FIELD 3 Startup Diaries

Operation Save.the.Date: Four Growing Pains

 

Save.the.Date is a fun, fresh twist on dating for couples in a long-term relationship. Once a month, customers get a curated date-in-a-box – items and description included – delivered to their doorstep, so they can enjoy a great date night in or around their house. Save.the.Date adds creativity and mystery to couples’ dating lives, while eliminating the need for planning! You might say it’s the Amazon of dating. Or, in other words, the Facebook of things-in-a-box.

Through genius marketing tactics (read: buy 1 get 1 free) and lots of puppy dog eyes, we managed to acquire 30 beta customers for Save.the.Date. Only now we had to actually put together and deliver a physical product – 60 of them to be exact (10 each of 6 skus).

Six Product Types

Having been a STRATEGY CONSULTANT for BANKS (UPPERCASE=excuse), I first became familiar with the concepts of Operations and Inventory Management in TOM class. While much of it was over my head, during this phase of Save.the.Date, I actually had the opportunity to put it into practice. Only, unlike the classic board game Operation by Hasbro, it wasn’t a matter of simply pressing my nose to find out if it was successful.

Instead, below are 4 growing pains we learned from along the way.

1. A good dollar store is hard to find, but Target is forever. Our initial procurement plan was to hit up every dollar store in the Cambridge area. Turns out many of them are pretty dingy, you can only buy in single sizes, and a dollar can actually mean up to ten dollars. In the end, it wasn’t worth it – we were better off just buying higher quality goods at Target in bulk packages. Plus, Target actually has a stock room…and a Pizza Hut (both of which were key).

2. Stuffing 60 boxes with toys and food sounds a lot more fun and delicious than it is. All we had to do was stuff 30 boxes in round 1 and another 30 boxes in round 2. Plus, a little manual labor could do us some good. Ninety-six packing hours later, I’ve only consumed three pieces of inventory and I haven’t played with any of the toys. Epic fail.

Henry Lin (HBS 2013), Head of Ops

3. Don’t forget Quality Control. This is one of the most important lessons. You work really hard planning and executing (see Epic fail above), but mistakes are bound to be made. It’s worth having the discipline to check one last time before shipping. (It took 2 broken tea cups in our round 1 shipment for us to realize this.) For the second round, our quality control process consisted of bubble wrapping fragile items, double-checking the contents of each box against the master, and throwing boxes across the room to ensure box integrity prior to shipping.

4. In customer service, “Unapologetic” doesn’t work. The saddest day in Save.the.Date’s young life came last week, with our first cancellation. Upon opening the Save.the.Date box, the customer did not see the value for price in our product, and wrote us an email telling us why. We thanked him for the feedback and refunded him under our Satisfaction Guarantee.

Having an open mind to negative feedback is difficult, but we found that apologizing and asking for more feedback is the way to go. For example, from early customer feedback, we’ve learned that before our company has a brand, it’s better to give our customers more information and choice upfront, rather than have them be surprised about our product (even though we initially thought surprise was part of the value proposition).

April 19, 2012
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