camping hammock

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...

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.