HOW Design University instructor, has been there. Not only has she gone on to develop a hit product that filled a void in the market, she’s also admitted to making every mistake in the book.

When going from brilliant light bulb ideas to product execution, the stakes are high. Trust the wrong vendor or flub the financing and your product design could end up in the discard pile.

If you’re interested in learning more about product design from Liz, register for her new HOW Design University course, How to Make a Product: The A-Z Guide to Product Manufacturing, starting August 18.

As a special offer for this brand new course, take $100 off registration with code LIZLONG!

To get a sense of how to turn your next product design ideas into a reality and perfect your product design presentation, we asked Long to detail some of her experiences:

When exactly did you catch the product design bug?

BTH_HollyLiz_June2010_ReleasedI went to school for broadcasting, so product design was never on my radar! I was in college and saw a man double-bag a tube of toothpaste. I looked into reusable bags and saw they were a growing trend in Europe. This was in 2006, though, and people didn’t talk about them much here in the US. But within two years they became a huge trend. Thankfully, we had launched our site by then and were able to capitalize on the growing interest.

When I started Bag the Habit, the very first thing I did was hire a graphic designer (who went on to become my co-founder, Holly [Tienken]) to help develop the brand identity, and I learned a lot about the design process from her. Still, neither of us knew very much about industrial design. Our first bag sample was cut with kitchen scissors and stapled together! I’ve learned that if you have a clear vision of what you want to create, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the skills to sew a sample or create graphics or any of the more technical sides of design. There are people who will help you!

Bag the HabitTotes from Bag the Habit

How did you get into teaching people how to make a product?

Teaching is gratifying for me because it allows me to turn the mistakes I made into something helpful. We’ve manufactured everywhere from Mexico to California to China, and at every stop, there seemed to be a new challenge and a new way to lose time and money! I would get so stressed about orders that I couldn’t eat or sleep. In retrospect, I see that most of these missteps were avoidable and also that it would have been an easier journey if we’d had a guide. That’s what I want to be for people.

BTH_RGB-14_smallNavyYeaLGWhat are some things you wish you had known when you started as a design entrepreneur?

That it’s better to start small and that you can negotiate minimum ordering requirements with suppliers. In the beginning, we raised money to run some pretty big orders for a small company because suppliers would tell us that we had to meet a certain quantity. To some degree this is true, but there is always room for negotiation! On more than one occasion, something would go wrong with a big order, and instead of a few bad bags, we’d be stuck with a lot. When you’re learning, it’s always better to take baby steps.

Why should people take your How to Make a Product HOW U course? What can they expect to learn?

I’ve tried to make the class a simple step-by-step guide. I want people to feel like they know what to do and where to look for help while they are designing their product, sourcing the materials, and producing and shipping it. The lessons flow like a roadmap, and I weave in some of my stories throughout the material as well as share insight from guest experts.

Do you have any other product design ideas you’re working on for the future?

Yes! At Bag the Habit we have a whole batch of new designs coming out this fall. I’ve also teamed up with Maker’s Row to give the designers using their site support with development and sourcing. So I get to work on a lot of different products that way, too.

Want to learn how to design a product like Liz Long? Take her new HOW U course How to Make a Product: The A-Z Guide to Product Manufacturing, starting August 18. Take $100 off registration this week only with code LIZLONG! Enter the code at checkout to receive your discount.


Looking for a product designer job? Check out who’s hiring all sorts of designers all over the world on our design jobs board.

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