Successful business owner Merry Constantino, the founder and principle of ProductLogic, specializes in working with clients across a range of industries to develop and bring their products to market.
She’s also a mentor for people and companies seeking guidance and direction; a cheerleader for other women and woman-owned businesses; and board chair for the annual Western New York Invention Convention, demonstrating her commitment to young people and support of STEM education’s emphasis on creative and critical thinking skills.
An industrial designer, Constantino started out her career at Fisher-Price, where she developed both toys and gear (strollers, car seats, etc.) for kids and families. That experience gave her a great understanding of the rewards and complexities of product design—that is, developing products that are the interface between human user and the most current technology. In addition to the above examples, think of an electric toothbrush, a food-court trash can, or a medical device.
“Industrial design is finding the chemistry between ‘fine art’ and good engineering in a product,” said Constantino. “The designer/manufacturer wants products to be inexpensive to manufacture and easily assembled; both the manufacturer and the customers want it to be user-friendly and beautiful.”
She started ProductLogic before the region became the entrepreneurial hotbed that it is today. “I’m a founding member of the Buffalo Niagara chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners,” she said. (That was in 1994.) “Early on, their support of me and my business was incredibly helpful.”
It took a while for the local community to recognize the value of her offering. “Patent attorneys became a good source for referrals,” noted Constantino. “When an individual wants to protect their idea, they’ll go to a patent attorney. Patent attorneys know when an idea is not ready to be patented—the idea needs to be developed and refined first.”
She works mainly with small and mid-level companies—not necessarily startups, though she is always interested in helping anyone with an idea. She extols the popular notion of “fail fast”; the philosophy dictates quickly determining if something is going to work, and if it doesn’t, refining or pivoting to a new iteration or idea.
“I love introducing clients to the support resources I’ve connected with, like Buffalo State’s Small Business Development Center, and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Innovation Center,” she said. “I’ll bring clients to pre-seed workshops, where their ideas can be evaluated. Sometimes, the teams are advised to not pursue their idea, and sometimes they have success—I know one which has a product that’s now in clinical trials.”
For clients, working with Constantino and her company is the equivalent of having in-house R&D, engineering and QA departments packaged with intelligence, accessibility, and a helpful attitude. Clients include worldwide industrial concerns like Praxair to locally based Lansky Sharpeners.
“We have clients we’ve been working with for 20 years. They come to us with their ‘next product,’ something that we know will actually make it to market,” she explained. “For example, Garwood Medical. They needed help to create a user interface for their patented technology.”
Read more about Garwood Medical Devices here
Another benefit that Constantino brings, said Brian Peterson, vice president/CTO of Garwood, is the attention to the larger context. “Typically, the biggest challenge of working with contractors is making sure they understand your project as well as you do,” he said. “Merry takes the time to understand what you are asking for and how it fits into the bigger picture. She always offers suggestions and solutions that you wouldn’t think of. We couldn’t do what we’ve done without her.”
A more recent client is Allé Design—the company, offering “a full spectrum of office solutions,” is a distributor of accessories and products for interior and exterior commercial spaces and uses. “I first consulted Merry soon after I purchased this business and became a partner,” said Sandra Perry of Allé. “I met her through a UB Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership event. As I was trying to figure out how to move forward with Allé, I called her with all my questions.”
Allé contracts with manufacturers for its products; many are customized for their clients. “Merry has become an integral part of rebranding and reinventing the company,” attested Perry. “She’s a researcher, designer, problem-solver, and marketer all rolled up into one. She has an engineering mind, and she’s also warm and caring. She’s got the ‘big picture view,’ plus her understanding of the entire design and manufacturing process. She’s courageous and willing to speak the truth. She’s saved us money, too. Small businesses can’t afford to waste time or money.”
Constantino's business must be responsive to explosive advances in technology and emerging environmental concerns. “R&D is iterative—we’re failing and refining products constantly,” she said. “Our best recent resource is the evolution of 3D printers; ours is running all the time. One day we’re building and refining a mechanism. Another day, we’re testing the ergonomics of a handle.”
“In addition, now everybody wants ‘smart’ products—there’s a huge learning curve for that,” Constantino noted. “I’m also finding clients are concerned with sustainability and the products’ planned after-life, they want to know what will happen to the materials if they end up in a landfill.”
While addressing all of her clients’ needs, running her office, where she has two employees, and remaining an active member of NAWBO, she still has time to cheer on the Buffalo Niagara entrepreneurial groundswell.
“The ecosystem just keeps getting stronger,” she said. “43North has attracted interesting companies here and engaged the entrepreneurial community. FuzeHub and Launch NY are two nonprofits focused on helping people—they’re receiving some nice state funding. UB is doing a great job with their support and creating opportunities—even for students with their Blackstone Launchpad.”
“Because there’s a strong environment and support system, people are recognizing the opportunity and coming here to take advantage of that,” Constantino said. “And I only see it getting better.”