Starting a business is like starting in a MBA program where you are the case study, and its being written in real time.
While building HMWOutdoors and our signature Youth Adventure Kit, I eagerly did the product development, financial planning, design website building advertising, venue selection, etc, etc etc...... Watch out world.
I imagined the thousands and thousands of youth wearing YAK for their adventures.
But just before we opened our virtual doors, it dawned on me; when an actual YAK adoption happens, what would their new YAK be delivered in? All this time and work to get to this point, and I'd forgotten to get boxes. I needed boxes and I needed them by the end of the week for our first public roll out at the NCAC Boy Scouts of America, University of Scouting 2016.
To this point I thought a box, was a box, was a box. To me it's a cardboard box, I see them everywhere. Surely, I could find a box for the YAK, no not a box but a vessel that would carry our creation, our hopes and dreams to the thousand of parents searching for a better way to prepare their students, to the thousands of youth yearning to explore, seeking adventure. To the thousands of programs ready to partner with us.
I was in for a most rude awakening. None of the boxes at my local office store were big enough (the YAK has more than 25 different items include in it (it really has everything). The free priority mail boxes at the Post Office were too small and I needed boxes for our big début at the end of the week. So I buckled down and started Googling. I learned that cardboard boxes are really called corrugated boxes and are generally purchased regionally, or preferably locally.
So I started calling around trying to get someone to sell me corrugated boxes that would become the vessel for the YAK. This was so much harder than it should have been.
First there are boxes called "stock" boxes that manufacturers do not actually keep in STOCK, CRAZY. Then if someone would talk to me, or return my call, they weren't interested in producing the quantity I was needed (300). To me 300 of anything is my whole world, 300 YAKs and I'm full time, 300 YAKs and that's sunlight before the next tunnel, 300 YAKs and I'm ready for the next production run, 300 YAKs and the vision in my head starts to come into focus for my wife, suffice to say with 300 sales we're getting some traction. For them 300 boxes is an overage or the machine warming up.
Finally, after calling up and down the Mid-Atlantic, I find someone with boxes, who is willing to sell me "what I was asking for" (that part is important, remind me to come back to it if I forgot). BTW I also needed delivery since over that same week I still had to go to work, pick the kids up, attend after school activities, and lead a scout meeting. All that said I couldn't be in many places at once.
Fast forward the boxes "I asked for" arrived that Friday before the Saturday University of Scouting, the launch was saved. We packed and printed labels for the boxes. We were ready for Saturday. But remember I only received the box I asked for and at the time a box, was a box, was a box.
Now comes the entrepreneurs lesson. These had to be the worst boxes possible. At the time they looked great. We had our début we were well received and the real work started. Fast forward we sent some in inventory to Amazon and started selling there. After a few months we pulled the inventory back and discovered why we should have been grateful we didn't sell anything through that channel.
The box with our precious YAKs looked as if they had been kicked all the way back from the AMZ by way of the Appalachian trail. Needless to say we didn't want anything from HMWOutdoors to show up to anyone looking like that. It wasn't the quality delivery experience we envisioned for our customers. We wouldn't want a package like that to showing up to our home much less yours.
So we learned, we had more learning to do. Turns out our initial boxes had the minimalist crush capacity possible, we needed a stronger box. Our current box is a custom printed, double walled corrugated box with a maximum load of 65 lbs or a 275# (burst test). Using Illustrator we developed a branding to put on the outside of the box, thinking about what we wanted to communicate, and with an I toward the unboxing experience. After finding a couple of local corrugated box manufacturers, getting three bids, selecting one, designing the exterior, getting plates made we received delivery of our latest box. For whatever reason they sent over 500 boxes instead of the 250 we ordered, and the charged us for the overages (they are fixing the mistake).
The case that will carry your next adventure, the vessel of our hopes, and dreams from the sweat of our brow. The chest that contains a student's basic equipment for adventure, now includes a warning. Danger: The contents of this case may change your life in a profound way that we can't predict. Because adventure is serious business.
Until next time.
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