My apologies for not getting an update out earlier – as you may remember from our June update, I’ve been busy manufacturing full-time and haven’t had a lot of time to write or respond to emails! :o Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten you – in fact I am lovingly hand-crafting every batch we ship out. ;) I’ve made some small tweaks and additions to our process to ensure a more consistent mix, which you will probably not notice, except in the absence of any bad-tasting or poorly mixed bags. :d But of course, if you do come across any issues, let us know!
With Dan gone, we are thoroughly understaffed – it’s down to just me, Rhodel, and Arrow now, and we’ve all had to step up and do a little bit more (or a lot more!) than before. So our order turnaround time varies, but we’ve got a perpetual rolling backlog of maybe a week or so for most orders these days, as we crank out the batches as fast as we (sustainably) can manage.
The good news is we’re not actively losing money every month now! But if we were to hire another person, we would be. So, we are surviving, not thriving – which is honestly pretty good, considering how many of our competitors are actively in crisis. It’s a tough time for a lot of people. :/
So, let’s start with the not-so-great news.
- NATURELO: temporary placeholder vitamins.
- Super Micros: out of stock for at least a month.
- International Shipping: no more discount rates.
- Canadian Shipping: trying out netParcel (UPS).
First of all, we have once again run out of our custom vitamin mix before we’ve been able to get our resupply – our premix manufacturer has been even slower than usual this year! That means that we are out of Super Micros, and we are beginning to use NATURELO brand vitamins as a placeholder for the time being – for at least the next month or so. These vitamins are vegan and use methylated B vitamins and chelated minerals and all that good stuff, so while the dosages may not be the exact same, the quality should be comparable.
Next, we’ve made the hard decision to remove the considerable shipping discounts we’d put in place for international orders – no more flat rate shipping for orders of $100 or more, outside the US. :/ This is the place we’ve been losing the most money, and as we search for ways to stay afloat as a business amidst rising costs, this is the place that has made the most sense to tighten up first. We considered ceasing international shipping altogether, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave so many people out like that.
So, we’ll be charging (almost) what it costs us to ship, with USPS Priority Mail International. For those of you who will no longer be able to afford to order from us overseas, I hope you can find an alternative that works for you. <3
For those of you in Canada, we are starting to test out netParcel, a service that provides access to cheaper shipping between the US and Canada, mostly with UPS. The shipping costs are lower and the shipping speed even seems quicker as well – the potential catch may be that getting through customs without delays or fees might be trickier. Hard to say at this point! We’ve gotten a few test packages through without a problem, but one seems to be stuck, and there’s no information as to why. :p
So, we’ll give it a try and keep on monitoring the situation – if it doesn’t work out, we’ll have to go back to USPS and their very expensive shipping costs. Fingers crossed. :d
Okay, so is there any good news? Well… I have been able to listen to a ton of podcasts, with all the rote manual labor I’ve been doing most days. I’ve been learning a lot – for example, about worker-owned cooperatives, as explained concisely in this 20-minute podcast about Alvarado Street Bakery. Apparently there are actually a lot of worker-owned co-op bakeries right here in the Bay Area! Neat. :)
I mean, Super Body Fuel is basically like a bakery – just, with more nutrients, and less glamor (and gluten!). ;d
Anyway, food for thought. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the future – as I’m sure many of us are, these days – both for humanity as a whole, and this business, as well as my place in it. I will resist the urge to overload you with all my thought-provoking podcast recommendations (though here’s one more podcast on worker-owned co-ops, an insightful big-picture discussion between two very thoughtful people) but I do want to acknowledge that we are apparently living in, increasingly, interesting times. I just want to do my best, and I’m still figuring out what that is.
For now, that does seem to mean shuffling heavy containers and scoops of nutrient powder around in a dusty room while listening to podcasts, but this is probably not a long-term solution. :p
The biggest challenges faced by this business currently include ingredient supply disruptions, rising costs of everything, and an increasingly maxed-out and burned-out team, myself very much included!
The obvious solution to these challenges is and has always been what most companies have already done: hire a contract manufacturer that can make literal tons of product at a time to buffer supply disruptions, along with cheaper costs but also better quality due to fancier equipment. Then we can focus on the fun stuff – like putting Rhodel’s video production skills and Arrow’s graphic design skills to good use, along with my tendency to write way too many words! :)
What’s the catch? Aside from the obvious upfront costs (often made easier via crowdfunding) the real challenge is finding a manufacturer that is good enough and big enough to create a quality product at a reasonable cost, while also being small enough to even consider taking on such a relatively small client as us. Especially when that small client is very picky and has way too many flavors and product lines. :p
Really what you have to do is find a promising, upstart manufacturer that believes in your brand and your vision and wants to grow with you – to hitch their wagon to your horse, so to speak. And that’s the sort of perfect match that’s hard to find.
So… kind of a long shot, but if you happen to know of any promising contract manufacturers making supplements or nutraceuticals in the US, who would be aligned with our philosophy and our vision (even better, if they’re a worker-owned co-op!) please let us know! ;D We’d love to talk with them. :3
Thank you all! :D
Alex Cho Snyder (axcho)
PS – Email me if you want my podcast recommendations. ;]