Susan founded and led Bhold to strong recognition from both the maker and design communities: White House invitation as Honored Maker, Editor’s Choice award from MAKE, showcase and residence at Museum of Arts and Design, featured booth at WantedDesign and press recognition from major media outlets such as the New York Times, ELLE, Real Simple and Cool Hunting. It is a privilege to have her testimony for Women in 3D Printing today.
Susan, you founded Bhold only 2 years ago, all by yourself, in a highly competitive city (NYC). Your company as well as yourself are now recognized by most of the Makers organizations and you even got invited by the White House! I am pretty sure I am not the only one wondering… what is your secret?
Susan: There isn’t any secret! I pursued my passion and kept at it, staying true to what I believe. I also don’t believe that one has “made it” at any moment but rather it’s a continual journey and it’s all about the journey.
If I were to give any one piece of advice, I’d say to keep focus. As focused as you think you are now, you can be even more focused. There are a lot of noise and distractions in the world, and your job is to hone in on the most important stuff and keep the non-essentials at bay. Do this while staying open to new ideas and new people.
Even though already in the Consumer Product Business, you started your career in a software company (Google). How did you get involved with 3D Printing?
Susan: I started it just as a hobby at first. I was reading up on 3D printing in early 2013 and was so excited to see its progress in recent years that I couldn’t wait to give it a try. I started sketching and designing my first product which became the Bsnug Earbud Wrap and haven’t stopped since.
About working in internet before, while it’s a different industry at the very core what’s the same is solving interesting problems that affect us all every day 🙂 The concept that I did bring over from internet is the concept of beta testing with real users which I do for all Bhold products to make sure it is more usable and more thoughtfully designed for you.
And how did the idea of Bhold grow?
Susan: It came in phases, really. I had left Google and was helping the family business in manufacturing and realized how painstaking and outdated the current process is. I saw potential with new manufacturing technology like 3D printing and felt that how we make things today could be drastically improved. That was my seed.
Then I had to define an area where I would start within the broad world of design. I looked around and saw that while there are many pretty things, and many functional things, we don’t often see objects at the intersection of the two. I wanted to create beautiful things that would impact our daily lives in a positive way, to make products that help and also add some playfulness to our day. All this resulted in… Bhold!
Bhold’s tagline is “Design made better by technology”. You already worked on a large range of products, from 3D printed Sake sets to 3D Printed Cable Wraps. How do you select the next product to be “technology revisited” by Bhold?
Susan: I keep a very long list of potential ideas and drawings, then when it’s time to make a decision on a new round of design work, the prioritization process includes many factors, such as whether an existing product already solves the problem well, the amount of “pain” someone feels if this problem weren’t solved and whether my material constraints allow me to work on this problem.
What difficulties do you usually encounter when working on a new product line?
Susan: Each product line is so different. I’d say there isn’t a usual. Sometimes, it’s at the concept level. Sometimes, it’s working out the details, and many times, you think you’re close but you still have many more steps to go and issues to iron out before a product is ready.
It can take multiple changes to the concept to find the right design for a given product. The Bjacked Charger Cable Set, for example, went through over 100 versions before its final.
One thing that’s for sure, there isn’t usually a lack of ideas on how to solve a problem. The general difficulty lies in either narrowing down these options to the most feasible ones or in coming up with the right solution that hasn’t appeared yet. When it’s the latter, usually there’s an “aha” moment which sets the design direction and makes the rest of the product development process flow much more easily. It can happen towards the beginning, middle or end, but you’ll know when it’s happened.
I personally think there are more and more female decision-makers in companies, small or large. You are the perfect example of a successful female entrepreneur. Have you noticed an increase in the number of female decision-makers in our industry?
Susan: So much of what we know is determined by what gets communicated vs what’s actually happening, so I probably have my biases as well in making a broad statement. Definitely I feel more momentum and encouragement of women in tech, business, leadership and entrepreneurship. There are still some areas where I feel women need more strength and encouragement: math, science, politics, media and specific areas of design, to name a few.
Many of these circles have become set in their ways, whether the organization is large or small, but I’m very optimistic that each of us just needs to do our part, take on mentees and spread the word if we feel change is needed!
I know you have a community of Beta Testers. Are you looking for more to join?
Susan: Yes definitely, please sign up to beta test at bhold.co/labs! We have a waiting list and are currently in between product design cycles, but we’d love to hear from you and be ready to bring you in when a new product is ready for testing! Through our recent partnership with Ultimaker, if you have your own 3D printer, you can get involved more easily by 3D printing prototypes at home!
Thank you Susan for your involvement with Women in 3D Printing!
You can find more information about Susan by reading her Bio.