Starting a business: ups and downs

Hitting the Ground Running

Every new venture starts out as a flickering idea; then one day you sit bolt upright and ignite with a mighty “I’m going to do this.” You spend the next few weeks, months (and in my case, years) pouring your heart and soul into developing it, proactively working hard to see it evolve from that flicker of an idea into an initial sketch, then a prototype that you add to and enhance until it’s perfected and then take to the next level by raising the funds to put it through its BS EN Safety Standard testing. You experience true euphoria when it passes, start planning a launch, pluck up the courage (and funds) to place your first order and haemorrhage cash to book and dress a stand at one of the biggest industry shows in the country, whist plugging relentlessly away to get pre-show PR. Then, when you finally make it to the show you discover that the batch you’ve been sent by the manufacturer to sell is defective. It is nothing short of soul destroying.

I only found out on the last day of the show because a mother who bought one asked why the waist kept coming loose. When I clocked what had happened I felt sick. All the colour drained from my face. How could this have happened? How can I tell everyone who bought one not to use it? How can I rectify it? A very public product recall was all I could do.

Product Recall – What Next?

A product recall is hard. Especially when you’re panicking. So I was very, very lucky to have a wonderful chum (thanks Sarah!) on the end of the phone who helped me draft it, taking care to ensure there was a solution at the end of it. It is fairly crushing having to put something like that out on social media when your entire feed to date has been full of positivity about the product. But as my friend and fellow stall holders kept saying, product recalls happen all the time; it wasn’t my fault, no business personally checks every single product they entrust a manufacturer to make and package ready for sale and distribution, because that’s what the manufacturer and their quality control is paid to do. But that’s hard to get into your head when you’re hovering over the ‘post’ button on Instagram and Facebook about to let all the world who’s interested know that the product you sold them is defective.

Does the Dust Settle?

Yes, and quicker than you’d think. Everyone was so kind and understanding about it all; and I am so grateful to them. Particularly to those who bought them and contacted me privately to say how sorry they were for me; and to friends who jollied me along, gave me solid, practical advice and told me not to give up. So, it’s been two days now, and I’ve decided to turn the negative to a positive. Write openly about what happened and document the path to putting it right. Starting with rectifying Batch 001 (an easy fix) and putting into place more rigorous quality control checks at the factory and on receipt of goods. I’ll go into that in another post.

Trust & Second Chances

All my reins come pre-packed ready to sell, so unless I had unpacked, unwound and tested each one, I wouldn’t have known the batch was faulty. I trusted the manufacturer to make them according to a strict design – the design they prototyped for BS EN Testing. When you produce a product, you have to put your trust in the manufacturer. Because you have no choice.

It’s hard to understand how on earth they managed to get it wrong, but somehow they did. And from that lessons must be learned. Big ones. All reins sold at the show were defective, however the remaining reins from Batch 001 have now been remedied and are as they should have been in the first place. I always tell my son to give people second chances; it’s important. And so that’s what I’m doing, but with safeguarding improvements in place.

My first commercial order goes out next week. Time for ONK to live, learn, grow and stay happy!   

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