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Five Years and counting. Part One

There were times I never thought we would get to this point. When faced with challenges that wore me down, stresses the shut me down and all the loneliness that comes trying to get a business going in today’s world I was still able to find a light to keep going.

About 2 years ago I was ready to pack it in. Resellers that were all excited to offer us to their customers fell silent. I started seeing more and more competitors coming onto the landscape that obviously had more money behind them and were making money off of our innovations, our original ideas, our intellectual property. For much of what we do, little is very original but when you do have something that is extremely original, a first of it’s kind and see every schmo out there run with it and even promote it like it was their idea it crushes you as much as it angers you.

Every time there was a setback, and there are always setbacks, I had to look for that sign to tell me it is all worthwhile or the sign that tells me to be done. As recently as this summer I thought the sign was there that it was time to end our run. I even began looking for work, figuring I could wind this all down and let everything trickle away. I made some planning oversights that cost us a lot of sales. Our new website seemed to confuse well established customers to where they no longer bought from us. Resellers dried up entirely to where our core revenue is directly linked to direct and online sales. The plans for the summer street festival circuit fell apart as we banked on a pop-up store that didn’t happen until this holiday season. Once we saw it was not going to happen, it was too late for us to get into the best festivals. One of the festivals we did take part in was huge bust for us and most of the other vendors.

I went forward with plans for a huge focus on a Thanksgiving weekend advertising campaign. It was a tad ambitious but it was worth the risk. We did well with it, not as well as we would have liked but we did better than the year before. The best thing that came out of that weekend was a little email I received at 4am on Thanksgiving Day.

When I first saw it I wanted to believe it was a scam. Being skeptical, I investigated the person who signed the email. It turns out she is known and works for the enterprise she claimed she represented. She is a marketing director for a very well known men’s fashion magazine based in the UK. I can’t say who or what yet, but we will soon enough. Anyway, the offer was to advertise in their spring style issues. Yes, we were invited to advertise – this is exactly how big this is. Small guys like us can’t just call such a publication up and say we wish to advertise, you need to be invited or be a big player. With laying on the humility rather thick I expressed tentative agreement to be involved. The response I received was amazing. Maybe it was empty praise from a fashion industry professional, but I’ll take it. They said they totally vetted us and feel we are THE right mix for their international readers who are in the millions. What can I say, other than yes?

The following weekend we received word that our Pop-Up Shop can happen. Acquiring the correct license we opened the first weekend in December. Just in time for the holidays! I was in whirlwind of activity. Not prepared for the demands that this would place on our inventory and unable to produce more product fast enough. We did our best to keep moving product and trying not to sell out of anything. Everything went well and people loved us. Sales were far beyond expectations and our inventory held up right until Christmas. Even better is that we can continue this Shop indefinitely! The sales won’t match the holiday sales, but every day we are open is an opportunity to gain a new customer for life. Opening this Pop-Up brought a lot of local media attention as well, because we were the first retail business to open up using the new Chicago Pop-Up business license.

We closed out 2018 on a high. I spent the last few days buying new products and replenishing supplies for what is next for us. Fulfilling our mission to offer sensible products that compliment everything we make and to lead us to where we are able to open our own lifestyle store that showcases our products. We are just weeks away from our 5th anniversary date and after all the missteps, challenges and obstacles we are moving forward stronger than ever before. Poised to make 2019 the best year in our history so far.

Over the next couple weeks I wish to share more stories about the challenges we faced to inspire others to work to achieve their goals and make their dreams happen. For me, it’s been an awesomely wonderful experience so far. With all the stress and anguish, I am happy.

Thank you for reading,
John C Dodge
J&L Pogonotrophics

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