Tough days, tough decisions

posted 16 Feb 2017, 00:18 by RAMAMURTHY SWETHA   [ updated 16 Feb 2017, 00:22 ]
As I had said before, we had bought double the quantity of wood that we normally would just because we were getting it for $250 cheaper. I was against this idea, but I had to go with it anyway because the rest of my teammates were convinced that it was a good idea. I understand that entrepreneurship is all about taking risks and trying new things. But I personally believe that this is not a calculated risk. Firstly, because I wasn't able to understand why a completely strange wood vendor whom we had dealt with only once before give us $250 discount randomly? Is there something wrong with the product he is delivering? Secondly, we are still a new company that is relying on word of mouth and online publicity. Will we be able to sell all the wood? I understand that MAAD and U Flea are big events, but will we be able to sell 110 pieces of wood? Through my research I tried to understand the kind of market in U Flea and MAAD. I found that U Flea is more student centric. And I feel students won't shell out $35-$60 on buying an 8x10 or 11x14. The maximum they might buy is a 5x7 for $15. And as far as U Flea is concerned, there is a lot of crowd especially during the Valentine's season. But they are not people who would invest in buying expensive artwork. They like special things that are affordable. 
I hate to be right in this case, but as I feared, the wood vendor had indeed cheated us. He gave us poor quality wood that had marks all over, making it impossible to use. Thankfully, most of the wood pieces had this mark only on one side, so we could use it. But there were some pieces that had marks on both sides. I was always in favour of buying more 5x7's considering the kind of market U Flea and MAAD were. But my teammates though otherwise. They believed that people coming to such art fairs will be art lovers who wouldn't mind investing in artwork. And so we orders large amounts of 8x10 and 11x14's also, which are just lying as inventory as of now. 
We seem to have run out of 5x7's. And lately, we are having to redo a lot of our orders because many of them were getting over-scrubbed. And that is when I decided to do whatever it tales to find a foolproof method that will work at the first go and we won't have to redo orders. I tried 2 other methods, out of which one worked really well. Unfortunately, despite searching everywhere in Singapore, no printer had a smaller inkjet printer that could print on the special kind of paper that we use. And, so we were back to square one using our older technique and redoing orders. However, I realised that for the smallest (5x7) orders I could use my small inkjet printer that I had. It cannot be used for bigger sizes because of its poor resolution. So we use this method as a back up option for urgent orders. 
What makes me happy amidst all this is that we have found a way to recycle our wood for cheap. So none of our wood goes waste. Moreover, the recycler makes our wood with marks look good. That is like two hits with one stone. Also, my team and I never give up. No matter how many times we have to redo orders, we do it and deliver only the best product to our customer. It is a bliss when customers message/mail or tag us on social media thanking us for our loveable product, punctuality and going out of our way for delivering or hurrying up some special orders. 
U Flea, if not MAAD, was more than successful. We sold a lot of 5x7's to students and also exchanged business cards with AIA representatives there (sponsors of U Flea) for bulk orders. The AIA representative was so impressed that she voluntarily gave us her card and asked for ours. She said that it was a lovely product for gifts and would definitely consider us for both personal gifts and gifts for retiring employees or momento for well performing employees. Owing to U Flea rules and regulation, we could not make people pay in advance for products. So we requested them to give us their contact details to contact them later on. And to my surprise, a lot of these contacts translated into happy customers. MAAD, on the other hand, wasn't very successful but it definitely was a good experience!
Now being the Valentine's season, we are getting quite some orders. Also, we had U Flea and MAAD, both together on the 9th and 10th of February. So we have a lot of work at hand. But anyway, despite the quizzes and assignments, the team is doing a very good job at striking a balance between the two. 
Here are some of our memories from U Flea, MAAD, happy customers and also some constructive criticism: