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

 

 

The Beginning of Retail

Walking outside this morning felt less like fall and a bit more like winter. For obvious reasons, these colder temps allow our company to strut its stuff. After all, we do make insulated hammocks. To state it simply, I am really excited about the opportunities there are right now.

Over the past few months a lot has been going on, but there is a new scent in the air, and it smells like money. Now, I don't want people thinking that SWAYY is all about making a quick buck; anyone who actually knows me, Seth, the guy writing these blogs, will tell you that I am driven by the purpose that I feel called to: to make the world a place of equity. I love helping people. However, in order to help others in the business world, you need money, plain and simple. Does this mean that the only way you can make a difference is by summing up a ton of cold hard cash? No, not even in the slightest. Yet, the reason I say that the air smells like money is that we are closer than we ever have been to making this entire dream of SWAYY a reality. It's only a matter of time before sales take off, and I mean REALLY takes off; I can feel it.

All of the pieces are in place to fulfill a large number of orders. Are our systems perfect, by any means? No, but we do have the connections and manufacturing potential to respond to orders in roughly 4 weeks of turnaround time. This means that if we get 100 orders tomorrow, we can have the fresh and warm hammock in your hands in just about a month. While this doesn't fit our society’s "Amazon Prime" mentality, it does fit a startup, and I only see the lead time decreasing as we grow our business. 

This past week, I announced two big steps that SWAYY has taken to improve our marketing: SWAYY hammocks are now officially listed on Amazon, and we officially occupy space in the stores of our first retailing partner, L2Outside (Live Life Outside). This process has been a journey, to say the least; especially with Amazon. I had no idea that Amazon had such a learning curve for those who wish to be a seller (aka list their business). The journey with L2 started about six weeks ago. As time went by, we drew up a simple contract, and I took the products downtown to their store. Once I arrived I worked with Kat, a store worker, to hang up the hammocks and have them glistening in the storefront window. I must say, there was a sense of pride and accomplishment seeing a SWAYY hammock grace an actual display window. Take a look and see if you can find the thing that looks like a bright yellow banana. 

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Over the past month and a half, our focus has been on establishing a relationship with Precision Aerodynamics, a potential manufacture. In the manufacturing world, a great deal of conversation, at least in the beginning of negotiations, revolves around the cost of materials and labor. That is why we have been working to create a time-lapse video that shows exactly how we make our products. This, in theory, will give the guys at Precision enough observable data to give us an estimated cost of production. Once we have this number, we can finish our financial forecasts, which will enable us to take the next step towards funding. Once this has been completed, we can finish the full patents... Notice I mentioned the full patent: this gives us protection for multiple years, however, we have just filed the patent provisional, and should be protected for one year if all goes as planned the next couple of weeks.

We’ve experienced a whirlwind activity, but at the same time we are playing a waiting game.  We are making the most of this lull by reflecting, strategizing, and building our relationships. After all, it's not the money that moves the mortar, it's the people.