Bias: How it affects my business.

It’s been a while since I was last able to write a blog post. Summer is quickly coming to a close and that means a new holiday season. With each season come various retail trends, and I have been preparing to take advantage of the fall and winter time trends as much as possible.

Since the last blog post, a lot has happened. The start, let’s catch up on is the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver Colorado that happened back in late July and then we will just let it flow from there.

The Outdoor Retailer show was, to say the least, amazing. This was the second OR show I attended. The first one I attended took place back in November 2017, and I spent most time finding my bearings and attempting to locate new suppliers — while I still haven’t completely found everything I had set out to, the trip in July proved more successful. I had a plan.

Over the past several months I have been working busily to set up manufacturing in Asia so that we can fulfill the Kickstarter orders as well as the pre-orders that we have continued to collect. If you’ve been following the SWAYY journey, you’ll remember that three days before the Kickstarter ended I boarded a plane for China to visit a couple of factories — imagine an interview process that is morphed with “show’n tell”. I went because making our gear in the USA, unfortunately, didn’t work. We had to let go of our one manufacturer because they simply expressed that they could not fulfill the obligations that we both had set out to accomplish.

Once I arrived in China, I visited two factories. The first seemed more promising than the second, so naturally, I made the decision to go with the first. It was located near a port and the factory floor had plenty of space for expansion. By the look of it all, it seemed like we had finally struck a solid opportunity. Looking back on it now, I realized that my personal bias toward someone who could speak better English was the main factor in my decision of choosing which factory to use. There was an English speaking man who owned 50% of the factory. I thought that speaking the same language promised solid communication… I was wrong, and later it came back to bite me. Just three weeks ago we ended up letting go of this factory also, and it was the best decision I have ever made. In lieu of this decision, we called up the second factory to the north and had begun a new business relationship.

Bringing things to the present now, the northern factory has been working with us a blazing speeds! More importantly, they are highly detail oriented. It’s nice to finally be in a spot where I am making the mistakes again — I would much rather be the ignorant guy in the room than the smarter one because that’s how I learn best.

This change has been a breath of fresh air. We finally have a manufacturer who knows how to get things done and is teaching me a great deal about how to dial in a product to a point of mass production. But, as of 2 weeks ago, we were still held captive by one not-so-small issue: this new factory to the north was able to make the Premus™ only, not the Eira™. That brings us back to the OR show last month.

Our (Aldo and I. Aldo has been helping with a lot of planning and keeping me in line.) plan was simple: find a manufacturer for the Eira™ and called it a good show. I was, more or less, freaking out inside because we were selling something that we really didn’t have any way of making on a large scale. But, we were tremendously blessed by our partners at DownTek® — they supplier of our down feathers for the Eira. Their amazing team gave us an introductory meeting with a fantastic sleeping bag manufacturer who has worked with the likes of BigAgnes®, L.L.Bean®, Nemo® Gear, and other quality companies. We had the meeting and sure enough, despite our lower order volume and company size, we were able to start a relationship that is doing great! This company will be manufacturing the Eira™ and we couldn’t be more grateful, they are even going to be adding in their patented technology to better keep the down feathers distributed amongst the baffles! In short, that was most of OR — find a manufacturer, size up some of the competition, leave SWAYY patches and stickers in every bathroom and on every sitting table area. Veni, Vidi, Vici: we came, we saw, we conquered.

Encounter More,

Seth Hill

Founder of SWAYY


Patent Protection: Friendships Hold Up  Better

Patent Protection: Friendships hold up betterThe first question most people ask when I tell them SWAYY's story seems to ring in my ears on a daily basis, and honestly, I think it adds more legitimacy to a brand than actual protection. The question is: “Have you gotten a patent yet?”

I decided a few months ago that filling out an application for a patent provisional here in the US (patent protection for 12 months with very little up-front cost) would be a good idea for several reasons: first, it adds legitimacy to the SWAYY brand, and secondly, it allows me to shut down the question of “Have you patented your idea yet?”.

