Last Day :(

Today was my last day with the guys at Pacific Rink. The day started off normally with some order fulfillment, and after I finished, I worked on formatting the last of the website photos, hoping I could finish it up before I left. Much to Jason and Brad’s delight, today I was able to finish all of the rest of the photos, and therefore complete the website’s transformation, which was pretty cool! After a while, I took a break from that and asked them a bunch of questions, because I wanted to take advantage of their business experience and get all of the answers I could out of them before I left. We talked about a lot of things, ranging from how they started the business legally (as far as obtaining a license/filing for taxes/etc) to how they found a bag designer and created their original prototype. While we were talking about this, Jason took back to the warehouse and brought down a bunch of old, dusty, prototype bags, all from different stages of the design process. This was really interesting, and probably one of my favorite things I did, because he basically went through the story of the company all the way from the start, using the different stages of the bags to help show their progress, all the way until the final version they started their Kickstarter based on, and the slightly tweaked one that they now sell. While we were doing this, Brad was on the phone with another hockey company that runs some kind of prospect camp considering doing a small exhibition for the players that were invited there. I listened in on a little bit of this conversation, and when he was done, we all went out to lunch.
After lunch, I fulfilled another order that had come in, and Jason filmed me and made it into a time-lapse, which he put on the company’s Instagram story captioned “Donny’s last package” or something like that. I haven’t really talked about it thus far, but Instagram, more specifically Instagram stories, is a huge part of Pacific Rink’s social media presence, and Jason runs all of it himself. Throughout my time, he’s always been coming up with different ideas for funny shots or creative sequences, and has created a kind of series known as the “Intern Watch” that is supposedly very popular with all of their followers (or so he tells me). His idea for today was to do an Instagram live stream at the end of the day to interview me regarding my time with them, say goodbye, and let people ask questions to me. This was fun, and he finished off the stream with a short little speech to me about how much they appreciated everything I’d done for them, which was really sweet and showed how much they care (they’re both really great guys). 🙂 Last but not least, Jason’s wife and kids showed up (both wearing little custom made Pacific Rink shirts of course), and she brought in a cake that she had baked from scratch. This was so sweet and I couldn’t thank them enough, and I think it really highlights what amazing people they all are. I couldn’t have picked a better Senior Project, and I’m looking forward to returning one day, if anything just to stop by, say hi, and help out a little bit, or even just to go play some pick-up hockey with them, which we already plan on doing sometime soon! Thanks for an amazing three weeks!

-Donovan

Last Week

Because it was Memorial Day, neither of the guys came in to work on Monday, so obviously neither did I, which was nice because I usually work 9-5 every day and then get Fridays off, so I got a 4 day weekend. When I returned on Tuesday, I got straight to order fulfillment. I figured there would be a lot of unfulfilled orders in the system because it had been a long weekend, and I was very right. I spent a solid two and a half hours in the morning yesterday just fulfilling orders. Maybe that’s because it my first day back over a long weekend, and I felt a little slow and still tired, but every box definitely felt like it took a little longer than usual.

Luckily, when I finally packed up and stuck the shipping label on the last box, I re-entered the office in the middle of an interesting conversation. Brad was on the phone (on speakerphone) with a rep from an up and coming expansion team from the AIHL (the Australian Ice Hockey League). Obviously, hockey is not huge in Australia of all places, but the small league they have there (less than 10 teams) is trying to expand, and the man on the phone was one of the head front office members of the prospective expansion team the Sydney Wolf Pack. He had heard of the brand, and had been in communication with Brad about a possible partnership (basically sending them our player bags in exchange for a TBD cost and some extra publicity). It was interesting to listen in on the phone call and learn about one of the many ways Jason and Brad are using to help get the company out there and get the grand in front of more eyes. I wondered how much publicity an Australian hockey team could really get them, but I guess as a small business, any partnership is better than none at all.

Over lunch, we talked about another interesting facet of the business that I has thus far not known much about: retail. Because a lot of their customer base is in Canada, they recently established a new shipping center in Canada, which will make it easier and cheaper to ship to those customers, but now they were also considering selling in Canadian retail, but met a few problems. Essentially, their main seller, the Player Bag, goes for $199 USD, but despite the exchange ratio, Canadian retailers wouldn’t be willing to sell the bag for more than 200 CAD, which translates to only about $145 USD, and even this figure is decreasing as the exchange rate lowers. Adding on to that, as the nature of retail goes, the seller will only sell something they make profit on, generally around 50%, which means that Pacific Rink would be selling them bags for around $70 each. The kicker? Each bag costs more than $70 to make. Needless to say, this is their main problem when considering potential Canadian expansion, so it’s something they talk about a lot, and it’s always interesting to hear them talk business.

