My company, Melindesign, assembles jewelry for designers, all here in the USA. I started this company as a one woman show out of my house. Eventually, I started hiring a few more people as word got out about my services. I had three employees, working off my kitchen table. I had just a few designers at first that I was assembling for, easily handling jobs as they came in and finishing well within the deadline.
One day, I get a call from one of my designers, let’s call her X. This was November 3, 2010. She asked if we could make 200 of her pieces in a week if need be. I said, “Sure, that shouldn’t be a problem…” She explained that the Today Show was just starting a new segment called Steals and Deals. They would feature four different products and 50%-75% off. She got chosen to do their second airing of the show.
How exciting! We helped her develop four designs that would be easy to make (her designs were very labor intensive), 15 minutes of assembly. We could easily do that with her designs and for 200 pieces…Her designs retailed for $398.00. She was selling them for $39.00 for the show. 90% off? Wow! She wanted to see how many pieces of each design would be ordered first, so we had to wait for the airing on November 10, 2010 before we started assembling. She ordered enough material to assemble that number of pieces.
The Today Show warned the designer to be prepared with her website. The first airing of Steals and Deals crashed everyone’s website that was featured. People were piping mad! You only have 24 hours to get the deal and if websites are crashing, no one is getting a deal. Hate email was being sent to the Today Show after the first week they debuted this segment. After that first week, the Today Show wanted everyone to be prepared. X felt prepared, we had the four designs and were psyched to see her work on national TV!
The show airs. X’s designs look so cool on TV! X’s website immediately crashes. But I’m home, watching the live show with no idea what’s happening. It’s over in 5 minutes. I email her. How many pieces? What design sold the best? No word…The show airs on the west coast three hours later. Any news? How are the pieces selling?? No word…
The next day, X contacts me to say her website crashed and that she put up a page that basically said, “Order what you want and we’ll fill it.” She even put up her regular designs at 50% off. There was no cut off limit. We kept asking, “What’s going on? How many pieces should we start on?” We didn’t hear anything. For three weeks. Finally right before Thanksgiving, we get an email. Guess how many we have to assemble? 500? 1000? “No”, she said, “Much higher.” 14,766 pieces. It took three weeks to count up everything! There went my Thanksgiving…
How are we going to do this? I had only had three employees! And a kitchen table that seats 6. My employees were panicking, knowing there’s no way they’re going to be able to do all this. These orders were mostly Christmas presents too. People wanted their necklaces NOW. We also had to ship, individual small priority boxes we had to assemble, label, tape up after bubble bagging the necklace and purchase slip. My house was not large. How was I going to handle the storage of 250,000 feet of chain, 60 cartons of stones and 15,000 small boxes?
That wasn’t the worst part. This was soon after the economic melt down so I was able to hire 30 people via Craigslist. But these weren’t experienced jewelry assemblers. We were practically grabbing people off the streets. This was the winter of 2010/2011. There was snow every week, two feet of snow, it was treacherous for everyone. My Thanksgiving was ruined, my Christmas was destroyed, as my living room was filled with piles of boxes. Chains couldn’t get made and plated fast enough, stones were on back order from India until February, customers were screaming for their necklaces. Poor X! She was getting it from all sides. I was trying to train people on how to cut chain and to assemble jewelry around the clock, 7 days a week. Some got it, MANY didn’t. Hiring and firing was constant. People working from home and couldn’t drop stuff off because of a storm. It was just miserable, snow storms and back orders of materials we couldn’t control. UPS was coming to my house every night up until 10pm sometimes. Bags of packed mail boxes being picked up from my front porch every night. It was exhausting. X was begging for us to assemble 2000 pieces a week but we would be missing an element, like a tag or crystal, to a necklace and not be able to complete it because it was back ordered. Many customers cancelled their orders, X had to refund lots of money. She was NOT happy. Our Christmas break was non-stop work, trying to appease the masses. Ringing in the new year was dreary dread, knowing on January 2nd, we’d have to ship hundreds of pieces out and it still wouldn’t be enough.
X finally came out on Facebook and her website to explain the situation. She was avoiding having to deal with the backlash of angry customers. Wouldn’t answer emails or Facebook comments. And those comments were getting rough! We told her she had to say something, explain we were hand making all of these pieces, one by one, all in America, push the Made in the USA aspect of this. People softened up a bit, giving her some slack. From then on, she kept up with updates to everyone. That made it much easier to ease their anxieties about not getting their necklace, some depending on a Christmas delivery. They accepted the story of the small USA based designer hitting it big on the Today Show. They were rallying around this small company to make it.
January into February, we finally got ALL the material and we were able to crank out many more pieces per week. So instead of Christmas presents, they were for Valentine’s Day. It took us a total of two and half months to finish this job, the final pieces going out by the end of February. Which for what it was, is excellent. But the timing and not being prepared for that large of an order was a horror! Never again! So many mistakes were made and so many things are burned in my mind on what NOT to do, just on that one experience. I got the stuffing knocked out of me on that job but after a time, it got me to find a wonderful studio to work out of and I found a handful of great employees that still work for me. We’ve been here over 5 years now, I have a great team of loyal skilled Jewelry Assembly Chicks and warn every designer, if they get on a Steals and Deals segment, you must have at least 5000-10000 pieces pre-made!