Red Solo Cup
Hey guys, it’s everybody’s favorite time: update time. I want to take the opportunity to jump in and give you a State of the Vere from the production side, maybe paint a clearer picture as to why we’re in the situation we’re in, and why most of you still don’t have your sandals. Especially since we’ve been accused of fraud and other assorted niceties.
To say that things have taken longer than we’d anticipated would be a huge understatement. As frustrated as you all rightfully are, I assure you that we share your frustration. Right off the bat, the time it took to fill our raw material orders and get those in house put us behind schedule before we even got started. Having worked at a large, high-volume brand and now being a small, low-volume brand, we underestimated how low on the priority totem-pole our orders would be with our vendors. The good news is that we have all the raw materials necessary to fill our kickstarter obligations, so that part at least is behind us.
Machinery and equipment installation, again as a startup with a low budget, was even more of a challenge than we had planned for in our worst-case estimates. Again, low man on the totem pole, with older used equipment, and we’re at the back of the line. As with the raw materials, we’ve now had all the equipment purchased and installed for some time. Which is nice.
Once we got past those issues, we discovered that the biggest problem is our lack of redundancy. We have exactly one of everything we need. One used machine in most cases. When they are operational, they’re great and we’re rolling. When they’re not, we don’t make any more of that part until it’s fixed. Unfortunately, some of these machines have a steep learning curve and I tend to break them as I learn them. They are the kind of mistakes you don’t make again, but once is plenty to bring everything to a halt. Our sewing machine repair guy has been such a regular visitor that we keep a coffee mug set aside just for him.
Currently we’re without our tacker, which is a computer guided sewing machine. To make matters worse, we couldn’t even pinpoint the issue for a while. The pre-programmed sewing pattern was somehow erased from the drive. We’ve tried a few things, installed new drives, re-installed the program from the disc, all to no avail. Believe it or not, in the end we have to crate it up, send it to New Jersey, and have it reprogrammed.
We also mentioned a while ago that we’d had an issue with the bond in the lamination of our rubber outsoles. Despite suggestions that we hadn’t tested for this beforehand, we test every new batch of raw materials with our adhesive supplier to ensure that we DO get consistent bonding. We sent this particular batch out to be tested when they arrived in June, and had excellent bonding (if you want to read more about this process, check here:. The problem, as it turns out, is related to all the other delays. They seem to snowball... Over time, it’s natural for rubber to oxidize as it’s exposed to air. Since ours sat longer than anticipated while dealing with all the other issues, it had oxidized and developed a thin skin which prevents the chlorinator from penetrating properly, thus preventing the adhesive from adhering as it should.
We sent samples back to our supplier as soon as we discovered the problem - which, because we test the bond quality on every batch of production every day, was fortunately before we sent any out. The solution is fairly simple: to rough the surface to be bonded, but it required finding and purchasing a new machine to do the bonding. And by new I of course mean used. We finally found one last week, and after having the electrician run the power source to the machine and testing it out, we’ve begun roughing the outsoles. We tested a pair earlier in the week, let them sit overnight, and ran our tear test with great results.
So where do we stand as of today? The good news is that despite the tacker being down for the past three and a half weeks and the outsole bonding issue plaguing us for over a month, we’ve been building parts every day so we’d be ready when we can solve some of the problems. We’ve got bins and boxes full of completed uppers attached to midsoles, and arches and wedges attached to outsoles, and we’re ready to put those together as soon as we’re able.
Some of the Betty’s have been sent out, and some are waiting for the upper straps to be completed so we can finish them. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the outsoles, arches, wedges, and footbeds are bonded and ready to be assembled with the straps, those straps won’t be finished until the tacker gets back. When that will be hasn’t been confirmed yet. We’ve got the remainder of the Brown Betty’s going out this week and next, but we cannot complete any Black Betty’s larger than size 6 until the straps are done.
While we wait for that, we now move our focus to the Louie’s. We roughed the outsoles for the size 11 grey/black Louie’s yesterday. Today we are applying the chlorinator and adhesive and attaching the arches, then we’ll bond and press them to the already completed uppers. Fortunately we can get back on track a bit with those.
We’re working to find ways to purchase more equipment so that we can build in some of that much-needed redundancy, but until then we’ll continue to trickle out the backer rewards a little at a time, and in bunches when the process cooperates.
None of this gets your sandals to you any faster, and won’t clear up the frustration that some of you feel. There’s no putting lipstick on this pig, it’s November and many of you still don’t have sandals. It’s true that we underestimated the complications that we’d run into, and building a fully functioning sandal factory from scratch in less than a year was a pretty ambitious undertaking. Especially when we realized that all the support structure and services for the footwear industry that exist in Asia are much harder to find domestically. It may, however, give you a glimpse into what is happening on a daily basis here at the factory, and reassure you that we’re not sitting on a beach somewhere sipping cocktails. As much as we may all want to.
Some of you may be tired of reading it from us, but we don’t get tired of saying it: we sincerely thank you for your support as we build and learn and grow, and appreciate your patience. We truly look forward to rewarding you for it.
John and Mike