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Yooki Merino Wool Cable Blankets: Our "Made in the USA" Journey

March 13, 2016

PART I

 

A few months ago we launched our Yooki Cable Knit Blankets and the response that we’ve gotten has been great. Given the interest, we thought that we would tell the story of how the blankets came to be. Although they only represent a small minority of our production and sales, they took an out-sized share of our effort and made a large impact in our learning how to run a new business (it was a classic case of chasing bad money with good). Hopefully some of you can learn from our mistakes.

 

As we’ve mentioned before we originally started on this journey intent on manufacturing all of our products in the U.S. For a variety of reasons (detailed here), it was very difficult to find a knitter that would work with us at a cost that would allow us to charge a reasonable price for our products.

 

We ended up finding an emerging U.S.-based knitter who was willing to work with us to manufacture the shorts and leggings. We worked with their in-house designer to iterate on several prototypes of leggings and shorts. To be blunt the process was a nightmare. The initial prototype was absolutely horrendous (one day we’ll show a picture), we never knew exactly when we were going to get email responses, we were shuttled between multiple account managers, and our specific instructions for how to iterate on the prototype were rarely incorporated as requested. These were dark days and we honestly never thought this company would get off of the ground.

 

After weeks of frustration, we finally decided to cut bait and find another manufacturer for the shorts and leggings. Despite their performance, the manufacturer was obviously enthusiastic to work with us and we felt incredibly guilty taking the business away. As a consolation, we decided to make cable knit blankets with them (side note: This was a massive mistake. Letting emotions influence business decisions is an incredibly easy mistake to make, especially when you have to tell someone they are not meeting your expectations).

 

We followed up one bad decision with a second. The typical way that garment manufactures are paid is with a 50% non-refundable down payment with the remainder paid upon receipt of the product. (Because we felt bad) we agreed to pay 100% of the cost upfront. This effectively removed any leverage that we had over the manufacturer.

 

Not surprisingly we continued to have problems with the blanket process:

  • Prototypes were promised on certain dates and were typically arrived 1 – 3 weeks late without notification
  • Our requests were not incorporated (read: blatantly ignored) on subsequent prototype iterations. We would fix a problem, then fix a second, and then on the 3rd iteration problem #1 would resurface. Pretty much every time we got a blanket, the cable width and look was different.

 

To give you a sense of how ridiculous this process was – we actually ran out of production yarn because it got wasted on failed prototypes (it should have only taken 5% or so of the production yarn to get to an acceptable prototype). Yes we may be overly picky and have exacting standards, but our customers pay good money for these products (not to mention that we were promised both “products of the most superior quality” and “world class knitting”).

 

End of Part 1

 

Stay tuned for the second half of our blanket story.