Friday, August 22, 2014

Our First Large Order

The year was 2005, and it was early July. The weekend was coming close, and the pre-July 4th fireworks were just starting to ramp up at night. That wonderful smell of BBQ seemed to be everywhere in our suburban town of Westchester NY, and the mood was "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Croft.

Not all was good with my wife and I though, because we were struggling financially in jobs we weren't happy with for salaries we couldn't quite make work. Renting an apartment in an upscale town in Westchester is more than expensive, and we were paying quite a bit for a lifestyle of quiet pleasantries and security.

It was at this time that we created Winepine, and we were selling wine crates at a very slow pace, one at a time. This kind of unique wine cellar décor idea using original wine crates could either work or be flop, but I was determined to make Winepine successful. The problem was that I was putting in 8+ hours a day, plus another 4+ hours at home trying to increase sales for Winepine. My wife was beginning to question whether Winepine was a valid use of my time, and I was starting to get concerned myself. It was a stressful time to say the least, and the odds seemed stacked wildly out of my favor.

We lived in a fairly small apartment and didn't have the resources to purchase a storage area for the wine crates we brought in. That meant that all the wine crates had to be stored in our living space. At one point there were so many in our apartment that we actually had to make tunnels from the bathroom through our living room to the bedroom! Our landlord Jack was far from happy with this, and on several occasions I saw him looking up from the parking lot to our second floor apartment in both amazement and horror. There was easily 200 wine crates stored in our living room alone and it was getting out of hand.

Something needed to be done quickly because at the pace we were going we'd be out on the street next month. Selling one or two wine crates a day wouldn't cut it. Craigslist, word of mouth and personal ads weren't getting us anywhere. We needed to find a way to sell in bulk. I barely had two nickels to rub together, so we had to figure out a way to advertise our wine boxes and crates without breaking the bank.

Right around this time we had built a one page website for Winepine. We had found a website designer named Dave from Washington that was able to work on a shoe string budget, and deliver us a presence online. It was very exciting to finally have a functioning website, and we became much more optimistic for the future.

Along comes a phone call that would change everything...

Eric was a businessman interested in decorating his very large wine cellar. He asked me if I had wine crates to sell, and I most certainly did. He was looking to negotiate the price, and ended up making an offer that I accepted for 300 crates + shipping. This was a beautiful thing. With this order we'll be able to clear out the apartment while still making enough money to rent a storage space for future crates! It was a miracle and a dream come true.

Now the new dilemma: How in the world were we going to ship 300 crates? We had never done anything like this before. Every other crate we had sold was being shipped out through the post office, and we were actually wrapping them with this kraft paper that we bought by the roll at Staples. We were using arts and crafts tape, and it was more like we were wrapping gifts instead of shipping wine crates. We didn't have, and couldn't afford real cardboard boxes or commercial box tape. It was a very basic operation, and if my wife wasn't good at wrapping I don't know what I would've done.

This was a new adventure, and a kind of scary one at that. I thought long and hard about this. I'd spend hours looking out the kitchen window trying to figure out what we can do about this problem. It then popped out at me; Why not contact our UPS delivery guy Robert, and see if he had any ideas? Both my wife and I ordered from Amazon regularly, and we gotten to know Robert pretty well. He'd call us sometimes to make sure we were home when we had any deliveries. He was extremely courteous.

When I called him he had said that he does in fact drive a small truck part-time (Not UPS related), moonlighting for private deliveries when they come up. He quoted a reasonable price, and we agreed to move forward in two weeks. It was going to be a 4 AM Saturday pick-up and I thought to myself Wow. Robert is a big time early bird.

Fast forward two weeks to the night before the pick-up. My wife and I barely pulled it off to the last crate. It's 9 PM on a Friday, and we pulled the last staple from the last wine crate.  It was a long 12 hour day working 2 jobs and it was time to get some rest.

After sleeping for what felt like 5 minutes, the alarm goes off like a blaze of glory. We knew that waking up at 3 AM was going to be tough, but time was of the absolute essence. We knew that there was a lot of work to do and Robert was never late. He will arrive at 4AM on the dot. No time to waste..

My wife and I had to start carrying 300 wine crates, three at a time down our apartment stairs in the middle of the night. It took dozens of trips up and down the stairs to bring out the entire shipment to the truck. Fortunately no one else in the apartment building was woken up or disturbed, and Robert was more than helpful. We surprisingly filled the truck in under an hour.

A wonderful relief came over me when Robert put the last crate into the truck, closed the door and swung down the big truck lock. We shook hands and he got into the cab and was off. We did it. My wife and I hugged, as we overcame one of the biggest business challenges we had ever faced on our own. It was a great feeling. We watched the sunrise from the porch, and then walked over the deli to grab a cup of coffee.

I remember this event vividly, so it's easy for me to tell the story 10 years later. I learned a great deal  from this experience: If you believe in something and your instincts tell you it's right, you should keep going no matter what. Even if those close to you don't share the same enthusiasm, you should never quit. You can do it, and you'll somehow get through the adversities if you just keep pressing on.

Patrick -
168 Irving Ave
Portchester, NY 10573
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