Hammocks

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...

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Finding Ourself

When I think back to 2013, when this entire idea came to life, I never would have guessed that my personal identity would have so meshed together with SWAYY. 

The past month has come and gone in such a blur that I am having difficulty elaborating on the bullet points that lay etched into my notebook beside me. As I type out this sentence I am trying to decide how professional or personal I should get, so why not share a bit of both?

I am dedicating this post to all of my peers and fellow Millennials who feel the pressure to make a stamp on this earth. So here is to you - push on and overcome self.

First, what a fantastic phase we are finding ourselves in right now. Just a few weeks ago we won second place in the "Will This Float?" competition that was featured during the startup week in Chattanooga, TN. What a blast! This has lead financing deal that could potentially make the SWAYY legacy grow wings, BIG WINGS!  

We have been working with a company called Precision Aerodynamics. Don't be fooled by their website - even though it may be ancient, these guys put out some serious quality and the best part is that they are located right in our backyard of Dunlap, TN. We are set to start manufacturing with them as soon as a few other pieces fall into the place concerning our patents and the financing round.

We have also been working with a company downtown Chattanooga called the Lighthouse CFO Group. Hats off to these guys as they have been assisting in the gathering and creating of a few key projections that will allow us to float under the torrential rain of investor questioning. Seriously though, they are literally walking me through this process and to be honest, I have never felt so underprepared and ignorant on the subject of finances. However! I am determined to learn and always fall forward. More to come on this...

A bit of bad-ish news. The potential manufacturing deal that seemed so glorious and hopeful just a few weeks ago is now a giant flop. Turns out the manufacturers that were interested in selling various products under our brand just signed a contract with the largest sports shoe brand in China, so with little hesitation, we were dropped to the floor. No worries! I am happy to have learned a little more about Asian manufacturing and what to look for. As a bit of a side note, these experiences have changed me in one fundamental way that has helped me to be more successful: I now know that whenever a great opportunity comes along that I should always seize it! However, I have also learned the importance of keeping a level head just in case the opportunity doesn't work out. 

In other news, and I literally mean the news, we were featured on News Channel 9 Chattanooga for their "Made in Our Hometown" segment. Long story short, I got a facebook message a number of weeks ago from the producers asking if they could do a story on SWAYY. Of course, I said yes and I am super thrilled with how they portrayed us. If you get a chance you should check out the video in the link directly above. 

One part of my job that I really enjoy is the opportunities that crop up that I wouldn't have suspected. Over the past month, I have been asked to speak three times for Fruition Lab, 1 Million Cups, and an Economic Development forum panel downtown Chattanooga. See below for a little glimpse of what each is about:

Fruition Lab is a "conference that brings together experienced entrepreneurs from across all industries and business backgrounds to give anyone the opportunity to learn from some of the country’s leading startups and the go-getters behind them." ...After writing that little snippet from their site, I am questioning why they asked me to speak, but nevertheless, they did, and it was a fantastic experience! I learned so much. Being able to reflect on my past experiences brought so much value to perspective going forward. 
The Chattanooga Development forum was a short panel discussion where I was able to tell the story of SWAYY and how I thought Chattanooga was doing in helping us grow. It was a fun talk and lead me to be able to network with the head treasurer of Unum, the CFO of Erlanger Children's Hospital, and other key leaders in the area. I will update on those meetings later! #networkingworks
1 Million Cups  is a national organization with hundreds of chapters across the United States. Each week on Wednesday mornings, one or two early-stage businesses present their companies to their communities. I was asked to speak at the meeting on November 8th, and it went so well. This event allowed me to expand my thoughts on why I am building SWAYY and how it brings me personal joy. I was able to connect with several key individuals with valuable outdoor industry experience, and I am stoked to see where this leads.

Well, that pretty much wraps things up. As I move forward on this journey I am constantly finding out a little more about myself and what I am capable (and not capable) of. I could write pages and pages about my experiences, and while I truly want to, I am saving that for my book that I just started writing. Yep, a book. Stay tuned.

