Where We Are, and Where We're Going April 14 2014
Although I should be sewing right now, it has been months since my last blog post, and a report on the State Of The Bubble is long overdue. The first four months of Gold Bubble’s existence has been more of a roller coaster ride than I could ever have guessed it would be. I’m glad I didn’t know what I would be in for, or Gold Bubble might never have been born.
The last few months have been a series of massive growing pains and harsh lessons in Murphy’s Law. Over that time, we’ve had all manner of problems with our suppliers, depended on the wrong people, experienced equipment failures, and worst of all, dropped the ball when we really shouldn’t have. There is plenty of blame to go around, but ultimately the responsibility rests upon my shoulders.
As you know, we specialize in custom-printed leggings and dresses. We started Gold Bubble using fabric printing companies (one in North Carolina, one in San Francisco) to do our printing and supply us with fabric. We spent months prior to our Black Friday launch finding the best quality printers, ordering samples, adjusting our files to achieve the best output from their specific equipment, etc. We thought we would be smart by making sure we had plenty of samples printed, to ensure quality fabric and printing, and we thought it would be smarter still to rely on two separate companies, so we didn’t put all of our eggs in one basket.
The first problem came when our supplier in North Carolina delivered our fabric a month and a half late. Thank goodness we had our San Francisco company as a backup, right? The next problem came when the fabric for our January orders arrived from the San Francisco company, and we discovered that they had decided to switch to a much lower-quality fabric without warning us. In the course of less than two months, we had gone from having two suppliers to having none.
We also learned another difficult business lesson: when you pay thousands of dollars for fabric that you can’t use and can’t return, that makes it hard to afford a whole new batch of fabric (assuming you can find a new source quickly).
When we first opened Gold Bubble, we hoped to eventually acquire the equipment to produce custom printed fabric on our own. Relying on other companies to do your printing is all right in the short term, but ultimately if you want something done really well, you have to do it yourself. With the unexpectedly rapid failure of both of our suppliers, we found ourselves having to scramble to set up our own fabric printing facility much sooner than we had expected.
This meant creating a new enterprise from the ground up. We had to do everything: research industrial equipment, establish lines of credit, source fabrics, rent property… and we had to do it as quickly as possible in order to fulfill outstanding orders. And in that time, we enjoyed a spectrum of new stresses, and learned a bunch of new lessons. For example:
- When a landlord tells you his warehouse will have enough power to run your equipment, hire an electrician to confirm it before you move in.
- Getting out of a lease is harder than getting into one.
- When you hire someone to move your 3000 lb. press, make sure he’s bonded against the damage he will do to your press.
- Tech support on industrial machines might not be that great when your equipment breaks down.
- Sometimes when you pay UPS to deliver a part for your machine overnight, they end up taking several days. And you can’t do much about it.
- Having a warehouse that doesn’t have internet makes it hard to respond to social media, especially when you spend all of your time working there.
It has been a rough and rocky ride, and in hindsight, there are many things we could have done differently. But we are finally set up to produce clothing faster and at a higher quality than we ever did before. We have been cranking away literally day and night, and we are on track to be completely caught up on all of our outstanding orders well before the end of the month. By that time, we will also be building up a larger inventory so we can fulfill orders quickly.
We never thought starting a new business would be easy, but it has been more challenging than we expected. You have my sincerest apology for any delays, and my deepest appreciation for being patient with us through this time. I am firmly committed to producing the highest quality products, and to serving the needs of our customers to the best of my abilities.