A few years ago, Abby Kiefer and her husband Kurt Kober started nursing the idea for a company that would crowdsource the design of home décor items, like vases and pillowcases. It was a night-and-weekend kind of daydream. Both had full-time jobs, Kiefer as a city planner in San Francisco and Kober as an account manager for the Oakland-based Clorox Company. Their idea grew until that inevitable moment when it got too big for part-time tinkering.
Kiefer’s crowdsourcing concept with Red Clay similarly touched a nerve with home-décor retailers. Red Clay produced a textile and ceramic line by crowdsourcing the proposals of numerous designers for the most popular ideas. When Kiefer took the end products to trade shows in New York and Atlanta earlier this year, several large retailers loved Red Clay’s designs. But they loved the concept even more. Nobody was crowdsourcing product designs before producing them (and Red Clay proved that doing so could turn out items that actually look good).