Looking forward to squeezing out every last drop of business knowledge I can from these last few days!

-Donovan

An Easy Day

On Tuesday, after the usual morning order fulfillment, I set to work continuing to re-format all of the product photos for the website (which I’ve been doing all week). At times, it’s gotten a little monotonous and boring, but I’m happy to at least be sitting in a comfortable chair as opposed to the more physical work that comprised most of last week. It’s interesting to go through all of the many photos that are taken of each product. For just one product, there are lots of photos taken, from every angle, in every orientation, on people, on mannequins, etc. It’s kind of fun to look through all of the photos and decide which ones represent the product best, and are put on the website.
After a little while, Jason (kinda out of nowhere) asked me if I wanted to go play pick-up hockey the next day. Obviously, I said yes, and so we called in and reserved our spots. I thought this was pretty cool, because it’s the epitome of entrepreneurship and being your own boss. There’s no set schedule to adhere to, so you can relax and take time off whenever you feel like it! The next morning, I loaded all my hockey stuff into the car and headed to work, excited to play later. The pick-up game was at 11:45, and I start generally around 9, so the day started normally, with some order fulfillment and more work with the website/images. Eventually, it was time to leave, so I threw my stuff in the back of Jason’s pick-up truck and we locked up the office and left. On the way there, he got a call from a guy named Curtis, who’s his main graphic designer. Interestingly, he told me that Curtis does graphic design for a lot of big companies like Burton, and Quicksilver, but he lives in the middle of nowhere in rural Colorado. Jason put the call on speakerphone and I listened to them discuss different options as far as colors and designs on a new line of summer shirts the company’s planning on releasing soon. I thought it was pretty cool that even on a “day off” I still got to learn some things. Long story short, the game went well and we had fun, and on the way back, we even stopped at Vistamar because he wanted to see for himself how small it was. When we got back to the office, we were able to get some more work done, and it ended up being probably my favorite day on the job so far!

Hoping for more of the same!

-Donovan

Update: I now AM 50% of this company’s workforce

(Hope the title of this post wasn’t off-putting– I know other senior project companies have been through some tough times with layoffs, but no, my two-person company has not suddenly decided to downsize.)

Yesterday was the first day of my second week with Pacific Rink. When I came in in the morning, I learned from Jason that Brad wasn’t going to be there until Thursday, but I was willing to take on a little extra responsibility. I started the morning by filling a few orders that had come in over the weekend when the guys weren’t there, and then moved on to cleaning up the warehouse and getting everything organized again, because the warehouse sale on Saturday had certainly taken a toll on the place’s organization! After a little while, Jason’s wife stopped by and brought coffee for us, and then stayed for a little while to help us organize everything because she didn’t have to go in to work until later that day. I enjoyed the conversations we had while working to clean everything up. We talked all about the company’s origins, and how they named it, and how they made the connections they had, and what they were doing to create more, etc, and like usual, both Jason and his wife were happy to answer all of my questions!

We made a lot of progress in our cleanup by the time she had to leave, and I had learned a lot too! By that point, the warehouse wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough, so we decided to move on to something else. First I filled another order that had come in while we were busy cleaning, and then we moved into the office and Jason showed me some of the graphic design aspects of the business, creating the designs for their apparel line, formatting the website, and creating advertisements/social media posts. I wanted to help, so we downloaded Photoshop onto my computer, and he gave me a basic overview and some tasks to accomplish. Currently, all the product photos on their website were formatted to be square, and they were all a very high resolution, so the pages took a long time to load (relative, of course). A friend of his who studies advertising and people’s reactions to it informed him that generally, people prefer portrait photos of a certain height/width ratio (more aesthetically pleasing to the brain or something like that), so he wanted me to change the website’s photos accordingly. I set to work doing that, and I got the hang of it pretty quickly, which was nice.

After I had been working for a while, a man came in who lives in the area and whose son was a big fan of the company, so me and Jason stopped working for a while and chatted with him for about an hour. That was another interesting conversation, because I learned a lot from Jason’s answers to some of the man’s questions regarding expansion, product details, and other things. All in all, yesterday was a good start to my second week, and I’m hoping the rest of the week goes well!

