My Plan to Increase Production 20X

Here is a sneak peak into the design for production process.  We are redesigning our production to allow us to increase the quantity of scrunchie leashes and significantly lower the amount of labor cost in each leash.  All while improving product quality.

Currently, after working a full-time day job, my mom (aka my production house) can sew about 6 leashes start to finish.  I would like to get that number to 100 leashes.  The only way to do that is to break down the process into it’s individual steps and get creative with the best solution for each step.

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Here’s the breakdown.

Step 1: Cut the Fabric Strips

Old Process: Unfold fabric, carefully measure and mark the long strips that are used to make the leashes, cut the strips with a pair of scissors.

New Process: Order fabric on rolls that are already cut to the correct width.

Effect: This completely cuts out the time needed for measuring and cutting. (pun intended) An added benefit is the strips will now be perfectly straight, improving quality.

Step 2: Create Tube of Fabric

Old Process: Fold the fabric over and manually sew a seam along the edge, then turn the tube right-side out.

New Process: Use a sewing machine attachment that can sew the tube AND turn it right-side out continuously from the roll of fabric.  Then clip the tube to length.

Effect: This step will take a significant investment in sewing equipment to make it possible. Turning the tube right-side out in the old process is quite time consuming and prevents us from making the tubes smaller to better fit the elastic.  This will open up better designs for small dogs, reduce time and increase quality.

At this point in the process, by just revamping the first two steps we will reduce the time from about 25 minutes per leash to about 30 seconds per leash. This is a massive time reduction.  It will take investment in equipment, but the reduced time and increased quality justifies the upfront cost.

We’re still working on our time reductions for later parts of the process, but this gives you an idea of how production manufacturing can make a process WAY more efficient.

If I were to cut and sew a pair of jeans, it would take me hours.  A production facility can do a pair of jeans in 15 minutes.

 

What I Learned About Production Sewing

While they may be distant relatives, home-sewing and production sewing are completely different animals.

Here are some of the things I learned when working with my consultant and visiting a contract sewing manufacturer.

Sewing Manufacturer

 

1. Industrial Machines are not the same as Home Sewing Machines

Industrial machines are not necessarily bigger and stronger like people may think. The difference is how they are used. A home sewing machine is designed to be a jack of all trades, master of none.  An industrial sewing machine is designed to do one thing very quickly and reliably.

If you’re making a pair of jeans at home, you will sew each individual seam with the same machine and you’ll need to reconfigure it for each operation.

If you’re sewing a pair of jeans in production, you will have a different machine to sew each seam.  Each machine will be set up to do it’s individual function as quickly as possible.  And when you’re using sewing attachments, it can be done VERY quickly.  Check out this video of a waistband attachment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb3PSxRIARU (doing that on a home machine would be VERY time consuming and it would be difficult to get it straight)

2. My current method of Scrunchie Leash making is not scale-able. 

There are some things I learned that can immediately increase the efficiency of production, but there is one major roadblock to scaling the production of Scrunchie Leashes. Currently, we sew the leash inside-out and then turn it outside-out. There is no great way to perform this function in production. 

We examined a few different ways this could be overcome by sewing the leash outside-out from the beginning, but they all have different effects on the look and feel of the product and are heavily dependent on the material. So, the leash needs to be redesigned for manufacturability.

3. Massive gains in productivity are possible.

Seeing all the different machines that are made to put together clothing in record time shows me that it would be possible to make massive improvements to our own production.  Currently our production house (aka: my mom) is able to make about 6 leashes in an evening. If I can nail down a redesign and find some used industrial machines, it may be realistic for us to make 100 leashes per day while increasing the quality at the same time.

Increasing our capacity from 6 to 100 leashes per day would open up retail and wholesale possibilities. This is the goal and it feels within reach.

The Big Lessons Learned

  • Get help from experts. I paid a decent amount of money for my consultant, but it was worth every penny.  The amount I learned in those few hours face-to-face could have taken me months -or maybe years- of frustration to figure out, and I probably would have given up before I got here.
  • Make sure they’re the “right” experts. Had I talked to a home sewing “expert” I would not have gotten very far. The production environment and the home sewing world are completely different beasts.
  • Always learn and adapt.  Learning these new production techniques would be wasted if I wasn’t willing to alter our design to utilize them.

That trip gave me the direction and confidence I needed to move forward.  Before I was stuck thinking I couldn’t sell to retailers because I didn’t have production capacity and I couldn’t pay for production capacity because I couldn’t afford it without higher sales.  With my new knowledge, I feel empowered to improve our design, increase our production and scale this business.

 

 

How A Slapshot Taught Me About Business

When I was in college, I signed up for a lot of different intramural sports – many of them I’d never played before.

One evening my team and I were warming up for a hockey match when I noticed some of the guys ripping slapshots that looked like they had been shot out of a cannon rather than hit with a stick.

