Keep Good Relationships
Where Are They Now?
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Keep Good Relationships
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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so disappointing my customers right because um if we if we get it wrong with our store customers the ramifications of that are are big right and that getting it wrong for them can be you know i mean it stems from inventory do we have the right inventory did the inventory come in correct i mean we're offshoring right so we didn't get we don't get to inspect the line and see how things are coming off i mean we receive it we pay for it we you know put it out there and yes there's quality control but um but there's it's like wow okay you know if the size on this or you know the labeling on that you know and you do a whole run of mistakes and you don't catch it until it's in a store i mean that ruins relationships and uh yeah so disappointing my my store customers is probably the biggest deal and that's that that is um uh that's that's what i worry about most [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com we're always here to help now today we've got a another great episode and it's one of the fun ones all of them are fun um but it's a where where are they at now episode where we kind of catch up about six months or so later from the last episode and so if you didn't hear the last episode definitely make sure to go and catch up on that one first uh but we're having a teresa zimmerman back on and this is a quick reminder so teresa was uh with the wood underwear which is always kind of a fun business and a kind of a catchy name um and so now we're gonna catch up a little bit uh where she's at today and talk a little bit everything from supply chain issues to launching a book to launching a different business and that's recently launched having one of the best years ever with the uh some of the current businesses with wood underwear and have a great conversation so with that much as a introduction welcome back on to the podcast teresa no thank you thank you no i love that you're doing this thank you for inviting me back absolutely so now before we dive into what's been over the past six months just for those that may not have heard the original episode or if it's been a little while since i heard the last episode kind of remind people where you're at about six months ago yeah well so um physically i was i think i was sitting in the little mountain town of whitefish montana my husband and i were doing a work away from uh from home uh for the month and um so it was beautiful it was i call it mud season you know it was not not winter anymore but not quite spring so it was just a gorgeous time to be up there and it was quiet um and we were getting ready to um really plan for uh the receiving of our spring line for wood underwear and go through spring and summer sales which um you know retail has you know i guess changes everything but retail was really starting to wake up right about then right about april may-ish timeframe especially men's retail which is where we primarily focus and um and so we ended up having a really great spring um you know the supply chain issues were starting back then um people haven't really started hearing about them until now probably october is when the you know mass consumers started hearing about the supply chain issues but we were feeling it then prices were already rising and all of that so it was a it was a fun um spring to manage and to try to foresee the future but i we didn't first see and i know we're going to talk about this later but we definitely didn't foresee the you know 130 ships off of the port of la long beach happening right now so no and getting into that just a little bit because i think it's one wherein you know as you're probably aware of work with a ton of startups and small businesses some of them if you're on different interests different industries certainly have been hit differently some of them have been reasonably unscathed and hasn't had much impact other ones i'm talking about saying we have had our best year ever on sales but we can't deliver i mean we've got purchase orders that are sitting out there and none of our fault we have the products we would absolutely ship them and yet they're waiting for months on end for to fulfill orders and they're having the best sales here ever and the worst fulfillment year ever so how's that kind of gone for you guys have you seen it it's been one where you've able to manage through it or you're mostly us based or foreign based or kind of give us a little bit of insight there now so we we're definitely uh we're definitely outsourced we're offshore with our manufacturing for sure um because we just don't have the manufacturing capability here to do what we need to do for the most part not on a mass scale um and so most of the underwear business and most of the apparel business really if you looked at it percentage-wise is offshore it's not in the united states a lot more of the raw product is going from here to other places and then coming back which is fabulous um and there are some had there's some headway being made for manufacturing in the united states but little guys like me are not going to be the you know the front runners on that we have we have to take advantage and draft off the big guys who make that stuff happen here and i can't wait for that to happen so we can do made in the usa products um but um so we are managing through we have to i mean you manage through you die right um and um but the the challenge the challenge um the challenge is cost right and it's inflation and i hear you know i you know i i stopped watching news maybe like 18 months ago because it just pisses me off um but i'm right there with you i i haven't given up on written or you know reading it online but listening to it i was like okay yeah so i i have to allow myself you know a few minutes a day but i have to you know there's screen time i got to turn it off but um but i just hear these guys all these politicians out there and it really doesn't matter what party they're coming from they're also inflation's no big deal there's no inflation it's spot inflation well that's just a bunch of malaria yeah yeah um try to keep it clean sorry um because you know we are we are still paying higher customs duties from a couple of years ago when they