Well my first 18 months of blog was non existent, which speaks eloquently about the main challenge of a small but expanding business – not enough time. That classic trap, can’t afford more help (moving towards ”unwilling to” – as ingrained, necessary habits are hard to shift) and yet too much to do. THAT’S the challenge that holds most promising ideas back.
And this is definitely a ‘promising idea’. We (well ok, I) launched in June 2006, after a year of planning, back in the day when banks were trusted (actually forget that, it wasn’t 1806) it seems so long ago and how on earth did I make it happen, it seems such an impossible journey now, looking back. and yet here we are.
Here’s a little synopsis of the journey so far. Spring 2005 – find bamboo in China with my buddy Jianming, fall in love with bamboo clothing as a concept, decide to “go for it” and bring raw fibre to my partners to make. I was buying fibre, giving it to the yarn mill in Turkey who spun it, then sent it over the border to Syria, to my buddies there who own a great garment factory in Aleppo, then they oragnise the knitting into fabric, the dyeing to the right colours (already eokotex certified, in a state of the art facility, very handy), then of course cutting and sewing for me. What a nightmare. Great product, but after a year they said ‘David, please, can we stop this now, we’re losing money all the time.’ – you see my many years previously with them was in my old business, promotional clothing and was much bigger numbers, they weren’t set up for this small scale stuff. bless them, they spent a year doing it and supporting me before finally saying ‘help’! Such great people. and they look after their staff so well, it was a lovely operation. I look forward to working with them again when we are bigger.
We had a chunk of luck, our friends at Tatty bumpkin shared info with us – nobody does that – and now we make most of our clothes in Turkey at a similarly lovely place, with good people.
We / I took 400 orders in 2006, with me packing in my garage by headtorch into the night at Christmas. My Mum took over ’sending out of orders’ after that and loved it till it outgrew her space as well, like a triffid. I no longer felt like I was on the fast track to a very self indulgent bankruptcy, “this could actually work”… it wasn’t just me who thought this stuff was brilliant, everyone else seemed to think so too. RESULT. I wasn’t going mad, or bankrupt (not yet anyway..) and people seemed to be responding to us an entity and what we were trying to do – i.e an eco friendly, ethical business that does things like human beings not like autotrons. Doing things right because that’s the decent way of doing things, not calculating how much we can annoy people relative to the next company before they go elsewhere (banks, no apology this time either).
so, 2007 got us about 2000 orders, mainly through word of mouth and repeat business, as I didn’t have any money left after getting to the start line…and we finally got a proper premises, in Plymouth. me still in London, somehow it works. Anna and now Louise a well do such a fantastic job there. Must take my Mum and show her, she’s be amazed at how far things have moved along…I also became we with the addition of Sam and Nicole who liked what they saw so much they worked virtually for free to earn a part of the business and are now at the very centre of Bam. Touch wood I’ve been very lucky with who’s come along on this journey.
2008 was a great year, with about 5000 orders to send out, and so far to end of Feb 2009, we’ve done 2,000 orders already, so it’s fingers crossed. never a dull moment, always have too much to do, but the thrill of so many people seeing what I saw in bamboo clothing and agreeing with me, is what keeps me so enthusiastic about the whole thing.
on my next post I’ll tell you what it’s really like on a daily basis and what it is we actually juggle in our quest to bring bamboo clothing to the world.