Perhaps you’ve heard the manufacturing horror stories. We have inside stories from many entrepreneur-friends. “We’re six months past deadline and still 9 months from delivery.” Another confessed, “$60K spent on tooling and the manufacturer stopped returning emails so we’re flying to Korea to try and get our money back.”
If you backed our first Kickstarter, you know we’re open kimono on everything. We are behind on manufacturing. We’ll share this story in because we believe it will help other entrepreneurs.
In July, we had 12 manufacturing leads. By September when we launched the Kickstarter campaign, we shortlisted 4. Let’s call them Doug, Jack, Janice, and Bill.
Because those are their names.
Bill had 25 years overseas manufacturing experience and we were ready to pay a premium for it. But the premium came back at $120,000 on top of all other production costs. Bill dropped in October.
After asking Janice questions about how her factories inspect parts and do QA, her quality was questionable and we can’t afford reliability issues. Janice dropped in October as well.
Doug, a resourceful engineer at a reputable company, became our frontrunner. He initially quoted the tooling and part costs we were expecting. Then he came back one week later and added $40K to tooling and doubled the part cost. Doug dropped in November.
Jack inspired a lot of confidence with his technical knowledge. He became our new frontrunner with fair pricing and an April delivery date. Then, three weeks ago, his factory told got a large order from a big box US retailer and pushed the production start date to January. Of 2015! We still like Jack so he’s sourcing new factories for us.
Since Jack’s factory dropped, we called all the physical product entrepreneurs we know. Right now, our long list has 20 factories. In two weeks we will shortlist 10. After due diligence, we’ll find an awesome partner.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this process is agonizing. Had we gone with the low bidder, we would be on track now but our customers would pay later when bike lights failed them. By refusing to sacrifice QA and reliability testing, we are behind schedule.
You may be asking, “Why not just make it domestically?” I wish we could but if we did the Afterburner be a $150+ instead of a $45 bike light.
Lesson learned: more manufacturing leads. In our case, 12 sounded like a lot but it’s not enough. By the time this process is said and done, I will have personally spoken with >30 manufacturers.
Is sharing this story helpful? Any other lessons you’ve learned from watching us so far?
And hey, let’s be friends.