Lessons learned the hard way.August 25 2017
OK so as I'm sat here writing this, I'm not drowning my sorrows in wine or gin, not surrounded by empty ice cream tubs and chocolate wrappers, and not going through boxes of tissues.
Mainly because when you run a business that you've started from scratch and worked tirelessly to grow over the last 3 and a bit years you don't sit around and cry when you've had the worst couple of weeks ever, because you really do have to keep calm and carry on.
I've never even used that term before, mainly because nothing this bad has ever happened, which in itself is a blessing really, so I'll count myself as lucky.
The fire was absolutely devastating yes, but that comes later on in the worst two weeks ever.
I think it started actually when we were in London a few weeks ago for a masterclass, which we were the headline sponsor for, at a cost of 10k...a very hefty investment considering we weren't buying stock or hosting an event, or really getting anything from the sponsorship at all apart from the fact that the artist was using Spectrum throughout her work on stage.
Sad to say it wasn't what we expected, and really not through the fault of any one team member, but we were definitely disappointed in the event overall, and we gave our honest feedback.
When you've worked to get every penny, every investment such as this is a considered action, and when you don't get what you expected as a return from such an investment, it stings.
Frustratingly, it seemed as if the brushes themselves were forgotten about rather than celebrated, when really all we expected as the main sponsor was for the brushes to be a key focus of the whole day. Understandably we felt quite frustrated by this. Along with a few other things which we won't bore you with, we learnt a valuable lesson.
Invest in yourself.
No one will do a better job for your brand than your own self and your team.
Moving on from that...
The next thing that happened which really was disheartening was the fact that our web design agency actually created a near copy of our website for another makeup brush brand.
Baring in mind our website which you're on now is less than 6 months old after launching in April, and we've invested thousands into this site. Not only visually is the website very similar, the same aps, the same style of writing, the same colours, the same icons, basically all the creative elements of our website have been churned out for a competitor brand.
How did this happen? Well that would be us being nice, as we were approached by the web design agency as an all girl team who really got our brand and where we are coming from, that they'd create an amazing site for us, which in all credit they did after we commissioned them to do so.
They also asked if they could keep their agency details in the bottom of the footer (now removed) as it was bringing them in lots of new business, great for you we thought, but we are also very aware of the fact that a lot of brands look to us for inspiration, and we were worried about a similar site appearing.
The web agency assured us that our site would remain individual and unique to us, so we left their details for another 3 months as a way of getting them more business. Baring in mind we were still paying for the work to our website, so it wasn't like the details were there in exchange for free labour, we always pay those who do work for us, as we were both freelancers for years, we understand artists need to be paid.
Then we saw a post on insta a couple of months or so ago from another makeup brush brand saying they were working on a new site, this being one of the brands that has taken inspo from our products, we were suspicious that the same web agency had been approached, so we asked directly if this was the case...
To which the answer was yes it is us creating the website, but please be assured your site will remain individual and completely unique to your brand.
OK so we had our doubts at that point, and being as we weren't told openly and had to enquire, it seemed quite underhand. Usually if you're an existing client you'd be given the courtesy of being told a new competitor client was being taken on, and get your thoughts on it before an agency would undertake the work. We didn't get this courtesy but anyway, safe to say we were insistent at that point that the web agency details were removed, as what we were hoping, and were assured wouldn't happen, did.
Always protect your brand.
Really, we shouldn't in this instance have done the favour to the web design agency, it turned out to be a mistake that now is going to cost us around 30k in investing in a new custom site (which can't be so easily copied), but also means the 6k(ish) that we've spent with the agency in design all has to be scrapped. So watch this space for a new much more interesting website.
and in the words of Kanye...
That was all last week, this week got even worse...yep the fire.
Sunday morning we woke up to a text message which simply read 'Hi, please give me a call when you can, sorry to disturb you but there's been a fire at the warehouse and it's more than likely all the stock has been destroyed'.
That was from Dave at Cloud Fulfilment, as ever straight to the point no beating around the bush, which is no bad thing, it's just the truth. So we sat together at around 9am, called him, and he said the fire had been on the news, so we googled it, and then the images came up.
This wasn't just a fire, it was a devastating blaze which had been going for nearly 9 hours and took 100 firefighters to contain. When we saw the pictures yes we felt sick, but our first question was how are you, and was anyone hurt?