Over the past few months, all this talk of patents and legal protection has caused me to reflect on what it means to be doing business in China and the kind of work relationships one should expect. Should I get a patent in China? If so, how good would it be? Should I mistrust my manufacturer in the first place?  Do I have the capital to enforce any legal action if I was cheated and ripped off? For that matter, could I do anything if something were to happen to us in the states?

One thing has become abundantly clear to me that much of the world throws by the wayside: people are people, and it’s much harder to rip off someone who you know as a friend. And I mean a real friend — the kind of friend who sends you photos of their toddlers and cracks funny jokes with you. I believe that friendships hold up much better than any stack of ink and paper held together by a three-ring binder. Friends are bonded by trust, respect, and a deep understanding for who you are and what you stand for.

A piece of wisdom that is becoming increasingly apparent is that your network is your net-worth. I am incredibly fortunate and blessed to have the connections that I have today. Just to give you an idea, I have confirmed that there is only one degree of separation between myself and influencers like Richard Branson, Snoop Dog, Michael Jordan, and Barak Obama, which is beyond crazy… or is it? Does this really mean anything? I would argue not until I get to know them, but the possibilities are exciting. 

I am here to offer some encouragement. I believe that today, this week, this year, is an incredibly amazing time to be alive. You can literally meet anyone and become anything. I am optimistic because regardless of who you are and where you sit, you have an opportunity to learn from the largest database in the world, the internet, and create value for others on a scale that ten years ago would have been laughed at!

That being said, each day I get up and I have one purpose. It’s not to make the best hammocks in the world (although that is a goal). My purpose—SWAYY’s purpose—is to build relationships that are long-lasting and create value for everyone involved. Being able to help others is equal to adding value. For example, connecting a designer with a project means adding value. In all we do we should add value, period.

Being an entrepreneur is all about making friends, connecting others and bringing value to anyone and everyone. Do you want to be an entrepreneur? Do you want to make a difference? Then here’s to step #1: Get up, get out, and go build some friendships — you’ll be amazed at where you’ll end up.

Encounter More,

Seth Hill

Founder of SWAYY

p.s. This month The WAYY Vlog is a bit longer, but it tells a bit more of the in depth story of SWAYY. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Click Here for the VLOG!

 

Build Your Character & Ask Questions

I am finding that the more I am exposed to the realm of Entrepreneurship, the more I realize that no one really knows what they are doing, me included. I don’t claim to know it all, and I don’t even think I know much of anything, except this one thing: picking up a piece of trash off the sidewalk says a lot about a man and the character he obtains.  

I realize that the past few sentences may not make much sense, but think about it - picking up the trash has a lot to do with who you are. You see, each day I wake up I start an internal battle with self. I crack open my Bible because I believe that whatever I put into who I am will find its way back out. I am inherently selfish, all of us are to some degree or another. Whatever we put in, what ever we listen to, whoever we talk to, and where we walk and spend our time: these factors put pressure on our character to either build it up to integrity or smash it down into destruction.

Entrepreneurship for me is meeting a lot of people and asking questions. I deliberately ask questions at times that are super difficult muster, not because they are fundamentally difficult to articulate, but rather because they show my true ignorance in a particular area.

Yesterday I met with Dawson Wheeler, one of the great men responsible for growing RockCreek, an outdoor retailer based in Chattanooga, TN, to what is is today. Because of a successful exit some time ago he is no longer involved. While talking with Dawson I realized that three to four times per minute he would use jargon and terms that absolutely flew over my head. Let that sink in. I have been in the outdoor and manufacturing space for about four years now and still, I have a knowledge base that could only fill up a 5mb thumb-drive. BUT it absolutely doesn’t matter! I was able, through much practice, to ask “ignorant” questions and be humble so that 1) I could keep my own pride in check and 2) so I could learn something. I think learning has just as much to do with the learner as it does the teacher.  In fact, it may even be closer to a 70 and 30 split, with the learner carrying more responsibility. When a teacher is explaining some principle or concept, they have an idea of what they think you might be thinking and how you should apply it to your life – this can be problematic. It is the responsibility of the learner to take the information they have been given and apply it to their own unique set of circumstances - critical thinking is indeed CRITICAL!

