chattanooga

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


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.

Encounter More