I’m on an environment kick. And I hope beyond hope that this ain’t no kick.

I’m determined to incorporate this desire into company practice. It’ll take discipline and patience on our part.

It’s divinely coincidental that our change of business model coincides with the recent China pollution factory closure crackdown.

Li and I are working our hardest to incorporate our ideals into our business model. For too long I’ve kept my ideals separate.

Actually that’s not exactly true. Our ideals and desires started changing and we didn’t quite realize what it was. Sometimes it takes a while for your head to catch up with your heart. And then for your heart for download detail back to the head…

We just knew the passion we had for manufacturing and supply chain was falling into a funk.

Falling Out of Love with a Procedure that Used to Excite Us.

When we started our business in 2004 our focus was general sourcing. I was flying by the seat of my pants at the time and had only been in  China a little over 2 years. When I started my business, at 24 years of age, I hadn’t the first clue of what I was doing.

I knew I wanted to work for myself, make some money and do this from China.

I’m not a real complex guy.

My passion was in the thrill of the hunt, getting goods successfully manufactured and delivered from point A to point B.

Across the globe.

Cross culturally.. that is what I loved and still do.

Getting Hooked to 1 Industry

I started meeting distributors in the promotional product industry and our focus became welded to helping and servicing those kinds of companies.

We were never enamored with the product, but still going on the explosiveness of learning the process and making business happened.

We’d contract manufacture for distributors to import stuff for large brands that…honestly didn’t care for the origin country.

They would wink about certification.

The brands and distributors gave lip service to factory compliance and product safety. There wasn’t any real desire to clarify requirements.

When I would inquire with these distributors about requirements and documents, they would be dumbfounded. The answer was more or less, “Just make it happen!”

Better Items, Better Environment

In the past few years though, we’ve had a revelation.

Li and I started getting a restlessness with the products we were sourcing. Creativity was drying up. Frankly we weren’t real keen on our customers or their customers.

The majority of that stuff we were getting from point A  to point B was  price term “DDP Landfill.”

Basically nicknacks that do a certain wow factor but eventually are thrown into a drawer, destined for the landfill.

I don’t want to call it junk because one corporations branded 1-off treasure is another man’s….wait, I’ll call it junk.

Li and I still loved working with Chinese factories, as fraught with danger as that can be. We love creating, we love getting products from point A to point B – so how were we going to change?

We’re developing our own Private Label products and the goal in developing this brand and product line is that we don’t make more items to simply fill up the landfill.

  • Items that are useful for individuals or families. And not only useful but help to improve lives. How does a large inflatable with a corporation’s logo improve somebody life?
  • Products that come from sustainable resources.
  • A product line that comes from a factory that’s not going to be closed down because of pollution and hazards.
  • Items that come from a factory who is content to serve the buyer. They know that if this one order is successful then more orders will come. This is partnership. In our old industry, the factory would make a really excellent custom piece, it would be successful, but then never ordered again.

Business vision and the environment link  – inseparable…

Let me bring this full-circle.

Over this span of time, I saw that poor vision is detrimental to the environment.

You mean when the Chinese factory messes up, it hurts the environment, right?

No, that’s not what I mean. 

When the importer treats offshore manufacturing like buying from a vending machine, irresponsible things happen.

Does that make sense?

Here are 3 examples.

Wrong vendor:

Typically a bad vendor doesn’t approach a buyer and compel them to order from them. There’s no gun-to-the-head scenario.

A buyer should do due diligence and verify that their vendor is safe and able to uphold certain criteria.

Buyers select wrong vendors for wrong reasons. Most of the time, that’s based on cost. Low-cost vendors don’t bend over backwards to make sure they’re producing ethically.

When you’re doing fast quote, quickie results and rapid-fire turnover this is hard if not near impossible to responsibly perform.

Poor control:

Unprofessional buyers have a very nonchalant attitude with their factories. until something happens.

Then they fall apart like a 2 dollar suitcase.

The idea is, “they should get it right and if they don’t, they’ll have to correct it. It’s just that simple.”

When buyers don’t take time and energy to accurately clarify expectations, a ton of product is wasted on a monthly basis.

Entire batches of accessories are trashed because of incorrect color. A whole shipment of display boxes wasted because the factory didn’t use the right paper stock. But the vendor never informed the factory the expectations…do you see the nasty cycle?

Bad product:

This world can really stand to use less junk. We’re all smart people and have done incredible things. As we look to preserve our planet and also still provide for the masses, there’s a world of product solutions out there that can replace the junk we currently buy.

Maybe less references aren’t so bad. Maybe instead of having 10 options on the shelf that aren’t that great and are made of junky material, how about 1 really good option?

How many more trinkets do we need?

For every service or product I’ve recently bought, I didn’t need a branded key tag or another plastic tchotchke directing me where to go.

And the stuff we manufactured was larger-end, highly custom and hard to even call a tchotchke.

But the same spirit was there. 1-offs, glitz and glam, and plenty of “wow factor”.

But missing the life factor.

Missing the consideration factor.

We were part of the problem, but now I can move towards a solution.

Change is in the air and it’s a change that will help the air…and the water.