How We Solve

Podcast, Positioning

Ep 23: Product Development for Niche Markets with Andrew Zhao

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Ep 23: Product Development for Niche Markets with Andrew Zhao

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Problem: Light shows are still a niche art and should be more mainstream so everyone can enjoy it

Andrew Zhao and his company, Throwlights, see LED light shows as performance art, and as such, he knows that with the right tools, ingredients, and exposure, light shows can be seen more as mainstream art instead of an underground art form. 

All of human history, some art forms have just had the right combination of ingredients to grow much beyond the niche.

The steps Andrew and Throwlights are taking to solve this problem

1. Building the best products for the platform

Throwlights is a business that centers around artists and because of that, they have unique insights on what the community needs. Andrew focuses on making sure to build and develop quality products for this core community of artists.

We’re a business built by artists, for artists.

2. Being community leaders

Andrew makes sure that they are at events, hosting events, hosting competitions, creating partnerships, and giving back to the community. He doesn’t just want to be a commercial leader, he wants to nurture the community and facilitate it’s growth.

3. Providing a platform for the art to grow

There are many ways that Throwlights and Andrew provides a platform for the community. Not only does he serve as an advocate, but he also provides information and resources for established artists and new enthusiasts who are just getting into the hobby.

We just want to give a light show to the whole universe. We want to show this art form to everyone.

Inspiration from other art forms 

Graffiti, skateboarding, hip hop, and mixed martial arts are only a few of the many art forms that have come from a niche. Andrew gleans inspiration and compares LED light shows to other communities that have grown from an underground setting.

What is the product manufacturing process like?

Are engineers needed to design products?

Throwlights offers a variety of products, some of which are much more involved than others. Even the core products that they offer (the lights themselves) have varying degrees of complexity. There are removable LED bulbs which are simple to produce. However, there are also programmables that use printed circuit boards with microprocessors. Those require much more engineering, with different engineers for software, firmware, and casing design.

How does Andrew choose manufacturers?

  1. Vet the company by looking at their website and background.
  2. Check their ratings.
  3. Shop around. Vet suppliers against other suppliers (at least two or three).
  4. Communication is key. Ask questions and be transparent with your expectations. 
  5. Make sure they communicate with you as well.

Is there a standard minimum cash outlay for manufacturing products?

For Andrew, it all started as a Shopify store. He began by selling a subset (inexpensive batteries) of a larger vision and used that to develop a customer base who already showed interest in the hobby. After adding more product skews, and increased his product line, he found himself with a brand, a quality business, and loyal customers.

What and who were Andrew’s influences?

Since he was exposed to light shows back in 2009, Andrew has kept this art form in the back of his mind. His instinct told him that this was going to be big one day. It is this passion that has fueled Throwlights since the beginning. 

I think it just comes down to having passion.

He credits his biggest influence as his mom. Andrew has always been entrepreneurial. Seeing this in him, his mom encouraged him to read great books like, Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. These books taught him the importance of creating a passive income, not becoming a “wage slave”, and gave him the confidence and information to create his own business.

I’ve been learning and growing for nearly a decade now. It takes time to come to this point but if you just keep pursuing it, you’ll get there.

About the guest

Andrew Zhao

Andrew Zhao is the CEO and founder of Throwlights, a startup dedicated to giving an LED Lightshow to everyone in the world. Andrew Zhao first discovered gloving in 2009. From the moment he laid eyes on it he was captivated by the dancing, strobing lights. He knew... This was going to be big someday.

How to reach Andrew

This interview is part of the How We Solve podcast. To hear more from industry experts who are solving everyday business problems, check us out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and on our website.

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