Supply + Demand: Navigating Supply Chain Wins and Losses as an Entrepreneur (part 2)
In this Supply + Demand session, Tiffanie Stanard, Stimulus Founder/CEO hosted a panel in which our community had an opportunity to learn from two very successful women in their respective fields. Kim Lewis, the founder & CEO of CurlMix a natural hair brand with products specifically targeted toward women of color. LaRitta Webb, founder of The Profit Nerd is a supply chain consultant who helps companies reach their true potential.
Despite not accepting a lucrative offer from the cast of Shark Tank, Kim and Tim Lewis, co-founders of CurlMix, a clean beauty brand dedicated to making curly hair accessible to everyone, have raised over $5 million in equity crowdfunding — taking just under 60 days to reach their goal. The journey of CurlMix is an interesting one and we’re delighted to share our talk with its founder, Kim Lewis.
The supply chain is a complicated field, and it can be hard to navigate. But if you know the right people, like LaRitta Webb, founder of The Profit Nerd, it doesn’t have to be that way. She’s an operations & supply chain consultant and health + fitness enthusiast. Her purpose, passion, and discipline as an athlete is equally demonstrated in her career as an operational leader. We had the pleasure of speaking with her about navigating supply chain wins and losses.
In-house or Outsourcing: What worked for CurlMix?
The Supply Chain is the lifeline of any business. However, it can also be a pain point for some. The costs associated with outsourcing can be immense and the process of finding a reliable supplier can take time.
One of the products that CurlMix set out to manufacture in its early days used the ingredient flax seeds. Lewis shared that flax seeds were a key component in their hair products and while it was being manufactured in-house, she decided to reach suppliers to help her create the hair product. When approaching suppliers, no one wanted to make flaxseed gel because it was a tedious process. Lewis learned that if she wanted to continue creating quality hair products, she could not rely on suppliers.
According to Lewis, outsourcing the manufacturing of products was not the approach she wanted to take for her business. She mentioned that when working with suppliers, Lewis shared that you have to pay for inventory all up front, pay high costs for labor, and experience delays. As a small startup, it can be challenging to spend money upfront without knowing if a product would sell or not. To avoid this scenario, Lewis decided to manufacture products in-house by hiring a chemist to create and test new products. This enables them to roll out products quicker and maintain quality control over the entire process.
The Journey of CurlMix has been focused on growth rather than profit. By joining an incubator program in her city of Chicago and being a contestant on Shark Tank, Lewis was able to gain popularity and visibility for her brand. Not only did this help Lewis with funding but also gave her the opportunity to connect with like-minded people who were entrepreneurs and founders. The most important takeaway from Lewis’ success is that she kept going. The challenge of creating her products in-house did not limit her growth. Her reliance was not limited to suppliers but instead focused on leveraging the best way to create quality hair products, and for her, that meant doing things in-house.
Are you maximizing the efficiency of your supply chain: Supply Chain Tips and Tricks from Webb
When you’re running a business, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations. But if you want to grow, you need to make sure you’re focusing on the right things. One of those things is making sure that your supply chain is operating as efficiently as possible — and being able to identify where there are opportunities for improvement.
That’s why we’ve created a list of tips and tricks from our session with Webb on navigating supply chain wins and losses.
- Do you want to make the product or outsource it? If you want to make the product, it is important to understand the whole process from production to delivery. If outsourcing is what you prefer, then finding a trustworthy supplier would be important.
- When will you become profitable? Having a clear understanding of how much profit per unit will help in achieving profitability for your business.
- Who are the right suppliers to work with? This depends on how complex your product is and whether or not your supplier has all the required skills and capabilities. You may need to hire someone who has expertise in that area.
- Use data to drive business decisions: Data should always be used as an objective tool for decision-making and not just as an excuse for action. The data should be collected from reliable sources and analyzed before making any decision on what needs improving or changing about your business model.
- Help businesses solve problems before they arise: With proper planning, you can avoid many problems such as late deliveries, overstock inventory, wrong packaging, etc., which can
What We Learn from Navigating Supply Chain Wins and Losses
The complexity of supply chains can pose certain challenges for small businesses. They may have to choose between sourcing a product directly from the manufacturer or buying from a third-party distributor, adding time and cost to their business’s bottom line. However, small businesses that can leverage broader trade networks stand to benefit significantly via reduced costs and improved flexibility in their supply chain management. From Lewis and Webb, we learn that there are plenty of challenges when it comes to navigating the supply chain as a small business, but by taking advantage of the opportunities that these wins and losses present, it’s possible to mitigate them. After all, every win represents an opportunity to gain momentum, while every loss is an opportunity to learn and improve. There’s no shortage of opportunities when you approach your supply chain in this way, so by keeping your eyes wide open, you’ll have no trouble finding the next one!
Click here to watch this Supply + Demand Session