Thankfully, and amazingly, no one was hurt in the blaze, everything else is replaceable so that was some relief. But yes everything was certainly destroyed, a few people who we know who live near the site in Basildon have said it still smells like ash in the surrounding area.
Here's a link to an article which gives you some more detail, and pictures if you'd like to check it out.
If you've read the article you'll know the details, if you haven't then here's a couple of the key bits...
There was around £470k (cost price) worth of our products destroyed.
This was everything we have apart from a tiny amount of stock in our Welsh lockup, which is about the size of a garage.
Nothing survived the blaze apart from some of our branded boxes, which is great when you have no stock.
On the plus side...
Thankfully we'd already placed a follow up order with our suppliers in China for part of our Christmas stock, so products to replace those lost will be on the way from September 5th...not long really we are so happy about this.
The Burn Books did not burn!!! The large ones and the small ones, also the brush sets did not go down in the blaze :) sadly all the acrylic storage has been lost, but of the whole collection if we had to lose one thing before the launch, we're lucky it was this one.
The fulfilment centre we've been working with work just as hard as us, they haven't given up, already they've got a contingency plan in place which means we can go ahead with our Mean Girls launch on the 30th August, and that tells us that we're working with the right company.
If anything, this will definitely make us stronger as a brand. It shows just how much we love our product and our company, to get straight back on the e-mails and start sorting the whole mess out rather than sitting and crying about it (we did cry but not for too long), showed us that even in the worst situation that has ever cropped up, we are strong enough to just focus on getting back on track.
We keep saying we'll make everything bigger and better, and we are working as hard as we can to make it happen as quickly as we can!
But...this fire has also taught us another lesson...
Take your time.
Business moves fast, especially when you have so many other brands trying to catch you up! So every now and then if something really crap happens, we think it's probably the universe telling you to take a minute, stop, and really look at your brand and your direction.
Now we may change direction a little bit with our brand, not drastically, and yes all the same stock will be returning (with a couple of tweaks) but we are coming up with ideas on how we can use this opportunity to improve our business, and actually take some sort of silver lining from this huge black smoke cloud.
Finally, onto today, and the icing on the sh*tty cake.
We've been waiting for months now to move into our lovely new office, you may have seen a bit on our stories as we like to keep everyone posted.
Waiting and waiting and waiting, so today to cheer ourselves up we went there with a friend who's an interior architect, so we could start planning out the space and thinking about how we could turn it into something amazing.
What had happened in the months we've been waiting for the kitchen to be put in, lights to go up, sockets, and an internet connection to be sorted out...absolutely nothing at all, to say this place is a shell is an understatement, it's basically like my garage but with windows. No skirting boards, concrete floor, pretty bare but could be amazing, if it wasn't for all the waiting!!!
We were waiting because it turns out no one was managing the project, and the company we were purchasing off had not assigned the project to anyone to manage as the sales office we were dealing with don't work on commercial projects, so basically no one knew what was supposed to be happening. Perfect.
In the mean time while we were waiting seemingly for nothing at all, what had happened is people had moved into the flats above us (the office is ground floor underneath a block of new flats) and the pipes which are in the office ceiling which we didn't previously notice, turned out to be waste pipes for the entire block.
So while we were stood there hoping to cheer ourselves up thinking about our beautiful new office, and looking forward to moving in asap, all we could hear was everyone's p*ss and sh*t, moving through these two giant pipes as if they were right above us it was that loud.
That really did top off the worst couple of weeks ever, actual crap raining down on our new office...which it's doubtful we'll even go ahead with now, because really, who wants to be working with sh*t flying overhead all the time?
Always manage your own sh*t.
Literally, do not let anyone manage a project for you and think that it's going to go to plan. You need to keep tabs on everything you're working on, and don't wait for people to do things for you, they probably aren't.
I don't think I can make this post longer without boring you to death, so I'll end it here, 4 lessons is pretty good for one blog post, the last couple of weeks have been pretty terrible yes, but the biggest lesson we've learned is this...
You learn more from failure than from success.
We've never known business do's and don'ts, no one has taught us how to do this, we are not born into business, but we were made to create one, that's how we both feel anyway. We're learning more every day, and this couple of weeks we've learned more than ever, which we felt we wanted to share with you so hopefully we can help those who are facing any shi*tty times themselves. You will get through it! Just keep calm and carry on, and always be you.
Sophie & Hannah xxx