Building a new company is fun. That is not a sarcastic statement, I genuinely love it. It’s also painful, scary, frustrating, and soul-crushing sometimes.
At Picture This Clothing we’ve been working for MONTHS on new product development of one — yes ONE — product, specifically. We got to the point where we were just about ready to launch when we got some size/fit feedback from one of our awesome product testers that two of the kids sizes didn’t fit well. We tested them with a couple more kids and determined that the patterns were just not usable. We tried again, and again, unusable which meant we had to start over from the beginning of what had thus far been a 4-month process. Ugh.
But so goes business, right? And life.
We learned a few things from the first go-around. And learned much sooner (just under 1 month in this time) that our second go-around wasn’t going to work out, either. At this moment of realization I laid on the floor pretty dramatically and stared up at the ceiling wondering if we really will ever overcome this obstacle. Developing new products for Picture This Clothing is not as simple as picking out some patterns from Joanne’s and deciding to make them. It’s also not buying a bunch of inexpensive blank products from overseas mass-manufacturers. It is a much, much more complex challenge to solve to do it the way we believe is the RIGHT way, which is developing patterns that meet our technical specifications, then printing, sublimating, cutting, and sewing in-house in our little Las Vegas shop. Quality matters. Doing it right matters. But damn, it sure can be frustrating sometimes.
We learned a few more things from takes two and three. And we’ve started again. Our new product launch is delayed indefinitely and it kills my soul a lot.
It’s easy to be caught up in what isn’t working when you’re in the thick of it. On the contrast, one of my favorite quotes:
“Success hides problems” -Ed Catmull
This contrast is what makes me grateful for the ups and downs both in life and in business. The “ups” keep us going and offer fuel to get us through the down times. The “downs” highlight what is broken and needs to be fixed so the next “up” matches the previous, if not taking us even higher.
It’s important to stop and look back at how far you’ve come once in a while. Then keep going.
Year one was overwhelming in its own way. We launched with a proof-of-concept and when it went viral the same day, it was like a thunderstorm of learning as fast as we could. We’re so grateful for such an electrifying start and we know we wouldn’t be where we are now without that, but WOW. It really did take us that first year just to get our bearings.
Last year (year two) when we decided to take on manufacturing it was daunting. None of us had manufacturing experience but every manufacturing shop we visited, learned about, or studied came with its own challenges and shortcomings. But none seemed to meet our needs in a way way we felt matched our core values and priorities.
When we stop and think about what our little team has accomplished it’s a pretty darn good track record in our not-quite three years as a company. Here’s a recap of some things we’re super proud to have done so far:
Launched our “idea-baby” our own way, it went viral the day it launched
Received “buzz” from the likes of TechCrunch, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, FastCompany, BoredPanda, ScaryMommy, Disney’s Babble.com and a whole bunch more
Not one single dime of outside investment
$1.2mm in sales in our first 18 months
Built our own proprietary order mgmt software and developed our own tools for image processing
Brought manufacturing 100% in-house in Las Vegas, NV:
found a warehouse
bought all our equipment with no loans
we print, sublimate, hand cut, sew, and pack every single piece in our shop
Built/launched our own custom Affiliate program
Earned a strong foundation of very positive customer reviews
Cultivated a Facebook community from 0 to +86k and Instagram from 0 to +14k, full of names we’ve come to know and genuinely love talking to through behind-the-scenes live streams
Each bullet-point came with an enormous amount of work and I have to acknowledge that’s not too shabby for a team of 6 in less than 3 years. I’m proud of us.
So, I guess as we enter our third year it’d be crazy to think everything should run beautifully perfect with no big challenges. The thought of things running perfectly makes me laugh out loud. I don’t know what “running perfectly” really means, all I know is that I like what we’re working on. It’s hard and it’s worth it.
I’m grateful for this team I get to work with every day. I’m grateful for how much I’ve learned and continue to learn. I’m grateful that the thing we make is something that brings a lot of imagination, color, and joy to a small pocket of the world.
The struggle is real, and we’ll never know how much we really can accomplish without new challenges arising. We keep moving forward as hard as we can until we cannot. We’ll take a minute to look back every once in a while, and have enormous gratitude for the opportunity to do things our own way for however long that may be.
Ed Catmull quote via http://www.creativityincbook.com/catmull/