Imagine this:  You are listening to a radio show.  After a while, you begin to imagine what the host looks like, right? Then, all of a sudden, you see what they really look like.  Most of the time, our minds draw a vastly different picture from reality. The same is true with learning. When we listen to the “teacher” or “mentor” we begin to draw pictures, and those pictures aren’t bad. I say this to encourage you because if your “mental picture” doesn’t match someone else's, especially the teacher, that is a good thing! It means you are discovering the world and making sense of it in your own way.   

Anyways, that is the thought for my week. I am constantly meeting new people with various levels of experience and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When people told me about Chinese manufacturing, I drew a picture in my mind and once I was met with the reality of what it was actually like, the two pictures merged into one. This is the way we are, so don’t fight it. Build your character, be humble, ask "ignorant" questions, and draw your own conclusions.

Click Here for the VLOG! 

Also, last thing before I go. I’ve recently had the awesome pleasure of getting to know a man by the name of Stephen Meeks. He is a real genuine man and I have grown very fond of him as a mentor and leader. He is currently starting a company called Manabouts. Stephen believes that being a man is far more than being a male. I couldn’t agree more in that manhood is a matter of the heart and great discipline. Manabouts has a mission to guide fathers and mentors in leading boys into true manhood. To do this, Manabouts created an unforgettable experience and awesome field guide that aims to lead you and your son along a journey that you cannot easily forget. In the busyness of todays world it can be hard to find meaningful time with your family, let alone sons. Stephens Manabout course helps fathers and mentors create a life changing experience that ushers boys into manhood.

Encounter More,

Seth Hill

Founder of SWAYY

 

 

 

Manufacturing in China: How the Chinese SWAYY’d Me.

As I begin I would like to make an introduction that is more or less a disclaimer: I am an American and I take pride in the fact that I live in a country that lifts freedom and liberty above dictatorship and popular opinion, even if at times the fabric of our great country is deteriorating. That said, please read on and know that these are opinions formed from my own experiences.

Just a few weeks ago, I was boarding my first of three planes headed toward Ningbo, China. Time had forced my hand to make a key decision before I had even left: To manufacture in China.

When I started SWAYY in 2014, I had a romantic view of manufacturing, especially of the textile industry. I had great plans to employee Americans, pay them well, and bring the dying skill of technical sewing back to the U.S., especially in the south. After my first contact with a medium-sized sewing establishment of about forty sewers, I was turned down, not too big of a deal as I figured that this would be a trend— be denied several times and then strike a business deal. However, after seven manufacturers and years of wasted time, I learned a great deal.

One lesson I learned is that Millennials (yes, I am a Millennial and proud of it) are not the first generation to suffer from “entitlement syndrome”, sorry to burst that bubble. There is a great saying that goes something like this: the industries right for disruption are those that are fat and happy. If American business can be compared to an industry, guess what? It’s fat and happy. With this disease comes entitlement.

Over the course of three and a half years, I worked my way down the eastern sea-board of manufactures. I was constantly met with the same scenario: I would approach a sewing establishment.  They would be interested. I would show them the prototypes; they would ask for more information. I would give them a sample and materials; they would be interested. I would wait… and wait… Waiting… Waiting… Nothing.

