Dancing with Timing

Cheryl LeBarr has had a lifelong obsession with high quality outdoor gear. Now, they are the operations anchor of the 3 member co-founding team at MADE Outdoor. Made Outdoor creates customized performance outerwear at the same price point as off the shelf equivalents. Then they take it a few steps further. They ignore gender by focusing on the perfect fit, and they create their products with a deep commitment to a more sustainable and socially responsible future. In this episode, Cheryl shares her experience of dancing with timing.

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Show Notes

 

Transcript

Cheryl 

Well, we're new. We're pretty new business, so I can probably go back to the beginning. We have been fairly ambitious with our timing targets from day one. We started our very first conversation about the business happened in April 2020. 

Jalen

OK. 

Cheryl 

Right in the middle of the pandemic. And we were very ambitious and very excited about what we could do and our target. Was Oh well you. Know maybe we. Can launch in fall 2020 and then that wasn't going to happen, so then it was maybe we'll do a Kickstarter in spring 2021 and that'll be. Our time to to do the launch. Which we did end up doing. We had a an Indiegogo campaign crowdfunding campaign in at March 2021, and we're able to get funding. That and then we thought we'd do our full live launch in fall 2021, September 2021, and then the global pandemic had different ideas and timing and supply chain issues. Kind of went from there, and we're still juggling that. 

Jalen 

Give me an example of like a way in which timing threw a wrench in your plans. 

Cheryl 

Yeah, I think everybody. That's listening has probably heard some form of supply chain issues discussed about in the past two three years, and that for us affected us in a major way. We are a start up brand. We don't have the capital to. Be able to pay. For a $50,000 cargo ship, the US canal affected us the supply chain with with COVID, so our our initial launch was planned for for fall 2021 and we didn't have materials in factory until June. 2022 so we started our production for winter product in the middle of summer. In 2022, and so it was really just a case of not being able. To get materials. 

Jalen 

Right, So what did you do with that? 

Cheryl 

We pivoted a lot in terms of we did change some of our materials to a new vendor, so we were looking at our zippers. We were looking at an 18 month lead time so we changed to a different type of zipper. That could be made more quickly. We changed some of our additional pieces in our product to, uh, to local factories and local suppliers from where our manufacturing is, but really mostly we just wait. Did was not as flowery, but we we really did have to wait. You can't make a jacket with no front zipper and there's not too many companies that make front zippers. 

Jalen 

And So what did you do with that time? 

Cheryl 

That it was actually really a blessing in disguise. The time and the delays really allowed us to dial in our. Systems when we, if we had gone and we had launched in November 2021, which was our initial plan, we probably wouldn't be here today just because we would have. Not been able to. Achieve our production. So we spent a lot of that time working on our systems, improving our patterns. Improving the quality of our. Product we hired a data scientist to do some automation and data analytics for. So yeah, we really dug in in that time and spent that time improving the way that our product is built, which is still in process. But it's infinitely better than it was when we had our initial launch plan. So it was. A bit of a blessing in disguise. 

Jalen 

Is is that like John Lennon thing life is life is what happens is you're making plans yeah. 

Cheryl 

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, we we had. One plan, well we had like 10 plans and the universe had. Very different plans for us. 

Jalen 

And so is that the major that that was the only wrinkle, the only the only opportunity for having to like surrender to what is. 

Cheryl 

I think our journey is it. It's a journey of constant surrender. We there's so much outside of your control as a business owner and we try to control everything and we try to do the best. We can with. What we have available to us, but at the end of the day, we're working with partners all over the world. We're working across cultural barriers and language barriers and time. You know, as such as timing has been a problem with, you know the actual delivery of product. It's also been an issue when I need to ask the factory a question at, you know, 4:00 PM on a Friday and I can't get an answer until three days from now. So sometimes I have a customer ask me A. Question and I'm. Like I'm really sorry I can't answer that question because the only person who knows the answer is on holidays or. There's a festival, there's lots of. Closures in that part of. The world, so it's a constant journey of. Being patient and accepting time. 

Jalen 

And so that's that really. Been your biggest no no one's going to say weapon, but that's not the right idea. Your your biggest resource when it comes to managing this. These challenges with time. 

Speaker 

I think time. 

