Starting Over.

This is not a letter of defeat.  Nor is it a declaration of war.  This is that moment of uncertainty in the blue-grey moments of the morning, wracked with confusion, not knowing if you hit the snooze button on the alarm, or the off switch.  It’s a moment of retreat, after running troops off a cliff, so that new strategies can be formed.

Traveling to Mexico last December was an experience.  I came down for a couple weeks to check out a few cities and interview tanneries, foundries and job shops, hoping to find a solid solution for the startup leather bag company that I’ve been developing for the past few years.  I got a lot of information before I headed back home, and when I put everything together, Leon, Guanajuato was the clear choice of where I needed to be.

Leon is an industrial city.  It has its benefits and its downfalls, and some days, each outweighs the other.  I chose this place because it’s the leather capital of the western hemisphere.  It’s home to some of the biggest names in quality leather goods, like Nike, Carhart, Gucci, Timberland… the list goes on and on.  Chances are, if it used to be a cow, but now it does something else (not food), then it likely came from Leon.  It’s where you need to be, if you’re putting your cards on the table and building a company like mine.

I sorted things out at home, packed up and returned to Leon on March 1st to start my empire.  I already had a place to live sorted out, and it included a decent workspace, so I was stoked.  I estimated that I would need 2 months to interview suppliers, get things ordered and moving, and find a collaborative manufacturer to begin production on my designs.

That was 4 months ago.  On June 1st, I decided to take a break from Mexico and head back to Indianapolis.  I had some things that needed some attention at home, as well as additional prototyping that I wanted to work on, in my own shop.  On top of that, there were production delays, such as hardware issues, bank transfer issues, staffing issues and a whole lot of waiting to be done, so I figured I might as well sleep in my own bed while working out the rest of the details.  I’ll admit, after returning home for a bit, I started to think about shutting things down and admitting defeat.

I stewed around for a week or so, spending time with friends and family and being very glad to get out of the Central Mexican heat (yet, the Hoosier humidity and rainfall wasn’t a whole lot better).  I’m glad I took a break before doing anything rash, because a couple days later, I was sent some photos of the second prototypes of the bag, and they were perfect.  With only minor hardware tweaks, the bag was ready.  After that, a waxed canvas version of the messenger bag was being worked out.  I went full-bore into the workshop and put together the other bag design for launch, and it’s brilliant!  We had a few wrinkles in the financial transfers, but eventually got it ironed out.

There’s still a lot of waiting in the next few weeks, but I’m hoping that time can be well spent, finishing prototypes and shipping prototype bags to the manufacturer so that everyone can keep working.  We had an initial launch date of August 15th, which is not going to happen, but that’s okay.  Part of my frustrations in Mexico, were that I was trying to meet deadlines around others’ mistakes, and was being forced to make poor choices about hardware and techniques that I felt were lacking in quality or integrity.  Instead, we’ve pushed the launch back to February instead, and the elbow room to prepare has been a life saver.

The goal is to have the bag designs and manufacturing worked out by the time I go back to Mexico around the second week in August.  We’ll definitely have a lot to fine tune, but with a little bit of luck, I’ll be headed back to Indy in the first weeks of October with a whole cadre of fresh-off-the-line bags, so that I can dive headfirst into photoshoots and marketing materials and web stuff.  Back to Mexico in December to finalize the goods, add final touches like tags and inserts and all that goodness, and get packaging started.

Side note:  Mi familia has been so excited about my exploits in Mexico, that they are all coming down for a huge tour for Xmas and New Year’s.  We’re going to cross the country via Guadalajara > Leon > Guanajuato > CDMX > Playa de Carmen > Cozumel.  Because, who wouldn’t wanna have that type of adventure with their family?  Plus, they’d never do something like that if they didn’t have a seasoned guide (me) to keep them safe.

The first week of January will have me back in Leon, overseeing the final shipping palettes and sending the goods to the fulfillment center in the U.S., while I hop a flight back home to meet them.  Then, it’s back home to do final product photography, website updates, and a month of insanity to get ready for the launch on Valentine’s day.  It’s 7 months away, and I’m already stoked for the party.  (Plus, I’ve already sold my first bag before it’s even in production, so that’s a good sign, right?)

This begs the question: once I launch, then what?