If I need to start my gratitude list for this year, maybe I need to start with Kawung Living and how I run the business this year. I don’t know if there’s anyone who wants to talk this kind of sensitive things to the public. Most of the time, I avoid the talks and only giving a surface answer when someone asked. I mean, when you run a business people would love to talk either they success story and/or how they struggle with it. There is no one telling me how hard is too hard and what is the definition of success. Some people also want to look happy doing a business, some kind of proof that they are doing the right choice. This year, I learn that sharing things with other people is not always toxic. I hope writing this down would be some kind of stress reliever and a proof that whatever choice we take, all we need to do is trying our best. There is no shortcut or anything easy about it.
This year, Kawung Living hit its 3rd year. I know for a small brand like us, 3 years seems forever. Our sales are kind of stuck that year and the followers on our Instagram doesn’t change much differently (come on, anyone wants to have the Swipe Up feature :P). As someone with no business background, nor a family with an entrepreneur history, I sometimes confused on whom to ask in a certain situation. I tried to reach out to other communities, searching answers in the sea of online articles, asked people around, but I didn’t find anything that helped me.
At the end of 2016, we were approached by a shopping center in Pacific Place to open a pop-up store because they want to expand their space which includes a Kids’ Corner. The Buyer had seen our products at Market Museum before and asked for a meeting not long after. It’s a very big opportunity in my opinion because I dreamt of a brick and mortar shop for a long time ago. I know the rise of “online commerce” is big, but I still see physical stores as a way to reach more customer. Unfortunately, we didn’t see it as a feasible option since they ask for 51 – 52 % share of total income. We also need to provide our own Sales Representative on the store and all the booth properties by ourselves. We ended up declining the offer because we’re not financially and mentally prepared for that kind of agreement.
Since we had a lot of Kids & Baby products that year, we tried to find a way to sell it in other channels rather than solely depended on our website. While preparing the 2017 collection, we found Bayibubu’s The Littlemarket. The pop-up store opened its door in Gandaria City early 2017 and we agree to supply our products because they offer a small percentage share (that almost close enough to e-commerce consignment). We had a so-so result that time and close our deal within 2-3 months. We got basic knowledge on how to supply to a brick and mortar shop and how the payment terms work.
Not long after, we were approached by an online e-commerce which not only has a branch in Indonesia but also Singapore. I think it gives more competitive advantages for us because they serve the consumer profile that we aim. Their price range matches our price tags but we don’t have many ready stock products that time. We started our production right away but due to certain circumstances, we ended up close the deal even though we already have the draft contract.
Fortunately, we had a sufficient amount of stock to participate in Market Museum. Though the crowd at the Market Museum was exactly what we expect, the biggest advantage from participating in an event like this is the exposure and the opportunity. We met the Buyers from The Goods Dept who are interested in our Fashion and Kids Products and they asked for a meeting. From our previous experience, we know the consignment fee will be high, but this time we do want to try our luck. The consignment fee still falls beyond 48% share, but we don’t need to prepare everything from the scratch. Their stores served our consumer target and it’s an instant match.
While it seems like a dream comes true from the outside, it feels like a nightmare behind the scene. The process goes like this, we send them some kind of Catalog/Line Sheet, detailing what products we sell and other necessary information like prices, dimension, materials, etc. Then, they will send the Purchase Order they want us to supply. Though it is called Purchase Order, this number of products are not paid in front, meaning we will be paid when someone purchases the products in the store. For some, it will be a gamble since producing a lot of products required a lot of fund without certainty if there’s someone who will buy it. Because after some period of time, the store will decide whether they still want to keep the stock or return it back to us.
We were surprised because they asked for a number of products that we have never imagined before. For the record, we are still two woman operation business. There are a lot of steps that we are doing by ourselves, which make this order bittersweet things in our perspectives. There was a lot of drama from our Vendors and partners which drained ourselves mentally (and financially). I remember tagging and packing the products in my bedroom until 3 AM because we need to send the products the morning after. We ended up fulfilling our Purchase Order in batches, instead of one-time shipment. We felt like a failure but life still goes on and we just need to keep taking responsibility for our own doing.
Did it end happily? Not really. While we are happy that our products are displayed in a shiny beautiful store, there’s an extra life needed. The payment terms are usually long and for a small business like us, it seems like decades. We know we should be thankful, but we spend every month terrified if there’s a delay in payment :))
But above all that, the thing that made us agree in the first place is our lack of knowledge in Marketing department. We still don’t have the courage to send our products to influencer or blogger, we’ve never done a collaboration before because we don’t think we’re ready to it, etc. And supplying to stockist like this, cut that part instantly. We don’t need to do the marketing by ourselves (which feels like a relief). We’ve seen a significant jump in sales and we hope for a brighter year to come. Though we’re not surprised anymore with the number in the following Purchase Orders, we’re still getting cold feet on how to finance it :))
Anyway, this year making me believe that anything can happen. All these years, I always have doubt that my products will be like by many. Sometimes, I don’t have extra confidence to keep believing and wanted to quit. I enjoy designing, writing, and drawing, but I always thought I’m not good enough. It feels like magic, randomly meeting people on the street wearing something I made from my bedroom.
After 3 years, it still seems like the beginning. I learn plenty of things last year and I still want to keep on learning. A friend of mine once made an Instagram polls on his account, asking what drives you into business, Passion or Business Opportunity. It feels like a slap in my face. Though I know that doing something that you enjoy helps most of the time, but I need to adjust to the reality that there are a lot of technical stuff to learn to keep the business going.
2017 feels like a really long year for me, but I’m glad I’m here. And for those people who run a small business like us, I understand your confusions and your insecurities. We need to do many things alone, yet don’t have the capabilities to learn everything in an instant. I want to let you know that it is alright to have that kind of fears. Understanding our own weakness and power will help with the decision making. We will be wanting a lot of things in the process and it’s alright. But if we rush something, sometimes we will be losing a lot of things in return. It is sometimes better doing small things one step at a time while taking notes of what is working and what is not.
In a life that seems like a marathon, it’s alright to be left behind for awhile. My best advice for you, breath deeply, take longer pauses. We will be alright :)