What doesnt Kill you makes you stronger: Supply chain

The pre-Christmas pop-up rush of 2016 was a successful one for the jam family, setting us up perfectly for our 2017 expansion plans. 2 stores, double the stock, double the costs, but still only two full time employees. Determined to keep our costs down we were intent on working as much as possible, one store per person, with mum picking up the pieces when we burnt out. Clearly, this was an unsustainable approach, and one which we are yet to rectify, but it certainly helped manage our costs. 


It was early January when we got the first bout of bad news. Our landlord in Salcombe had gone into administration. We were going to have to fight to keep our home. It was a daily struggle, with me in Padstow, Mark was left in Salcombe literally holding off the bailiffs, explaining that Jam Industries was not going bankrupt and we intended to stay put. We entered a bid race to obtain the header lease for the large property in which we only occupied a small part. We pitched against several businesses and sadly we didn’t win. In hindsight this was probably a blessing in disguise, as we were by no means ready to be taking on a large-scale commercial property, both from a financial perspective, and an experience one. It was a horrible time. We felt like we had gone one step forward, and one leap backwards. Not only had Salcombe been a launchpad for our journey, it had also become our home. For the first time ever, we found ourselves in a situation that was completely out of our hands. And that’s when we got hit with a second blow. 



Determined we would resolve the issues with the Salcombe shop, we decided to operate business as usual, and we needed to get some fairly large stock orders in place before Easter. I phoned our knitwear supplier excitedly exclaiming that Jam was doubling in size, and so would our orders. The response was brutal. “That’s amazing well done, but we’re actually closing down. We simply don’t have enough demand to keep the factory open.” We immediately asked how much knitwear we needed to buy to keep them going, but our two small shops in the West County was never going to be suffice. It was particularly sad because the knitwear guys had invested in us. They were kind to us, and they believed in us. They gave us small minimums in order to help us grow and manage our cashflow. They also made, what was fast becoming, our best products. 




The stress levels were once again sky high, and our journey had hit one of the largest speed bumps to date. Whenever times get tough, we constantly remind each other of the shared dream. We’re going to get there, come what may. Fortunately, Mark, Mum and I have always been good at networking, and we returned to our black book of contacts. We found a new factory but getting them to work with us was another challenge. Mum and I made several samples, and several trips to the factory in the midlands, until eventually we hit the nail on the head. Mark, meanwhile, in Salcombe, had managed to establish a relationship with the new landlord, who was kindly going to allow us to stay. After two months of stress, sleepless nights and cold winter rains, it looked like the sun was starting to shine again. We were heading into Easter with two shops, new knitwear and once again no money. We were ready for the fun to start again so with the little money we had, we bought another boat. 




The expression what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, summarises that winter in a few words. We learnt some serious lessons in business. We learnt a lot about the importance of relationships, and even more about the need for a backup plan. We aged dramatically as people but also as businessmen, and we learnt a lot more about how to prepare for the inevitable fires that would be coming our way. Tired from the stress and 7 day weeks, it was clear we were ready for the next step; to build a team. Besides, the new boat had more seats, we needed to fill it. 


Next week: Turning a square into a pyramid : Building a team