startup

Redefining the "Why"

This month I want to focus on two topics: the first is my new-found understanding of the “why” behind Swayy, and a challenge I am currently facing.

At the end of September, I was boarding a plane bound for Berlin, Germany. An entrepreneurship conference called Hyvecamp was going to take place there. Several friends and one mentor, in particular, suggested this would be a great opportunity to check out. I decided to go and was fortunate enough to have my plane ticket paid for.

I arrived in Berlin a few days early and decided I would use that time to prepare for the business pitch event that the entire event was set to launch upon. I was told that Hyvecamp is a place to come with your ideas, build them, and get some honest feedback.

I arrived at the meeting place for the opening pitches, waited my turn, went up to pitch what I had practiced… I hated it. My slides had way too much information, I didn’t know my audience well — it just all fell apart. But, as the weekend continued, I found solace in those who were attending the conference. Many of those who attended were upbeat, blunt, bright, and positive.

Blunt is the thing I admired most during the conference because along this journey I have grown weary of all the praise for “doing” something. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful, but those who flatter others have the ability to pat the back of someone right down into a hole of distortion. Interpretation: flattery is kind for a second, but then it becomes a form of betrayal.

I don’t know exactly what it is, but almost every time I fly abroad for some sort of event or conference I become acutely self-reflective and aware of the thoughts within my own head and the perceptions of others towards me, or so I think. Perhaps it’s because the lack of sleep gives me a bit of more solemn perspective, I don’t know, but I do know that this particular event was scheduled right upon the 10 year anniversary of my fathers passing, which most certainly had a deeper effect on the self-reflection aspect of it all.

During one pivotal moment at the conference, I was approached by a guy named Lorand Szasz (@lorandsoaresszasz on Insta) who among other things, is an entrepreneur who says it like it is. He came up to the table where I was working during one of the break-out sessions and challenged me to identify what and where my true focus was. He looked me in the eye and said: “you idolize the product too much”. And he was entirely and unequivocally correct. He went on to ask me, why had I really been working on Swayy. Without much thought, I said that I liked investing in people the same way that so many men invested themselves back into me during the time when I was fatherless. During that tragic time when I was 16, I lost most of the comfort, security, and warmth of life, but those influential men gave it back to me. That’s the same experience I want to give to those I interact within the business world, but even more; I want to give that same experience to our customers not just in the products that we create, but in each interaction we have with them.

When I started Swayy I was clueless on the real “Why” of what I was doing, but I have found out over time that it is a way for me to re-invest the comfort, security, and the warmth of life back into something physical: products, but more importantly, people!

The conversation I had with Lorand brought it all home for me — Why does Swayy exist? why do I push every day to make something better than myself? Because I want to give back the comfort, the security, and the warmth of life to all people. Will we sell a lot of hammocks on the way? Sure we will, but that’s not the core, it’s a by-product of the experience we foster and create.

As the conference came to an end I gave my final pitch and it went better than I could have ever imagined. I went in, gave it to God, said my piece and the story of my life, and my “why” played out. I won first place. I had 3 parties that were interested in investing at least $100,000 and I was on cloud nine. (Spoiler alert, we didn’t get $300,000). What made me truly happy was the validation of my journey, my experience, and my vision. People saw the future I was painting, and it inspired them.

Walking away from that conference I learned so many things in such a short period of time. I was so incredibly happy, but this was only a battle won in a war that continues to campaign.

Once I got back to the US and started conversations with all the investors, but one of them I focused on because I was told they were very interested. We began talking and it honestly seemed as though we would sign a deal the in the first few days, but life happened. The investor I was talking to got sick, then he had a big business issue, then I had to travel and the fire that once roared seemed to fizzle as our communication fell by the wayside, and that is where it lies. I have been talking with him for several months now and I’m still not sure how much of an investment Swayy will receive, but I can say that it will be less than $100,000. But, that’s ok because no matter what, Swayy will become what it is intended for. We have been able to raise about $25,000 over the past 2 months from family, and that’s a blessing I don’t want to undermine because even if the big investments don’t come, we’ll find a way.

I would say this is a direct reflection of how I am feeling right now. I am tired. Anyone who says that Entrepreneurship is easy is up to their ears in delusion or they’ve never done it. But, even though some days seem like there may be no tomorrow, I want to be clear on one thing: I love what I am doing and I know that it’s at this point when most people fall off the bull. But I get to wake up each day and plan out how I am going to use my time that day. I get to talk with people from China on a regular basis to build products that are going to shift the way people think about camping and the textile industry as a whole. I get to live cheaply in a tiny house and work on my baby and I have a wife that comes home to me each day that cheers me on, so why should I complain? What more could I ask for?

Here is a short video I made just a few hours after the Hyvecamp win in Berlin, Germany. I would love to hear your thoughts.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/BoglnTYgw-7/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=16k569v92sejt

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.