180: Startup Tips for Manufacturing & Marketing as a Founder

180: Hardware Startup Tips for Non-Technical Founders

June 15, 2023

With Graeme Whitehead, Founder of CNCT Coolers

Hosted by Kevin Mako, President of MAKO Design + Invent

180: Hardware Startup Tips for Non-Technical Founders
180: Hardware Startup Tips for Non-Technical Founders

Graeme Whitehead, a valued client of Mako Design, is the mastermind behind the CNCT Cooler—an exceptional, top-of-the-line cooling device that has garnered three prestigious international product awards, including Indiegogo, CreativePool, and the NY Product Design Awards. In addition to being a corporate Vice President, Graeme successfully invented, designed, manufactured, and sold his product as a side venture, a journey that continues to this day. Today, Graeme will generously share invaluable insights with inventors, startups, and small manufacturers on the art of designing a superior consumer product. He will provide tips on navigating the manufacturing process, collaborating effectively with manufacturers, and utilizing influencers to secure early exposure and gain traction for your innovative ideas in the marketplace.

Today you will hear us talk about:

  • Recognize your areas of uncertainty.
  • Prioritize excellence.
  • Acknowledge your own role as a customer.
  • Pose the appropriate inquiries to your design team.
  • Manufacturing plays a vital role in the production process.
  • Manufacturers may resist certain tasks.
  • Engage with various manufacturers.
  • Emphasize the journey towards production.
  • Numerous accolades.
  • Domestic manufacturing.
  • Harnessing the influence of social media personalities.
  • Provided complimentary products to influencers and received unpaid promotions.


  • 2:00 – From professional services to new hardware product brand startup, all while part-time.
  • 2:15 – Engage others to solve the parts that you don’t know.
  • 2:30 – Quality was important, and thus get the team that can build the technical elements to satisfy the inventor’s vision for the product.
  • 4:00 – Look at yourself as a potential customer for yourself for your own invention idea.
  • 4:30 – Why would anyone buy this if it wasn’t unique and top-quality?
  • 5:30 – Give the design team the green light to make the best quality product.
  • 6:15 – As a non-technical founder, ask the key questions to your design team so that you can ensure your vision is best maximized to design and build a great hardware product.
  • 7:30 – Let the experts give you the technical information so that you, as the founder, can make the best decisions on how to perfect the product.
  • 8:00 – Even as you get into product manufacturing, there are more design decisions.
  • 8:45 – Be patient in settting up, working with, and producing your first product manufacturing run.
  • 9:00 – The inventor, design experts, and manufacturing experts all need to work collaboratively together to make the best product.
  • 9:45 – Know that there is more work to be done after you are done prototyping as you move into the product production process.
  • 10:45 – The manufacturer will push back, sometimes not because they can’t do it, but because they don’t want to do it.
  • 11:20 – Always bring in your design engineering expertise to work with the manufacturer’s engineers to overcome hurdles and find a healthy balance between needs and cost.
  • 11:40 – Look at multiple different manufacturers and spend more time finding the right producers. Even if it takes a bit of time and money, it will be well worth it to get the right partners on board.
  • 14:00 – Graeme pushed hard for new product manufacturing in the United States.
  • 14:30 – To help sell, take units off your production line and give them to influencers.  Many of them will talk about your product for free.
  • 15:00 – Free influencer reviews are very authentic since they are not being paid to represent the product, thus thy must really love the product.
  • 15:45 – Youtubers are looking for new content for their subscribers, so an inventor’s new product, especially when made well and in production, is good content.
  • 16:00 – If you have focussed on quality and focussed on good production, people in the industry who are influencers will notice many of the amazing things you put into your product.
  • 17:00 – Prototype testing is so important.  Keep improving.  There are going to be challenges.
  • 17:45 – Slow rollout of products helps you learn at each production iteration.
  • 18:00 – Keep coming back to your design engineers to address the customer feedback to continue to improve the production of your product.
  • 18:05 – As long as you are responsive to customer issues, most customers are quite reasonable.
  • 18:30 – Put the efforts into the details, and the Youtubers or influencers will highlight many of those. 
  • 18:45 – It’s an amazing feeling to get photos from customers around the world who love your new hardware product.


Graeme Whitehead Links:

LinkedIn | CNCT Coolers

The Product Startup Podcast Links:
Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook Page | Facebook Group | Pinterest | Twitter | YouTube

PTC Links:
OnShape | Creo

Mako Design Links:
YouTube | Instagram | LinkedIn | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

Kevin Mako Links:
Instagram | LinkedIn | Quora | Facebook | Twitter

Partner: PTC’s best-in-class software solutions Onshape: The only cloud-native product development platform that delivers full-featured computer-aided design (CAD), integrated product data management (PDM) and enterprise analytics in a single system, and Creo: 3D CAD solution that provides designers with the most innovative tools to build better products faster, such as generative design, additive manufacturing, real-time simulation, IIoT, and augmented reality.