Category Archives: Sweatshop
Alright. Here’s The New Plan.
1) I’m cutting back on my product line-up. I originally had such a broad product line in an effort to provide full-service diapering and babywearing options for the local community. Since I opened, however, a lot has changed locally. First, because of our thriving Des Moines Babywearing and Cloth Diapering group, many many more people are able to see diapers and try carriers out in person to get a feel for what they want, and this makes them more confident online shoppers. This is a GOOD thing, but it also means that more people are choosing to shop online vs buying from a local store that they have to make an appointment with. (totally understandable.) Also, in the last few years, Little Padded Seats has opened a brick-and-mortar store in Valley Junction, providing locals with the ability to see things in person before purchasing, as well as much easier local purchasing than Wallypop where, again, you must make an appointment. These are both incredibly positive things for the community, but they do mean that I can probably safely stop offering such a broad assortment of products without fear of depriving locals of their options. With a few exceptions (I need to drop Basic Covers over regulatory concerns), everything I remove from the inventoried product line-up will still be available via Made to Order.
2. I’m raising prices. I’ve been reluctant to raise prices in recent years as the economy’s been tough. However, my expenses keep going up, both in terms of actual materials cost, as well as in the cost of my time. When I only had one kid and we had lots of free time, I didn’t place quite as high a value on my time as I do now, with three kids and markedly less extra time. I also can’t underemphasize how expensive cotton, hemp, and polyester have gotten recently. Wallypop items will still be comparable with the more affordable options out there – we’re certainly not going to start charging $25 a diaper like some of the major name brands (which are, notably, made much more inexpensively). I’ve also been surprised by the willingness of the cloth diapering and babywearing community in general (of course with exceptions) to continue to spend extremely large amounts of money on luxury baby items. Again, in comparison to many of the best-selling options out there, Wallypop products will continue to be very competitive, while remaining comparable or superior in quality.
3. I’m not going to sell wholesale. Removing the wholesale option cuts out a good number of sales, but it gives me more flexibility with my own pricing. It also will remove the pressure of receiving orders for hundreds of items in one fell swoop.
4. I am going to permanently remove my diaper repair and conversion options. It is so time-consuming to repair and convert diapers. I cannot pay myself fairly because it would be cheaper for customers to just buy new diapers. I will continue obviously to provide support for my OWN products, but I’ve only ever repaired ONE set of Wallypop diapers in almost 9 years in business.
5. Made to orders will continue to run as they have, but I’m not realistically going to be able to go back to my former schedule of competing three orders every three weeks. This means wait times will probably be longer, more like what they’ve been since the beginning of the year.
6. Restocking. Restocking should hopefully be easier and faster because I won’t have as many things to restock. I’m also going to try to expand my network of local mamas (and nonmamas) willing to do sewing for me to enable restocking to be faster, easier, and less stressful all around.
7. Inventory. If it’s not physically here and ready to ship, it’s not available for sale. Historically, when I run out of things like wipes, I have continued to allow them to be purchased, and I just make them as they are ordered, because they’re fairly quick to put together. No more. This change will allow other people (aka the husband and my 8 year old) to help me pack up orders (which neither have ever done before, ever).
8. Fitteds. I’m going to change the way I sell fitteds. At the present time, I allow made to order fitteds to be ordered along with inventory items, and I make them as they’re ordered. This stresses me out so much, because then I need to sew sometimes 2-3 dozen fitted diapers to be ready to mail in a week or so. I’m going to be inventorying more already-made and ready-to-ship fitteds, and if you want customization or options not available on the inventoried diapers, they will be orderable via MTO like other products.
9. Shipping. Shipping once a week, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
10. Goal to work 10 hours a week, not 40 or 50. Wallypop currently really requires 40-50 hours a week. I don’t have that kind of time. I hope these changes allow me to cut back my time to 10-15 hours a week. We’ll see how that works out!
11. LemonDrops. I’m still going to stock and open LemonDrops. I don’t anticipate it being a really high-traffic business, lol.
Sound good? We’ll see how it goes. Give me a few weeks. I want to get past the start of school (we start the first full week in August so we have lots of cushion time for hospital stays), Teddy has surgery on the 10th, and I need to decide which products to axe and which to keep, then make the associated changes on the website.
From a personal standpoint, let me say that this was and was not a difficult decision. In a way, I’ve made this decision at least two dozen times in the last year, but every time I’ve pulled myself back from the edge. Last week, I just reached the end of my rope. I can’t ease into changes at this point, I just have to jump into them. At the same time, I love Wallypop like it’s one of my kids. I’ve certainly spent more time with it than my kids. (um, it’s also older than my kids.) I don’t want it to just go away. It’s been almost 9 years of hard work and countless hours, and I’m extremely proud of what I’ve built from nothing. I didn’t just buy a business… I started one. From absolutely nothing. Quite an accomplishment, and one I hate to just throw away.
