We’re now out of stock of snaths, which will slow everything down a bit – many of our customers are first timers and need a snath. We’ve ordered more and now that Canada is heading into winter there’ll be some snath action going on in the Mennonites’ shed. We expressed an interest in getting hold of some of the new Austrian snaths to assess whether we’d be happy selling them in the Canadian snath ‘off-season’ (the old ‘Swiss snath’ manufacturing gear has been acquired by Austrian manufacturer Schröckenfux and the design has been tweaked to more closely resemble the Canadian snath designed by Peter Vido, although not in a couple of key areas and there were initial reports of grip breakages; apparently this has been rectified, but we’re still yet to lay eyes on the new design ‘in the flesh’ and test them out), but the manufacturer apparently wasn’t interested in our business (maybe we’re just too odd). This has obviously made us even more keen to get local snath production in full swing, and we’ve been playing with a few Australian-made prototypes in the last couple of weeks.
For the moment, though, we’re expecting a bit of a lull, as I fitted up the last two snaths in stock today, both to be delivered within a 50km radius of home.
So that’s prompted me to reflect a bit.
In March 2012, a social mowing group of four Huon Valley residents wondered whether they could move their hobby into a business. “Bladerunners” was registered as a business name on 4/5/2012, the ABN was issued 26/6/2012, and a deed of partnership was signed by Tony Robbie and Marshall Roberts on 24/2/2013 – the other two members having decided not to embark on a business (kudos, gents, wise move).
It took from April 2012 to January 2013 to source the necessary components to be able to supply a complete mowing rig, and the Bladerunners website (developed by yours truly) went live 17/3/2013 with the first e-commerce sale 5 days later.
Since then we have sold some 1,700 items.
Happily, the business is now actually operating at a profit, although we’re personally still yet to see a return on our initial investments.
We’re very gratified by the feedback we receive from customers, and even more humbled when even prospective customers we refer directly to our ‘competitors’ for out-of-stock items reply that they’d prefer to wait to buy from us. Thank you, it all means a lot to us.
Interestingly, for me personally, the business side of the business is increasingly ‘conflicting’ with my desire to get scythes “out there”. On the weekend a potential customer wanted to meet up and give a rig a swing – something we’ve always been happy to do (and in fact prefer it) rather than have the customer “buying blind”. So it was with some confusion that I noted the rather conflicted feelings growing as I strolled to the local park for a mowing rendezvous. It wasn’t long before I put my finger on it, as the potential mower took the rig I handed her and soon expressed contempt for her own attempt at mowing, after having watched my demonstration.
“Don’t worry about, most people don’t do any better when they first start.” Keep the blade down. Don’t step forward, shuffle forward. Don’t even move yet, get your action right. And so on.
We kept at it for about 20 minutes, moving from lawn to bush conditions, flats and slopes. In that 20 minutes she’d made more of an improvement in her technique than I made in weeks – maybe even months – of my own initial development, chiefly because she had someone there telling her what was going wrong. But to her it didn’t feel that way.
And every time I said something like that – “no, no, you’re doing really well. It is an art that takes practise, but you’re getting there” – I realised I sounded like a salesman doing a hard sell.
And that there is the reason for those conflicted feelings. I actually enjoy marketing – I like writing, photography, communications – and so on, and I’ve enjoyed building up the Bladerunners online presence. But I hate the thought that someone might think that I’m trying to talk them into a sale on an item that’s just not going to work for them.
So I’ll be loaning her a scythe for a couple weeks, once I get it back from the last prospective customer who’s borrowed it to try one out.
And in the lull created by our temporary snath shortage, I’ll probably be brewing up some tacky pre-Christmas marketing campaign to get you to part with your money and go for something else in our catalogue. So get your wallets ready, folks 😉