Story Tuesday: Many Firsts

When I started this series I outlines the heading and topics for each week’s entry. I called this week’s entry “many firsts” but I should have called it Murphy’s law in action because although we had many good firsts, we also had a bunch of bad first. This week’s entry is worse that last week’s in that the failures and mistakes were more pronounced and impactful. If you ignore all the other entries and just want to read one, or share one with someone that’s stuck in a rut; this is the one. Spoiler alert: there was a happy ending.

Part 5: Many Firsts

“2014 ‘bout to be different”, lyrics from a song by Andy Mineo was our theme song that year and with good reason. Even though the first few months were tough we finally began to see the light at the end of the tunnel when were found out our loan was approved.

So the first stuff we bought were stuff we could get here so we got some stationery, a cutting board (which we still have and use to this day) and a few other items. We ordered the printer we had our eyes on from amazon and we wired our money for the actual case making machine. Anxiety levels were high, and the wait was too real, so we began hyping up our Facebook page by posting pictures of customized phone cases that we found online to get likes to the page even before we began selling them. So when the machines arrived we already had some people prepared to purchase. This was not a strategy taught but just something that felt right. Sometimes as an entrepreneur you need to trust yourself.

So the first package to arrive was our printer. The printer came with a set of ink that we would not need since the ink we use for cases is distinct and would come from another supplier. So we had this genius idea to install the free ink into the printer and print like there’s no tomorrow so we could make use of the said ink. It felt like that was THE biggest mistake in our business a few days later when the case’s special ink arrived. [SIDE BAR: Even though I said to trust your gut, also ensure that you do your research before doing ANYTHING. Your entire company can be made or broken by one stupid mistake you naively made. Take my advice and always be cautious.] Yes, the free ink gave us the opportunity to print our labels with the company logo on it and we printed some flyers and some other miscellaneous items that were put to good use, but the problem came when we had to clean out that ink from the printer head so that the special ink could be used. Oh. My. God. We realized at the point that we may have just spoilt the printer before even making a single case. We are now in the month of July and our first loan payment is approaching and we still haven’t sold a case and need this printer fast. To our surprise, the brand we bought, Epson, was not a very popular brand and no technician knew how to service it. So Armando was left with no other choice but to use his “rechanic” skills (my play on word to describe a bad mechanic) to get that baby to work. So he began to print and print and then print some more, pages upon pages of waste paper to consume the old ink in the printer to make room for the new ink. To say that we were disappointed or discouraged, would be an understatement. We were angry, confused, sad, desperate but determined to get the show started.

Finally Armando got the new ink into the printer and we began printing with the correct ink and our spirits were lifted. Did we make our first case that day? Nope! We did not! Oh, Murphy, you strike again! Turns out that there was a science behind making cases in this hemisphere, with our heat, and the particular time of day and which President is in the highest seat of the free world. The point is the “procedures” we were give to make a case by the supplier was not working and we had to figure out our own way. So this day there is a box, somewhere, with a bunch of spoilt cases that were made when Armando was learning the right time and temperature to use for the cases.

Emmanuel – God with us. We had been praying during this whole time because we felt helpless and discouraged. We felt like we had done everything correct yet everything was going wrong. We had dedicated our business to God when we first established it, we had our pastor pray with us in a short solemn ceremony just the three of us, and we promised ourselves that we would be generous to our church that we still attend. I found it important to mention this because some people forget to be generous when they become successful and we did not want to be like that. Thankfully after many trial and errors the first case was made. It was such a joyous occasion because it felt like we were finally at the end of that tunnel, we faced so many obstacles; but we stood firm and made it through.

The first ten or so cases were orders from friends and acquaintances and were all made and completed in early August. Since we had become clients of SBDC, they offered us space at the 2014 Expo which was very unexpected but there was no way we would turn down the offer because whether we like to admit it or not, we do enjoy a good challenge. We quickly ordered a banner, some polo shirts with our logo, and we printed a bunch of flyers. While preparing for that event I got a call from the women's department and was invited to attend and have my booth there to display our products. At this point we still hadn't officially opened so because we agreed to attend this event we decided to make that date be our official start date. So August 28, 2014 was our first day of business.

The event that was organized by the women's department was a reality check for us. It was at Radisson on the fifth floor but our “booth” was one for two that were located on the ground floor next to the stairs and elevator. An ideal location you would think right? Wrong! People didn't realize that we were part of the event so they would quickly pass on there way to the event and didn't give us enough time to explain that we were much less hear about our product. On top of that the person that was making our shirts didn't give me polos like I had asked instead he gave me regular t shirts Needless to say, it was a good lesson to prepare us for the expo in a few days.

So because I was initially given the wrong shirts, when I was given the correct polo shirts, I also got to keep the wrong t-shirts. This gave me the idea to have the other shirts could me used for my friends to come to the expo with. So the 5 of us went to the expo in A&S Covers shirts and that had inquiring minds wondering what in the world was A&S Covers. Two of my friends who just so happen to be girls wore our A&S shirts and walked around the expo grounds giving away flyers and directing people to the booth. This was when it was a new concept for businesses to have girls walking around branded in the business’ logo and giving away flyers, so for us to have people out there was a shock to other larger business owners. The girls came back and told us that they were all asking about the business because they had never heard of us but it seemed like we had made an impression.

The expo brought a lot of attention to the page because in that month we managed to reach our first 1000 likes to the page. We were so happy that we were no longer jumping through hoops and finally got our feet off the ground. Now the struggle was to get customers to know about us and trust us enough to give us their money. So it’s October 2014 and the we needed more likes to the page and more sales. This is in the time where there wasn’t much businesses “sponsoring” their pages or posts so “organic traffic" to your page was a must. We began tagging ourselves and our friends on all our posts and sharing our pictures and posts to buy and sell groups on Facebook. That along was a lesson. After being banned from a couple of those group Facebook changed its algorithm and we caught onto a wave of of Facebook intel that has pushed us to where we are today.

Unlike other people, we enjoying sharing our secrets or hacks we learnt through the years when it comes to Facebook or online business marketing. It’s our hope that more people learn the correct way to use Facebook for their business to have more growth. Next week i’ll be sharing a few of our old secrets that aren’t in use and a couple of our new and effective secrets.

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