Finally, for the sake of fun. Here is a list of awesome things that are in the works:

- SWAYY Eira is set to launch in Mid December... This is the "half the weight, half the size" of the Premus, fully insulated hammock. Keep an eye out - the Eira comes with the hammock, straps, and a rain fly! Look for it in backpacker magazine. (fingers crossed) 

- We are now on the first page of Google when you search "Insulated Hammock". Go ahead, try it out! I have searched it a few times just for kicks and giggles.

- We have office space! We will be working out of the sixth and seventh floors of the Edney Innovation Center downtown Chattanooga. Shoot me an email and come say hey! Address: 1100 Market St, Chattanooga, TN 37402

- The SWAYY nSync (rain fly) just released on the website (unofficially). No, it's not a play on the nineties boy band. This system is super awesome and keeps you out of the elements. Forget the tent, bag, and pad and Keep an eye out for the video!

- We are working on hiring soon! Do you know anyone with really awesome marketing skills? Financial planning skills? Send them our way!

Thanks to everyone who has been growing with us. Each day I am lifted up with the awesome stories from our customers, soon to be customers and those who just care about our mission.

Word of advice for today: Your biggest competition is yourself.

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Will This Float?

Time flies when you are having a good time. A lot has been happening in the past month. . . 

First things first - SWAYY is among the eight finalists that have been selected to share their pitch at The Company Lab's annual "Will This Float?" competition! How awesome is that? The event will take place Monday from 6 to 9 p.m. at River Place, located at 2 W. Aquarium Way during the first day of Startup Week in Chattanooga, TN. You guys should totally come out and show your support! Click here for tickets. 

We have one main goal for this competition buzz – to get people talking.  Word-of-mouth benefits a small company like SWAYY in literally dozens of ways:

1. It helps us generate sales

2. It widens our networks. It is amazing how so many people will knock on our door to see how they can help when they hear about us, our products, and our visions. 

3. It puts us in front of potential investors. If I am being completely honest, we are not to the level of "sustainability" that I would like, but I hear this is relatively normal for startups - I want to live outside of those norms. Bring on the sustainable growth!

4. It helps me (Seth) learn how to better pitch the mission and vision of SWAYY. Public speaking is a huge thing for leaders in the world of business. Being able to cast a vision through verbal pictures is huge: it is what inspires those on your team to get up and make decisions. 

5. It's super fun. I love talking. My mom sometimes calls me a "Chatty Kathy", but let's be real, who doesn't like talking about their passions and experiences?

6. It's therapy.  Being able to express to others your past, present, and future goals helps bring in confidence and encouragement from others, and that is ok! The day of the pitch is the 16th of October. The day of the pitch is the 16th of October, which happens to also be the anniversary of my father’s passing. Honestly, I can't think of a better way to spend the day! 

7. It's educational. I can say with confidence that I will make mistakes on stage, that is a no-brainer. What I am thrilled about is that I can learn from those mistakes, showing me how to make the next pitch even more impactful.

I have started negotiation talks with several retailers in the Chattanooga area this week. This past Friday I meet with the buyers of RockCreek. Our main goal was to explore the retail opportunities and to find out what it takes to get a product on the shelves. Our meeting went very well. We were able to secure official invitations to the many events that RockCreek hosts in the TN area. Also, we will be revisiting in the coming months about the opportunity to test some of our products in their stores. More to come…   The retailers that we are most excited about so far are RockCreekL2 Outside, and RAK Outfitters. Keep an eye out for updates on all of these retailers. 

Finally, I have been talking closely with a potential manufacturing company overseas. They have the capacity to help us out, unlike the other six manufactures we have been wrestling with. The most exciting part is that they specialize in making backpacks. This is a great opportunity because they willing to work out a synergistic deal where SWAYY will sell some of their backpacking packs for a royalty in exchange for solid deals for the production of our hammocks. The bottom line is that we need to find a way to grow in production without going bankrupt or sacrificing obscene amounts of quality - this may just be the big break we need.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on right now. I can’t wait to see where all of this activity leads our company, and I look forward to sharing more exciting news with you in the future! Keep an eye out across our social media platforms and we will keep you updated. And remember…

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