Once they found out that I wasn’t going to be pushing 20,000+ units in the first 6 months, the silence began. If I phoned, I quickly realized that no one had the courage to tell me they weren’t interested; instead, they strung me along. Sadly, it took me, 7 different manufacturers, to learn my lesson. On the 7th try I had sent 2 production-ready prototypes, $400 in materials, drawings, and a dash of personal encouragement to a “quality first, made it USA ra ra ra!” facility. After 4 months I was finally on my way to pick up the 2 new promised prototypes. I arrived to find some of my material damaged and a 3%, a half-baked prototype that was grossly unfinished. To say the least, I was very upset inside, but I gave them another chance. Well, it was my mistake and once again I was left with nothing.

By this time, we were over 60% the way through our Kickstarter and I had no manufacturer in place. All of my eggs had been placed in one basket, and the basket was set on fire and punted into a black hole. So I had a decision to make — do I try to hire a few people to help me make the products, or do I go to China and visit a few factories that have been inviting me over to give them try? Well, as you already know, I decided to go to China.

In general, expectations can be quite dangerous. When I have had expectations in the past, I have often been left feeling incredibly let down. However, I tend to still have them and I am not totally sure that I will ever be able to live a life without them. While on my way to China I had expectations, fairly intense ones as I expected to have at least one sample produced from each factory I visited before returning home. Long story short, the good friends I was blessed to meet completely and utterly blew my expectations out of the water! In fact, I was able to have 3 prototypes made in a matter of 2 days from one factory, and 2 from another in a day and a half. WOW! And to think it took nearly 4 months in the U.S. to get a half-baked prototype . . . this absolutely blew me away. What really stood out to me was the rapid pace that the Chinese were able to combine my verbal ideas with the physical product samples in such haste. It’s not that the Chinese quality is all that better to be honest, although the skill pool is much larger there, but the level of execution that was able to be accomplished added tremendous value.

Here's another thing; while I was in the country I didn’t have to pay a single dollar for anything. My room, food, transportation, everything, was all taken care of. I wasn’t even allowed to lift my suitcase into the cars that picked me up — I was treated like royalty. And after reflecting on the trip I walked away amazed at how incredible the art of building relationships in China is. They know how to serve and to serve well!

Ever since I was a young boy I have loved the idea, concept, and materialization of factories and assembly lines. The TV show How It’s Made was a key inspiration in shaping how I think today, and I still get butterflies when I walk through various factory floors — yes, I am serious!

In my opinion, we beat the drum of American capitalism while our march is out of cadence. I believe it’s time to get back to being a humble nation, speaking kindly, and making a difference with our actions. Are the working conditions in China less than that of the U.S.? Yes, most factories don’t have AC. But here’s a news flash: AC isn't needed to make great things happen.  Ask the Egyptians, the Romans, or the Israelites! Sure, climate control makes life more enjoyable, but seriously, we have grown so self-consumed about what makes us comfortable that we have soured our ability to work with our hands and get dirty! The factories I visited had full-time cleaners who circled the entire factory to keep things tidy. Is it perfect? Not at all, but the grit and work ethic that flowed from the places I visited was overwhelmingly exciting. Want to make a difference? Work hard.

As I step off of my soapbox, I would like to say that I do love America, but I believe in an America that isn’t afraid to work and, more importantly, serve! God has blessed America, so let’s not squander our blessings. 

Anyways, these are my thoughts and reflections about China. Lots of other fantastic things happened and I learned a lot. This trip humbled me, and I am motivated to help and serve others better now. Yes, the Chinese want my business and they see potential in our company, but let’s not forget, our first orders will only be for around 100–200 units. Considering the fact that they usually operate with companies working with thousands of units of a month, ours is a small contract. I guess they see something in SWAYY - I am still trying to figure out what that is. I do know one thing though: China is a wonderful place with a lot of loving people, so let’s not easily throw the “Made in China = Cheap” stereotype any longer because I can attest, a lot of great skill can be found there. They have enabled our consumer-based economy to grow so much and so quickly. Keep pushing, keep serving, keep humble.

Encounter More,

Seth Hill

Founder of SWAYY

 

Our Kickstarter Has Launched!

Can you build a future in the swayy off a hammock? I think so. Kickstarter has launched!

