Pulling the plug on deep discounts and individual small sizes for my brand was disorienting. Both things were my entrepreneurial crutch. Why do the emotional work of pushing through imposter syndrome to understand that your products are worth the price, when you can just cram a 50% off coupon in someone’s face and yell, “Try this because it’s cheap!”
After removing all deep discounts we lost half of our sales volume overnight. My phone, which was always chirping with new order alerts, went silent. I sat on the edge of my bed refreshing the screen, waiting for the next order to come through. I was used to waking up to dozens of orders in our queue. Now hours went by with nothing.
“This is good.” I told myself. “Everyone who is buying now is buying because they value the BRAND. Not because it’s cheap. This is the start of something new.” But bills and other financial responsibilities pulled me back to earth. What good was better quality customers if there simply weren’t enough of them to break even?
As self-sabotaging as it was, I craved a return to the chaos of my deep discounting days. The psychological comfort of a high daily gross revenue. Never mind that there was no net profit. Just more debt.
To get my mind off of it, I focused on what my team had to do.
Orders had slowed down, but we still had a huge backlog from the crazy first six months of the year. I focused on guiding us through the mess.
I had four crates of returned orders sitting under my desk. The labels were so badly corrupted that we had to use the zoom camera function, and hold them up against bright light to make out what we could. One by one we figured out which package belonged to who, emailed them about what had happened, and issued refunds or replacements.
As the backlog of orders went down — seven hundred to five hundred, five hundred to two fifty, two fifty to seventy five — I started shedding my team. I’d hired a team of 8 to help get through the first six months of the year. It was the largest team I’d ever had to manage and I hated every minute of it.
I hadn’t had enough time to get a true feel for them, because the urgency of churning out thousands of orders had pushed me to skip key parts of the hiring process. Some of the new hires were rude to me or others. There were verbal tiffs I’d had to referee. One involved her husband in a fight she’d had at work. Letting them go was hard — no one wants to cut off another person’s livelihood — but it was also a huge relief.
By the end of it I had just two employees. Vanessa — a diminutive 5′ 0″ Dominican grandma who is tougher than anyone I’ve ever hired. And Rodney, a 50-something, 6′ 4″ black Queens native with a background in manufacturing production. Vanessa had been with me for years. Rodney was a new hire, but I’d quickly come to love his meticulous work ethic, laid back demeanor, and penchant for yelling out corny uncle jokes in the middle of the work day.
I let them know what was going on. “Things are way slower now, because I’m not doing 50% off anymore,” I explained. “I don’t know how bad this is gonna get, but I’ll likely have to cut you down to part time.” The words stuck in my throat.
“Don’t worry,” Vanessa said. “You got this. The customers, they’ll come back.”
Rodney nodded in agreement. “You know I’m with you, girl.”
I smiled bigger than I had in weeks. (Click here to read Part 3.)