I secured a puck, wound up, and hit that puck with every bit of strength I could muster.  The puck slid leisurely across the ice.

“What?!” I thought “I just demolished that thing and it barely moved!”

I tried swinging even harder.  I tried holding the stick differently.  I tried twisting my body the wind up.  It didn’t matter what I tried, I couldn’t hit the puck as hard as these other guys.

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But then…

My friend Garvin skated up to me and explained how it works.  As any hockey player can tell you, you hit the ice in front of the puck.  The stick bends a little bit so when you hit the puck all that stored energy is unleashed.  I tried it and the puck rocketed out like I was Wayne Gretzky.

What That Has To Do With Business

When you’re trying to start your first business (or learn anything new), you’re going to encounter a lot of challenges and wonder why things aren’t working out the way your favorite entrepreneur podcast is telling you it will.

Why are your facebook ads not returning?

Why are people not following your blog?

Why aren’t people following your twitter account?

The slapshot taught me that even though I’m working hard and doing everything I see others doing, things work out a lot better if you stop trying to learn it by yourself.  Find people you can learn from.  Not just blogs and podcasts and online videos… you need real people.

When I was on that ice, I could see everything the other players were doing, but I still couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working for me.

Get help from people that know more than you do. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

Getting Back On – A Business Update

On Saturday, April 26, my friend Marty texted me:

“If you are going to skip out on kickball, the least you could do is write a blog post during that time so those of us who care can read something about what you are up to each week. ”

I told him I would post on that day… but I didn’t.

I’ve been failing recently at following through.  It can be hard when you’re a solopreneur because you don’t have somebody holding you accountable.

Nobody asks me if I accomplish what I was planning to accomplish. Nobody makes me explain myself when I fail.

As we all know, when you fail – when you fall off – the only thing to do is get back on.  The best time to write that blog post was on Saturday, April 26.  The second best time is now.

Scrunchie Dog Logo

Cue Business Update

There have been several things happening recently so I’m not going to be talking about any one thing in too much detail. If you’re only here to see how my facebook ads worked out, scroll to the bottom. :)

Contract Sewing Manufacturing

I read the book “Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing” and will be meeting with the author, Kathleen Fasanella, on May 18th & 19th.  We will be rapid prototyping the leash construction and meeting with a sewing contractor to discuss leash manufacturing.

You can see her site here: http://www.fashion-incubator.com/

I’m working hard on the leash design and finding fabric sources to make sure I’m ready for this meeting!

This is in an effort to make production scalable so I can begin marketing to retailers and going to…

Pet Expos

I’ll be signing up for several pet expos over the next few months in order to market the leashes to customers and retailers.  My hope is at-expo sales pay for most of the expo and the exposure continues to pay-off after the fact.

I really want to focus on developing good relationships with retailers.  They know what their customers like.  If I have to change the leash or switch to a different product altogether, they are the ones who will help me get there.

While there are many independent expos available, I’m planning to use the Amazing Pet Expos network (http://www.amazingpetexpos.com/) since I can get a multi-expo discount.

I’ll be locking in my expo dates around the end of May, after I get an idea of production schedule from the meeting on the 19th.

My Interview on the Chris Cerrone Show

This interview was actually recorded a couple weeks after Scrunchie Leash launched on Jan 23rd, but it finally went LIVE on April 25th.  Check it out! I think I only say a few dumb things…

http://www.cerroneshow.com/jacob-karasch-scrunchie-leash-chris-cerrone-interview/

National Small Business Week

Starting production and expos is going to put a major strain on my finances.  In order to help fund these expenses, I’m going to making a big sale push for National Small Business Week NEXT WEEK.

So on May 12 – May 16 you can get 10% off AND free shipping!

Here’s How:

  1. Buy a leash at http://www.scrunchieleash.com/
  2. For 10% off use the code: NSBW10
  3. For free shipping use the code: SHIP4NSBW

These codes are stackable, so you can use them BOTH during that week.

I will be posting on this blog, on the scrunchie leash blog, on twitter and facebook about this sale.  Please share the deal with your own network! I really need this sale to be successful so I can move forward with production.

Every post and share really helps.

Ok, on to the last topic in this already LONG post:

Facebook Ads

As you may know from reading previous posts, I’ve been experimenting with facebook ads.  This really needs it’s own post, but here are a few quick lessons learned:

  1. My ads rarely convert directly to sales, so running my ads for sales conversions doesn’t really work. Running ads for site visits works a lot better.
  2. Retargeting those who have already visited my site reminds people we’re still there.  It seems to be effective.
  3. Ads performed MUCH better when I made them more specific to the target audience.  For instance: ads that said “Check out Greenville’s new dog leash” performed better than ads that said “Check out this new dog leash” for my target audience in Greenville SC.
  4. The ads seem to take some time to soak in.  I ran the ads for a couple weeks with very few sales, BUT the sales kept coming after the ads stopped. I’m not sure I’m quite at a positive ROI yet, but there is definitely some good potential.  More learning is needed.