A few weeks days ago I sent off two of our newest model hammocks to Backpacker Magazine and GearJunkie. Just to be able to say that seems almost surreal because if you would have told me just 6 months ago that this would be the case, I would have a hard time believing. 

<------  Tired of reading? Click the here to see the Kickstarter!  ------>

I have been working on SWAYY now 3 years and 10 months. At least that is what my LinkedIn account reads. Over this period of time, if I had to count, I would say that most if not all of my friends have asked the question, "Seth, have you thought about Kickstarter?". 

Well, today I get to scream from the top of my lungs, YES! I have thought about it, planned it, and am now executing it (with the help of countless friends, family, and God). The life of SWAYY has been a humbling journey, and we are far from finished, but I can honestly say that we have put a tremendous amount of blood, sweat, and tears into this project. I have been telling people that whether good or bad, this project is going to go up in flames! With each day that slowly faded away and the launch grew ever closer I realized more and more of the vital pieces that needed to be added to ensure a successful launch. Honestly, I probably could have done a lot more, but with each new venture, some things get left in the dust - I will pick them up next time for round two because yes, I plan to do this again!

SWAYY is looking to raise $10,000 dollars from this first launch. But, no matter the amount we raise I will count this a success for the reason that I've learned so much fro it all! I know that this experience will direct our path even clearer for the next challenge that awaits (which will probably be fulfilling the orders!).

All of our milestones have been made possible by the close friends and mentors I have been blessed to work beside. Where ever you are, if you could take the next 15 seconds to applaud them, that would be fantastic! 

<------ Want to see the Kickstarter? Click here! ------>

Talk soon! And remember... 

Encounter More!

Funding, Kickstarter and Brand Partners

The older I get, weeks begin to feel like days and years like months. I will admit, I am having a hard time being consistent with these blogs because as soon as I click "save & publish" on my website, it seems a month has already past! These preceding thirty days have been a bit of a rollercoaster. I have been on one end of the spectrum feeling like the world is in the palm of my hands, and then other times I have felt the world is crushing me in the palm of its hand!  Nevertheless, here I am, and I have a lot of news to share.

The biggest news right now has to do with our current funding round. Since the better part of October, I have been working with and pitching to a group of potential investors for SWAYY. This will technically be our second round of seed funding if all goes well, but it will be the first from investors outside of my own immediate family.

Just three weeks ago I had two hammocks, one hammock stand and backpack on my back, walking into a fancy building downtown feeling, quite honestly, very out of place. As I shuffled my way to the sign-in desk, a kind gentleman in a black suit asked who I was there to see. I rattled off "I am here to see the Lighthouse CFO Group." He wrote down a few notes and directed me to the third level of the building.  As I stepped into the elevator mashing the number “3” I took a few deep breaths and sent up prayers - I was nervous. However, all the nervousness settled as I met the group of three investors who were much different than I imagined. They loved the product, but they were interested in me and who I am. I find it so much easier to answer questions about my “what” and “why” than simply spouting off numbers.

If there is one thing I have learned throughout this entire entrepreneurial journey it is this: every situation I have thought was going to be scary hasn't truly been. In fact, more often than not, the presentations or interactions I seemingly fear the most have been the ones I enjoyed even more! Big pitch competitions, investor pitches, meetings with people WAY out of my class - all of these experiences have proven to be enjoyable and exhilarating. This, more than anything, proves to me that I am exactly where I should be; I love working with people.  

Moving on now, I want to tell you guys about two encounters I had this past week.

First, I want to talk about Amari. Amari is a 14-year-old who I know is going to go far in this life. As I was sitting in the vacant library on the campus of a local university (it was spring break) I sat on the second floor of the building and couldn't help but notice a young boy walking around. As I worked, I saw him weave in between the bookshelves and as he walked close by me, I took out my earbuds. I asked him what he thought of social media and what platforms he used most.

