Tracy Hazzard is an Inc. Columnist and the Product Strategist for Hazz Design. She has co-designed and developed 250+ consumer products! She works with design-leading brands like Martha Stewart Living and Herman Miller and retailers like Costco and Target. She holds over 37 utility and design patents. For 25 years, Tracy has been pushing businesses to rethink their product lines as a strategy to design in success and increase revenues. A proponent of intentional innovation as a competitive advantage and asset-builder, Tracy is the co-inventor of 37 patents with her husband and partner Tom. Tracy is also co-host of the top-ranked podcast, WTFFF?! – the starting point for all things 3D printing.
Tracy, could you let us know about your background and what brought you into 3D printing in the first place?
I have a Textile Design degree from Rhode Island School of Design but very quickly moved into what was considered Industrial or Product Design. For me, it felt wholly unsatisfying to only get to participate in a small part of the design process, a fabric or finish. Since college, I have partnered on and off for projects with my Industrial Designer husband, Tom Hazzard. I found it so rewarding because it balanced my research and strategic vision approach with his more technical and intuitive engineering approach. Eventually, we started doing it full-time and are now known as Hazz Design Consulting. Over the years, we used 3D Printing to produce prototypes, but until 2014 we did not take the leap to bring a machine into our design process and work environment.
What was your very first experience with 3D Printing?
When Make Magazine came out with their first Desktop 3D Printer Review in late 2013, Tom started bugging me to get one. I thought it seemed like a waste of time from a business perspective when we already had access to great inexpensive prototyping resources. But he kept insisting that we should skill build and see if there might be future services for our clients, so we finally jumped in. We bought a Makerbot Replicator 5th Gen. Even though we had tons of CAD and 3D product design experience, it still took us 6 months to make something worthy of Pinterest.
Could you explain furthermore what Hazz Design is and the services you are providing?
Hazz Design is a product research, design, development, prototyping and sourcing consultancy for retail brand builders. In a world where 7 out of 10 products fail, we have developed a system to quickly hone in on designs that will succeed, turning that statistic on end with an 86% commercialization rate. Our products are highly competitive and last three times longer than average consumer products in the market. With over 250 products at all major e-commerce and mass-market retailers, our portfolio of work in the last decade alone has generated more than $1 Billion for our clients.
We work with clients of all sizes from $1M private label brands on Amazon to $500 million on-the-shelf retail resellers. Sometimes we get to use 3D Printing and sometimes we don’t, but we always work with our clients in the fastest method that uses the least amount of budget to prove the design works so they can reserve their cash for the high cost of brand building and marketing. Many of our larger corporate clients expect us to not only keep them up on what’s going on in disruptive innovation, but to advise them as to strategically when and how should they do something about it.
So, you are seeing the strategic changes large companies go through from the inside. Have you seen some evolution in the relationship between those corporations and new technologies such as 3D Printing?
While I see great pockets of 3D Printing examples and companies with capabilities, consumer 3D Printing is woefully behind the evolution. I think large companies, like retailers and their suppliers, are at the greatest risk to be disrupted. It is easy for industries that have problems to solve like medical advances and for industries with high costs to offset like in aerospace to make the case for 3D Printing. Other companies and industries need to start exploring the likelihood of a 3D Print economy now or they will be playing some significant catch-up or will be completely gone. A low to zero inventory and local manufacturing model is inevitable because it is most the cost-effective option with the lowest risk, but the path to get your company there is not the easiest to navigate. Add to that a significant design/tech gap and it is understandable why this is an evolution and not a revolution.
You initiated a podcast, WTFFF?! To talk about “all things 3D Printing”. Why did you first start this podcast project?
Continually during our first experience FFF 3D Printing, we realized that so many designers and professionals would have given up because it was too much like hacking or a hobby to be professional or business viable. That’s why we started the WTFFF?! (What the Fused Filament Fabrication?!) Podcast in April 2015 – to help push the industry to get more design and consumer product-focused AND to help users scale that steep learning curve and keep the momentum going. Even with over 425 episodes aired, I am still excited to talk to new experts, experience new tools, and talk to those embarking on their own 3D Print adventure.
From this podcast activity, do you see some evolution in the number of women joining this industry?
We have always had some fabulous and active women subscribers and designers that we have featured, but as far as technology leaders and CEOs, women are a very small minority. As of the end of 2016, we realized that out of over 70 interview episodes, we had only interviewed 2 women CEO’s. This year, we have made a specific outreach to rectify that. It was not through any bias on our part, just the reality that women didn’t reach out to us to ask to be on the show. In fact, I found that on our list of those we had approached in 2016 but hadn’t heard back from, half were women. They just didn’t take enough initiative to respond and get scheduled.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about your career in 3D Printing to share with us?
I have three daughters, ages 21, 7 and 2. Every year at the holidays since my oldest was 5 years old, we have taken on a DIY project of some kind and made over 50 gifts for our extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. The family is always excited to see what new project we come up with each year and many have saved all of them. When my oldest turned 14, she took over the making part and we just brainstormed ideas together. But once she went off to college, it was up to Lannea, my middle daughter, to start making the projects. This past year, she wanted to make something 3D Printed and I could not be happier to help with the creative process and leave the time-consuming part to the printer. She found a KiraKira project she liked and created custom heart bookmarks with everyone’s initials. The project was simple but age-appropriately challenging. The pride she had in the designing and making as she gave our family the gifts reminded me of why we started doing this in the first place – to give something personal and heartfelt to those we love that requires more thought and time than money.
As a woman entrepreneur, what was/ is your biggest challenge? Any challenge specific to the 3D printing industry?
As a woman entrepreneur, I get frustrated by how much bravado seems to mean more than merit, skill and experience in the tech world. But it’s really the companies that slug it out every day and make it work that in the end are more sustainable and more profitable. My biggest challenge is having patience in our plan.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
Speaking of our plan, it’s too early to talk about but we are moving beyond the podcast into new territory this year. I will keep you posted.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
As both a designer and woman, what keeps me going everyday is that I see this amazing potential revolution that could take place if the industry moves out of the mindset that 3D Printing is technology and move into the idea that it is manufacturing. Part of this is that tech companies get higher valuations, but I look at what happened to Pebble Watch. They got caught up in the tech and forgot at the end of the day that it was still a watch – a consumer product. They didn’t build the company to handle the ebbs and flows of retail. A desktop 3D Printer is a consumer good, so you need to make sure that users can consume and not just “make” with it. We have to help the industry evolve in that process. As the world’s top consumers, women are best positioned with insight into how to build amazing companies, designs and products – we just need to get some more “bravata” and encourage each other to go for it!
Thank you for reading and for sharing!