S2: EP. 01: Where Are We Now?
Today's episode is titled "Where Are We Now." If you were listening in season one, you know that we had some delays in getting our product launched. We're going to talk about where we're at with that, user testing, and we're also going to share a little bit more about what season two has in store.
- We have a warehouse!
- Product prototypes
- User testing
- Supply chain
- Next steps
LOOK & LISTEN
The following is a transcript of the cross-conversation streaming in the above media:
Hello, ecommerce fans. Welcome to Beyond the Cart presented by Lightburn. I'm Nora. And I'm Andy. And this is a podcast all about ecommerce and our journey developing our own direct-to-consumer ecommerce site from the ground up. Welcome to season two. Today's episode is titled Where Are We Now. If you were listening in season one, you know that we had some delays in getting our product launched. We're going to talk about where we're at with that, user testing, and we're also going to share a little bit more about what season two has in store.
Andy, we're back for season two of Beyond the Cart. Very exciting. And, even more exciting, we're actually face to face for the first time. Face to face. Yeah. Very different. It's the first-time recording face to face. Haven't done that yet, so we'll see. We might distract each other.
To get started, I think we're just going to talk a little bit about what we have coming for both our ecommerce brand, Bilberry West, which we were talking through in season one, and then some of our goals for the podcast too, because we've learned a lot and now, we know what people want to hear and what we want to be talking about. Let's talk a little bit about where we're at with Bilberry West, our outdoor furniture company. We have prototypes now. When we wrapped up season one, we did not yet have prototypes in hand. Right. We were still getting the machinery set up. What's that process been like and what do we have ahead for it?
Putting Market Research in Action
Yeah. It's been very unscientific, unfortunately. Part of that is COVID. We have our own manufacturing space now. We have our own building. We have prototypes there and I've been kind of parading friends, family, friends of friends, through there as much as I can to have them just sit and I've gotten a lot of good feedback. What's a piece of feedback that you feel like you wouldn't have come up with without those folks. Historically, an Adirondack- Wait. Say it one more time. An Adirondack-Ad. Adirondack. Adirondack. That's never leaving this podcast. Mispronouncing our own product name is never going away. Those chairs are historically very low, very large angle, meaning your back is very slanted. They take a little maneuvering to get out of. Yeah. Going back to episode one, we had poured through thousands of reviews on competitors or potential competitor products. A lot of people complained about that. Talking to people just face to face, they said, "Oh yeah, they're always hard to get out of."
User Feedback & Product Prototypes
One piece of feedback we got was, "Well, you guys really just designed a chair that has that style," because we didn't... ours aren't as low, they're not as angled. It's kind of a newer category, I guess. Maybe. I don't know. Are you saying that we wouldn't call them Adirondacks? I don't know, because I don't know what makes an Adirondack an Adirondack. You said it right. You finally figured out how to say it and now, technically, that is not our product anymore. It is because they have that style very much, but they're much more comfortable. They have that style, they have that look. If you see photos, you clearly would call it that. But if you sit in it, it has a different feel which is getting good feedback. Yeah. That has always been one of my complaints about it, is that it's super comfortable when you're in it, but you look like an idiot climbing out of it. Maybe we do a classic Adirondack chair, but we just have some sort of handle on it. But yeah. So far, good feedback.
The prototypes aren't made of the same material that we're going to be using in production, so we haven't been able to beat the crap out of them the way I want to yet. So they're strong, but they're not super strong. Yeah, totally. That's a whole different aspect of it, right? Right now you are testing for the shape of it, the size of it, the comfort, not the durability. That's going to be different... and I know you have... the screws that you want to use are still in order too, so maybe that's going to change. I think the actual, "How long does this last, what happens if I throw it in my garage over winter," that's going to come with time.
Manufacturing Partners & Supply Chains
Side note, and this is affecting a lot of industries, lots of metal is plated, right? These are going to sit outside, the hardware that we're using has to be plated a certain way. That used to historically be done in the U.S. in the fifties, sixties. That moved overseas. Overseas is shut down because of COVID. Supply chains. There's nobody to do it in the U.S., so the supply is like... getting the right stainless steel has been very difficult. Especially as a small... I mean, obviously, there are manufacturers out there who are getting their hands on what they need, but I think that's- Yeah, exactly. We're tiny.
We don't have an established relationship with anyone yet and we're small. Our order volume just may not be enough to warrant the effort from certain manufacturers. Correct. Yeah. We are on the lowest rung of the totem pole in terms of availability. But I'm glad you haven't lost the momentum. Well, part of it is I have a fire pit, which I love, at my home and then we have the cabin, which also has a fire pit. Both are waiting for these chairs, so the one wooden one that I had in my house at the fire pit got destroyed in this process because I took it apart, which was foolish because I didn't end up-
So now you're just standing around the fire pit like a fool. Yeah. I don't want to go buy a chair- Of course not. So it's like, well... Yep. Well, that's quite a bit of motivation. And listen, I don't have a problem standing around a fire pit. I know. It's always fun. But I prefer to sit. Of course. So yeah. That's been keeping me going.
