All the crowd-funding campaigns I’ve ever backed have a special place in my heart. But if I had to name the project that I was most proud to support, it would be this Kickstarter Campaign, run by Ramat Beit Shemesh’s Richard Nachum Kligman last June.
I don’t know Kligman personally, but his idea for a product to give comfort and dignity to the seriously disabled, including his own son Moishy, touched my heart. I was thrilled to be one of those that helped him exceed his goal and raise $25,000 to launch his business, Mianzi Fashions.
His original Kickstarter video says it all:
Over the past year, I’ve sometimes wondered what happened to Mianzi and when I would receive the gift I was promised in exchange for my support.
A few weeks ago, Kligman sent a private message to all his backers explaining the delay. I asked him if he would allow me to publish it on my blog. It’s interesting and instructive for anyone who is considering manufacturing in China or launching a crowd-funding campaign or just running a business. These kinds of setbacks are unfortunately so common in any business.
What is uncommon is Kligman’s commitment and passion that carries him though the roller-coaster ride that is setting up a new business. With G-d’s Help, I have no doubt that he will ultimately succeed. I would back him again gladly – even after all that’s happened.
Here’s the letter:
I would like to start off this update with an apology. Although many of you have received your shirts and are enjoying them, many of you have not and for that I apologize.
While it is true that I am the Father of a special needs boy named Moishy, I am also an entrepreneur. And as an entrepreneur I hate to give excuses and not to be able to take care of and treat my customers like gold. Manufacturing a product in China is unlike any other business experience I have ever had.
In the last 25 years I have worked in many industries including marketing, food industry, and Hi-Tech. I have managed and worked with hundreds of partners, vendors, and workers and never have I encountered some of the situations I have found myself in as I have when trying to create these shirts. Working with manufacturing in China is NOT for the faint of heart. Although I did do research and read-up on manufacturing in China and received advice from those with experience, there are some things you just cannot foretell without experiencing them yourself.
Before I go further, I want to assure everyone that YOU WILL receive your shirts and we are currently on schedule to have them by the end of July.
Now I really do not like to complain and I have learned to roll with the punches, but sometimes you just need to share with your backers some of what happens behind the scenes. Not to look for sympathy, but to look for understanding and to let you know what has happened until now and hope to earn your forgiveness.
Usually when you make a deal with a company and sign agreements you can expect the deal and agreements to be followed, at least that was my experience until now.
I just want to point out some of the issues I had with our original manufacturers in China.
After the campaign, as many of you know, I flew to China in order to build my relationship with the company and to make sure every step of the process was being done according to my specs. This was some valuable advice I received from people, but I can’t imagine what could have happened if I had not gone.
Now I know some of these are hard to believe in 2014, but I can assure you they are all true.
- After I received the quote from them I was able to price out our rewards for our backers on Kickstarter. When the campaign was over and I put in the order, they responded with new pricing that was 35% higher than the original quote. I asked them for an explanation and they said that the fabric manufacturer could not make our custom fabric and so they had to go with someone else that was much higher in price. I then when and found another fabric manufacturer that could do it for much less and so they went with them, but still was charging me 20% more than the original quote. (FYI, I was in discussions with them 3 months before I actually launched the Kickstarter campaign, so I could not, at this point, go elsewhere.)
- We originally ordered 1200 shirts to make sure we would have enough of every size and color for those that ordered. After they began to sew, they told us as a side point that we would only be getting 800 shirts and not 1200. When we asked them to please create more material for another 400 shirts, they said sorry, but their minimum order is 1200 shirts. (Please read that again).
- The manufacturer without telling us decided to change the sizing on the kid’s shirts to much smaller sizes. They did not send us the new sizes or ask our approval they just decided to do this on their own. We only found out about this once we had the shirts in America. This left us with hundreds of shirts that were of the wrong size.
- Of course there were many delays along the way and they kept pushing our product off. We were supposed to have the shirts ready by the beginning of September, but we did not get them till 3 months later. We had them FedEx via Air so that we would have them faster for our clients instead of waiting an additional month.
- Now here is the kicker: Before I paid the balance they sent me photos of the finished shirts and the line items of what we were receiving. On these documents they stated that for the youth shirts 300 of them were with inserts and 100 were without. This was mainly because it was special needs kids that most of our orders were for. We ordered only 100 without because we did not see the ones without the insert for kids being a big seller. Two days after I signed the final invoice and paid the balance I received an email from them telling me they made a mistake and they made 300 of the kid’s shirts without inserts and only 100 with.
- Now, you can probably sense my frustration at this point and I really ripped into them and they agreed to make an additional 400 shirts for me, this time done correctly. But they had larger clients they needed to finish up for before the holidays and then it was the Chinese New Year where the whole country closes down for a month. By the time they were ready to do my order for the missing shirts it was now March. I asked them for a significant discount on these 400 shirts because they had already cost me thousands of dollars in inventory I would probably never be able to sell as well as put me in a bad light with all my customers etc. They offered me no apology and a 2% discount.
It was at this point that I realized that even if it takes me another 6 months, I could no longer work with this company. Yes, I vetted them out and they had a gold rating on Alibaba. I found out about them from a designer I was working with who had worked with them before. When I went to their offices I saw that they had done clothing for major companies and so I felt like I was in good hands.
Rest assured we are no longer working with them and have found a much better manufacturer that is owned by an American that has been living in China for 10 years. They have really been great to work with and we already received samples back from them and are super impressed. We had to begin from scratch with them back in March and the process just takes time to do it right.
The material takes about 5 weeks to manufacture and then another week to dye and then another 4 weeks to sew. Right now we are looking at the end of July to be finished with manufacturing and then we will get them out to you.
Over the last year I have learned a tremendous amount and have never been so inspired and dedicated to a project. We heard a tremendous call from other parents of special needs children and those with disabilities to create additional products that are beautifully designed, comfortable to wear, and meets their needs and so Mianzi has become a full-time labor of love and we will be launching many more products over the coming months.
There has been a tremendous amount of blessings that have also come my way during this time period. I found an amazing partner named Eli Mondrow who is just as passionate as me. In addition we have raised some additional funds that will allow us to really grow and fill this hole in a most deserving market.
Yes, my own son Moishy, also has not received his shirts yet, but as his Father and an entrepreneur I will persevere until everyone in this world can feel inclusive and comfortable and have the finest garments to wear that fits their special needs.
Thank you for your patience and sticking with us and allowing our dreams to come true and flourish.
Richard Nachum Kligman