Our Seven Biggest Mistakes of 2020
Top tip: maybe take a sip first before downing a glass of an unknown substance.
Alright. We might be a happy bunch at A Good Company, but that certainly doesn’t mean we never fall into self-inflicted potholes or mess up royally. In the space since inception, less than two years ago, we’ve gotten really far and seen some fantastic recognition from our community and customers.
We began 2020 on a ‘first-year high’ and, like everyone else, were made abundantly aware that it wasn’t going to be a normal year.
Being eager beavers like we are, it miiight be that some of the mistakes of 2020 are due to the fact that we just wanted to tweak, experiment and, honestly, be a little more quick and gutsy than during a usual year.
So, without further ado, here are our biggest bloopers from 2020.
Drinking the Soluble Film
Running a startup, or any business, is constant experimentation. Working with suppliers to produce new products, in new materials, is one of the most exciting parts of the job. Back in January, we were exploring a new soluble film packaging for use as a garbage or dog poo bag.
Now I’m not comparing myself to a Newton or a Curie but, when the prospective supplier dissolved the film into a glass of water and said it was 100% harmless to drink it, I thought I’d put his claims to the test.
It was like drinking an unpleasant cocktail of glue, yoghurt and water, and it left me with a dreadful hangover for days after. We didn’t move forward with that product in the end.
Humanium Metal Pen First Version Melted After 30 Seconds
Designing a pen is a very complex development process made trickier when you’re using a brand new element, the properties of which are somewhat of a mystery.
Said element, Humanium Metal, is created by smelting illegal firearms seized by local authorities in communities badly affected by violent crime. A proportion of the money raised from the sale is donated to projects rebuilding those communities.
We did as much research as we could before putting it into production, but clearly not enough since the first pens lasted 30 seconds in the metal injection mould before turning into dust. Expensive dust! And it also put production back by 3 months. Huge props to our partner for persevering with a new mould and for all the late nights.
Missing the Trump Tax When Sending Goods to the US Warehouse
Sayonara Donald, we’re not going to miss you.
As of Jan 2020 he slapped a 16.8% tax on all imports into the US, including solar panels! Around that time we decided to open a new distribution centre in New Jersey to better serve our US customers. This was quite a tricky thing to do during a global pandemic and there were a lot of teething problems.
Anyway, we started sending products over and completely forgot about the new tax.
Bye-bye gross margin.
The ‘Unbreakable’ Pencil
We’ve been working on a woodless pencil on and off for close to 2 years now. One day back in May we were like kids at Christmas after finally receiving a pre-production sample designed to be ‘unbreakable’.
We set about testing it, “it works great!”
Then our product designer, Martin, accidentally dropped it on the floor. Well, we’re kind of glad he did as it turned out the ‘unbreakable’ pencil wasn’t quite so unbreakable after all. Doh! And no product yet.
Fashion Line Complexities
We’re excited to launch our circular fashion line next year, but it’s been a bit of a long, bumpy journey so far.
We first teased the idea back in July 2019 when we mentioned A Good Sock which we thought, somewhat naively, we could bring to market in 3 months. Maybe we could have, but we decided to expand the line to T-shirts, tank tops and underwear and, after a 15-month development cycle, decided to launch it through Kickstarter.
The campaign began well until, two weeks in and fully-funded, we read a piece in the NYT about the shocking treatment of workers in the Xinjiang region of China, where a lot of organic cotton is produced.
We had discussed this with our supplier, but the article mentioned several companies having un-knowingly used cotton from this region and thus supporting the treatment of these workers.
A bit alarmed about the opaqueness of cotton produced in this region, we immediately picked up the phone and asked our supplier to re-confirm none of ‘our’ cotton came from this Xinjiang. No definitive answer emerged. Gulp!
We were left with two options: pull the plug, with a lot of investment down the drain, or try and influence the CEO to make a change of direction.
Huge credit to her, the latter happened. Next time, more research leading to better sleep!
Sending Bulk Goods to a Customer and Not Packing Them Correctly
Shipping is unsexy but, until teleportation is invented, a crucial part of an eCommerce operation.
Thankfully ships themselves are quite reliable these days vs the 1800s, and we were super stoked to send off 800 notebooks (our biggest single order at that point).
30% of them arrived damaged.
Confused and stressed, we packed up another load and sent them straight over. I seem to remember some clever person saying “doing the same thing again and expecting a different result is the definition of madness” and, what do you know, the same thing happened.
The weight of all those notebooks (which are made from stone after all) piled on top of each other was crushing the ones at the bottom. After some changes to the packaging design, we resent them and they arrived safely. Third time’s a charm!
Sending Out a Misspelt Postcard to 1,000 People in the US
To the 1,000 people we sent a misspelt postcard to in the US, we thank you for shopping consciously!
Story here is that we thought we’d send a postcard to some of our new customers in the US and, to be frank, did a bit of a bodge job on it. It was rushed, we were stressed from the distribution centre and Trump Tax sagas, and we ending up sending 1,000 postcards to people with the word ‘consciously’ misspelt.
After two weeks of nothing happening, we got one reply correcting us on our mistake.
Egg, meet face.
We hope the above has given you a good giggle. We learnt a bunch and will continue to experiment (although, personally, I’ll think long and hard before downing an unknown tincture again).
Our resolve for 2021 is to keep working hard and continue our mission to create a more sustainable world.
We’ll be back next year with some more bloopers, I’m sure.
Happy holidays and see you soon,
Anders, Founder & CEO, A Good Company