From ideation to product fulfillment, product manufacturing can be a challenge for entrepreneurs. Without a firm grasp of supply-chain mechanics, manufacturing partnerships, and a laundry list of variables involved in how to start a startup, you’re going to run into more problems than you think.
There are many online tools available to get you started, such as Maker’s Row. (A veritable directory for American manufacturing resources, it allows startups to contact factories directly and go from there.) However, the support and guidance from those who know the ropes are what many entrepreneurs seek—and desperately need. According to a study from the Startup Genome Report, “Startups that have helpful mentors, track metrics effectively, and learn from startup thought leaders raise 7x more money and have 3.5x better user growth.”
Those are telling numbers, so check out these three options to help you find those mentors and start your startup right.
1. Highway1. As opposed to a traditional incubator program, Highway1 initiates startups into the process of developing a product through intensive curriculum. On-site in San Francisco, the program provides participants with in-depth classes and workshops that delve into the theories, practices, and skills necessary for product manufacturing. Mentors and lecturers then go a step further—thousands of steps, actually—by bringing you on a tour of manufacturing facilities in China.
Highway1 is just one of the arms of Ireland-based PCH International, a company that specializes in product development and supply-chain management. According to VentureBeat, those accepted into the program—yes, you must apply—are provided up to $20,000 in seed capital and agree to give Highway1 a 3 to 6 percent equity stake in their company.
2. Free Ivy League Classes. Do you want an Ivy League education without the price tag? It’s available—even for a startup.
Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX is a non-profit initiative to provide free, online classes from MITx, HarvardX, BerkeleyX, UTx, and many other universities. Topics range from business to computer science, economics, and law. Unfortunately, you can’t earn a degree this way. But there really isn’t a catch otherwise. According to edX, “Courses are free for everyone. Some courses have a fee for verified certificates but are free to audit. Others offer a free honor code certificate to anyone who meets the completion requirements.”
Same goes for Stanford University, too. It routinely offers limited-time, free courses online, such as “Scaling Up Your Venture Without Screwing Up” with renowned professors Huggy Rao and Robert Sutton from Stanford Graduate School of Business. While these courses won’t provide credits toward a degree either, you do receive an in-depth class, plus a statement of accomplishment signed by the instructor. Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Corner (eCorner) also provides more than 3,000 free videos and podcasts specifically for entrepreneurs.
3. Skillshare. As you’d expect, those who started out as starry-eyed startup owners and have gone on to cash in on their concepts recognize there’s a market for the knowledge they’ve accrued through their experiences. Enter startup Skillshare.
There are fees associated, but you gain access to hundreds of online training courses with a variety of subject matter experts—all at your own pace. Courses are offered from beginner to advanced levels and address many of the variables that make founding a startup a headache. For example, you can enroll and purchase entrepreneur and author Seth Godin’s “The New Business Toolbox: Help Your New Business Do It Right The First Time” for $19 or Guy Kawasaki’s “Art of the Start: Turning Ideas into High-Growth Businesses” for $25.