went up right and then this year we're paying um in the spring i was paying two and a half times maybe almost three times my shipping logistic rates to come into the united states for the first time and then this fall my my rates went up um from normal to four times and they actually even changed mid shipment i had a i had a container on the water and i got a call it was supposed to land on the 4th of october on the 2nd of october saturday i get the note saying hey your price just increased right so by like 18 on the water right that's like that's like you know i was talking with my guys at the warehouse and and uh kevin he's he's like that's like you're on an airplane going you know new york to l.a hey now that we have you on the airplane and you can't do a thing about it we're gonna double your air flight or double price you owe us a hundred dollars right now or you gotta get out right i mean so what do you do you pay it right you pay it and one question kind of just because i find it interesting and maybe just a a bit of an assign so you're facing speak out on this stuff i'm telling you i could go off for a long time and we'd probably find it very interesting everybody be like okay i'm tuned it out but you know so you take that um and you know you're dealing with that and do you you know i think that it puts businesses in the uncomfortable situation of do i have to do i raise all my rates on all my products which then you're worried that are your customers going to leave or stop buying because now you went from hey a product that was what they probably thought was reasonably priced the one that you know be not out of your control but now is significantly higher price or do you try and eat into your profit margins are you trying to defer that cost or kind of as a business how do you deal with mid shipment the price going up and then how do you then adjust your prices accordingly well yeah i mean it's it's it's hard and and you've got to make some hard decisions about it for sure um so i work in the world of specialty stores boutiques these are usually owner operated whether they're multiple doors or or just a single door so i love main street i think i went off on that last time but um i love working with my customers who own their businesses who know their customers they're you know part of their communities and so um so my my business is more relationship driven as opposed to some of the corporations that you know can come at a different way and maybe just a little bit more um black and white numbers for me it's for me it's relationship and what what i did um in the spring when my rates were going up and i was still paying the higher customs rate that we were expecting to go down um and it hasn't yet i made a promise to my customers um and my prospects that for for this year i would keep my my rates as they were so i'm eating that cost um and uh that was before you know this recent spot of you know rate hikes on my shipping so it's hurting me a little bit more than i expected it to but um but it's a commitment that i made to my you know my my base and um uh but you know in january it's that's gonna have to change so um and and i think the stores too are doing what they can to you know we limit our margins they're limiting their margins so that the consumer can still get what they want and they can still have a robust business even if they're eating a little bit more of the price um now again that's on the that's on the that's on the more relationship side of the business but uh but i can tell you with the shows that i was at in the trade shows i was at in uh july august people were you know having their meetings and almost to a brand every single one of them was telling their customers you know that product you pre-ordered that's supposed to arrive next month well that product is now 20 more or whatever that percentage is and the buyers were just having to say okay so it's uh it's hard yeah and i think that that one that one's always tough and i think it's in even if you're in a business where you're not directly affected and you know as an example the the intellectual property law firm i run doesn't necessarily have physical products you know very we have a few like gift boxes and other things but other than you know as far as our main core uh products we don't have any physical products so we don't have that but even we're seeing all you know service providers or people that we use and in our back end and other things those prices are going up and you got kind of hitting that same spot of hey are we going to significantly reasonably you know raise our rates and when we have two months ago for the end of the year because people typically have been conditioned that rates don't go up until the beginning of next year and so how do you adjust that midstream so i think you know it's interesting to see that impact across the board whether it hits you directly or hit you indirectly because everybody's dealing with that and i don't think it's going away it's not going away quickly no it's not but but stores don't have a choice they've got to take it if they want product in their store to sell for holiday right so you know you can hold people over a barrel um or in my case you know i have i have the the i mean it's just part of part of part of the culture of my business i'm gonna work with my customers um i'm not gonna blackmail them like the shipping line did me eight you know 18 price increase or else right what they gonna dump my product in the water or ship it back i don't i don't know what what what they would do but um but yeah it's it's a little crazy so i mean i take the approach of you know my whole you know supply chain we're all in it together the guys i service the people servicing me you know there's only so much i can do about what i'm buying but i can certainly affect you know what i'm selling and how i'm selling it no and i think that that's definitely some good point so now we'll go on to maybe a lighter side of things just because that one is one where everybody is just like oh i just want inflation to go away i want supply just go back to normal but not going away but now you've also in the midst of that you've done a couple of additional things that are you know different aspects or different businesses you've launched just recently i think the last month or so launched another business say hi and you've also done a book so