So… look for some sort of grand re-opening in September and see what the changes look like.
A few important notes in the meantime – I am NOT going to republish the shopping pages right now, because people will, not reading the notes, go ahead and order. It happens all the time. But I do want to honor gift certificates! If you have a gift certificate that you wish to redeem online or in person, PLEASE contact me!
I hate that this blog has become all about my personal drama, but in order to adequately explain what’s going on with Wallypop, I have to get into what’s going on at home…
So, we’re home again. Teddy’s got a new powerport (his Broviac central access catheter became infected and had to be removed), but it’s not working great. His labs look good and he’s still not on dialysis. Yay!
Even so, his daily schedule of meds and feeds and pump-fed tube feeds plus his weekly schedule of clinic visits (which take a full day when you factor in the 4 hours of driving), infusions, and whatnot, plus trying to get caught up with schooling and dealing with the exhaustion that goes along with all of this… it’s all combining to make things challenging on a daily basis.
So, I’m making some (hopefully temporary) changes to make things easier on myself.
- No more diaper repairs. Because of our unpredictable schedule with hospitalizations, I don’t feel right keeping diapers that don’t belong to me. I have one repair order I’m finishing up, and that’s going to be it.
- Fitted diapers are changing. Normally, you’ve been able to order MTO fitted diapers and expect to have them shipped within a week. I just can’t promise that any more, since I make them from scratch. So the MTO fitteds are going to be treated like any other made to order item – sign up for the wait list. You can still buy instock, ready -to-ship fitteds.
- My shipping guarantee is changing. I am no longer promising shipping in 3 days. I’m promising shipping in 7 days. Now, that said, I am still doing order processing on Sunday night, and again midweek, just like always. My goal remains to ship out all waiting orders each time I do shipping, so most orders will still go out within 3 days. I’m just giving myself cushion in case I have to skip a scheduled shipping day.
- Slower restocking. I will just not have as much time to spend sewing new inventory. Until I work out how I’m going to solve this problem (possibly hiring some sewing help), restocking is just going to take longer.
I think that’s it for the time being. Thanks, as always, for sticking with us.
Right now (Saturday, 1/28) it is looking like the current plan for Teddy is to admit him in Iowa City on Wednesday (2/1), have surgery on Friday, and start dialysis on Monday. It all hinges on several other things, so the plan could obviously change, but that’s where it stands for now. If we start dialysis, it’ll be 2-4 weeks inpatient.
So I’ll obviously not be working during that time, since I’ll be living in Iowa City. I plan to process all outstanding orders on Sunday (1/29) and that’ll be it until I’m back.
Once we get home, I don’t know how long it’s going to take to get back open. I hope to be able to open up again right away, but I suspect this is going to be a somewhat challenging transition for our family. Teddy will need to be on the dialysis cycler about 12 hours every day, and right now, he’s pretty much expecting to be held the vast majority of the time. I don’t mind holding him, but that means I’m in the bedroom with him for those 12 hours, and I’m just not sure how we’re going to make it all work.
I suspect it’s just like having a baby in the first place – it’s hard to picture it all working out until the baby’s here, and then you figure it out. We’ll figure it out, but in the meantime, it’s hard to make plans.
That said, I wasn’t originally planning to be open now anyway, and I suspect we’ll be back to regular business by Spring, when I was originally planning to be back open.
Thanks, all, for your continued business, support, and prayers.
IN THE MEANTIME:
If you have customer service needs, please email. I do take my laptop to the hospital with me and when I have time, I check and respond to email. I have a friend or two that I can call on to help me out in the office if needed, as well. It might take a bit more time than usual, but I will absolutely be doing my very best to respond to concerns, refunds, exchanges, etc.
If you’ve not been following, our newborn (born premature on 11/26) has kidney failure. He has one kidney that is barely functioning, but it is holding on for the time being. At the moment, we are home and monitoring his labs and he is doing better than expected. At some point (could be in a few days, could be in a few months), that kidney will no longer be able to support him and he will need to start dialysis. This could be something that happens suddenly (as in, we go in for our weekly checkup and are admitted) or it could be something that we have warning about (as in, we go in for our weekly checkup and notice things starting to slide, but we have time to prepare). Once he is admitted, I will not be able to work until he is discharged (2-4 weeks). Our hospital is two hours away, and I will be staying with him in the NICU.
