Early January: first orders

‘You never forget your first order in your inbox – it’s just an email that comes in from Shopify saying, “Someone has purchased this product for X dollars.” As the orders come in at a good pace, we get to the point where we have to create an email filter, which feels good and is a big moment for both of us. We’re happy for like an hour. Then the next moment it’s suddenly: how do we get ready for customer experience? How do we get ready for potential refunds? That happiness is short-lived and that feels unhealthy. You start to temper every extreme over time where, if there’s a high, you experience it briefly and then you immediately think about what could go wrong. A lot of my friends, without prompting, text both of us and say, “Hey Kevins, remember to appreciate the day because we know how you must be feeling and how you’re probably already bracing yourself for the next move.” That’s nice to see. It’s something I think that a lot of founders, myself included, often forget.’

Late January: dealing with complaints

‘I’ve been answering most of our customer-support tickets myself and it can take a huge toll on my mental health. A Taiwanese-American woman writes in to complain – it’s almost like, as a fellow Taiwanese-American, she’s disappointed we launched this. It was my biggest fear all along – that people are going to judge our standards based off version one. It’s kind of like knife wounds to the heart. It’s easy to fall into a negative spiral and think that everyone hates your product, when in reality it’s just a small, but loud subset of customers. I have to remind myself sometimes that it’s better to have customers who care enough to complain vs having customers who don’t care at all.’

More: How immi launched in a sector the founders had never been in before

Early February: a big award win

‘We get some pieces of PR – including our first magazine award in Sunset Magazine’s 2021 Pantry Awards. It’s unexpected – maybe not a lot of people outside the US know of it, but I happened to grow up on the magazine because my mom always had a copy on the kitchen table that I’d flick through when I’d be eating. I immediately run out to my local Safeway and try to find a copy but they’re not out yet. I was pretty sad to not see it – I was prepared to buy the entire rack! Although I’m not sure what I’d do with them. It’s nice to have a physical artefact – something our families recognise. When you start a company, all you’re really doing is just telling a story because no one can truly see what’s going on. This is living proof that, hey, maybe the company does exist.’

Mid-February: more demand, more problems

‘Two PR articles lead to an unexpected surge of order volume and we’re out of inventory for a week. We’d planned to take the day off, but instead have to spend five hours coordinating with our manufacturer and warehouse to see if we can rush through more inventory to the warehouse and fulfil these orders. This was going to be the first three-day weekend we’d had in a while and we’d both planned to spend it with our significant others. Then it’s Monday morning and I’m sitting on my laptop just trying to troubleshoot. I’ll admit, there is this feeling of: oh, I’m being productive, I feel useful right now; but after the fact I feel kind of shitty. Like, I was supposed to take today off but instead we spent half a day fire-fighting. A few weeks later, we’re notified that UPS has lost 30 customer orders. We do all we can to reach out to customers and offer free re-shipments and partial refunds, but it’s never fun to send out these types of communications. I feel a lot of frustration but we do our best to empathise. It’s easy to hate on this faceless entity, but I go to my local UPS two to three times a week to ship out influencer boxes and I’m on first-name terms with the people there. Doing customer service myself has definitely changed my perspective.’

March: an uplifting anecdote

‘I speak with the founder of another very fast-growing plant-based food company in the US, who I’m introduced to through a mutual friend. He tells me he’s actually already heard of us because he bought our product, really liked it and has given it to his girlfriend, who loves it so much she even brings it with her when she travels. It’s just a very nice feeling – hearing that really makes my day, it doesn’t feel like he’s just saying it to be nice. It’s a very tangible example and it feels more powerful because it’s so easy to diminish the transaction emails that you get in your inbox where you begin to just think of customers like lines of data over time. You forget that these are individual people who are maybe buying immi for their husband or wife’s birthday or to gift it to a friend. That’s also why it hurts so much when someone sends an angry email because you’ve ruined their day.’ 

This article was first published in Courier issue 40, April/May 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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