How to Go From Concept to Fulfillment: Holistic Product Development with Doris Dev’s Justin Seidenfeld and Michael De Santis
How do products go from an idea to a consumer staple?
We asked Doris Dev, a NYC-based product development firm, about the brand-building process—from industrial design to fulfillment support. Chances are you’ve bought from (or at least seen) a brand built by their incredible team—Gravity Blankets, By Humankind, Canopy, and Pattern Brands’ Equal Parts and Open Spaces, to name a few.
The Tydo team recently sat down with Michael De Santis (Chief of Staff) and Justin Seidenfeld (CEO) to learn more about the product development space as well as how Doris Dev navigates major supply chain constraints facing brands today.
From Supply Chain to Full Product Development Solutions
In the early days, Doris Dev solely focused on supply chain setup. As De Santis and Seidenfeld got deeper into the DTC space, they noticed the sheer number of outside agencies brands partner with to get a product off the ground.
That’s when the Doris Dev team saw value in offering support from concept through fulfillment—and everything in between. It made sense to build a solution and a team that could streamline the DTC product development process—in an efficient and cost-effective way.
Now, Doris Dev does the following:
- Ensures brands have a clearly defined problem and solution
- Figures out industrial design and/or engineering solutions
- Designs and engineers the product
- Connects with sourcing and manufacturing teams
- Sets up a supply chain to accommodate the brand’s needs
- Coordinates the fulfillment process and works with 3PL teams
“We’re all about helping people end-to-end—from the concept phase to fulfillment and delivery, and everything in between.”
The Doris Dev Difference
So, what makes Doris Dev different from other firms?
Seidenfeld says, “Doris Dev uses a full-stack, holistic product development process, which touches on design to engineering, sourcing to operations. That holistic point of view is really helpful for getting a product across the finish line, both on time and on budget.”
It’s especially useful because most brands get lost in the weeds of product development, he remarks.
That’s because the product design and development processes tend to operate in a vacuum. Then, it’s handed off to the next team. In some cases, it’s not until much later in the process that a founder realizes the product he or she imagined can’t be manufactured or fulfilled as they hoped.
By zooming out and connecting teams from the start, Doris Dev helps clients see the big picture.
“I think that's an important part of how we approach development in general. We see it all the way through,” says Seidenfeld.
Plus, they prioritize product innovation. Seidenfeld adds, “We gravitate towards clients and programs where we can innovate on experience, on utility, or on aesthetics. We want to move into a white space and do something different that hasn't been done before.”
“We're not looking to recreate or copy. We’re always moving towards something new. Innovation is a key pillar.”
Roadblocks & Challenges
Doris Dev isn’t immune to Murphy’s Law.
Anything that can go wrong, probably will. There are still plenty of challenges that keep De Santis and Seidenfeld on their toes.
It’s all part of the job, Seidenfeld says. He drops this nugget of truth: “If you’re truly creating something new, you’re marrying that with real-world constraints and variables that are out of your control.”
In other words, sh*t happens.
Whether it’s Covid, supply chain issues, or freight mishaps, Doris Dev is constantly looking for ways to navigate whatever roadblock is thrown their way. As a service provider and brand owner, they’ve dealt with it all. They just keep moving forward.
Take Canopy for example. Earlier this year, there were multiple shipping containers filled with Canopy’s humidifiers sitting off LA’s coast for five weeks. Week after week, Doris Dev would get updates from the carriers, telling them to wait another week. There was nothing they could do except communicate that to waiting customers.
It’s important to remember: Everybody’s doing their best to provide up-to-date, reliable, accurate information, but we all get it wrong from time to time, including Doris Dev and their partners.
To avoid those issues, they prioritize proactive communication and instilling a level of mutual understanding into brand partners and customers.
“As a brand owner, we’ve learned that people are understanding as long as you set expectations and you’re a proactive communicator. Now, we translate that into our client relationships.”
Key Learnings from Launching Canopy
De Santis and Seidenfeld have been on both sides of the table: service providers and brand owners. They learned a ton from launching and scaling Canopy, the first-ever Doris Dev brand.
“Before working with a client, we always spend time upfront to make sure there’s a budget (time and money) to support efforts around launch and scale. A lot of first-time entrepreneurs spend all their money on product development and then have no money to properly launch their product,” Seidenfeld explains.
He adds, “We help clients recognize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’re going to help them get across the finish line, but we want to make sure they have enough gunpowder to go beyond that.”
Proactive communication has been incredibly helpful. Decision-making with both investors and partners trickles down to setting expectations, and that’s where upfront communication comes into play.
In addition to proactive communication, De Santis shares, “It’s important to pay attention to operational implications on product decisions—whether it’s fulfilling finished goods in a warehouse or building out packaging—all of which impact the business down the line.”
He explains, “It’s one thing for us to be focused on standing up a supply chain and managing that process. It’s another thing for us to think about the operational challenges that come with setting up a supply chain. We think through the short term and the long term.”
The key: Build a strong network of service providers, including a product development firm like Doris Dev. That’s how brands can set themselves up for success.
“Build out your network and gain insight into the best partners to pull your growth levers.”
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