I’ve done a lot of writing about snafus we’ve run into hiking and traveling — the lost shoes, the stomach bugs, the wrong turns — and how my family has tried to navigate challenges with optimism and grace. But today’s post isn’t about a misstep on the trail; it’s about one of my lowest moments since launching First Peak.
I’ll admit, I debated writing this post, and then debated sharing it. In many ways, I’m still processing feelings of embarrassment and disappointment. But let’s start from the beginning, and then dig into what I’ll take away.
I’m running First Peak while my family is living on the road, so my production schedule is unique. We spend about 3 months at a time traveling, during which I manage the website, work with manufacturers to keep ongoing processes going, build partnership opportunities, and try (albeit somewhat haphazardly) to spread the word via social media. Between these 3-month stints, we spend 2-4 weeks back in the Bay Area, where all my products are designed and manufactured. I handle in-person tasks, visit my factory, and do a whirlwind tour of meetings, drop-offs, and design sessions.
November of last year was no different. Book-ending a few days with family in LA, I shuttled up and down to San Francisco to develop two new products I was wildly excited about: flannels and sweatshirts. These were both layers I craved for my own son, for the days when the wind picks up at the beach, the chilly mornings walking the dog, or the long summer nights by the campfire. I buzzed around the city, ticking off the long list of steps to bring these products to life.
Then, production started. And as is relatively standard, I waited, checking in intermittently. I enjoyed time with my son and husband in Mexico City, launched presales of both new products (my first time doing so!), and made plans to return to SF to pick up all the new goods right around Christmas.
Then, on a misty morning in late December, I drove to the factory. It was just before 7am, and when I arrived, the doors were open but the lights in the storage area were still off. I used the flashlight on my phone to find my boxes and excitedly opened them up. I touched everything first — I shut my eyes and smiled at their softness. I folded and unfolded the sleeves, imagining these products in my son’s own drawers. I felt a giddiness rise through me at the opportunity to share the awesome, sustainable fabrics I’d sourced, made from natural and recycled fibers.
But then, my heart sunk as I noticed an issue: every product was mislabeled. My flannels had the fabric composition labels for the sweatshirts, and the sweatshirts had those of the flannels. I groaned, alone on the factory floor. I paced, considering what I’d do next.
I recognize that this likely sounds insanely minor and even melodramatic. It’s just a label after all, right? But to me, it mattered. I pride myself and my brand on finding fabrics that are great for the environment but also performant in the face of mess and moisture. Part of the story of these flannels is the oyster shells that were upcycled and spun into thread. The sweatshirts reap their insane softness from their mix of bamboo and organic cotton. I had dreams of piloting wholesale with these products, and knew instantly that most stores wouldn’t want to explain the mixup to shoppers. In the moment, it felt that these products had a small asterisk on what otherwise came out just as I’d dreamed them.
With just a few days in the States before our next departure, I had to rally. The factory’s proposed solution was to treat the clothes with a chemical that could remove the labels, but I wasn’t comfortable exposing my products, and the children who wear them, to such a process. I ran home and designed info cards that explained the accurate composition of the products and apologized for the error. I had them printed that day to go out with every package. I built out a page on my website explaining our fabrics and what makes them special, so that any customer could learn more. I started shipping pre-orders, fully confident in their quality, despite the misprint on their labels.
This whole experience is just over a month in my wake, but still making some waves. I spent days being mad at the factory, although I knew it was an honest mistake. I spent days mad at myself, but recognized that even had I been local, I wouldn’t have sat by the labeler’s side as he handled my products. I spent days wondering if, as a consumer, I’d mind, as long as the care instructions were right (which they are) and the products were fantastic (which I also believe they are). And then I finally switched my perspective to looking forward, figuring out what I’d learned and where to go next.
In some ways, this whole experience has brought me more in touch with my identity as a small business owner. Errors happen, especially when it’s the first time ever making a new product. When they happen, scrappiness matters, and blame is useless.
I ultimately chose to share this story because I know social media can include lots of lip service about entrepreneurship being “hard,” followed by detailed accounts of why it’s a blast. I felt it important to explain the hard — even in its mundanity, and even as it reveals my obsession over the small details — so that the fun can really shine through.
I also chose to share this to request patience and support from my incredible customers: I know I have products that have sold out and need restocking, as well as new products I’m excited to launch in 2023. I’m working hard to ensure I can tighten up my processes and figure out the right partnerships to achieve both of those goals with impeccable quality. It may take a little longer than I’d hoped, but I assure you, I’m nothing if not efficient.
Thank you for reading, for supporting, and for being part of this journey. I hope you’ve gotten a feel for some of the hard things, so we can celebrate the wins together more fully.
See more of the day-to-day of First Peak by following @firstpeakbaby on Instagram, and shop our products here.