Three years ago today, we launched Kalinko at a big Christmas Fair in London's Olympia. It was the culmination of a year of working out how to start a company, how to sell things, how much to stock. How could we get the things we'd been working on in tiny villages across Burma delivered to customers in Europe, in perfect condition? How would we spread the word?
So many Hows. Hundreds and hundreds of Hows. We worked out the answers to some of them. We're still looking for the answers to lots. And we got so, so many wrong. More than we'd care to remember.
Although maybe it's good to remember what has gone wrong, so you can be proud of how you've grown? When you're running a business, you never feel like you're going fast enough, and you get locked on looking forward, forgetting to see where you've come from. So for a minute let's indulge in the mistakes, from the little whoopsies to the honking great disasters, and celebrate where they've brought us.
Like the first batches of fabric which arrived from the villages covered in mud and blotches of curry. The cushions which changed colour half way through where the weaver had run out of yarn and continued with whatever she had to hand. Our carpenters using unseasoned wood, resulting six months later in 100 warped bread boards.
The miles and miles travelled which come to nothing; 4 planes, 4 nights, 24 workshops, $1500 spent and hundreds of hours of follow up and we end up where we started. The orders which after months of refining get sidelined by harvest season and never materialise. Whole workshops, including our orders, being flooded by the monsoon.
Power surges blowing up Macs. Power cuts losing whole days of work. Nesting sparrows joining the team uninvited and pooing all over the stock. The team member that joined a cult.
The panicked hours spent careering across Yangon with a physical company stamp (yup, a rubber stamp and ink pad) to get the paperwork needed to comply with new export regulations. Mad scrambles to find enough piles of hard readies to pay for things. Having our last hundred dollar bills refused for being from the 2006 series, rather than the shiny new 2013 series.
Our inaugural container getting stuck at customs on the way into the UK and arriving with ONE DAY to spare ahead of our launch. An entire container of products arriving lightly coated in mould. That's thousands of things, and thousands of pounds.
The four boxes of stock which got lost in the DPD system, and turned up months later at a menswear company in East London. The huge storage box which got mis-delivered by DPD six times and turned up on the customer's doorstop without any packaging, looking as it if had walked itself there from Burma.
We sometimes feel like we're walking through condensed milk. The really gloopy stuff that sits at the bottom of your very sweet Burmese tea. But emerging in tact three years in, with no plans to stop any time soon, is something we're quietly proud of.
We are grateful EVERY DAY to all of our amazing customers who continue to support us and spread the word. We won't be at the Christmas fairs this year, because we're trying something different with our budget (...in a quest to answer some more of those Hows!). But we'll be there in spirit, ready to help you get through your Christmas list. Our warehouse is packed to the rafters, and Tracey and Sharron are at the ready...!
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for continuing to follow and spread the word. It's an amazing adventure, and we couldn't do it without you along for the ride.