I have NO CONTROL over this. (and, believe me, I wish I did.)
I understand if you don’t want to risk placing an order, though considering that we have some seriously giant medical bills already and are looking forward to more, I’d sincerely appreciate it if you did!
I will be open for REGULAR BUSINESS until we are admitted. I hope I have some warning and can close up here in advance.
If I do not have advance warning and we are admitted suddenly, my plan is this:
- Have a few super awesome friends finish packing and shipping the orders they can.
- Contact everyone whose order will NOT be able to go out in a timely fashion, and offer a refund or to hold your order until I get back.
Please note, I have my credit card processing set to manual, so your credit card is NOT charged at the time you place an order. It is charged when I look at and pack your order (what I usually call “processing orders.”) This means if you place an order and pay by credit card or debit card, and it turns out your order will not be able to go out right away, there is NO charge made to your card. I hope this gives you some measure of reassurance.
Though I’ve written about this in the not too distant past, I had the opportunity to speak with a local MOPS group about working from home earlier this week, and wanted to take a minute to talk about how we make it work at our house.
Wallypop currently takes about 30 hours a week total. This includes order processing time, sewing, inventory management, paperwork, regulatory requirements, cursing the government re: regulatory requirements, accounting, email, etc. Generally, this does not include blogging or Facebook time – I tend to do that stuff during odd moments during the day.
That’s a lot of time, but it doesn’t really seem like it most weeks.
Mornings are breakfast then homeschooling. Genna plays or reads or draws or sits on my lap during this time, and I do things like wash the dishes (by hand, we do not have a dishwasher) and clean in that week’s designated “zone” (a la Flylady) during his work-alone times. We pick up as we go, so we don’t end up with a lot of just “stuff” scattered about.
Whenever we finish school, we make a snack for the afternoon and fix lunch and start dinner (if it’s Tuesday or Thursday, which are my days for dinner). And then we head downstairs, usually by 1. I work until 4 or 5. I take breaks as needed. I emphasize to the kids that they need to get along. They play, usually nicely. Sometimes not so nicely. Sometimes one or both stays upstairs. Wally takes pretty good care of his sister, most of the time. Sometimes, nobody gets along and both kids actually try to annoy each other on purpose and those days are super fun.
Evenings are for family time. Weekends are for family time. With my two exceptions: a half day each weekend is for working, and Thursday night is for working.
We also try to do some sort of activity each week (like the zoo or the science center or something fun at home) and we generally spend one afternoon and evening a week with friends.
As far as emotional balance… some weeks, it’s harder than others. Some weeks I feel like I’m failing at everything, and some weeks it seems like I’m super awesome at everything. Some times, I worry that all my kids are going to remember from their childhood is mommy sewing, or mommy on her computer. (But I know plenty of parents who do not work from home who could say the same thing!) Some weeks, I am more patient than others. Some weeks, I can
Also? Someone asked at the MOPS meeting if the kids help. I am afraid my answer sounded less than charitable, so now I feel the need to explain. No, my kids don’t help with Wallypop. Wally does do most of the chores for Boulevard Farm, and he asks on occasion to help with Wallypop stuff, but he’s just not quite old enough at this point. I honestly can’t come up with a way for him to help in any meaningful way that wouldn’t result in my needing to go back and double check.
He’s 7. I can send him to go brush his teeth and get dressed, and it’s a 50/50 shot whether he comes back dressed and with clean teeth. So, packing orders? Not so much. He’s not great at cutting. I have no confidence that he’d put the shipping labels on straight. He just needs another year or two. (And he is learning to sew, but obviously he won’t be helping in that sense for a LONG time.)
Genna wants to help mama at the sewing machine. And I try to discourage this. Not only because it’s uncomfortable for me (particularly with this big belly!), but because it becomes a safety issue. She wants to help hold the fabric as I sew, and she wants to push the buttons on the machine (I have a button for needle down, and I have a button for Cut Thread). MOST of the time, she’s really good about keeping her hands away from the needle. But her little hands are so fast and she doesn’t realize the danger involved. I just don’t want to see her get her little finger caught. (Also, there’s the fact that her help at this point just slows me down. I am happy to have the kids helping/slowing things down with just about anything else – cooking, cleaning, folding laundry, whatever – but I’d really rather get the working finished up so that we can move on to activities that they will actually enjoy more.)
So that’s how we do it. Working at home looks different for each family, and working at home has looked different for our family over the years. I’m sure this whole plan here will change once this new baby comes, but I”m confident we’ll figure it out and settle into yet another new normal.
