Happy Birthday Po Campo: You're Getting Smarter With Age

I can’t believe my Po Campo baby is already 7 years old! Each year has been interesting, but this last one has been particularly informative.

This may come as a surprise to you, but a lot of changes have occurred over the last year. I’ve been working hard to keep up appearances, but I also value transparency, so here’s what’s been happening:

About a year ago, I had a heart-to-heart with myself (can you do that?) and acknowledged that something with Po Campo was just not working. Sure, we accomplished so many things that I am truly proud of. Yet life was constantly a struggle, from dealing with supplier problems to keeping customers to managing cash flow - you name it, we dealt with it, and usually daily. No, I never thought starting and running a business would be easy, but after six years, it seemed like some of these things should be clicking into place, and they just weren’t. I could feel myself getting bitter. Advisors would worry that we weren’t having fun any more. Something needed to change.

One of our old methods of taking orders to the post office. Kind of fun to do, but not really sustainable, or scalable.

I asked myself, if I could change anything, what would I change? What I wanted more than anything was amazing product. Like many designers, I’m something of a perfectionist, but I sensed that I had let the business compromise on too many things to hit certain prices or material efficiencies or whatnot. So I decided to start there.

First we switched factories to one that specialized in high-end diaper bags, with the thinking that they would know how to do the same combination of durable and stylish that we offer in our Po Campo bags. They invited me to visit their production facility last summer and I was so impressed with their production methods. Our first production run last year went so well that we didn’t have any factory seconds! Zero. Zilch. This was a first for us. This might be bad news to those who liked getting our factory second bags for a steal on eBay, because we don’t have any more, but it was a huge step in the right direction for the company.

Computerized sewing machineNew factory with state-of-the-art sewing equipment 

Next, I worked on improving the designs of our core bike bags. I recognized that I started Po Campo because I wanted to give people a better way to carry their things when they bike, but that mission had gotten lost over the years when we were just trying to expand in any direction to “feed the beast” (read more about this in my interview with Pedal Love). Going back to the original mission was refreshing, and motivating. I have learned so much since we first created bike bags, and it was time to create new product with that knowledge in mind. From that came the Kinga Handlebar Bag and Uptown Bike Trunk Bag that we released this spring. And just wait until you see what’s coming next year!

What a difference it makes to have a product with both improved quality and functionality*! I feel so confident now when I’m selling the products or working on forming strategic partnerships. And I’m also a little choosier with whom I work with. Po Campo bags are too special to me now.

Po Campo Uptown Bike Trunk Bag

Now that I’ve got the manufacturing, design, and distribution on a more sustainable course, the next thing to do is to start building a team again. For that, I need investment to hire the right people who share my vision for Po Campo and the experience and drive to take us there.

Unlike most start-ups, I have never tried to raise money to fund Po Campo’s growth. Part of this is because people-who-shall-remain-unnamed told me from Day One that no investor would ever want to invest in a company like Po Campo. And when I say “people”, it was really just two people. But I was an impressionable entrepreneur then and didn’t really question what seasoned entrepreneurs told me.

But now that I myself am a seasoned entrepreneur, I’m thinking, “How could you NOT want to invest in Po Campo?”. Biking gives women their daily dose of freedom and self-reliance, and we help them use their bike for more types of trips. More and more women are biking and from 2011-2013 women's ridership grew 3x the rate of men's. Why would you not want to be a part of that?

My muses

So the next step in my plan is sharing my vision at the OIWC PitchFest in the beginning of August to an esteemed group of judges. Wish me luck! And if you are an angel investor interested in hearing more about this opportunity, I want to talk to you.

Last year, it was terrifying to admit to myself that Po Campo wasn’t going to be able to continue on the path that it was on. This thing that I had believed in, worked hard for, sacrificed for, was it all for nothing?

But now, one year later, I’m glad that it all happened. Rather than just coasting along, it made me look hard at what was working, and what wasn’t, and made me revisit why I was doing this anyway. I knew something was driving me, but didn’t know what. Now I know it’s because I want to support women who find their daily dose of freedom and self-reliance through biking, and I’m happy to continue to do that.

Can’t wait to see what the next year brings! And if you’d like to read a more traditional birthday round-up, check out the older posts below.

*If you have one of our newer bags and have suggestions on how to improve them, please let me know by leaving a review. Everything is a work in progress!

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