“So what’s going on at WamBam?”
This is a question I get asked often by vendors, clients, friends and business contacts.
Without a public product line and a website, it’s a valid question. I guess one might suspect that we’re taking too much advantage of the nap room or gorging ourselves on Steve’s well-stocked cupboards.
Behind the scenes, a lot has been happening. The amount of work involved in a startup is mind boggling. We have more than 40 SKUs we’re getting ready to launch, and that doesn’t include our ornamental aluminum program. Each fence design needs more than just product design, development and testing. It also needs a 20+ page installation guide, line drawings, images, detail shots, box contents, UPC codes, barcodes, etc.
Then there’s the compilation of 50+ pages of web content. There’s 7 videos. I’m setting up customers which requires copious amounts of paperwork and copy to merchandise the product, not to mention vendor agreements with lots of red tape.
And of course, as in the nature of every startup, things don’t always go as planned.
Our first container of product arrived late July. The product was to spec and with the exception of a few minor issues, everything looked great.
But there was a problem that became apparent to us when the first container was on the water. Of our 9 fencing styles, 4 were not performing to our satisfaction in final testing. This was not our fault, and not our factory’s fault either. It was a calculated risk we took. Steve knew this issue might creep up, but it was a low risk—around 20%– so it was a risk worth taking. Unfortunately the 20% got us.
Essentially, it became apparent that a few of our vinyl fence panels had bottom rails that would sag (or begin to smile) over time. While some manufactures might let this slide, we couldn’t in clear conscience. Our vinyl fencing is Professional Grade with a limited lifetime warranty, so we want it to perform in 20 or 30 years like it did on the first day.
Back to the drawing board. Change the bottom rail of these styles. Test some more. Testing is good, thus the problem is solved.
However, we have 4 styles of vinyl fence that need upgrading and cannot be released for public consumption. Thus, we needed to order another container with the new products to replace the old. You can’t just order containers overnight- they take time. It is scheduled to arrive in early September so it won’t be until then that we have a full, rounded out line of product to sell.
The website is coming along slowly but surely. The reason it’s taking so long is that the old one was completely scrapped for reasons I won’t bore you with, and I subsequently hired new developers to redo the whole thing from scratch. So we’re on the second site–with the same design. I take full responsibility for this. I hired the guy who did the botch job on the first site, and in the end it was a big mistake. It slowly became apparent that if we wanted a tight site that we could work with well into the future, it had to be done properly, which meant scrapping a 2-3 month project and starting again.
Steve laughs long and loud at me every time I beat myself up over the site. “Looks good on you, Denise. I love it!” is what he usually says with a wicked cackle. I guess it’s better than yelling and screaming, right?
It’s never easy in a startup, but all things considered, while we’re slightly behind, in the grand scheme of a 24 month project, we’re really not doing too badly. It’s coming along, slowly but surely. And the great thing is that we don’t feel like we’re rushing things, which would mean releasing substandard product or a weak website. The motto around here is, “If you’re going to do something, just do it right.”
So in short, we’re busy. Some days we still feel overwhelmed and wonder if this fly wheel is ever going to get momentum on its own, because pushing non-stop for all these months (and for Steve, it’s coming up on 2 years) requires a lot of dedication, motivation, work, and patience.
But most days we’re still having fun, and that’s what matters.