Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Michael Chou the founder of Midnight Kitchen Tools. I launched the company in 2013. By day, I'm an engineer at the Space Physics Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan and work on projects for NASA.
It all started one night at midnight when I had the “aha” moment. Subconsciously, I realized that to protect my wrist from the discomforts of scooping tremendous amounts of ice cream for my kids, I had to design an ergonomic scoop.
There had to be a smarter and easier way to scoop cold, hard ice cream, right? As many of you know, ergonomic products are focused on comfortability, efficiency, and safety.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Taking this idea and developing countless redesigns and prototypes, the Midnight Scoop was born. The name of the product is a reminder of the many nights spent perfecting a smart ice cream scoop design. "Midnight" would come and go, and I would still be working. The end product is a beautiful heirloom-quality ice cream scoop design that is...perfect.
Years after the success of the Midnight Scoop, I discovered another kitchen utensil that vastly needed improvement. In 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic when fear was at its worst, many restaurants and fast-food places were closed. I didn’t want to risk getting my family infected by COVID-19 so I tried my best to make my food. I bought frozen pizza from the grocery stores and also made it from scratch.
We first launched the Midnight Scoop on Kickstarter in 2014, and it was a resounding success. The campaign had a goal of $17,500 and raised over $168K with 3,007 backers. The success of the Midnight Scoop campaign on Kickstarter helped to establish the brand and allowed us to bring our product to a wider audience. It also provided valuable feedback from early adopters that helped to refine the product and improve subsequent versions.
My biggest issue was not having a proper pizza slicer that I liked to use. I found many pizza cutters uncomfortable to hold, unable to cut, and impossible to clean. I decided it was time to develop a new design and also spent countless nights designing the Midnight Slice from the handle to the blade.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Here at Midnight Kitchen Tools, we have a firm grasp and understanding of the risks and challenges present in any manufacturing project--especially in a revolutionary new product.
Our employees have roles and responsibilities that are specific to the company's focus on kitchen tools and gadgets. Our product design team involves designing and prototyping new products, refining existing products, and working with manufacturers to bring products to market.
The Sales and Marketing team is responsible for identifying potential customers, developing marketing campaigns, creating sales materials, and building relationships with distributors and retailers.
Operations Team is responsible for managing the supply chain, ensuring that products are manufactured and delivered on time, and maintaining inventory levels. This team also oversees customer inquiries, processing orders, and addressing customer concerns and complaints.
Surround yourself with a team of people who have the skills and expertise needed to bring your product to market.
Working as an engineer, I have solved many quality/design/manufacturing issues. All of those projects have been completed successfully.
The first step in developing the Midnight Scoop and the Midnight Slice was identifying a need in the market. This was done through market research, surveys, focus groups, and simply identifying a personal need or problem.
Jungle Scout is a powerful tool that allows e-commerce businesses to conduct research on products and markets to identify profitable opportunities. We analyzed sales data, reviews, and other metrics, to identify product gaps and developed our unique product ideas.
To use Jungle Scout, businesses typically need to sign up for a subscription and use the tool to analyze data related to products, competitors, keywords, and markets. This data can then be used to inform product development, marketing, and other business strategies.
From, there I developed a concept for the products. This involved brainstorming ideas, sketching out designs, and creating a prototype. After a concept was developed, a prototype of the products was created. This process was complex and included a physical model, a 3D printed model, and a computer-generated design.
The prototype was then tested to ensure it worked as intended and met the needs of the target audience. Based on feedback from testing, the design was refined and updated. The Midnight Scoop took countless small tweaks and 38 official prototype alterations to get the scooper just right and ready for production.
From idea to production, it was about two years. Once the design was finalized, we were ready to manufacture. This involved sourcing materials, selecting a manufacturing process, and producing the product in bulk.
It's important to find a balance between your side project and your other commitments. Make sure you're not neglecting your family, job, or other important responsibilities to work on your product.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Once I determine a product that has a good demand I start designing the product with many many prototypes. This stage in the process can take years to fine-tune. Once the product is designed I start the process of getting a patent. This is very important to protect your design from counterfeits.
There are a lot of different vendors you will work with along the way. Securing a responsive manufacturer and reliable freight forwarder are very important early on.
The first step in launching a business is to develop a business plan. I used Jungle Scout to do my research. This involves identifying the target market, developing a marketing strategy, and establishing financial projections.
