Sixteen years ago, after I got my Ph.D. from the Mechanical Engineering Department of UCLA, I became an electronic packaging engineer at Intel. I loved my job because solving complex problems was very fulfilling and entertaining. However, three years later, I had to give up my job after the premature birth of my son at 26 weeks and weighing one pound, 14 ounces.
For seven years while I was taking care of my son 24/7 and living on a tight budget, I turned myself into a product comparison expert and a household cost cutter. I always wanted to know exactly what I was paying for. Given my engineering background, I realized that many low-cost products were adhering to the same quality and safety standards as their expensive name brand equivalents.
My understanding about this phenomenon reached a new level after I started my first private label business. As is life, the path wasn't straightforward.
After my son grew up into a happy and healthy boy, I was finally ready to return to the job market. Because of my seven-year resume gap, I was turned down numerous times. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” (Vivian Green). If no one was willing to offer me a job, I decided to create a job for myself. I studied business administration and marketing at UC Berkeley Extension and Stanford Continuing Studies. I went to various seminars and webinars to learn from the business experts. Finally, I started my first private label business on a 1000-dollar budget — ComfiTime Home & Lifestyle.
While diving deep into the supply chain, I found that many manufacturers who were white-labeling my products were making the same products for name brands — the same materials, design, process, and quality but a higher retail price. The well-known brands have done a great job of building long-term relationships with consumers and promoting widespread faith in their brand. But, does that mean they're worth more money? Not necessarily. Here are some of the reasons why big brand products are more expensive.
- Big brands require big advertising and marketing budgets. A brand gets famous by making themselves visible on television, billboards, in print, the internet, and social media, and this marketing costs a lot of money.
- Big brands have higher initial costs to develop, market, and sell a brand-new product. The product might have to go through years of research and testing before entering a market full of uncertainties. However, if a company starts with an already-popular and successful product, they can save all that investment and pass that savings onto the consumer.
- Big brands have higher operating costs. In addition to higher sales, marketing, and R& D (research development) costs, big brands also have higher accounting and legal fees, salary and wage expenses, office supply costs, overheads, and utility expenses, and much more.
- Customers are willing to pay a high price for big brand names for various reasons, such as positive product experience, confidence in a brand, social acceptance, customer loyalty, and personal or professional images.
As a household cost-cutter, I decided to use my discoveries to help others make better purchasing choices: buy nice, not buy twice, because twice the price doesn't always mean twice the quality. So, here comes my second brand: Illuminlabs, which is meant for high-quality home electronics at affordable price — a price significantly lower than name brand equivalents. Our hand-picked products fall into three categories: functional and decorative lighting, small home and kitchen electronics, and cool tech gadgets.
I am fortunate enough to work along with a group of passionate young people on my team. They came from various backgrounds of knowledge, from the science and engineering to the arts, DIY and cooking, but they share my beliefs: everyone deserves a beautiful life and home and by making the right purchasing choice, you don't have to pay a lot for it.
My knowledge has worked for my family and me, and I hope the products developed with this knowledge will be as helpful to you as they are to me.
We're so glad you're here!
Jessica and the Illuminlabs team