Cheryl 

Like when I look back on it, time has been what has affected everything. So any of our cash flow challenges have been that it took us an extra year to plan. So that's an extra year cash flow so that requires us to take on investors, which was not part of our initial plan. But we've you know, we've needed to bring that on because time has been. Yeah, part of that journey and and when you're when you you add an extra year to your timeline, you're adding an extra year of salaries and an extra year of figuring things out, and that costs a lot of money and. And so if I look back at it like that's been kind of the I could distill it down to the easiest, most simple sense, which is it's timing time and timing, like getting things out at the right time. And waiting when it's not the right time. Does that make sense? 

Jalen 

So like when it's not the right time, it's clear like, well, you've got to wait like what else are you going to do? Aside from you you? Retooled a little at one point. 

Cheryl 

Yeah, and we've been scrappy, for sure. We've, you know, we've had to pivot in ways that the traditional apparel industry can't do. And and we've been really flexible with our timelines like we've turned around. Samples in in a matter of days that would normally take weeks because we've needed to really push hard to get a photo shoot done while they're still snow. Things like that where you can, you can push time and then there's other cases where time waits for no one or time caters to nobody, right? 

Jalen 

And so when it comes to that, trying to find a way to find the right timing, have you found any tools or insights that have been? Useful for you. 

Cheryl 

I think this is probably something that a lot of people in the SI community, especially, uh, might have in common. Is is the the knowledge that or the the hope and trust that like timing works out so and and and personally myself, I think it's a very different story. For my business partners, you know we're a team of three. I'm definitely the one that's more trusting of the universe and timing, but for me, it's really been a case of being able to say like, OK, if it's not the right time right now. Then someone else or something knows better than I do and I have to trust that so, you know, with our launch in November 2021 plan, it would have been a catastrophe. It really allowed us to figure things out a lot better and a lot more efficiently. And then when we did launch in June, it allowed us. Really good timing for the Australian winter and then it allowed us really good timing for awards season and so we missed some opportunities, but I think that in the long term I'm going to look back on this and we're going to say like, actually, that was the perfect time for that to happen. The connections that we made along the way, the people that we met at just the right time and the right moment. And I I just have to trust that that's the right way for things to work and I can. I can push things a little bit where I where. Like I said, time can. Be moved a little bit. But you kind of just have to trust you know it's not a specific tool, but that's really my outlook. 

Jalen 

In retrospect, look back and go like, hey, I really could easily see that being ideal and then take and maybe so. Looking forward, let's just pretend that what we're doing and when, when we're doing what we're doing, is going to be ideal for something. 

Cheryl 

Yeah, there's a saying that I've heard a couple of times over my career, which is that there's no wasted development. So we spent a lot of time and resources working on other products on new products that we wanted to launch and we had these grand plans of, you know we were doing. We were gonna do the crowdfunder and then we were gonna launch in fall with the full product line of multiple products, different categories and then we had all these products. Time for spring and we were doing all this work developing these products and having samples made. And then just the timing didn't work out. They're still not on the market, and it probably is going to be another year before they're on. The market, but there is no such thing as wasted development. So all that stuff is like we learned through that that stuff that we can apply to future product. We learned a lot of lessons that we. Are applying to our current product. So yeah, really. The the trusting in that and then knowing that there's no such thing as as wasted work. Even if you make a mistake like you learn from it and you you take that. With you as you grow. 

Jalen 

Yeah, so the trick is. Trying to be connected to. That that awareness when it's happening right? 

Speaker 

And it's. 

Cheryl 

It is like I'm saying all this now in like I I guess like a sweet moment for us but but there are definitely days where it's like. Oh my God, we've done everything wrong. Nothing has worked. Timing is terrible, but everybody. I think everybody has those days where you're really frustrated and you feel like you're pushing you're, you know, trying to beat your head through a wall and then all of a sudden it works out and you're like, oh, right. OK, great it was meant to be at this time. 

Jalen 

So when when you and your team are in those moments of holding the idea that things are wrong, is there anything that one or more of you did that helped you find your way out of it? 

