Thursday, January 23, 2014

2013 in Review: 4th Quarter

By Tracy Zhu, Owner
It's a leaf blizzard! October in Port Gamble.

The last quarter of the year was the most intense. I had the opportunity to open a pop-up clothing store, which I put together (including sourcing and ordering inventory) in eleven days. With our locations doubled to two (woo hoo!) and offsite events to exhibit in, I ended up working every day of November and December except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and December 30th. Drew was pressed into service as well. I managed to badly sprain my ankle in early November which added to the grind. It was a tough quarter but worth it, as we ended up with record sales.

The pop-up store, Tango Zulu Too.

My bum ankle. I'm wearing a fair trade slipper from Kyrgyzstan, fair trade boot toppers from Nepal, a fair trade dress from Nepal, and a sweatshop-free cardigan made in the U.S.A.

  Many thanks to local Jerry Cornell (he and his wife own The Quilted Strait) for transforming our front yard. He approached me last fall about removing the sod and replacing it with native plants. My always-accommodating landlords, Olympic Property Group, removed the sod at no cost to me, I bought the plants, and Jerry did the rest, from design to sourcing to planting. We are looking forward to what each season brings.

We ended up the year with a 20% increase in sales over 2012, but the higher overhead (rent, payroll) took a toll on net income. One of the big questions for 2014 is whether we can fully utilize the new space and our wonderful employees to grow sales further and become a stronger business. Managing growth can be harder than it looks. We'll see how I do in 2014.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2013 in Review: 3rd Quarter

By Tracy Zhu, Owner

Tracy and Patricia at Urban Uprising in Seattle in August.
The third quarter of 2013 saw smooth sailing and strong sales. With the hard work of moving the store behind me, I was able to get out of the store and even out of town a bit more for both professional and personal activities. One of the highlights of the entire year was partnering with Seattle's Burke Museum to help promote their Empowering Women exhibit. My husband Drew and I had a wonderful time at the artists' reception in July. In August, Drew, Patricia, and I had a fun evening of sourcing and shopping at Seattle's Urban Uprising trade show. We were proud to be sweatshop-free from head to toe in this picture (except maybe our under garments and possibly my shoes.)

Sarah, Eamon, and beautiful Baby Ziva.
Sarah had quite a year! She and her husband Eamon enjoyed a long-delayed honeymoon in France and Croatia in July. On September 30th, she brought their enchanting daughter Ziva into the world. Sarah worked right into her 9th month and seemed to never miss a beat. Only a couple of months after giving birth she performed in a Seattle staging of Handel's "Messiah". She's tough!

One of the best features of the new building is this deck, which became my office for much of the summer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2013 in Review: 2nd Quarter

   By Tracy Zhu, Owner

One bright spot in April was the use of one of our market baskets in a Romantic Homes magazine photo shoot.
The second quarter of 2013 began with a sinking feeling that lasted all of April. We founded the business in May 2010, and beginning in May 2011 we enjoyed 23 months of unbroken year-over-year sales growth each month. March 2013 was bigger than March 2012 which trumped March get the picture. April 2013, however, saw our sales drop by 24% from the previous April. I was quite concerned. We had spent a lot of cash moving the store and buying more displays and merchandise to fill the bigger space, and we had taken on higher rent. As part of my capacity-building plan mentioned in the previous post I had committed to more hours for my employees so I would have a better chance of retaining them, and also to free me up for more big-picture activities and off-site events. The growing payroll loomed, along with the higher rent, just as sales took a dive. I hoped the drop was due to the move and would be alleviated as customers found us in the new space. Although it is only two doors down from our old space, it's not visible from the old building, and I've heard from many who stopped by the old location after we moved and left disappointed when they saw we were no longer there - not realizing until well afterward that we were still in town. We had signage up redirecting people, but not everyone noticed, apparently. I was deeply relieved when sales rebounded strongly in May and June and we again set new monthly sales records.

Setting up the Tango Zulu booth at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington

We had a booth at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington in June, which worked out well for us. We were primarily there to sell product and raise our profile, but it was also a huge treat to experience the whole event, with its stellar lineup of exhibitors and speakers. I left the fair feeling I must have a yurt and a Tesla, but Drew was able to talk me out of it. Employee Patricia and her husband Steve were there to help, while our other employees, Kristi Anna and Sarah, held down the fort back at the store where they dealt with the big crowds from the annual June Faire held in Port Gamble.

Patricia and Tashi
Patricia had some exciting life changes in this period. She and Steve bought a beautiful little farm, and she begin studies to become a certified health coach. At the end of June she and I took a trip to Sandpoint, Idaho in a mini-van to pick up a precious little yak calf who had been rejected by his mother. It was quite a road trip. We began it calm, collected and on good behavior. By the end of it we were showing signs of road rage and were sweaty, stinky messes. I remember us both flipping off a semi truck driver and screaming "f*** you!!!" as he tried (unsuccessfully) to muscle into our lane. At the end, when we went our separate ways, Patricia said "well, I'd hug you but that would be gross." The calf, who Patricia later named Tashi Norbu, handled the trip just fine. You can follow his adventures at Yaks in the Cradle Farm.

We made time on our Idaho trip to visit with Ganesh Himal Trading, one of our key suppliers.

We ended the quarter feeling mostly back on our feet after the move, and well prepared for our big months of July and August.

Friday, January 17, 2014

2013 in Review: 1st Quarter

 By Tracy Zhu, Owner

Our staff opening the new building. From left to right: Kristi Anna, Patricia, Sarah, and Tracy.
2013 was all about building capacity at Tango Zulu. We began the year in the same building we founded the business in, and what once seemed to expansive to fill with merchandise now felt cramped and overstuffed. The holiday shipping season of 2012 was particularly tough, as our shipping and receiving area was also our break room and stock room. We often ran completely out of space there and had to box up orders and unpack new shipments of inventory on the retail floor. I remember one day during Port Gamble's annual Country Christmas celebration when the store got so crowded with customers that people would open the front door, see how packed it was, and immediately leave.

Clearly we needed more space, and when a larger building with a much better layout just two doors down became available, we jumped at it. Much of the first quarter was spend planning the move, which was executed in late March. Because the new building was so close by and because we had early access to it, it was a relatively painless move that we accomplished without losing any business hours to closure. We were once again reminded of the kindness of Port Gamble residents, as even though we didn't ask for help, a steady stream of our fellow business owners, townies, and customers dropped by over the course of our move week to lend a hand.
Erik Kleiva, co-owner of the Port Gamble General Store and Café, and Drew Zhu, co-owner of Tango Zulu, taking a load to the new building. The entire move was done on foot with the aid of a single hand truck.

Townie and customer Anne Davies dropped by to help arrange displays.

Our new register counter, built (including graphics) by Port Gamble's Orbea Sign Company. Much better than the old tiki bar we used at the old store.
Another noteworthy event in the first quarter was employee Kristi Anna's graduation from high school while simultaneously earning her Associate of Arts degree at age 18. We are very proud of her, but saying so may not make her forgive me for posting the photo below!

Super Employee Kristi Anna wears a lot of hats. Hah hah.

We ended the first quarter ensconced in our new building, ready to see what the busy summer season would bring.