Our marketing strategy involved several components:
Branding: We created a memorable name and logo, defined a unique value proposition, and developed a consistent visual and messaging style that resonates with our target audience.
Advertising: Paid advertising was an effective way to reach a large audience quickly. This involved running ads on search engines, social media platforms, and other websites that are frequented by the target audience.
Influencers: Partnering with influencers who have large followings on social media was a powerful way for us to reach a targeted audience. This involved sending free products to influencers in exchange for reviews or promoting products through sponsored posts.
Front there I registered with the appropriate government authorities. This included obtaining a business license, registering for taxes, and setting up a legal structure for the business. I believe it’s critical to have a strong brand identity. This involved developing a logo, creating a website, and establishing a social media presence.
A sales strategy was established. I identified retail and distribution channels, developed a pricing strategy, and created marketing materials. With all the pieces in place, the business was launched. I hosted a launch event, sent out press releases, and reached out to potential customers through social media and other marketing channels.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
✅ Excellent Customer Service: We pride ourselves on customer service. Customers are more likely to remain loyal to a business that provides excellent customer service. We achieve this by training our employees to be knowledgeable, empathetic, and responsive to customer needs.
✅ Communication: We encourage regular communication with customers through newsletters, email marketing, and social media. This has helped to keep them engaged and informed about new products or services.
✅ Consistent Quality: Providing consistent quality products and services helps build trust and keep customers coming back.
JANET GRISE December 8, 2021, AMAZING! This scoops through hard ice cream like butter! So easy to use!
CANDACE August 27, 2021 WONDERFUL BEAUTIFUL ICE CREAM SCOOP
I had a scoop with a similar design but it did not have the same quality. This scoop is worth every penny. I don’t have the hand strength I used to but with this scoop, it doesn’t matter. It is made to last. I am extremely happy with my purchase and I expect anyone else will be too.
JAN June 11, 2021 THE BEST ICE CREAM SCOOP!
Makes it possible to scoop rock-hard ice cream with ease, the design is classy, and it’s the only scoop you’ll ever need. Great gift!
SHIRLEY August 27, 2020, LOOK GOOD
Feel like I am unboxing an iPhone when I opened up the package! Very high quality, sturdy, and ergonomic! A bit heavy but feels in a good way when you hold it in your hands. I feel like this is a scoop that will last for a lifetime.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our business continues to evolve into a movement that is changing the way kitchen tools are designed. I want everyone to own great kitchen tools!
As consumer preferences and needs evolve, there are opportunities for us to develop new products that meet emerging needs or trends. For example, as more people tend to cook at home, there are opportunities to develop innovative kitchen tools or gadgets that make cooking easier and more enjoyable.
The rise of e-commerce and online shopping has created new opportunities for our businesses to reach customers and sell products online. We have developed robust e-commerce capabilities, optimized our digital marketing and advertising strategies, and leveraged social media to reach and engage with customers.
Collaborating with other companies has opened up new markets and opportunities for growth. We have partnered with other kitchenware brands and food bloggers to help Midnight Kitchen Tools reach new audiences and expand our customer base.
We are focusing on expanding into international markets. However, it requires careful planning, market research, and an understanding of cultural differences and local regulations. By expanding into new markets, Midnight Kitchen Tools will have access to new customers and revenue streams.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Developing new products has kept me pretty busy and hasn’t allowed much time for this fun stuff! If I’m not doing something work-related, you’ll usually find me spending time with my family or on a golf course.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Remember that every business is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. However, by staying focused on your customers, staying adaptable, investing in your team, managing your finances carefully, and taking calculated risks, so you can set yourself up for success.
Focus on solving a real problem: Before you start developing a product, make sure there is a real need for it in the market. Conduct market research to identify potential customers and understand their pain points. If your product solves a real problem, it will be more likely to succeed.
Instead of trying to create a perfect product from the outset, focus on creating an MVP that solves the core problem. This will allow you to get feedback from early adopters and make improvements based on their feedback.
Surround yourself with a team of people who have the skills and expertise needed to bring your product to market. This might include designers, engineers, marketers, and others who can help you with different aspects of the product development process.
When developing a product on the side, it's important to protect your intellectual property. Consider filing patents, trademarks, or copyrights to protect your product from being copied or stolen.
Finally, it's important to find a balance between your side project and your other commitments. Make sure you're not neglecting your family, job, or other important responsibilities to work on your product. Set realistic goals and prioritize your time effectively to ensure you're making progress without burning out.
Where can we go to learn more?
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings