Apologies in advance - this blog will lack the usual structure of most of our pieces. Instead it’ll be a personal reflection from myself on how 2021 has been for hakamount. It’s been interesting reading our first ever blog ‘Creating a supplement brand in a global pandemic’ - I wrote that 15 months ago, safe to say a lot has changed since.
Our first full year
2021 was unique for us as it was our first proper year as a business. We launched in September 2020, and whilst we did a lot of the prep in early 2020, we weren’t a real business by then.
However, we’ve been operating throughout 2021 (let’s ignore those supply issues around Easter shall we?). When you’re an actual business, it makes it a lot harder to switch off. This year has required a lot more focus and dedication from myself. Before launching, I didn’t have to worry about customers getting their orders on time, fixing issues with the website or the like…
But that’s what you sign up for. Because founding a business is such a thrill, it requires full immersion, and that makes the highs high and the lows low. The trick is to make sure you have a lot more high’s than lows! (easier said than done).
Whenever someone asks me about starting their own business, I say go for it. Start small, put something out there (it could be anything, a blog, social media account, product etc.) and see how people respond.
That’s exactly what we did when we launched, I remember designing the website myself, packing and shipping every order. I’d recommend every founder to do those early steps yourself, earn your own stripes.
But as things get bigger, you have to find ways to add automation to help the customer and yourself. When shipping myself, if I went for a staycation I'd have to take lots of Daily Driver’s and packaging material with me. There was no chance I'd let my customer’s orders wait until I was back in London to be shipped. But in early January, we made the decision to move to a 3rd party fulfilment company - and let me tell you it’s been a gamechanger.
Not only do they offer better shipping than I was able to, but it allows me to spend less time packing boxes and more time thinking of ideas to add value to you, our customer.
Me handing over the reins to our fulfilment company!
Another big step for us was listing on Amazon. Perhaps the easiest platform to use as a customer, but the hardest as a supplier! We had so many issues getting listed, I was shocked at how poor the process was. But again, Amazon helps us reach more people without taking a lot of time. I send a bulk order of vitamins to Amazon and they ship everything under their Prime programme.
As well as learning how difficult it is to get listed on Amazon, I also learnt that it’s not a silver bullet. You don’t list on their and get 100s of orders each day, far from it! But this experience helped me realise that not everything has to be instant. When you’re running your own business you can pretty much do everything as fast as you want to. But actually, the world doesn’t work like that.
From scaling up our Amazon business, to designing products with manufacturers, to hiring freelancers - things take time and that’s the way it is, don’t worry!
Our Magazine Features
It’s really hard to describe how cool a feeling it is seeing a product you designed in these national magazines (also a picture of my hand has been sent up and down the country haha!).
But these magazines really have been a highlight for us. It gives you confidence that what you’re doing is working, and people are resonating with our mission.
And surprisingly, other than word of mouth, they’ve been our best marketing tool. When I started hakamount, I thought Social Media would be our best tool but in reality social media is saturated with a lot of competing brands. Customers are becoming very used to advertising on these platforms and are skipping past them.
With magazines, someone who is picking up the magazine to read probably has an interest in our product. We’ve found it to be effective, and we’re getting great feedback from those customers purchasing.
Our first feature in Runner's World!
Ah yes, clothing. The T-Shirt go-to that every brand seems to do. Well we’re no different.
I’ve got no intention of turning hakamount into a supplement/clothing hybrid. But I wanted something physical so people could represent the brand.
Creating something purely online and in a lockdown gave me a sense of distance with our community. People could buy our vitamins, but they’d probably store them in their cupboard hidden away.
Creating a limited edition T-Shirt gave customers another way to show their support. And to be honest, I just love wearing hakamount when I'm in the gym, it’s a cool feeling.
Our first piece of merch!
The biggest challenge of the year
Well it wouldn’t be an early stage company without a few challenges would it?
Without doubt, our biggest challenge of this year was inventory. For those who don’t know, we spent 3 entire months this year with no stock. This was tough to take in so many ways, but most of all it hurt our momentum. We’ve spent the past 6 months getting it back!
We went with a new supplier as we needed our vitamin re-stock QUICK. On the day they were due for production, we had some issues during manufacturing. And because we’re a much smaller client, they didn’t want to spend the extra time re-producing the vitamins.
I was shocked - how can this happen? What I learnt was that the vitamin manufacturing industry is extremely busy at the moment. A lot of manufacturers cherry pick who they work with based on profit they can make.
All of our planning, social media hype, excitement… gone. And then we had the stress of finding a new manufacturer who could make our vitamins at such short notice.
By chance, we managed to find one and they were able to get our vitamins out in under 12 weeks. Not ideal, especially when you have paying subscribers! But it’s all part of the journey, and we learnt a ton from it.
Here’s to finding manufacturers you can trust in 2022!
The biggest success of the year
I’d say Q4 was our biggest success. Not just commercially, yes we made the most sales but this quarter has felt like people are coming on the journey with us.
It’s no longer just friends buying our product to show their support (a massive thank you by the way). But now it’s lots of people I've never met who are buying it, and then buying it again, and again… It’s awesome.
This quarter we’ve also started calling all of our new customers, to say hi. It’s something I wish I did earlier but heyho. In a digital world where you don’t meet customers face to face, this has been invaluable. Simply to talk to them and ‘meet’ your customers is so crucial and I love doing it.
Buying vitamins from a small company on the internet might be a bit odd for some people. So I wanted to go that extra mile to make them feel part of the hakamount community.
What’s in store for hakamount in 2022?
At a high level, as long as we keep moving in the right direction I’ll be happy. Keep growing and keep helping our customers, that’s the goal.
Looking into the ‘how’ - our biggest moment will be the launch of the Daily Driver V3. V1 was our first ever launch, V2 was our vegan launch, V3 will be something wild - i’m super, super excited. Hopefully we can launch in late Q1 or early Q2. Stay tuned!
Other than the multivitamins, it’s making more people aware of hakamount.
All of our other metrics are positive and give me the sense that we’re on the right track. Our repeat purchase rate is super strong, our website conversion rate is great, it’s just letting more people know about us.
In terms of how we do that, I'm still figuring it out if I’m honest - like a lot of other things.
But as always, absolutely loving it.
To anyone reading, I hope you enjoyed hearing about our year as a whole. If I’m honest, I wrote it as much for myself as I did for you. I can’t wait to look back on this in a few years and bask in the nostalgia!
Here’s to a great 2022!