So, May 2013, and I’m bored. Myself and some friends had been tracking the explosion of crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter, analysing what seems to be popular and why. We note the tremendous amount of overpriced bottle openers that are making upwards of €20,000 with their polished, well executed campaigns with high quality photos and videos. I want some of that action. Being the resourceful fellow I am, I decided to look at what I had, what I could easily get, and what I could capitalise on. I decided I had 3 things:
– Creative design skills and business insight. I had the knowledge and experience through previous personal projects and professional work in DesignBurst to evaluate concepts and ideas with fluidity and critical analysis as I went. My experience in retail (Get Fresh), wholesale (The Nut House), and e-commerce (Buyabox.ie) meant that I maintained specific realistic design targets during the early phases of product development. I was limited in the tools I had and the materials I had access to, so this was a big factor in evaluating early concepts, and I knew optimising the manufacturing process was key to commercial viability.
– My woodwork skills and my workshop. I was lucky enough in that I had a small outdoor garage, stocked with a modest array of hand and power tools that I had accrued over years of personal projects and DIY work. It wasn’t much, but it was a start, and it was space. I realise not many people have access to this sort of space, so I counted myself lucky.
– My Irishness! This would be key to the early success of Conkr. I would use the fact that my workshop was based high in the Dublin mountains, close to the famous Johnny Fox’s pub (a tourist hotspot). Because I knew I had access to cheap oak whiskey barrels, and that many of my early product ideas were to be crafted from them, it meant I could also capitalise on the international reputation that Ireland has with alcohol. I could piggyback on the affection that most of the world has towards the Irish and our love of drink.
Everything seemed to sync up nicely, I made some space in the garage, I got my hands on a half barrel of whiskey from a local supplier, and I got to work prototyping and testing different concepts and ideas. This went on for quite a while, as I wanted whatever I came up with to work perfectly, and to last a lifetime.
As I mentioned before, my friends and I noticed the extreme popularity of bottle openers on the crowdfunding websites, so I focused on that initially. It seemed to fit so well with taking an old barrel, used to distill famous Irish whiskey, and up-cycling it to give it a new lease of life as a bottle opener. I soon realised that I could add to the customer experience by including the option to find out the history behind the barrel that went into making their product, so that is now a feature of every Conkr Creative product. This gives the product a rich history before it is even used, and also drives customers to the website where they can view my other products.
While brainstorming and coming up with product ideas, I was also experimenting with different options for the brand name and logo. I had decided that I wanted to make the products either partially or entirely from upcycled materials. I wanted the logo and brand name to be earthy and to convey a sense of quality, as I wanted durability and high level of finish to be core principles of the business. I decided on the name Conkr as I felt it represented the brand well. It had the right connotations. Conkers are a natural thing, and inherently tough and durable, whilst also being smooth and rich in colour. If you see a horse chestnut on the ground, with the dark, rich brown conker inside peaking out, you naturally want to pick it up and feel it. I wanted that to translate to the products I make. I also quite like how Conkr is similar to “Conquer”, as trying to make durable, quality products from old waste material in a way that was semi-mass producable was indeed going to be a challenge to be conquered.
I spent a lot of time on the logo. I wanted it to compliment the brand and it’s products in a meaningful way. One of the ways I did this it by making the logo so that it could be used in a custom stamp. All of Conkr’s products would be stamped with the logo, either on the packaging or the product itself. I wanted this to subliminally act on customer’s consciousness by exploiting the link between stamps and quality. If something is stamped, it’s usually because it’s been inspected by a trusted professional. The idea would be that the customer would have more confidence in the product, and hence be more likely to buy it. The custom stamp was also a quick and cheap way to brand each product, and fit quite well with the business being a largely craft-orientated venture.
Keeping the logo round meant that the stamp would not look off if it was slightly angled wrong when stamping. I experimented with many iterations and fonts, eventually finding one that fit quite well, Press Style Serif from DaFont. I downloaded it, paid the creator a commercial license fee and included it in my final design. I’m quite proud of it. On the next iteration, however, the “.co” will be larger as it can be illegible when stamping onto some materials.
Overall I’m delighted I started Conkr. It’s gotten me back into the workshop, working with wood again. It’s refreshed my branding and graphic design skills, and keeps my product design skills sharp. But most of all, it’s making money. I’ve done markets and fairs to sell locally, and also made some international sales via different websites. As of this post It has two products fully finished, with at least two retailers in central Dublin willing to stock them. Because Conkr’s products are great gifts, Christmas should be interesting…
Check out the website for products and more. 🙂 ConkrCreative.co