 

As always, if you have any comments or feedback, please leave a comment! I love hearing from others and it always helps to have people to chat with. :)

 

My Facebook Ad Strategy

I’ve crafted this ad campaign based on the idea that a consumer must see your ad 3+ times for it to be effective.  (This is known as the Effective Advertising Frequency)

Audience Size

I need to reduce my initial audience size so I can afford for them to see my ad 3+ times. For the scrunchie leash, I’m running this ad to women age 22+ in Greenville SC who are interested in the Greenville Humane Society.  Facebook says there are about 6,800 such people.

Strategy

  1. Run a series of ads to the initial audience. (first ad exposure)
  2. Track those that visited the website after seeing the first ad. (second exposure is the website visit)
  3. Run another facebook campaign to those that have already visited my website (third exposure)

Facebook has tracking “pixels” that you can install on your website so they know who visited your website. That is how I’m running ads to people that already visited my site.  The pixels also allow facebook to see who bought something so they can run the highest performing ads to more people.

My Ads For The Initial Audience

Here is how one looks in context. The other photos are below.

Context

As usual, I could really use some feedback. Let me know what you think about the ads and the strategy!

Picture2 Picture6 Picture7 Picture8 Picture9 Picture10

My Facebook Advertising Strategy

I’ve dabbled in Facebook ads in the past, but I really haven’t given it enough of a chance to see results. Now, I’ve decided to find out if it lives up to the hype, and this time I’m going to do it right.

fb_ads

Facebook offers automatic ad optimization (called optimized CPM) and I never used or understood it in my previous attempts.

Previous Attempts:

Create ad. Throw $30 at Facebook. Get some clicks. No Sales. $30 is gone. End of Story.

Seems pretty weak, right?

Using Automatic Ad Optimization:

Create a bunch of different ads. Choose a mid-sized audience. Install conversion tracking on my site so facebook knows which ads are generating sales. Let Facebook automatically identify and run the best ad to the best audience to get me the most sales. and Boom! I’m a billionaire.

Is it really that easy?

I’m sure it isn’t. Your ads have to be good. Your audience has to be well-chosen and highly targeted. Also, there are certain truths about purchasing psychology that play into it. Recently, a marketing friend of mine told me that a person has to encounter your product ad 3 times (on average) before they’ll be inclined to purchase. That means even if you hit the right people with the right ad, you still have to find them enough times to get it to turn into a sale.

My Plan

I haven’t decided how big my ad budget is yet, but I plan to make myself a student of Facebook advertising. I’ll be meeting with my marketing friend next week to discuss it and I’m considering purchasing a course on Facebook advertising.

I’ll be sharing the things I learn on this blog, so make sure you subscribe!

Two Blog Posts I Found Useful on Facebook Ads:

Good blog post on Optimized CPM: http://allfacebook.com/dennis-yu-optimized-cpm-facebook_b103941

I also learned a lot from this post: http://www.jonloomer.com/2013/10/03/how-to-sell-on-facebook/

Re-Engage: The Second Best Time is NOW

I’ve been feeling disengaged recently.  The things I’m working on don’t seem to be working. I need to re-engage and find new avenues. More exploration. More learning. More people.

Check out http://www.scrunchieleash.com and let me know if you have any suggestions on how I can drive traffic. It’s up. It works. It looks pretty good. How do I get people there?

The Time Is Now

The Time Is Now

It’s Big. It’s Scary. And it happens ever so quietly…

I haven’t been writing as regularly as I mean to, but I’ve been pretty busy. It’s time to get serious about starting a business. This decision was not easy. It’s big. It’s scary. And it happens ever so quietly with the click of a submit button on a website.

I just withdrew from my Masters of Engineering program. (like 5 minutes ago)

Doing your masters is a part of the overall engineering development program I’m part of, but I realized this week that my requirements to the program had been fulfilled. I have a few other projects and trainings to finish up before my evenings are actually my own, but grad school will no longer be taking my time. Sometimes “time management” means spending less time on facebook, but sometimes it means something much bigger.

“But they’re paying for your grad school! Why don’t you just finish!”

Imagine spending an entire semester – hours and hours every week – learning about how a ball presses into a surface. While useful to some engineering applications, this is not helping me toward my ultimate goal: Starting a successful business. I can’t put this on hold for another 2 years. It’s happening now. I’m taking back my evenings so I can make this happen. I don’t plan to quit my day job any time soon, but grad school had to go.

It’s big. It’s scary. But I know this is ultimately the right move.