Things have been busy around here and there has been little time for blogging. We recently moved into a larger space for our production operations. Naturally we got a little bit behind in production during that time but we are catching up quickly. I wanted to introduce our readers to the new space and especially the back story on how we were able to upgrade.
Earlier this year I was talking with a friend who graduated in Business Management. We were talking about the business and some of the things that I thought would help us but we couldn’t afford. He asked if I had thought about entering the Best Business Idea competition hosted by the local university. I told him that I knew of the competition but I assumed it was only for business ideas that had not yet set up operations. He told me that any business can enter. Life went on as usual and I forgot about the competition. Eventually I received an email from a group of local professionals announcing the competition. I promptly went online and looked it up. I filled out the application that day and began working on the “executive summary”. I made sure to submit the application before the due date so it would not add to an already stressful life.
Eventually I was informed that I was a finalist in the competition and that I would need to give an oral presentation to a panel of judges. If you think I’m rambling right now you should see me when I try to speak in front of people! I’m not afraid of public speaking but it certainly is not one of my talents! I prepared the best I could and decided that I would just be myself and tell them about the business and how it all started. They gave five minutes to set up, five minutes to present, and five minutes for questions. Remember that I have an art and design background and I don’t really get into the numbers of business. I know what I need to know and I’m getting better at it but it’s not what drives me like many of the other people to entered. The product, and principles behind the product drive me. With that in mind I showed up wearing my Wokova Feather sandals, a pair of jeans and a button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. As the previous group left, they came out dressed in sharp business suits (think Wall Street!) and brief cases. They gave each other high fives and walked away confidently. Strangely enough that didn’t intimidate me… I guess I just found it amusing!
I felt pretty good about the presentation but of course there were things I would say differently if I were to do it again. I actually stumbled on my words less than I thought I would. There were quite a few questions which I took as a good sign that they were interested.
A week or so later I was informed that I had tied for second place in the competition and would be awarded $1800. I was a little bit worried because when I looked at the website the award for second place was $800. I thought maybe they made a typo. Mary and I showed up at the award banquet ready to get either $800 or $1800 (or anything in between!). The banquet was more casual than expected, which was really nice for us. It was small and intimate so we got to meet some new people. As it turns out, there are actually two competitions. One is for any local individuals and the other is for students only. Since I am technically a student (I’m taking one class) I was entered into both competitions. I tied for second place in one ($800) and won second place for the other ($1000). To be honest I’m also pretty excited to say that we sell “award winning sandals”!
I know some of you may be thinking that $1800 is really nothing when it comes to figures that business need to operate. We started this company as just a small side job and it has slowly grown into what it is today. We have been lucky enough to have the entire operation set up without any debt. Debt is sometimes necessary but if there is any way to avoid it then I will. With that in mind, this award money offered us a buffer that would let us take another (larger) step toward growth. While I had several ideas on how to use the money, my plan was to put it toward some custom manufacturing that we will need for future sandal designs. But when the opportunity to move into an actual workshop came along rather suddenly, I felt like it was the best choice. In all reality we will get the money back and be able to use it for manufacturing later on down the road.
I don’t imagine that any of those who made the competition possible will read this but I still need to say thank you! This has been a great opportunity for myself and for the business.
Stay tuned for part two of this story to see our new space and what it means for you!