swayy

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...

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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.

 

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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Mistakes with Progress | Pipelines and Visions

Mistakes And Progress

Chances are that if you are like me, you can't tell the future. For about two weeks now, I have been setting dates for our official launch, only to be knocked back down in my seat of patience as we iron out all of the kinks and wrinkles. A painfully necessary? I think it is... You can take it from me when I say that launching a product/company, and all that it entails, is anything but predictable. One thing I learned from working in construction is that one must always account for 10% waste of on-the-job materials. This principle has smacked me in the face a few times, and I am here today to tell you that yes, I have re-learned this important lesson. But honestly, it's has been a fantastic journey of learning, and I really wouldn't have it any other way.

Pipelines: A few things we are getting done.

- Photo Shoot: We are working on finishing up our photo shoot for our various colors! I am so excited to share it with you guys soon.

- China & US Patent: We have decided to wait on the Chinese Patent filing for a while. We have begun the process of filing for a US Utility Patent for the US markets. 

- Promo Shoot: Our Promo video is in the storyboarding phase right now - it's a video that should allow you a deeper perspective on what gets us excited. 

- Manufacturing in the US: We went to talk to the Mayor of Jellico, TN to pursue any possible incentives for opening up a manufacturing plant in the town. The town has a population of a little over 2,000, and it needs help. We figured, why not? It's all about giving back! This is also a great opportunity for use to keep quality high and our operations close to home.

- SEO Optimization: We are working closely with Accelerated Digital Media to find out the best solutions for our Search Engine Optimization. Key take away thus far: I have lots of learning to do!

- 2nd Product: Our second, lighter, warmer, all-in-one hammock is in the pipeline and we are hoping to launch by December 1st! Keep your eyes out, it's going to be another exciting release.

Vision(s)

I wake up each morning with one goal: get as much done today as I can, and try to pass on some kindness to who ever might receive it. As I think about these two goals I realize more and more of how SWAYY is just a projection of my life vision. We are a company that makes a product, and believe me when I say we are after a profit, but we are solely in business to 1) make a killer product that allows people the freedom to hammock camp all year – and 2) pass on good to who ever might receive it. What is our dream? To help.

Over the past two years, I have been incredibly blessed to spend time with the people of Papua, Indonesia in amazing ways. This past year I spent the better part of three weeks in the upper mountainous regions of Wamena, a city on the island of Papua. Wamena is the worlds largest city that is supported completely by air - no boat, no road, no anything. The reason I was spending time their was to help with a local Papuan mission to build jungle school structures for the Papuans who happened to live there. With the average Papuan making approximately 26,692 Ruphia per day (Approx. $2 USD a day), it can be very difficult to fund such projects.

The year before I spent a similar amount of time in the "interior" of Papua to help build a jungle schools and chapels with the same mission. We flew a PC-6 for 1 hour before landing on an up-hill-graded air strip followed by a 1-2 hour hike to the village of choice, Hobotongo. While there we set up a small camp, built an aluminum frame structure, and simply got to know the people of the mountains. A lot can be said though our languages differed widely.

It is through these types of missions that SWAYY is supporting community development. We are in the early stages of our business, so it is very hard to nail down percentages of sales that we will donate, but I can assure you, we will be donating!

But always remember...

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