In 2013, I began baking artisan bread at my home to sell at the local farmers market. This began an unexpected adventure that would take me deep inside the mind of the consumer. Each week was a chance for direct user feedback and weekly design iterations and product prototypes.
After two years of weeknight baking, Saturday markets, and a kitchen filled with baking equipment and flour, my obsession only grew. I found a retail space on Main Street and opened up shop in 2015. This led to more products, more audience interaction, and constant assessment and redesign.
Here is a greatly oversimplified account of what went down: Word-of-mouth provided evidence of interest in my products, however, sales volume was a constant struggle. Consumers love the idea of fresh-baked bread, but it has become a special occasion product and not a daily staple. Baked goods have a shelf-life of one day and all bakers must face the challenge of figuring out how much to make while not generating waste. I knew I would have to develop a light-weight packaged product with a long shelf life so I could reach a greater audience. That was the beginning of my naturally fermented sourdough crackers.
The second piece of the puzzle was figuring out why someone across the country would care about my crackers. They had to be unique and serve a purpose. Lucky for me, I have friends who brew beer. As a sourdough baker I love to experiment with any grains I can get my hands on. I didn’t expect much from the so-called “spent” grains, but to my surprise, once fermented in sourdough there is plenty of flavor left. In fact, every different grain blend resulted in totally different flavors, not unlike the beers they were used to produce. Once I started collecting from the larger breweries in my state, I learned just how much grain is produced. A pound of grain results from every six-pack brewed. That is more than one million tons of nutritious food produced by craft brewers every year, and I had just discovered how to make it delicious and convenient.
So now I have a product that is convenient, accessible, desirable, and has a distinct purpose. After introducing the idea in a Kickstarter, I now have customers in nearly every state! Of course, the entire story is a bit more complicated that just that. No one said it would be easy to say the world.
The lessons from this adventure have been numerous and profound. The journey is not over, but the time has come to these experiences back into my design work. I am seeking to join a team working on big and bold projects aspire to change the world for the better.
Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my work with you. I would love to tell you more about my journey as a UX designer and how eager I am to bring all that I have learned into big bold projects that aspire to change the world for the better. -Troy DeRego