As has been the case in each of the last few updates, I owe my backers an apology for the ongoing delays in the Wrap Wallet project, as well as the lack of communication. After listening in on a webcast about guilt by Ramit Sethi last week, I realized that feeling like I need to apologize has actually become the reason for the delays.
This project started optimistically. I set my goal as low as possible, knowing there was a possibility for the project to do very well but wanting it to at least succeed if it reached a level that would let me break even.
Early support from friends & family helped get things off the ground, but everything kicked into overdrive after emailing my backers from the Coffee Joulies project. The attention of all these existing Kickstarter members put the Wrap Wallet at the top of the list for “Popular” and “Product Design”, leading to attention from tens of thousands of other Kickstarter members and boosting the project to a level that I knew was possible but hardly thought would actually happen for yet another Kickstarter wallet.
But it did happen, and early decisions made to manage a small project made certain aspects of the project better, while making other aspects more challenging. Most tiers stated that wallets would ship in December, and we actually did ship over a thousand kits and over 200 sewn wallets in time for Christmas, and another thousand or so by the end of 2013. What I should have done is set limits on each tier so I wouldn’t guarantee more than I knew could be made and shipped in time, and then add more tiers that would ship later.
I already had way too many tiers, however, which I needed so I would know how much thread & leather of each color I would need so I could place the order before the Kickstarter project had ended. For me to add even more tiers with revised shipping times on them would have made things even more complicated.
Starting just before Christmas, suppliers that had been working around the clock for the holidays took well-deserved holiday breaks. Holiday demand for thread led to partial shipments that left many orders without the materials needed for fulfillment. Holiday shipping mistakes left a few dozen sewn wallets unshipped because shipping labels didn’t arrive until two months later.
All of a sudden I went from being happy, confident and on top of the project to behind, anxious and feeling guilty for letting people down. I would wake up every morning with twenty things to accomplish, and even if I was able to get ten of them done it meant I would wake up the following morning with thirty things on my to-do list.
Despite having over $100,000 in my business checking account, I turned down a New Years trip to Cabo San Lucas with many of my best friends because I felt like I didn’t deserve it. I actually let myself go on an electronic music cruise in the Bahamas in early January that I had booked in September, and spent much of the first night in my cabin catching up on customer service emails until we sailed out of Miami's data service range, despite the fact that a raging dance party with world-class DJs was happening on the top deck.
All the while Wrap kits and sewn wallets were actually still shipping, albeit at a slower rate than initially planned due to reasons ranging from blizzards and burst pipes to leather not being available for people to sew. This is what this looks like from inside the project:
20% of wallets ship in time for Christmas: most people are excited; a handful are annoyed that they won’t be getting their wallets in time for Christmas.
40% of wallets ship by EOY 2013: lots of people are excited; more people start messaging that they are mad they haven’t received their wallet in December as promised.
70% of wallet kits have shipped by January: the majority of people are happy; the number of unhappy customers steadily rises, with many quite angry about not receiving their wallet yet and others beginning to ask for refunds.
This continues in an 80/20 type of pattern where more people continue to become satisfied while many others experience increasing levels of fury over not yet having received their reward.
The effect of this on the creator is profound. With every passing day my anxiety and guilt increases, while the feedback from backers becomes increasingly negative. A small fraction of backers who received their wallet would post a note saying how much they like it, but these are lost in the maelstrom of negativity from the ones that haven’t received anything yet. The reward for getting closer and closer to finishing the project was increasing levels of hate from those who had not yet received their reward. Not very motivating.
You can ask my girlfriend how this impacted me personally. As you can see, my productivity has decreased drastically. My ability to concentrate on the important parts of the project became almost nonexistent. Nothing I could post would be good news until it was “hey, we’re done!”
I never would have admitted this if it weren’t for a few brave friends and mentors posting about their own struggles with issues common among entrepreneurs. Tim Ferriss, Noah Kagan, Charlie Hoen, and Ramit Sethi, thank you for bringing these issues into view (click on each name to read their post - or in the case of Charlie, entire book).
So let’s get back on track. Reservations made on threadandleather.com are fully refundable. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will process your refund as soon as possible. I appreciate your support and apologize for the delays and lack of communication. I hope to win you back as a customer in the future.
In exchange for this I am allowing myself to shed the weight of all guilt that has plagued me for the past few months. I am going to happily go about my business getting the remaining wallets cut, sewn and shipped. I am going to merrily post about progress and things I have learned along the way. And I am going to make sure the best wallet in the world actually makes it out into the world.