Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July Update -- Finally.  : )

Hello all ... it's been almost two months since our last update, and I've got to say that our growth in that time has been asbsolutely staggering. We are truly a global company, with more than 500 sales to date and 175 orders last month alone!
 
We're shipping all over the world as well as the United States. You can see where our customers are on the world map below, which is updated every night. It's amazing. We've reached almost every area of the US, and a few changes in our shipping policies has opened up almost every country in the world to Shop Just Wish. We're creating custom orders now in multiple languages across the globe. How cool is that?
 
From a business perspective, our growth has happened so fast that we continue to consider how to approach the scaling issue -- our once-upon-a-time "hobby" is now a full-time venture that continues to exceed our most ambitious expectations. It's all we can do to fill the orders as they come in and maintain proper accounting of it all. So far, we've managed to keep our heads above water but in the long run we're going to have to figure out how to meet the increasing demand for our products. We can't change our propietary process without affecting the quality of our product since this is likely the single most important reason for our success. On the other hand, we will eventually reach a point that we can't meet demand without increasing our ability to supply that demand.
 
We're considering a number of ways to solve this problem as it emerges. These include contracting with individuals or a company and then demonstrating and teaching our method so we can spend more time on custom orders and less making the base form of our products. Another possibility is simply hiring and training people to work for our company, but this inevitably opens up the employer/employee range of issues like payroll, health insurance, human resources, taxation concerns, coporate policy matters, and so on. There are other approaches we're looking at and eventually we'll pick the course that makes the most sense for us.
 
Wholesale opportunities are another area we can exploit, but until we resolve our scaling and distribution issues we can't really venture too far into that arena. We've gingerly taken a few steps in that direction but in a limited way so as not to overwhelm the rest of the business. Our purpose there really is to learn and understand, develop relationships with companies who already want to wholesale our products, and be ready to move after we've settled the scaling and distribution issues.
 
We are very excited to be attending our first public "market" venue this weekend! We were approached by a wonderful group of folks who stage 3 or 4 such events every year in Des Moines, Iowa about buying a booth and appearing with 40 or so other vendors. We applied and were "jury selected" to participate this weekend and again on Black Friday right after Thanksgiving this year. To date, all of our business has occurred online and this is our first opportunity to directly interact with customers and showcase our products in person. We've bought extra inventory and devoted a lot of time to making it all purchase-ready for customers, in addition to filling the orders that keep rolling in off the internet. This has been an incredibly busy month for us but the experience we hope to gain at "Market Day" will be invaluable as we look ahead to eventually working trade shows as well as more market-type, direct interaction situations.
 
Our business plan continues to change as all of these variables and factors come into play. We realize that we are on the precipice of some very big decisions that will likely dramatically change our lives. These are heady, profound things to consider and one year into opening our doors for business, we are navigating uncharted waters we never expected to be in. And, all this now as we enter what will probably be our most demanding (and rewarding) seasons -- before school starts, after Thanksgiving, and the run up to Christmas. It's all very exciting and terrifying at the same time.
 
Yes, for those of you that keep asking, we watch "Shark Tank" every week. Our favorite is Kevin, "Mr. Wonderful". His emphasis on discipline, understanding scaling and distribution, and safeguarding the all-important cash flow is a real inspiration to us. We don't always find answers to the issues we're dealing with but we have actually learned a lot by watching people make their pitches to the sharks and then listening carefully to what they need to see in a company and its individuals before they are willing to make an investment. It's entertaining too, of course, but over time it's caused us to think about many aspects of our own business we hadn't considered.
 
All in all, we're overjoyed at the success of Shop Just Wish. Though we have a lot of unexpected issues to contend with, we're confident we'll solve them and our knowledge and understanding is growing. We knew going into this that about 80 to 90 percent of these kinds of businesses fail in their first year and our expectations were simply to make a little extra money and supplement our income. Somehow we've managed to not just survive, but grow at an astonishing rate. It's been an amazing journey so far.
 
The MBA program I'll be entering this Fall will help infuse knowledge and information into our business at just the right time -- we're excited about the opportunites this will give us. We'll be able to use our company as a laboratory for new ideas and, hopefully, help us solve the scaling, distribution, and other issues that have appeared along with our success. But there will be no complaining here. We've worked very hard and managed every potential problem so far and we've also been blessed at almost every turn so far. We are reminded of the quote that "luck is when preparation meets opportunity". So far, so good.
 
For now, we're keeping our eyes wide open, being careful to stay within our limits and not over-reach, and looking forward to solving the issues that will allow us to go the next level -- whatever that may look like. Until then, we want to say "thank you" to everyone who has encouraged and helped us in so many ways ... and we will always be grateful to all of you. We'll update everyone after our Market Day event in Des Moines this weekend and let you know what this new experience was like.  : )
 
Jeff