There simply is no substitute for doing. If you’re building software that automates some process, do that process manually first. If you’re building a machine that does a task, you must do that task first. Manually. If you are creating, packaging, and shipping a product over and over and over, you must do it the first time. And oh how much you will learn from making, packaging, and shipping that very first product. Ask me how I know.

Ship It!

Last week, we sent out the (too) long awaited invitations to our “beta tasters” who signed up to do end-to-end testing of our new Southern Baklava store. We had 54 individuals sign up for free Southern Baklava – yes, I thought it would be more, too, but once we saw how quickly people signed up to get free dessert delivered, we kinda put a lid on it. My wife, who actually makes the Southern Baklava, was incredulous when I told her we had forty-something people signed up. “How much are we giving away?!?!?” I did my best to calm her down by telling her that lots of people sign up for stuff, but not all of them will participate. Some forget, some don’t have time, some didn’t see the email, life happens, you know the drill. That’s why you get lots of beta tasters!

Doing is harder than planning

Learn Immediately

Yesterday, we baked, boxed, and shipped the very first 15 orders of Southern Baklava. Milestone achieved! Here’s some of what we learned, none of which was in the “paper” version of our plans.

Check Your Links

So, *|FNAME|* is not actually anyone’s first name. Who knew? Cringe! Mailchimp makes sending emails ridiculously easy, but even so, it’s just as easy to make a mistake, as everyone who joined our beta taster list found out when I addressed all of them as “Hey *|FNAME|*.”  Genius. Thanks to J Cornelius and several others for very graciously pointing out my error.

Prepare to Change

It takes longer than you think. It took 3 solid weeks of testing the proper box, paper, candy tray, stickers, ribbons, etc. just to get to the right combination of quality, looks, and cost. And that was before we actually shipped anything! During the actual shipping process, we changed at least 2 more things, and will likely change again very soon.

Doing packaging 3 different ways in the first test

Consistency is Really Hard

Every piece is different. We’re not Waffle House, whose triple scrambled with cheese is exactly the same across all 2.5 billion eggs they’ve ever served since 1955. And Southern Baklava is a very labor intensive product to create. Thusly and therefore, every single piece is just a little different, kinda like a snowflake. Sweet, huh? Maybe, but that means they’re difficult to fit into a box the same way every time!

Process, process, process.

We’ll be doing some sort of serious time and motion study here shortly. Assembling a batch of Southern Baklava, cutting it into equal sized (right!) pieces, inserting fun stuff into each box, branding that box just so, inserting the Southern Baklava box into the shipping box, printing a shipping label, and getting it out the door…there are a lot of moving parts. I dropped the packing tape 36 times. I did not drop a single box of Southern Baklava. Yet.

What Will The Customer Think?

Sweet gooey goodness is the best, unless you’re trying to pick up and put individual pieces into tiny little candy trays and you’re not the most dexterous person in the world to start off with. That got us thinking: if it’s difficult for us to put the Southern Baklava into these candy trays, it might be difficult for our customers to get it out, right? So, on shipping day, we used 3 different packaging methods: individual cupcake cups, 12-piece candy tray, and the “slab” method. The lucky winner of the “slab” of Southern Baklava is in for a treat. Winner chosen at random.

baklava slab meant doing it differently

Time Never Stops

And then there’s the clock. Yes, the clock. See, when you’re shipping something out the door, even locally, someone else is usually doing the delivering. That someone else has deadlines. Doh! For this first round, we used the USPS 2 Day Priority Shipping. Now, find me a Post Office open at 730PM on a Saturday night. Yeah. It’s at the Airport. We’re in Roswell. Yay Saturday nights!

Test and Measure

Now, as we await initial reactions from our first round of beta tasters, we plan our next move. We just did the test. Now we have to measure. How long did it take us to make, box, and ship one order of Southern Baklava? What amounts of ingredients did we actually use? How much did shipping cost and how fast reliable was it? How well did our packaging perform? Did the customers like the branding?  Do the customers like the product?!?

On paper, it all seems so easy, so clean, so straightforward. In the technology world, we call what we just did our “MVP”, or “minimum viable product.” It worked. We made. We shipped. Now we have to address each individual point that changed or caused some consternation by prioritizing them and then fixing them. In other words, problem solving.

And that is what I love most about doing startups. Stay tuned for more updates from the Southern Baklava intergalactic headquarters.

What do you think?