"Do you use Instagram?" I asked. "Yeah, and Snapchat too. Those are the two main ones" he said. "What about Facebook?" I questioned. "Nah, no one uses it much any more" he replied.  And he had a good point; stats are showing that his age group primarily uses the platforms he mentioned.

He went on to tell me that his mother was working and that someone had dropped him off at the library for a few hours (he had just gotten out of school for the day) until his mom could pick him up. He then asked me what I did, so I told him about SWAYY. He said, "Wait, so... Are you a CEO?" with his eyes widened and eyebrows raised in astonishment. "Yeah, I am," I said, and I handed him my card. He read the back of it. "Wait, you’re not a CEO, you're a Chief Executive Offi... OH! That's what that stands for?!" There was amazement in his voice. I couldn't help but laugh. 

It's pretty wild how a lot of the time the terms we use are so quickly and widely adopted that the exact meaning or understanding of the world becomes an intangible feeling or perception. I am not sure why this impacted me so much, but it really did... After talking for a few more minutes, I officially hired him as a commission salesman for our hammocks. Later that evening he texted me on my website and said "Hey Seth, thanks for offering me a real job today. My mom said I should ask for at least 15% commission instead of 10%, but I am totally fine with 10%." I told him that we could work out a deal that allowed him a 15% commission after he sold 10 hammocks. He was happy. 

Kids are amazing.  Kids are resilient. They are ambitious! We need to empower kids more. Why should we wait to be a CEO until we are 50? Because we need "experience"? Let me ask you a question: what does a kid have that a 50-year-old doesn't? TIME! What does an adult have that a kid doesn't? EXPERIENCE! Guess which one of those is attainable no matter your age? That's right, experience. Empower kids - they can often lead effectively, and they are forward thinking. 

The next and final encounter I want to talk about just for a brief moment is one I had with Caleb. Adam is one of our best customers, but he wasn't a satisfied one. Caleb sent me an email this morning describing how he had a really rough time with our product out on the Appalachian Trail. This was one of the hardest emails for me to read, but it powered my passion even further - I want to make the best quality products!

SWAYY is still very much a startup company. I am doing all the accounting (not very well), marketing, social media, website development, UI (user interface), UX (user experience), manufacturing set-up, supply chain logistics . . . the list goes on and on. It is very hard to get a product that I am happy with while I am juggling all of these flaming swords. Are we improving? Yes, by leaps and bounds. But we still have so far to go. The reason I say all of this is because being an entrepreneur is really hard, but man, when you get a solid customer who will complain freely, I JUMP FOR JOY! If customers take the time to write an email that is several pages long with instructions on how to make your product/service better, count your blessings, it means they care! Thank you, Caleb.  You are the reason we exist.

I am quickly running out of room and time and am in a bit of a hurry, so I am going to set the pace to double time for here on out!

SWAYY is planning a Kickstarter launch to release our newest product, called the Eira, in April of this year. Right now we are in a flurry of activity trying to stay ahead, settle new supply chains, solidify new partnerships, and more. Something I am excited to talk about though is our new brand partner, DownTek.  DownTek is a water-resistant down that will be guts and glory of the Eira (3.1lbs, includes a hammock, rainfly, straps). We are super excited about this partnership because it creates value in our brand, value in our networks, and value in the overall products we create. DownTek has been kind enough to offer their PR team to help get the word out, so if all goes as planned, you just might see some SWAYY products in Wired, Outside, or Backpacker Magazine. Keep your fingers crossed and keep spreading the word!

Things are moving and I am excited to be doing what I am doing. In conclusion for this month’s blog post, I want to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you all so much for your help and encouragement. While the entire entrepreneurial scene may be glorified and seen as an awesome career where great highs and creative ambitions seem to flow endlessly, that isn't the case most of the time. Don't get me wrong, I love that I do and I would have a heart attack if I couldn't do what I am doing, but what gets me up each day is the people I have an opportunity to influence, and the chance to make a dent in this world for the better.