maybe uh tell us a little bit about how those are going for you so this is crazy i mean if we picked a six a different six month period i probably wouldn't have anything to say to you that's different but this six months has been just crazy cool and fun and in fact say hi you mentioned say hi so say hi um uh say hi actually the conversation started six months ago when i was in that mountain town in in whitefish and my my business partner amy she um it's her brainchild and she approached me then and we started talking about as soon as i got back to raleigh from uh from montana we got together we did our handshake deal we started building this product and and launched it october 4th so um it's uh it's basically an employee engagement app um it uh it delivers a question every day to your employee base it's for enterprise so larger companies and the reason for that is because all of the answers are anonymous anonymized if that's a word i think that's a word um we'll go with it whether or not it's a word we're gonna say it is you know what i mean they're they're they're the the answer a lot of them a lot of employees don't answer um surveys internal surveys honestly or frankly because they're not sure where the answers are going and who's going to read them and who has access and whether they they're trying to give you a right answer or the answer you want to you know you want to hear and and then those surveys also don't necessarily do anything right you get the results and maybe somebody tells you what the results are but then it's done and say hi basically it's just one a day you log in you answer your question it goes away you don't think about it in the end of every month you get you basically get your your insights report with an action item and the insights report shows you the whole organization and then it drills down into you for your specific challenge question that and it's really supposed to be a question that starts conversations with your uh with your team with your manager you get a picture where everybody else is sitting on things like trust right you know maybe a question is you know do you do you trust do you if you went away on holiday for five days do you trust that your team would you know pick up whatever they needed to pick up or do what they needed to do where's your level of trust in that do you feel safe how how taken care of i mean there's all kinds of questions about employee health and wellness and brand values and those sorts of things and so you get this report that gives you that snapshot of where the organization sits in that and um and then the um and then the action question is something you're supposed to think about and go talk to your manager about or talk to your team about if you're the manager so so there's an immediate action to it with with the context of where you sit in the organization and it's all pulled all of the data is pulled outside the organization it never lives within the organization um so people can be you know more honest about it and uh and it's just a very it's a it's a very low impact um way to you know engage with people every day no and i think that smarts i think the to your point you know the one of the bigger first of all it's always hard to get feedback be or feedback from people if you sit down with them you know it can be a bit intimidating and are you really going to tell your boss what you're frustrated about because they can turn around and say well you're not happy go somewhere else type of a thing and on the other hand you also you know as an employer you're saying hey we want to keep our employees happy and engaged but how do we do that and how do we make it productive so it's not just hey every time we pull them in the office they're just saying well i'd love to get a raise if you want to give me more money and it's like well yes everybody wants more money but what can we do to otherwise improve the business so i think making that one step removed or anonymizing it so to speak allows for a more open dialogue so that one open or that one launched about a month ago if i remember when we were talking yeah mm-hmm how has it gone since the since you launched it yeah so we're uh we are we're chipping away you know we're selling sell sell sell so uh you know hopefully um hopefully i can give you an update at some point in the future and tell you that we've already made our million dollars you know so we'll uh all right well i look forward to it and uh that'll be that'll have to be another fun follow-up when that when you hit the million dollar mark you'll have to reach back out let me know all right good well yeah so i mean you know it's it's that you mentioned the money thing right and that people think of those conversations as as that what do you need what can i give you and that's very transactional and i think that people aren't trading on the transactional right now because right now you can't say well if you don't like it go get another job because people are i mean it's the great resignation right and people haven't been working together physically for 20 months or 18 months and a lot of those people have never met their colleagues because they just joined the workforce or changed jobs during that period of time and so there's no stickiness for companies and if you're a manager you haven't neces you don't necessarily know what to talk about with this employee that you may not have met or may have may not have seen for 18 months um and as an employee what are you going to talk to your manager i mean you know it's like how do you take the transaction out of it and start building that brand stickiness and that relationship stickiness to the actual business to help your employees have better health have them feel better about what they're doing have them feel cared about what they're doing has purpose and unless you have that relationship based thing um you don't you don't get that especially as a remote worker so um so this is you know the intention of this is to really help companies care for their employees in a i guess not not necessarily a structured way but we're giving them conversations to have that the whole organization can do at once and so there's a purpose to them and i know and i think that that that definitely uh makes sense and i'm excited to see where it goes i'm you know i'm shocked that a sorority not a million dollar business in the month but uh i definitely