With the support of my family at Olympus, I am back to share part 2 of this blog series, taking you behind the scenes of some core small business moments. Late last year, I shared with you Part 1 – behind the scenes of a day in our studio and warehouse [ – if you missed the post, you can catch up on it here].
Next up? Come with me to China.
In September last year, I spent 24 hours on the ground in Shenzhen, China, overseeing the manufacturing of our 2019 planner release. It was a flying visit, that saw me flying out the morning after our studio-warming celebration, and returning to Melbourne, only to hop on another plane to Europe (everything happening, all at once – as is often the way of a small business calendar!)
This was my time visiting China solo – but joining me on the adventure was my OM-D E-M10 Mark III. Small and never-not leaving my grasp, it allowed me to capture some video footage of this time in China in a way that feels unpolished, and very real. Watch below!
After flying into Hong Kong, I transited through to Shenzhen, which involves a public bus, train, immigration and border crossing. Shenzhen was in the middle of a summer monsoon that brought with it unrelenting rain, flooding, traffic jams and an extra layer of humidity.
Manufacturing is a difficult and overwhelming whirlwind of a process – which comes after months of the design ideation, planning, refining, sampling, adjusting, quoting and ‘figuring out’ processes all preceding it. It’s also special, exciting and a little bit magic; a culmination point, where we hand over our files, and put trust in our manufacturing partners to deliver to our vision with precision and care.
Manufacturing offshore has taken us more than a few goes, lots of devastating mistakes, and many (many) lessons learned. Relationships are everything, and for us, showing up in person, investing our hands and time into the manufacturing process, and being there at the helm of production is really important. I’ve learnt that manufacturing anything in China involves determination, time, surrender, and a lot of trust. Planners are deceptively difficult to make – they have many parts – a true labour of love – and it feels only right to be there, see first hand who is making our products, and how they are being made.
Thankfully, it’s the third year we have made our planners – the core foundations have been previously laid, and the groundwork has been worked through together. Large and smaller details have been reworked and refined over time. This year, it’s more a matter of navigating the scale. We more than tripled our production of planners for Australia, and simultaneously manufactured a separate custom planner order exclusively for Canada, so most of our time together was spent combing through the tiny details for each production, and methodically checking we were on top of every component.
After spending the morning at the factory overseeing the production line, and perfecting some new processes (applying the rose gold foiled edging around the planners was a new detail, and fascinating to see how it gets done!) we returned to the office, to confirm every Pantone colour, ribbon colour, elastic thickness, and shipping process, step by step.