Talk soon. And remember...

Encounter More 

 

It's Never Black and White

I remember as a young boy and looking to my parents with an overwhelming sense that they knew everything. I mean, they were adults - adults have it all together and know how to make life flow from meal to meal, day to day, they knew how to make it all happen. I never really questioned much of how things worked and why they happened, but I did know that they happened. 

About a week ago I was walking the show floors of the International Outdoor Retailer (OR) and Snow Show and as I walked through the lower levels of the convention centers that were dedicated to suppliers, it all began to click inside my head. No longer was this industry so black and white to me. Everything had a process, a purpose and yet a very disorganized feel.

Imagine a big building with three main levels. The lower level is the base for all suppliers. The middle level is filled to the max with up and coming brands from smart outdoor clothing to electric dirt bikes. Then, on the crown of the establishment, we find the main show floor for the "big wigs", the "gearheads haven", or in other words, the multimillion (sometimes billion) companies like Marmot®, The North Face®, Patagonia®, Etc.   

Remember how I said that when I was a kid I saw the world in black and white and thought my parents absolutely knew it all? Well, if this makes sense for me to say, we as consumers are in that same boat. I remember I used to walk into any gear story, RockCreek, REI, Academy, Dicks, whatever, and I all I saw where clothes. I saw no process. I saw no trial and error testing phase. I don't even think I stopped to ponder what each material was made of. Now... Wow... I don't even know where to begin, but I can honestly say that I will never look at any garment or any piece of outdoor gear in the same light. 

I decided to go to the OR show on a whim and hope of one of our SWAYY Premus™ hammocks shown at the Primaloft® booth. (Spoiler alert: it wasn't displayed at the booth. #getitinwritting). However, from this amazing trip, I have accelerated my learning leaps and bounds more than I would have just sitting at my dining room table at home wishing away my time. Sometimes, you have to get up and move, and that is when the miracles and heavenly guidance come. It is always impossible to steer a horse that isn't moving. 

So what happened? A lot. But here are a few bullets to give you a feel:

  • Potential new brand partners with DownTek® insulation
  • All new suppliers for fabrics and hardware (except titanium) 
  • New SolarCore® (NASA Inspired Insulation) partnership 

The OR show was an eye-opening experience and I doubt I will ever look at any textile industry company the same way. While I do believe that the process of creating gear product is only as complex as you make it, I do know understand more fully the great deal of thought, planning, and logistics that is placed into even one jacket being manufactured. 

Switching gears now, I just want to say that we almost moved into our new manufacturing facility and are making samples today! A lot has to happen in the few months to make it all come together, but that is always the exciting part. Stay tuned and I will keep you updated. 

In closing, I need to leave you a short itemized list of things I am doing right now, but don't have a lot of time to write about:

- I will be officially pitching to potential investors here in the next week.

- Manufacturing process planning is 70% done. Once we get to 90%, we are hitting the launch button!

- Shooting a video for Kickstarter (more to come on this latter - new products are coming), so get stoked! 

Thank you for all the energy and support! Stay cheerful and remember...

Encounter More

 

 

Reflection and Progress

As I begin this month’s blog post, I want to shed some light on my past.

My year as an overseas humanitarian worker radically changed my perspective on what life and opportunity truly mean. I lived off of $50 per month during that year and finally understood what “American Privilege” meant. I think that "American Privilege" sometimes carries a negative connotation, but I think it is probably one of the most positive pieces of my story. I could have just as easily grown up in South Sudan where children are exposed to the inner workings of mass murder plots and the terrors of kidnapping before they ever encounter a simple and filling breakfast meal. With this knowledge, I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those around me and around the world.

My aim to is to give wealth to those who have been enslaved by ignorance due to a lack of schooling, enslaved by poverty because there is no chance for opportunity because the only way to grow in prominence is by paying off the higher powers, and finally those who are enslaved to misdirection and darkness because they haven't heard of the beautiful narrative of a God who so loved them that He sacrificed His son so that they may forever be rid of bonds that keep them.