think it has that great opportunity and uh excited to hear where it goes and i miss that i miss launching that business as well you've also written a book and i can't remember if the book is out yet or it's getting close to going out so help us understand where that's as well it's out yes uh oh lords oh lords and this is a total departure from what we've just been talking about oh lords is basically life lessons told through dating stories so it's uh it's a yeah you have to sort of switch off that brain and go to a different brain to to change uh discussions here but um my co-author jess aberhart and i um in november of 2019 we were we were at a networking event and she she came in and she's talking about she just got off a plane last night and this guy was hitting on her she was she was sort of hunkering down in her seat you know headphones hoodie up and he was having none of it he was going to talk to her so it worked for him because she ended up giving her giving him her phone number and uh so she was coming in talking about that we just the whole group we started talking about dating stories and by the end of the night we kind of did a pinky promise that we were going to actually sit down and write this book and um you know silver silver linings out of uh a coveted year you know that shutdown for two or three months gave us the time to do it because working retail that was shut down i mean that's what i that's what i did so um so we we uh we actually sat down and wrote it and uh we probably the writing process probably four months and then you know we had to pick a time to we had to figure out what to do with it and then uh and then uh yeah just uh started shipping october first and that's for sale as a shameless self plug for you where do people find the book if they're interested everywhere target.com barnesandnoble.com your local bookstore one thing i learned me loving main street is that there is a website called indiebound indiebound.org that will take you to all of your independent bookstores to buy books online from a store on main street so go there that's that's my favorite i mean of course we're on amazon and everywhere else too but support your local bookstores all right definitely definitely think that's a great uh great to support the the local mom and pop shops and the small bookstores and if not they can still probably get it on the bigger ones as well so absolutely can yeah so last thing before we and we always have the last question but before we dive to that now going to the you know mainstay maybe of the business or the one that you're on the show before which is you know we touched a little bit on the supply chain issue but with wood underwear while you're doing supply chain issues i think we talked about a bit before you've also had one of your best years or sales and navigate that figuring that out so on the sales side how's that going for you yeah no it's it's going really well i mean um i think that um the i think the consumer has come back strong um the consumers and their and the retail stores have come back i think healthier um you know we lost a lot of stores um a lot of them had to shut down they didn't have a choice um but it is um some of it some of it was phasing out just an age thing and retiring and not a great time to sell a business some of it was some of it was that they had to sell they were not healthy so i think at the end of the day what we're going to end up with on on at the store level is healthier stores and you know a healthier mix of things and but yeah people are shopping um the stores had to pivot and start serving people in way different ways and none of those ways are going to go away i mean there's going to be facetime shopping there's going to be curbside delivery there's going to be door-to-door delivery same day and none of that stuff's going to stop which i think is fabulous for um for retail and that's you know we're definitely seeing that so our online sales as a percentage of course from last year have gone down because last year it was basically only online sales but um but our our uh our new store business is is crazy good we've we've opened up a couple new channels including women's lingerie stores we only sell men's men's underwear undershirts and loungewear but we're selling into women's underwear stores and lingerie stores and um and they're just some of these women are just fabulous i mean they're dynamos and they they're they're going gangbusters so having having really easy is it is women's lingerie live or is it men's underwear in women's or lingerie stores men's underwear in women's lingerie stores right it's that maybe that guilty purchase right you go in and spend a thousand dollars on bras and oh yeah let me pick up my uh my guy a little uh you know all right i better get them something so they don't fill up although half the time when you're buying lingerie you're probably doing it as much for the other individual as you are yourself so that's a that's a whole different conversation for another day no that's fun so that's i think that's that's cool though but you also are looking and saying okay you know other retail stores they you know some of them are shutting down we're going to have to pivot we'll go in and we'll you know go into the i don't know non-traditional but a different route they'll also you know look to pick that up and pivot because i think that that's what you know separates as short or some of the source some of them must be on their control but some of them you know the ones that are really thriving are the ones that are saying okay you know what this is beyond our control we can control what we can't control but for those things we are we're going to have to adjust and pivot in order to continue to thrive yeah that's absolutely right and it's the people that have relationships with their customers who are doing really really well because they the service mindset for somebody you know is slightly different than the service mindset of maybe a stranger coming in so um so there's some really amazing service things happening at retail and main street retail um and as and we we've changed too i mean we're doing a whole lot more drop drop ship for our customers we never did drop ship as a rule before 2020 um it's just it was just it was just way too hard to manage and then last year we were forced to and this year it's just a service that we've added