GrowlerWerks Co-Founder & VP of Manufacturing
December 10, 2015
First let me thank you for backing us and for your interest in our uKeg. This project has been a dream come true for our whole team. We set a goal of raising $75,000 on Kickstarter and ended up generating more than 20 times that much. We are proud of the product we designed, but humbled by the support it received from our Kickstarter backers. As we’ve learned, a successful Kickstarter campaign can be a mixed blessing. The journey hasn’t been without its challenges for us first-time inventor/entrepreneurs, but I do feel like we are enjoying a smoother ride with production and shipping ramping up.
Of greatest importance to us is your faith in our business and our products. We’re working to deliver uKegs to every Kickstarter backer and customer ASAP. We have been so wrapped up in the manufacturing, business-building process that we haven’t spent enough time keeping you in the loop.
Frustrations about delays and distribution are understandable, especially when we haven’t involved you in the whole process. That’s why I’m addressing this today and letting you know that we are committed to more frequent updates, responding to each of your unanswered individual concerns or comments as quickly as we can, providing you expected shipment and fulfillment timelines, and explanations for how shipments are allocated and distributed. In other words, we want to bring you into our journey as we get the product to market and work to build a sustainably successful business and we hope you’ll stick with us for the long run as those who know us best and were with us from the beginning.
THE MANUFACTURING PROCESS
Early on, we couldn’t find a U.S. company with the capabilities or interest in producing a vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottle. We learned that nearly all vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottles are manufactured in China. Additionally, the success of our campaign required us to rethink and dramatically scale up our manufacturing plans. The process of finding a factory capable of producing this first-of-its-kind pressurized bottle technology took several months. The process also involved finding suppliers of high-quality source materials and more factories to manufacture the key components. In that process, we inevitably found delays common for a first-time product, but, the bottling manufacturing process, created the biggest learning curve.
UKEG DELIVERIES & MEETING MARKET DEMAND
uKeg deliveries have begun. So far, approximately 2,400 uKegs have been received at our fulfillment center, but our inspection uncovered a small defect with the sight tube and a cosmetic mismatch with the plating color on some of the uKegs. That discovery meant we needed to carefully inspect every detail of all the uKegs in the shipment. The defect was fixed, but the issue caused another two-week delay. To prevent any other manufacturing errors we have hired a manufacturing engineer now onsite overseeing production. Since the hire, production has been running smoothly and steadily ramping up.
As production ramps up, we’re delivering to backers and customers simultaneously. Meeting all of our commitments is critical to the long-term credibility of GrowlerWerks. We know many of you hoped for your uKegs in time for the holidays and we really wanted you to have them by now. We are sorry for any frustration and challenges this caused you. I want to assure you that we are doing everything in our power, short of compromising product quality, to fulfill our obligations to backers and customers alike.
LATEST ESTIMATED DATES
Here are estimated dates for our next containers arriving with uKegs that we can deliver to our backers and customers, barring any unforeseen shipping or manufacturing complications:
By February we hope to have all of our uKeg 64s orders fulfilled and we are hoping to have all uKeg 128s orders fulfilled by Spring. We will be keeping you updated as we receive status reports on production and shipping.
Please do keep sending comments and questions our way. We will work hard to answer your questions and alleviate any concerns as you await delivery of your rewards. And, after you receive your rewards, we hope you’ll continue to stay in touch.
My sincerest thanks,
When will my reward arrive? How does my backer number line up with the number of uKegs shipped?
Our goal is to have all uKeg 64 orders fulfilled by February. Stainless steel uKeg 64s ship first, followed by copper. Based on the most recent uKeg 128 production timeline, we hope to have all orders fulfilled by Spring.
Specific delivery predictions by backer number are more complicated. While we do ship by backer number first, many of the earliest backers wanted uKeg 128s, and many ordered multiple products or copper versions – meaning the number shipped won’t align by backer number.
What has taken so long?
As first-time inventors and entrepreneurs, we had a steep learning curve. While very exciting, the journey became even more challenging when the success of our campaign required us to rethink and dramatically scale up our manufacturing plans.
Finding Manufacturers & Suppliers
Our first step was finding a factory that could meet our high-quality standards and produce on the scale we needed. We couldn’t find a U.S. company with the capabilities or interest in producing a vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottle. We learned that nearly all vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottles are manufactured in China. The process of finding a factory capable of producing this complicated, new technology took several months. In addition to finding the right factory to assemble the product, we had to source the high-quality materials we needed and identify other factories that could manufacture our key components.
High Quality Standards
As of December, approximately 2,400 uKegs have been received at our fulfillment center. Our product inspection uncovered a small defect with the sight tube and a cosmetic mismatch with the plating color on some of the uKegs. That discovery meant we needed to carefully inspect every detail of all the uKegs in the shipment. The defect was fixed, but the issue caused another two-week delay.
Why is the uKeg available on Amazon before all backers have received their rewards?
Of the 2,400 products that have arrived, only 400 went to Amazon to fulfill a commitment we made even before we launched our Kickstarter campaign.
The GrowlerWerks Beginning & Marketplace Launch Plan
An Amazon rep for Launchpad discovered Brian Sonnichsen with our uKeg prototype at the September 2014 Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, WA. As the GrowlerWerks team was preparing to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund production, Amazon offered to support us by ordering 400 to sell on Launchpad if the product was funded. Launchpad is Amazon’s program showcasing cutting-edge products from start ups. We were thrilled. Like everyone, they had to wait for the product to go through development and production delays. That caused them to remove the product from the site, until they had a more concrete timeline for delivery.
When the founders came together and knew they had potential to build and grow a successful brand, they set to work preparing the business plan that included a Kickstarter campaign to fund production and the standard launch strategy for the market place. The group set about building customer (retail partners/wholesale customers) relationships to gauge interest. One of the earliest retail partners showing support for our product was with another Oregon-based company, Kitchen Kaboodle. If we could get the product made, they wanted to be among the first retailers to carry it. A small handful of these wholesale customers were early supporters who loved the concept so much they became Kickstarter backers, as well.
Our wholesale customers include high-end retailers, online stores, breweries, home brew shops, bottle shops, beverage resellers like BevMo. At launch we wanted to have our product available to all consumers to position GrowlerWerks for success. While we knew the Kickstarter campaign was succeeding, we didn’t imagine it would succeed by more than 20 times beyond predictions. Initially, we also planned to have production complete for backers by May 2015 and planned to ship uKegs committed to retailers by August 2015.
With production delayed by six months, it meant we owed backers and customers simultaneously. When we realized the level of the demand and production scale-up could affect production deadlines, we stopped selling to wholesale customers.
The first shipment we received from the factory was sent entirely to backers. We allocated our next shipments to backers, pre-orders and Amazon to fulfill our concurrent commitments. The shipment of 1,600 being processed out of our warehouse as of December 10 is being allocated between backers and our retail partners. Some may begin selling uKegs as early as next week.
The support from our first backers and customers has been exciting and humbling and we are thankful to all of you who have supported us from our start. We are working to get product delivered to our Kickstarter backers ASAP and working to fulfill our commitments to customers simultaneously. We were disappointed when we learned we wouldn’t have most product delivered to you by the holidays and it pains us to be disappointing all who hoped for the same.
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