6. The First Sample

GUYS I was SO EXCITED to pick up my sample. 

Day of scheduled pickup, I texted Anna to make sure 3pm was still a good time. She pushed our meeting back to 4pm since they were still “finishing up the final details.” That should’ve been the first red flag.

But I didn’t care! I was so pumped to see my bag come to life!! It was going be the perfect shape, perfect color, perfect weight…I had invested so much money, thought, and communication into this bag (or so I thought). I had been following up with Anna every week for progress reports and make sure she had everything she needed. 

Anna’s assistant Alanna got the door for me, and we chatted for a while in the studio while waiting for the bag to be delivered. 

After about 30 minutes, a tall girl ran up the stairs and dropped off a bulging black plastic bag. She dropped it on the table and fished out a smaller plastic bag. Then she took out what appeared to be my bag, but couldn’t really be my bag because it was SO BAD.

I hesitantly asked Alanna if that was the final sample.

“Yes, if you want to make edits you will have to get another sample made.”

I think I was still in shock when I left Anna’s studio, which is why it never occurred to me to request an explanation for how stunningly awful it was. 

I even cheerfully walked to the subway station with Alanna, and we grabbed iced coffees from my favorite coffee shop while looking at pictures of her puppy. 

On the subway ride, I questioned whether my standards were too high. At home, I scrutinized the bag some more and tried to convince myself that while it wasn’t perfect, it certainly wasn’t terrible. I compared the bag with the initial sketches and measurements I had sent Anna, playing a painful game of spot the difference.

It was the first time I had doubts about whether freja was a good idea…this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.

I snapped some pictures and sent them to my best friend for a second opinion. Here is how the conversation went. 


And on that note, here it is in all its glory:

Any takers? It’s actually looking pretty photogenic; the bag looks way worse in real life. I fired off an email to Anna expressing my concern and disappointment. And Anna basically agreed with me that it sucked, and offered a refund for the sample portion of the fee (which was only $200). Obviously a portion of it was my fault – not communicating clearly about my design, and the rushed timeline. Plus the material was a little too soft to be suitable for handbags. But the lack of workmanship spoke for itself.

And thus ended my search to find a capable locally based manufacturer. I promptly decided to shift our manufacturing overseas, in search of more options, more experience, and a chance to make a bigger difference – starting in the manufacturing center of the world.

I booked a flight back home to China, leaving in two weeks. 

That gave me two weeks to research factories, arrange visits, find new material samples, and coordinate those samples to be shipped to each of the factories. 

I should have been scared, but honestly I was excited. Hitting rock bottom early on means there’s nowhere to go but up!

Slowly recovering from that minor disaster Jenny

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