on and it it helps the retailer because they don't have to carry a lot of stock it's in our warehouse anyway so you know we're able to drop ship and and that's a flexibility that that we're that we'll continue with as well so stores are continuing with their different ways of serving their customers and we're also trying to figure out better ways to service them so that you know we're all in this together so it's uh it's been working really well even just having the flexibility of having that even if they don't use it is is uh is an advantage well i think that's great in the end i think that uh allowing that flexibility of hate as you guys are pivoting and adjusting we're also doing our part with our side of relationship to make it a to something that's sustainable and works for their arrangement and then leveraging those relationships so we're reaching towards the end of the podcast and there i'm sure we could have go on a much longer conversation and be enjoyable to us but uh just for the sake of time so people can have a reasonable bite size episode as we get to the end of the episode i always shipped on the where on the update episodes of the where you at now episodes to ask a bit of a different question which is fun which is you know a lot of times especially as you're getting farther into your business you learn a lot of things that you didn't know on the front end probably if you knew him on the front end you would have never got going because you would have learned all the things that would have scared you off in the first place but we it's so that naivety is probably what gets everybody going but as you learn more you also can kind of tend to get a think become aware of things that you should be worried about or be scared of or be afraid of and yet you have to deal with those as you're continuing to build the business so with that question i always ask is as a as an entrepreneur as a startup as a small business what's your biggest fear and how do you deal with them yeah so if it has to be just one it is uh biggest there can be multiple but we'll go with the biggest yeah well so disappointing my customers right because um if we if we get it wrong with our store customers the ramifications of that are are big right and that getting it wrong for them can be you know i mean it stems from inventory do we have the right inventory did the inventory come in correct i mean we're offshoring right so we didn't get we don't get to inspect the line and see how things are coming off i mean we receive it we pay for it we you know put it out there and yes there's quality control but um but there's it's like wow okay you know if the size on this or you know the labeling on that you know and you do a whole run of mistakes and you don't catch it until it's in a store i mean that ruins relationships and uh yeah so disappointing my my store customers is probably the biggest deal and that's that that is um uh that's that's what i worry about most now the the things that the things that can kill my business are things like you know a tanker not getting or a a container ship not getting deport like ever or dropping anchor somewhere and i have to figure out where my stuff is or it doesn't show up missing a season and that's happened to me actually um not not that you know a container ship sank but um but that but that i had to completely um forego a season of new goods because it didn't come in right and um that's frightening it ruins your whole year i'm sure and it's one where it's you know there's enough lead time you have to it's not just like you can you know tomorrow oh we're gonna change we'll reorder we'll do it it's one and then on the other hand kind of what you the thing you've talked about is it's also the relationships that in short term you might be able to you know figure out a way to put out an inferior product convince people to pay it and they have to eat it and you're on the long hand they're going to say well we didn't really like that product we're not going to come back to them so i think that that's the push out of business it can put you out of business one way or the other either way either way you go i mean it can put you out of business yeah it's hard because sometimes if you're in the business saying we're out of money we have we have to make the sell we have to make this work then you're looking in the short term and yet sometimes you make the short term decisions and the long harms you in the long run and sometimes if you don't have the short term the long run doesn't matter so it's always that balance and trying to figure it out but i think maintaining those relationships is a great takeaway of doing that as well yeah well if people want to reach out to you they want to use a say hi app or they want to use a say hi software they want to get your book they want to buy your uh wood underwear or any of the other things that you have going on what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more so lords.com is for the book and anything you need to know we we just were given a gold award from literary titans and we came out as the hottest number one best seller on amazon in the first 24 hours out so we're uh happy about that anyway ohlords.com on that front um if you're an enterprise um 200 plus people in order for us to be anonymize the data 200 people um say hi dot io so it's s-a-y-h-i-i dot i-o um and or just reach out to me teresa wood underwear dot com our website woodunderwear.com also has a store finder um and all of that so uh would uh would love to hear from anybody that wants to hear any more about any of those three things all right well i definitely encourage people to reach out to you contact you support you and find out more so well thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell you or have your own expertise to share or you want to catch up if you've already been on the podcast in your all day bub we'd love to have you on uh feel free just go to inventiveguest.com apply to be on the show a couple more things make sure to listen make sure to subscribe make sure to share so everybody can find out about our awesome episodes and last but not least if you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else in the business just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat well thank you again teresa for coming on the podcast and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you devon