This story is from Megan, one of Genie Supply's founders.
Part I: Quitting Your Job and Making It Happen
3 years ago, I had just finished my junior year at MIT and walked out on my summer internship--the most important internship to a college student--the one that I had spent months and months finding, vetting, and negotiating by leveraging companies' offer letters against one another.
One day I had had enough; I just up and left.
Moving back home to Indiana, I lived with my parents, working on turning my idea and dorm-room-research into a product: WINK.
I scraped together all that I had, and still fell short. Suppliers wanted me to order 10,000 or 15,000 units, for the packaging. Not to mention the boxes, formulation, etc. There's no way I could afford that!
After many long nights on Alibaba, I finally came across a factory (or later, I would realize, an agent) who wanted to get rid of 500 teeth whitening bottles, and they were willing to screenprint them. I jumped on the opportunity. A box supplier made me order 10,000 boxes as the MOQ, but that was fine - boxes were cheap.
When everything had arrived, I had $6 in my bank account.
Through hustling, hard work and a little luck, I was able to make WINK a reality. But the hard work never stops there. Once you have inventory, your very liquid money just turned into a very illiquid investment. This is just the beginning for you.
Part II: Speed Bumps + Packaging Blunders
Like I said: just the beginning.
My teeth whitening pens-turned-eyelash enhancer containers were working fabulously... except that many "beauty experts" (more like backseat drivers) were saying that they were ugly.
"The product works, but the packaging could be improved."
I took their word for it.
The "problem" (a good one) was that I was selling out of WINK too fast to allow enough time for packaging testing. I was stuck in a phase where once I had money, I had no product, and needed new product. Once I got the new product... well..
And my money was gone.
There was nothing I could do about it.
My packaging was falling apart in customer's hands, and that's all I had. That was my investment. It was gone.
I was losing customers in droves.
Sending replacements wasn't really doing it anymore; people wanted more. What's the use of a replacement product anyway if the packaging doesn't work?
Part III: Bye Bye Comfort Zone
I needed a solution.. fast.
Bills were stacking up, and cash had stopped flowing in. I needed to do something drastic.
That's it! I thought. I'll go to China!
So I did.
I moved to China.. like a jackass. What was I doing anyway?! I could barely say more than 10 words in Chinese. How did I think this was going to work?
But humans are resilient, and in this case I was one very resilient, determined human. Having gone through a lot of stress and drama in the past few months, this seemed like nothing; a fresh start if anything.
I made contacts, talked to strangers, negotiated with factories on Alibaba all the same--but this time, I could go and visit them to follow up on their promises. I tested packagings and re-tested. Sent them to customers to rate and blogged it all along the way.
It was a hit.
My customers came back!
Well, most of them. Some of them had left long before I made the China announcement, but many stuck around. Now they are the most loyal customers I've ever known. They read and comment on my blogs, respond to my emails, and check in on me, personally. That's awesome.
Part IV: Turning Your Problems into Far-Reaching Solutions
Once I realized how crucial the packaging was to my company's success, I realized that this problem is not unique. Working with China is hard, and not everyone has the ability, desire or know-how to up and move to China and DIY.
Further, scaling is a pain. When you move from making single units a day to shipping out 10 or even 20 orders, you realize that it's something you can't keep up forever. However, without easy access to capital, it can be tough to do an order of 10,000 units or more, like most factories require.
When I realized that my problems weren't unique, and there were in fact thousands of entrepreneurs facing the same issues every year, I decided - with my partner Landon, from China - to start Genie Supply (welcome!).
We're here to help you scale your beauty business. Whether you need help with low to medium MOQ packaging, you want to create a custom mold, or need help with formulating, we're here to help.
We've spent a LOT of time in factories. Our expertise has expanded beyond beauty, to electronics and fashion. We're not just a factory agency, we're a liaison and hub for creating.
If you want to turn your beauty idea - or any idea for that matter - into a reality, feel free to contact us here or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
And last but not least - never stop hustling.