Ok, I am stepping off of the soapbox now and on to the updates...

SWAYY just whirled through the busiest time of the year, and we experienced our first real growth and with growth came some pain. We recently made the decision to change the material used for our 1" webbing tree straps because the old was having some issues. We decided to switch to a new type of polyester and Dyneema blend called Polypro. This was a hard lesson learned because as a maker, I want everything to be perfect on the first try... In reality, though, this is impossible. If it was, how would innovation happen ? We decided to swap the strap material because we had a customer report a failure, which is never easy to take. Upon further conversation with this customer, I was hurt because he basically said: "the material you are using for the webbing, it's terrible." I became a little defensive and wanted to blame it on operator error and I may have done that a little bit, but I soon realized want an important lesson this could be. I realized that my pride should never step in front of innovation or improvement of any kind. As I write this it sounds silly that I had to experience this lesson to learn it, but indeed, I had to take the long way.

Another order of business that I really want to share is about the (OR) Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show in Denver, Colorado this January. Several weeks ago I talked with our brand partners at PrimaLoft™ and they mentioned the possibility of showing our products on their show floor at the exhibition; the only problem was that I had just requested them to send back the demo I had sent them! Big mistake, to say the least. After picking my pride off the floor I asked if there was anything we could do to get our hammocks sent back out to them. There was no definite answer, but I was told that if I could get a pass to the OR Snow + Show and I stopped by, then we could possibly have a discussion about showing it, so that is that. Patience: I am learning patience!  

With the possibility having  SWAYY products shown on a show floor where giants like PatagoniaThe North Face, and Big Agnes are flexing their muscles, I couldn't resist and instantly looked into getting a ticket, only to find out they are $550 per person... I called up an old friend from the textile industry and asked her if she knew of any way to get in for less. She told me there was, but I had to register as a buyer. I looked on the OR website and sure enough, it was free: all you had to do was to enter a few documents and they should push you right on through. Well, 24 hours later I got an email saying that I didn't qualify. Determined not to give up I called the number from the site, asked for a registering specialist, told him my story, and received the phrase, "Please hold."... Waiting in silence I tried racking my brain to find a solution. "Could I just show up and try to walk it? Or maybe I could try to go as a worker with our brand partners? No... Maybe I cou.." *CLICK* the cheap music on the other lined stopped and I heard "Mr. Hill, I now have you registered as a buyer for the snow show at no cost, have a great show!

With a little persistence and divine help, I was off to the races just like that. Now all I needed was a plane ticket, a room to stay in, and a method of transport. Long story short I got an $11 plan ticket using miles and a free place to stay all within that week. Can I get an Amen?! I think this show has a lot of potential for SWAYY. We can find new customers, brand partners, suppliers, sources, the list goes on and on. I will be updating you soon on that, so be on the lookout across all of our social media platforms.

Over the past week I have been working on a new kind of business lead that I want to note, and that is our progress in receiving a license for government contracting. This has been a very laborious process, to say the least, but could potentially be a great form of funding for SWAYY. We are aiming to register as an (8)a regulation small business so that we can be eligible for small business set aside contracts for the military. Every year the U.S.  Government allows for approximately $400 Billion dollars in military spending, and a portion of that goes to contracts that only (8)a businesses can be awarded. I have heard from several sources these contracts are given to the first bidder 9 times out of 10. More to come on this later so stay tuned! 

And that leads us right to our last update point. The fellow who introduced me to the process of applying to become a government contractor is actually our account manager at Dunlap Industries. We are now working closely with Dunlap Industries to create quality customer zippers that we can outfit into our hammocks. This will allow us to increase the quality of our products while also keeping operations close to home as this factory is only a few miles from our new potential manufacture in Dunlap, Tennessee. 

Well, that wraps everything up! I will be posting updates as we move along, so tune in and remember...

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