In my last post, What Will Our Color Management Consulting and Training Business Look Like Going Forward?, I ended by hinting about
… a really cool plan in the works to release a product or products to help with those trying to emerge into a working economy again.
That post was published on April 20, just four days after we conceived the idea to convert our dye sublimation color management lab into a production facility. Eight days later, we began taking orders online for our ChroMasks line of neck/face gaiters. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.
Most great ideas are born out of desperation. Let’s face it: If your business is chugging along just fine, there is really no reason to get outside your comfort zone and take unnecessary risks. But it became necessary for us.
Like many businesses, we had missed out on the PPP loan program the first time around that is designed to help businesses like ours. We had hoped that would help us through a few more months until we could travel again.
Thursday: About a month after coming off the road, my business partner Shelby Sapusek and I began to weigh our options.
We started to discuss what others in our industry were doing to survive and thrive. Our goal was simple: Keep enough revenue coming in so our three families (we have a person behind the scenes too) could continue working and not require unemployment. We make a great team and decided to do what we could to stay together.
I mentioned that we have printing equipment in our lab for testing and client work. We also have a heat press. In addition, we have extra computers and plenty of measuring instruments for making profiles.
So then it came down to: What could we print that people would need? The answer was some form of mask or face covering.
Friday: I began to immediately reach out to my network to see what I could find. After just a few phone calls, I was able to secure gaiter style neck/face coverings. We found out we could get a lot of them and within a week.
So Now What?
Well, like many labs, ours was a mess. We’ve been busy on the road since the beginning of the year. Our third team member had been working from home and away from the lab for the past month.
Saturday/Sunday: The lab needed cleaning and reorganizing to be a production facility. We bought some gray paint and repainted one wall in much need of a redesign.
Monday: We had to stock up on materials we didn’t keep on hand in large quantities. There was a printer to unbox and set up. You get the picture: Lots and lots of logistical work.
Tuesday/Wednesday: We also needed to test printing and pressing these designs onto some fabric. We wouldn’t have the actual blank gaiters until Friday, so we created prototypes to test our design templates. By the end of the day Wednesday, we had design templates that worked and test prints that met our standards.
Thursday: It was now time to create an item in our already existing e-commerce platform. There was talk of setting up a new site to do this, but we decided against it. First, we don’t plan to do this forever. This is to get us through this time. We consult for people in the very business we are now doing. When the time comes to consult again, consult we will. We also wanted to rely upon the reputation ColorCasters has built over the years and not appear to be fly-by-night opportunists.
The last three days
Thursday Evening: We soft opened the e-commerce site. It wasn’t pretty. The images were all stock from our supplier. The three designs available were described by some as a little too “boomer-centric.” But we opened up, and then Shelby and I shared like crazy on our social media channels.
And you guys showed up – oh my gosh, did you guys show up – thank you!
Thursday Evening into Friday: Our community started buying gaiters. Our community gave us suggestions to improve the e-commerce experience. Our gaiter blanks arrived Friday afternoon, and we started printing samples for e-commerce photos. We started figuring out the fulfillment piece (we love ShipStation by the way) and all the other little details you can imagine.
Saturday: We printed all the current orders so they can ship Monday.
Sunday: The most amazing thing happened. Business colleagues from our community purchased large quantities of gaiters for their employees. These will be custom printed and fill our production capacity pretty much for the next two weeks.
What’s Coming Next?
We’re working on ways to double our capacity by the end of the week. That will allow us to open up the store a bit again. By the time this is published, we’ll be restricting quantities daily in the store to make sure there is time to fulfill our custom orders. Don’t worry about that. We have more product ordered and the capability to run two shifts as well as to add one more piece of equipment that would increase output. So in theory we could increase to four times our current output quickly.
We’ll catch up with demand; we promise. Give us a week and we’ll be ready for more custom orders of quantities greater than 50. And if you want fewer, just head to the e-commerce site. It’s the surest way to get your gaiter mask as soon as we can produce it.
And most importantly, when this is all done – we’re going back to being color management consultants and trainers. It’s who we are, it’s what we do.