I received a big shipment of blankets a few weeks ago, and on Instagram I posted this photo of me with the pallet of 16 large boxes towering over me:
Subsequently, I received several DM questions about when the new blankets would be added to the site. The answer is not now but also always — both are true!
This seemed like a good time to give you all a tour into our dignify back room to explain more of how we make this colorful business work.
Past Q & A posts:
Background: How dignify Started (Scroll to "It All Began With A Wedding Gift")
For many years, we received our inventory of blankets in a monthly shipment from Basha, sent by FedEx (air). This system worked really well for us — we were able to decide & adjust quickly what we would receive, based on the demand. Also, the cost of purchasing these orders was manageable for our growing business. We would receive new blankets, photograph them, and put everything on the site to be available to buy.
The downside was: it was super expensive! We would joke that the only real winners in the Fair Trade blanket business were the shipping companies!
To reduce the cost, we transitioned last year to almost entirely sea/ground shipping. So, now: we place an order, they produce the goods (~2 months), the shipment journeys to us (~2 months), and then we have a several-month supply. Instead of doing this once per month and as needed, we do it only 3-4 times/year.
The difference between 2 months of shipping and a 1-week turnaround is (obviously) very significant. But, as you can imagine, the volume, the individual payments, and the planning are all much higher.
For example, we placed our order in May for everything we predicted we would need for the fall & Christmas season!
The photo above is an order that we placed in early March. It shipped from Bangladesh in early May, it arrived in mid July, and it will sustain our inventory supply through September. If it sounds a bit daunting to juggle timelines, predictions, and the amount of blankets that arrive at once... I can tell you: it is!
So, how then do we determine what to launch, when to launch, and how many blankets to add to our site? Obviously, we can't put 16 boxes of blankets up at shopdignify.com at once! Talk about decision paralysis!
I add new blankets to our website completely based on need/demand. I try to have 2 pages of classic throws (48 on each page) for the best amount of selection without it being overwhelming; sometimes, it will eke into 3 pages, but only for a short time until some sell out and I remove those throws from the site.
We never list quite as many of the silk blend throws, large throws, or minis, though I definitely try to have at least one full page.
How do you select the beautiful patterns that go up on your site?
We take an approach to the blankets inspired by our children's preschool mantra: you get what you get, and you don't get upset. 😉 We've made small tweaks and requests over the years to Basha, our blanket supplier (e.g. less brick color, more blues, etc.), but overall, we simply get what they have chosen to send, and we put it up.
I used to try to manage it more, predicting which blankets were "nice" and which ones were "ugly" — but, I've shifted to looking at them instead as: what "I love" vs. what is "not for me". I learned this after the throws I had deemed "horrible colors/patterns" were the first to go in a collection launch!
Everyone seems to have different tastes, and there is a blanket for everyone. We've likened it to the phrase in Harry Potter: the wand chooses the wizard!
We 100% name all of the blankets in our office, completely arbitrarily. I'm sorry if that takes away the mystery or the good story of the blankets, but it really is me (Shelley) or Wayne (my husband) and a thesaurus that gets this job done.
I start with an idea for the collection name or theme (Generosity, Harvest, Inspire, Party, Journey are some examples). Sometimes, I reuse collections & throw names from many years ago, but mostly I just brainstorm a new list. Some words recur a lot (like Restore or Lovely), but many are brand new.
BUT, that is not to say that the names of the blankets can't still be completely meaningful. We have had customers purchase a throw because it was the same actual name as their gift recipient (once, it was Blaze!). Or, many times, because the word had a special meaning:
A woman purchased the "Serenity Kantha Throw" as a gift for her sobriety sponsor — the word resounding with the Serenity Prayer that was central to her recovery with AA.
Another woman had purchased a classic throw for a friend who was struggling with infertility — the name of the blanket was "Soon". In the gift recipient's words:
I chose the “Soon” blanket to serve as her reminder that soon, she too would experience her own freedom from the years of suffering pain from this journey. Never did I think she would spend the next three years clinging to that blanket, literally taking it with her on business trips, family vacations, and even on a tour bus with Jennie Allen. She has taken its message to heart in such a sweet and hope-filled way, and we’re all clinging to its promise with her.
When, after 5 years of waiting, the couple became pregnant, the friend purchased a baby kantha & asked my permission to name it "Now". Cue the waterworks!!
Our office/warehouse is in the raised basement of our bilevel house.
When we first moved in, we rented out a very large bedroom in our basement to a roommate. He eventually left and the room was available for guests or short-term visitors (like my friend Brittany who came for a summer to shorten the proximity of her long-distance relationship). All of that is to say: it was never a space in our home that we made use of, personally.
Over the years, dignify has fit in quite nicely! With only a few exceptions...
As I mentioned above, the transition to larger volume shipments by sea has been positive. Except last fall, when we received (what felt like) one billion blankets and they totally took over our space & life (not to be dramatic). This year, we've tried to plan more conservatively — with the hope that if we don't have enough, we can supplement with a quicker air shipment (if needed).
It depends how much we grow, but while it is sustainable, we would like to keep it this way. The commute is awesome, the price is right, and we don't otherwise "need" the space (my girls, who share a room, sometimes disagree).
Feel free to bring on more questions, and I will file them for a future post (or answer them as I can in the comments below). Thanks for stopping by & peeking behind the curtain with me!
Dignify’s origin story has long been included, in brief, on our about page, and I refer to it whenever I’ve done interviews or podcasts or if I meet someone in person who inevitably asks, how did you get into this?
I'd like to share a bit of a wider panorama of the story, and an update. I have heard some tremendous stories from customers about the meaning that their blanket has had in some aspect of their life or a relationship. I'm so inspired, I would like to share more of mine, too. The story of dignify is very intertwined with my friend, Kathy.
I've taken a Halloween approach (thus far) that is almost entirely of a free-for-all. As in: Go trick-or-treating, have fun, eat candy, keep it in your room, go wild... and usually by two weeks in, it's all gone, forgotten, or lost its lustre. This week, though, our three kids brought over 1200 candies & chips back into our house (!!!). It was, to understate things... a bit much.
When you find yourself with an abundance of junk food, the idea of throwing it away feels inconceivable (at least for me). Maybe it is that candy is non-perishable, and there is a sense that throwing something edible in the garbage is abhorrently wasteful?
A little behind-the-scenes insight here...
As a store owner, there are loads of resources out in the wilds of the internet, ostensibly to help me succeed in my business. Did you know that I start hearing about Black Friday (as in "are you prepared to break through on Black Friday?") in the summer?
It is SO EASY to find ourselves as consumers in the maelstrom of other people's (and corporations') marketing efforts, and not even remember how we got there, or even notice these (very intentional) forces working away on us.
Here are some actions we can take now to simplify the noise before the noisiest time of the shopping year: —