I've been waiting as well. My front porch really wants a couple of them. When I bought my house four years ago, they had done a wonderful job of staging two Adirondack chairs on the porch. It was very inviting. Lovely. Do you have a photo of it somehow? Yeah. I'll show it to you. Sweet. They were painted to match the front door. It was very well done and so I've been waiting to- Part of me wonders how many of these are purchased just for aesthetics. Just for staging. It's got to be huge. Ooh. That's an interesting question. It's just people put them on their porch and they don't really ever sit on them. Which is fine. Buy it for whatever reason you want. What do we care? Yeah.
Pivoting Priorities & Managing Change
We've worked out a lot of challenges in a fairly short period of time. What do you think was the most surprising challenge to you? I mean, we knew that it wasn't going to go smoothly and that was part of the experiment of it. But which part surprised you the most? The supply chain issues. Yeah. Right? You walk into a retailer now and certain things are hard to get and you're just like, "Ah," but when you're trying to build a product and you need certain materials... We've got a supplier, right? Yeah. We have multiple suppliers. Yeah, so that's figured out and the delays are gone or more reasonable, right? That was one of the- They're more reasonable. Yeah. That was one of the big reasons that we sort of paused on it and did... setting up the warehouse and setting up some prototypes in other materials for a while was because we just... what were the lead times when you were first getting started? They wouldn't even give us lead times. That's how bad it was. They would just tell us to call back in three months [crosstalk 00:08:14]
Yeah. That was frustrating, but I think we rolled with it and in the meantime, we got our website set up and designed and it's beautiful. We talked a little bit about the process. Last year we were talking about how we came up with our name, but then we evolved a whole brand identity and have a website built that is just ready and waiting for us to put in the photos and some of the last specs on the products, and then it's going to be ready to go.
Yeah. I think the biggest challenge going forward is going to be... we do have material, we can get it, we just can't get a ton of it, so we'll see. We've actually had a pretty strong interest in the product, so we'll see if we can keep up with demand. I know that sounds kind of arrogant, but... Well, let's hope that we were right about demand. Well, even with the quote, unquote, "pre-orders" from friends and family, there's enough there to consume all the material that we can get.
The thing that I like about that is that... my intent with the website, since I'm kind of owning that side of it more and you're overseeing the production side, is that with friends and family who are interested in purchasing, what we can do is kind of have a beta test of the site and work out any kinks there. So a longer beta period in this case, which wouldn't always recommend for our clients, but for us, it's perfect because we're getting the supply rolling at the same time that we're getting the site up. So I think it's going to work out for my purposes. For fine-tuning the site, it's going to work out great. I'm really excited. And for the product too, because I have a feeling we're going to tweak it. Yeah. We should. That's- Even though we have prototypes that we like.
You're going to learn, we're going to solicit lots of feedback. That's one thing... I think you have to go ask for that especially as we're working with our friends and family because they want to be nice and we really have to push, kind of put on our UX researcher hat and push people to give us criticisms. We want to find those little things that can take it from good to great. A couple of lessons learned. Starting a product company is a lot harder than just buying somebody else's product and shipping it on the interwebs. Shocker. Yeah. Huge new respect for anybody that makes any kind of product. Wow. There are just a lot of details. So many details. And this is a pretty simple product in the grand scheme of things.
Enough on Bilberry West. Why don't we talk about our new format a little bit? What do you mean? Just real quick. It's going to be short episodes. We're going to try to keep these at 10, 15 minutes. Relevant topics. Get you in and out and on with your day. Yep. We love those bite-size podcasts for the business podcasts that we listen to and so that was really something that we took away. Even when we were listening to our own episodes, we were like, "Okay, this is a little long for this type of podcast," so I'm excited to shorten it up and make it a little bit easier for people to pop in and out when they see something that's relevant to them. Yeah. Easier to digest as well as a little bit more actionable. We want people to be able to take away tips, tricks, thoughts, ideas, and actually try to use that as a starting point for something new.
I've always liked... your philosophy of doing this podcast is... I think it would be easy enough for us to be trying to sell Lightburn really hard, but we really want this to be about helping people out. When we originally came up with this concept for the podcast, our intent was that we'd be following the Bilberry West story. Some of the supply chain issues and getting it off the ground made us have to pivot and realize that we wanted to be talking about broader ecommerce concepts too. I don't know how it happens exactly, but we often attract established companies, manufacturers, who are ready to get into direct to consumer. That has just been some of our favorite clients to work with, some of our best success stories. So I'm really excited to look at some of those case studies so if we've got people out there who are thinking that this is too hard to do or that it feels overwhelming or too different from their current processes, hopefully, those stories will help them understand that it can be done.
Yeah. Yeah. I never know how to stop now. We're in a new studio and we’re distracted. Super distracted. I'm a Beatles fan. Clearly not even remotely near Ray's level, but there are just lots of cool things to look at.
That's our show for today. We're excited to share this journey with you. Thanks for joining us.
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Beyond the Cart is produced by Lightburn. Our episode today was produced and edited by our very own Staci Tischer and it was recorded in-person for the very first time with our pal Ray Fister at 5th Floor Recording Company.
And we'll see you next time on Beyond the Cart.