Crossing the Pond
Our launch in the USA is almost upon us, it feels like we have blinked and it's already here. We know it is going to bring its challenges but we are taking our business to a whole new continent, that’s a pretty big deal! It has been a process, as it always is with any big business venture, so I wanted to share with you some of the story from behind the scenes.
Something we have found super helpful is talking to people who have done it before us, learning from mistakes, soaking in all the advice our brains can possibly hold. Hopefully this will help someone out there too, and if you aren’t interested in launching your biz in the US (maybe a bit niche, we know!) we hope it will just be fun to read about what we have been getting up to over the last year or so!
The Land of the Locker
The idea has always been there, lockers are part of the American culture and every high school movie we have ever watched has a locker scene. Love notes through the vents, ‘meet at your locker at lunch!’ - you can just picture it now, right? We’ve also had really strong interest from US customers over the years so it’s so exciting to be finally able to fulfil that demand.
If we can dispatch them from the UK, why do we even need to launch in the US? While we do dispatch lockers from the UK, we just can’t do it in a scalable way. It costs a lot to send heavy lockers all the way across the Atlantic Ocean! Compared to fulfilling orders from the UK, having a warehouse in the US has some big benefits for our American customers. The biggest one is much lower shipping costs and faster delivery since we are cutting around 2000 miles off the journey! For us, we’re happy it’s just much safer for our lockers. We have perfected our packaging over the last 3 years but sending lockers from one continent to the other still makes us a little nervous. We knew we would feel much better sending our lockers from US soil and it would give us the opportunity to reach more people there too!
Making big plans
Two years ago I (Jess) started putting hours to really do the research, trying to understand what needed to be done to try and launch a successful business in America from across an ocean. We initially planned to go and live in California for 6 months to a year so we could get an understanding of the American market and consumer, do some research and settle on where to base our business out there. It made more sense to actually have feet on the ground and we imagined it would make things a bit easier too. We planned all that for March 2020…. enough said, you know what happened next! With Covid cancelling all our plans we had to come up with a completely new plan B that didn’t involve us setting foot in the USA.
While it was frustrating that the wheels were put in motion nearly 2 years ago and then the brakes went on, it’s given us time to get our ducks in a row and really spend the time to find the right partners in the right locations. Nothing really prepares you for the sheer size of the country!
Three cheers for Plan B
So, we couldn’t actually go to America. Now what? I started calling everyone I knew with a connection to the USA and asking them what they knew! I spoke to a retail consultant living in Atlanta (a friend of Becca’s from school), a lawyer who does business in America (connection through a family member), a tax adviser from Deloitte, a copyright adviser, accountants (3 of them!) and more! Every time I spoke to someone they told me I needed to speak to another person. It was a never ending chain of knowledge but all quite varied and conflicting. It really didn’t seem there was one set path and we needed to find our own route through.
As the pandemic dragged on, we accepted that we weren’t going to be launching the US business in the same way as Australia and the UK, we had to find a way to do this remotely. With Australia and the UK, we really did replicate the launches almost like-for-like. I went over to Sydney and Becca and I launched at a trade show with zero actual stock and a bunch of order forms. When it came to launch in the UK we had actually ordered some stock this time, but like last time, Becca came over and we did Top Drawer at Olympia together. Our aim for both countries was to make sure we had a presence through wholesale so our products could be seen, touched and loved in real life bricks and mortar stores.
With the USA however, we had to do things differently and a lot of this had to do with Covid. Trade shows weren’t an option (thousands of people in a convention centre? No thanks!). The risk factor is also much greater. One of our big worries was that we don’t have a third sister on the ground in the right time zone who can manage, delegate and fire-fight! We set out to find the next best thing and that turned out to be Hannah, our US Manager. (You can read our blog post about Hannah, our new USA manager, here!). We decided to hire in the UK rather than on the ground in the US and we are still trying to wrap our heads around all of the time zones - trying to find a time for Zoom calls that works in all three countries is difficult and someone (Becca) is usually sleep deprived!
One of the biggest pieces of the puzzle we needed to find was the logistics. All the hours of phone calls and email threads lead us to a recommendation for a fulfillment center that ticked all our boxes. Our new fulfillment partners have loads of room, tonnes of hands-on experience and are genuinely as excited about the launch as we are.
Another change to the plan has been to shift the focus away from wholesale to more direct sales as the rising costs throughout our supply chain have increased rapidly over the last 18 months. From steel, to freight and literally everything else. Covid has changed the landscape and made it harder to feel certain about… well anything! The timeframes and costs have deviated so far from when we first started that we’ve had to be nimble and adaptive. To say plans have changed would be an understatement!
The countdown is on
The team have been working away at finalising shipping, packaging, stationery, the website and all the other many systems that we need in place for launch. Our manufacturers have been amazing and have created an impressive amount of products despite all the hurdles thrown in. There’s been serious amounts of list making going on and I’m so proud of how everyone has jumped right in and played their part.
Right now we are in the final testing phase, making sure that all our systems, couriers and team are working together like a well-oiled machine. The boats are landing and our new Georgian (location, not architecture of the building) warehouse is filling up with stock. The launch date is scheduled for 24th August and we will be ready. At least Becca and the team will, I have a two week old baby to look after! Yep that’s right, baby Poppy arrived in the first week of August - talk about good timing!
What has been driving me forward over the last 18 months are all of the Mustard lovers that have been waiting ever so patiently while we get things off the ground. Over the years we’ve had some very excited Americans ask us when we will have a proper US presence and it feels so good that pretty soon we will be able to say we do! I really can not wait for y’all (I am learning the lingo!) to start sending us locker pictures in your beautiful homes - it has been a long time coming!