Preparing for the Saturday Warehouse Sale

Unlucky for me (or lucky), I happened to start my senior project on one of the busiest weeks they’ve had in a long time (so I’ve been told). After moving everything around on Monday to prepare for the incoming shipment, Tuesday was even more physical work. As soon as I got there in the morning, we piled into a big truck and drove down to a massive warehouse/storage facility in Compton– I don’t think I’ve ever seen a warehouse that big! Not only was it a huge building, but it was crazy busy too. Everywhere I looked there were guys whizzing around on forklifts, weaving in and out of one another, somehow pushing multiple pallets of crates at a time– I can’t even really describe how hectic it was! Anyway, after backing up to our assigned loading bay and waiting for about an hour, in which I questioned them all about their production line (where the materials come from, where they’re assembled, how they get here, etc), eventually Jason turned to me and asked if I wanted to go get some coffee because he knew of a Starbucks down the street. We set off walking, and of course we hadn’t taken 20 steps on the sidewalk outside of the warehouse before Jason got a text from Brad that a forklift operator had begun to drop off our pallets. Most of the other people there had bigger trucks, and some even had mini-forklift type things inside of their trucks, which made loading a lot easier for them, because they could just slide the whole pallets into their trucks and go. We, on the other hand, had a much smaller truck, and we needed to deconstruct all the pallets one by one and carry the individual boxes (~150 boxes, around 40 pounds each!) into the truck and reorganize them again. Even after we had all the boxes in the truck, we were only halfway done, because then we had to drive back to their own warehouse and unload all the boxes, and organize them again. Tuesday was definitely a rough day, but hey it’ll all get easier from there! (hopefully)

Wednesday was a pretty monotonous day, but I think Thursday was my favorite day so far. I started by unpacking, figuring out, and somehow assembling a large pegboard that they wanted to use for their warehouse sale on Saturday. Originally used at a product expo last year in Minnesota, the thing had very crappy instructions, and Jason said it took three of them a couple hours to put together in Minneapolis, and I also took a couple hours to figure out, but I didn’t have any help so I’m proud of that! After that, Brad asked if I could create some kind of sales sheet to track inventory on sales at the warehouse event on Saturday. Being a business where the vast majority of transactions are online, their system tracks the orders and updates the inventory accordingly, but Brad was worried that their inventory would get messed up with a physical sale. Surprisingly, I was very happy to do it, because it meant I could sit down at a desk with a computer for a while, a nice break from the almost entirely physical work I had been doing up until this point.

In the middle of that, I got to sit in on a meeting. A man came in who had been corresponding with them over email but wanted to talk in person. He lives and works in China in the textile industry, currently holding a high(ish) position in a large bag producing firm. He told them he was interested in becoming a business advisor of sorts, given his vast knowledge of and many connections within the textile industry. Together, they talked about their production process, and where/how they get all their materials and bags produced and assembled, and the man talked about how he could reduce their costs. After he left however, they did not have a very favorable opinion of him, because their number one selling point is that their hockey bags are the most durable ones on the market, and they refused to compromise that quality in any way, even for a cheaper price. It was fascinating to listen in on this meeting and learn all about the inputs and outputs of a production line overseas along the way to a final product. Hope there’s more good things to come!

-Donovan

How I increased a company’s workforce by 50% just by showing up

First Day! I discovered last night that I have to leave home at almost exactly the same time I leave for school, so I can wake up at the same time too (Thank God I don’t have to edit the alarms on my phone, that would’ve taken so much effort!) I found the office/warehouse pretty easily, and as soon as I stepped in, I was enthusiastically greeted by Jason, who I had spoken with many times but never met in person. Luckily, I could tell pretty fast he was a super cool, easy going guy, which was great! (For reference, in one day alone I’ve been called Donny, Dono, Donny Boy, Dude, Bro, and best of all, Broseph — yeah, he’s that kind of guy) For the first few minutes, he showed me around the warehouse, showed me how things worked, and taught me how to use their order management/shipping systems on the computer. Right after that, he had me process a new order by finding the required items, collecting them from the inventory portion of the warehouse, bagging them, and packing them. Then, I went back to the computer to print out a shipping label, sealed the box, and set it outside for delivery.

Around then, Brad (not as much of a “bro” like Jason, but still a great guy– clearly the more business-oriented side of the partnership), who had been on the phone when I walked in) stepped out of his office and introduced himself– and after that, there were no more introductions, because the entire company is run by only the two of them! (Hence the title of this post) He gave me an additional rundown of how the company functioned, the two of them answered a few of my questions, and then we got to work.

Most of today was physical work, but I don’t expect that to be the norm. Their main product, “The Player Bag” (a bag for hockey gear) has been highly in demand, but they’ve been out of stock for a few weeks. Tomorrow, a huge shipment of the bags is finally coming in (after many many frustrating delays I was told), so most of today was spent moving things around and organizing inventory in the warehouse to make room for the massive amount of new product coming in. Tomorrow we’re going to go the port to pick up the shipment, so hopefully everything goes well!

-Donovan