FIRST, let’s not have any of the “I heard you’re closed can I buy some remaining merchandise for really cheap” emails that I got when I was on maternity with Genna. Seriously, I’m going to reopen.
The Way I do Maternity Leave
I am different from a lot of WAHMs, especially those with resale-only shops. When you don’t have to actually MAKE your inventory, it’s a lot easier to take a really short maternity break, or none at all. When you have to sew all of your inventory, it’s a little harder to keep things going. I’ve learned from experience that if I let my inventory get too low, as it would if I continued to ship orders without replacing the inventory, it quickly becomes a hole I struggle with crawling out of, and that makes EVERYONE unhappy.
Plus, my family deserves the best part of me, especially during these transitional times.
My Current Personal Situation With This Pregnancy
This particular situation is complicated by the fact that we, at the present time, have NO IDEA what is going on. We know our baby has a kidney problem of some sort, and we’ve known for a while. (one good kidney, happily, and one bad kidney. Hey, good news, you only need one! God gave us a built-in spare. Awesome.) This may be causing some low amniotic fluid, and if so, that would mean lots of monitoring (I’ll be at the hospital two days a week), the need for lots of rest (not bed rest specifically, but rest), and a potential for an early birth. (Could be as early as Monday.) We are getting a second opinion on all of this on Monday.
There also remains the distinct possibility that everything will turn out fine, and we’ll just have the kidney issue remaining to be dealt with after the baby’s born. The baby could still be born at full term, I could still go into labor spontaneously, I could still even have a homebirth. I could also have a C/S on Monday. Or anything in between there. That is literally the situation as it stands right now.
Where this leaves Wallypop
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about “if I just need to pick up or order a few things that are in stock, can I still do that next week?” I don’t know. At this point, what I’m going to say is that if you need something, email first and find out the scoop. But please understand that I may tell you when you email that it will be fine, and then you place the order and never hear from me because in the meantime, I had a baby. I’m sorry in advance!
As long as I haven’t had the baby, I will continue to process orders, though I won’t be doing this with nearly the speed you’re accustomed to. And I will be doing ready to ship items ONLY – so none of the MTO fitteds, for example.
Watch the blog and Facebook, because when we do have the baby, I’ll certainly let everyone know. And then it’s safe to assume AFTER I have the baby that I will NOT be processing orders (or answering email) until further notice.
And last, I was planning to close up December 10 regardless, so if I’m still PG at that point (which I hope I am) I won’t be working at all after that.
Sound good? It’s not my ideal, but it’s how it’s going to have to be.
I’m keeping my maternity leave plans kind of loose for right now, but I am tentatively planning to be closed approx. mid-December through mid-March. I will actually remain open, but won’t be processing orders during this time, so, you know, if you place an order shortly before Christmas, it won’t ship until mid March.
I’m trying to balance the real business need to capture that holiday shopping season with my real personal need to have some time off to focus on fun activities with just my two current kids before the new baby shows up, so I’m having trouble setting an actual date to be closed, but I’ll have it nailed down by mid November, I’m sure.
One of our littles is having surgery next week, and though we anticipate no problems with the outpatient procedure, I’d rather be safe than sorry. Orders placed Sept 4- 9 will be processed the 10th-12th.
“Processed” means looked at, credit card run, payment verified, items pulled from inventory, order packed up, and order shipped.
There’s a chance we’ll be back to normal before then and things will move faster, sooner. We’ll see.
In keeping with past breaks, we’re not going to CLOSE – the cart will remain open, but there will be nobody here paying any attention to it.
March 9-26. We’ll ship all orders placed through the 8th on March 9, then orders placed March 9-26 will be processed March 27-31, with a goal of having all orders shipped by April 1.
June 8-14. We’ll ship all orders placed through the 7th on the 8th, then start processing orders again on the 15th, with a goal of having all orders shipped by June 20.
July12-30. We’ll ship all orders placed through the 11th on the 12th, then orders placed the 12th through the 30th will be processed July 31-August 6, with a goal of having all orders shipped by the 7th.
August. Dates yet to be determined. This is just a personal break for myself, to get a few Late Summer things taken care of. My current thinking is that I’ll just work one day a week for two weeks, without doing any sewing, just order processing every Thursday. We’ll see.
I’ve fallen into a really good routine around here of doing shipping on Sunday afternoon/evening and Thursday night. This gets the VAST majority of orders out the door within 3 days of the time the order was placed, but lets me be a little more efficient with my time. I’ve changed the shipping policies on the website to reflect this change, as well.