Cheryl 

I think we have a really. Great trust and candor. Within our founding group, a lot of times we'll have conversations that are very open and blunt and honest. Something I really value about my business partners. And so I think in those moments, like we do have really frank conversations where we're talking about like, OK, well, what are we going to do if this happens? And we make. Contingency plans and we talk through things together from you know where we're each at individually and where we're. At as a business. And it's really having those. Those people with me on it. And I think we all bring very different strengths and lenses to those conversations, like I'm an eternal optimist. So even in my and so is so is one of my other business partners. We're both the people that are constantly like no. It's going to work out, everything's great, everything's good. But if it's not. Here's options A through Z of different ways we can try this and then we just kind of try and pick the best one for where we're at in any given moment. 

Jalen 

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense because you know. To be. Able to, you know. Look ahead and sort of try to come up with contingency plans. At least. Maybe takes a little bit. Of pressure off. 

Cheryl 

Yeah, and we're. Constantly, constantly having those conversations of like OK. You know we don't have as many sales as we want. OK, what are we gonna do this week to change that? What are we gonna do if that doesn't change? How do we adjust? Where is our our value like that's? Just it's a constant conversation. There's I. I don't even think that there's like you can separate any of those conversations. There's just one long conversation that continues. 

Jalen 

Yeah, especially at this point where you're you're having. Still forming right as a constantly having to consider what like where the energy is going where it's. And how to respond? 

Cheryl 

Yeah, and we all fill a lot of hats. You know it's sitting down in the morning and thinking OK where what hat is the most valuable for me today? Is it production? Is it finances? Is it? Customer service and sometimes I'm wearing all of those hats at one moment and trying to find where that where the value is. 

Jalen 

Going looking back on that whole trajectory so far, and they can think back to a particularly challenging moment if you could go back to that moment, or you know, travel to that moment and be able to whisper something into your ear or do something to improve or help you through it what? Might that be? 

Speaker 

I think. 

Cheryl 

Communicating urgency is something that I as a like just personally can like through every stage of our business, have done better and have would like if I look back on myself. Even you know, six weeks ago, six months ago I would. I can I can have that note. In my head all the time with our partners over at our factory, with responses to other people like communicating urgency both for myself. Like what needs to be handled right now and and timelines. I think would have maybe been eased the time burden a. Little bit but. As I've said a couple times, I do think everything has worked out in the right timing so. Maybe I maybe I wouldn't want to change it. I don't know. 

Jalen 

Well, is that something that you're now bringing in, and is that making sure you communicate urgency, level of urgency and? 

Cheryl 

Yeah, definitely, I think. I think I'm finding different ways to communicate urgency. I think that the way so I come from another apparel organization. I was with them for five years. They were very established brand with a lot of respect and a lot of like long term relationships with factories. So for me it's been very different working with. A factory that's like only working with us. We don't have the brand awareness and identity to push them super hard right now, but they're also. A very key partner for us. We wouldn't be. Able to do this without them and they're incredible, and so it's learning. Now I'm learning, not necessarily that I need to communicate urgency, but I'm learning better ways to do that. In a way that works with them. And and it's about the relationship, so I'm it's instead of saying like I need this by this date and then checking in when it's late, it's it's instead it's hey, how's that going? Do you need anything? Do you have questions? And that's sort of more how I do it instead of? Just giving a deadline. Into the ether. 

Jalen 

Right and you. I mean, do you also likely indicate at some point, saying, hey, then this? This is really important, or like we're really hoping for this point in this this timeline. 

Cheryl 

Oh absolutely. Yeah, we're with where we're at in development of multiple projects, and we have multiple timelines, so there's there's like. The target there's the dream. There's the IT absolutely has to be done by this date or it's a. No go, those are. We're kind of operating with two or three different timelines at a time, you know. 

Jalen 

Again, again multiple contingencies, right? Yeah, yeah. Well, I appreciate how long you've been that you've been sharing. I think that I'm sure that other folks will be able to relate and have had experiences you know somewhat similar, especially in the early stages, right? 

Cheryl 

Yeah, we're still very much early stages and I I I, you know, probably look back on this in five years, hopefully. And think ohh man, you're crazy but it's just part of the journey. I think we're in the fun part where things are a little bit all over the place with timing and it's all relative. 

Jalen 

Well again, OK. Thank you for sharing these stories. Look forward to chatting again. 

Cheryl 

Yeah for sure. Thanks for chatting with me. Thanks for asking and thanks for doing this. 

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