Kickstarter campaigns rarely go to plan, and ours this year was no exception - after raising around £50,000 from our initial campaign we continued to gain pre-orders on our website and through a follow-up campaign on Indiegogo. All told, we almost doubled the total number of pre-orders for the Akra and Vaga backpacks after the end of our Kickstarter campaign. And although a majority of our customers came from UK and USA, we had orders from Kazakhstan to Colombia.
A good sign, but it also created a new challenge - how to get our backers their packs within an acceptable time-frame?
Unfortunately because of a few changes to the design of our backpack, the manufacturing date was pushed back. After receiving some feedback from our backers, we decided to add a thin layer of foam to the outer pocket of the main Akra pack. This improves the appearance of the backpack when it’s not fully loaded. We also added the ability to hook the sternum strap onto the smaller Vaga pack after some backers proposed it as an idea. We agreed, but the change meant that we had to ask the factory to revise the design of the pack. In fact, all of the small changes added up to a larger task for the manufacturer which delayed the shipment.
So, while our initial delivery promise was for July 2018, we knew we wouldn't receive the first load of stock until August. We’re massively grateful to our backers for being so patient! I think experience has taught us that it’s better to communicate with backers and tell them what’s going on than leave them in the dark - even if the news is that there are more delays. Any time we had to post an update where we were announcing a further delay, it felt a bit like failure, and like we were letting down our backers. It was gratifying to know that our backers still supported us.
The next challenge was negotiating two container deliveries; one from Saigon to Manchester, and another to New Jersey. Not being a US-based company means that there are various paperwork hurdles we had to overcome. This hasn’t ever been particularly easy, and certainly has not been made easier by the current US-administration. If you’re not a US-company you need someone to act as ‘consignee’ - the name of someone who takes responsibility for the goods. Previously we’d managed to get around this by using a customs bond -- a legal agreement that allows you to pass responsibility to a third party. But sadly this isn’t available any more.
Originally we had expected Amazon to handle the fulfilment in the USA. However, this changed when we found out they wanted us to ship goods to three different locations. The logistics of that, combined with being a British company were going to be too complex and costly. Our freight forwarder proposed delivering the stock to one warehouse in Texas where it would be broken up, and “palletised” i.e. put onto pallets for delivery to different locations across the US. In all it would have trebled the cost of delivering our stock to the US, so eventually we found another solution. Interestingly enough, the cost of the sea freight passage is actually very small; most of the cost of importing backpacks is bound up in port fees and handling charges, as well as trucking goods around the US.
The solution was to send to a single warehouse on the East Coast - a ship sailing to New York rather than Long Beach added a further 7 days to the transit time. We also had to move some of our accessories - packing cubes, toiletry bags and shoe bags - from Manchester to where it was needed in New Jersey. There were certainly moments where we were tearing our hair out waiting for logistics companies to give us an update, and each time we did the date would change.
It’s always hard to manage customers’ expectations in times like this. We’ve had some serial Kickstarter types back our project, who are used to the process and aren’t surprised when there are hiccups along the way. But for others, it’s their first time backing a project and they’ve been a bit disappointed.
But we got there eventually, and now that the backpacks are finally being delivered, we’re starting to receive some real life reviews. Felix and I take the feedback we get very seriously, and we channel it all into the development of future products. Below are some of the comments we’ve had so far.
John Robinson said; “I pre-ordered an Akra back in May and it has finally arrived… I'm extremely impressed. It's clearly made to a very high quality and I really like the fabric used.”
Tim Arden claims; “...this is the best hand luggage I've ever used”
There are still some orders that remain to be delivered - turns out Norway requires a lot more documentation than we thought, and we cannot deliver to Russian domestic addresses. But with 95% of orders already sent out, and around 80% delivered so far I think we’re well under way.
So, a big thanks again to our backers for being patient - we’re confident you’ll agree the products are worth the wait. Also, we'll be sending out a feedback survey with prizes in the coming weeks however you can always give us instant feedback by chatting with us on our Facebook page!