When I launched the Kickstarter project for the Coin Minimalist Wallet last year I never could have predicted the events which would follow. Producing any physical product is difficult enough but this project brought a particular set of challenges.
Since it was so difficult to make, I decided to produce this product in Japan at an excellent factory i found. I even visited them late in 2018 to begin the relationship and discuss the project since I knew it was important to have the production aspects of the product all worked out before launching the Kickstarter project. It definitely wasn’t the cheapest option, but I settled on sending all of our proprietary material to Japan for manufacturing, then having them send back the finished products.
When COVID-19 first hit China, I was initially relieved we weren’t manufacturing there. But then Japan was one of the first additional countries to face challenges with the disease. Shortly thereafter, our state of California became a hotspot of its own. We volunteered our wallet production capacity to mask production for medical workers and first responders. Online deliveries stopped. Our business was put on hold and we did everything we could to stay safe.
Meanwhile, Japan had managed to minimize the effects of the pandemic and production of the coin wallet continued. To my surprise, I was notified that the first batch of coin wallets would be delivered ON TIME. While this was great news, it also presented somewhat of an operations challenge. See, I had planned on using our professional shipping house near LA to process and ship all of the orders. But they were barely operational. How could we still send out all of these rewards to backers? Even my back-up plan of shipping orders from my studio wasn’t possible.
The solution was to bring the shipping “in house” meaning… literally doing it from my house. I set up some folding tables in my converted 1-car garage office, ordered some shipping supplies, and my family got to work. Even my 4-year old pitched in folding boxes and we paid him a fair wage (in LEGO).
Packing and shipping the wallets ourselves brought a tangible feeling of connectedness with our customers and the world… even while we were sheltering in place and practicing social distancing. My son wanted to know why some of the labels looked a bit special and I explained that military mail gets forwarded to service members all over the world. He was especially interested in the ones that were going to people on Navy boats 🙂
As I prepared the packages, I wondered what the lives of each person was like right now. Especially those going to hard-hit areas such as Italy. I even considered holding off on putting the wallets into the mail stream. With so much uncertainty, it definitely seemed like there was a greater chance of things getting lost in the mail. But since we had finished the product on time, I decided to go ahead and send everything and hope for the best. I imagined how getting something special in the mail may be a bright spot in someone’s day.
While domestic delivery was fairly reliable, international packages experienced the biggest delays. When we ship things, they go to the national mail service of each country for final delivery and those postal systems had big backlogs. The good news is that wallets kept turning up day by day. They may have been delayed by a few weeks but in most cases they did eventually work their way though the system and arrive. And items shipped more recently don’t seem to be traveling much more smoothly.
Every project faces challenges and this one has been no different. I’m just glad we were able to manage as best we could and still get the product to our backers. Now the coin wallets are available for normal ordering in our store. They’re in stock in our warehouse and ready to ship out wherever you ay be.