Inflation sucks, so we're doing something about it.

Hey, it's Brandon. Owner & Maker here.

Since 2020 it feels like even waking up has gotten too damn expensive- and warning, I am not censoring myself for the comfort of others in this post. So scroll on if you can't handle some cursing, some politics & some frankness. 

I go to the grocery store, and in 2024 that's enough to radicalize the tamest of us. Regular schmegular eggs cost more than the farm fresh ones (which I understand I am very privileged to have access to- thank you Angie, my egg lady!!), milk has over doubled in price & why is everything shrinking? My favorite brand of chips went from 60% full to 45%ish full (you better know my autistic ass took notice, Terra chips!!).

It's infuriating. 

As a small-shot maker, producer, manufacturer, I've seen costs go up on just about everything as mega-corps have bought up majority of our suppliers since the Pandemic. 10-40% increases on essentials like wax, oils, trays, label paper, ink and even overhead. 

We tried to pass some of it on, like they teach you in business course- but sales went down (which, duh, I get) and we suffer from both ends. People are not making more money in America. Wages are stagnant. How are prices still going up MONTH OVER MONTH? Make it make sense. 

So, screw it. We made some aggressive changes in the last 6-months to try and lower prices, let's talk about them:

1. We moved our warehouse to a new location in a small town far from the city a few months ago. We avoided rents ranging from $9,000-12,000/month on units that use to be half the cost (not kidding) and obtained a fixer-upper for around $3,000/mo. With some sweat, more blood than preferred and a couple naps on the floor - it's had a hugely positive impact on making ends meet for us and even helping us thrive! Plus, we've got to fall in love with our new small town home. Our neighbor makes us cookies, there's an ostrich farm nearby and our landlords cool as hell, so 10/10. Love it out here. Snazzy place to be.

2. We equalized pay across the board for every single full-time team member, owner included. Newbies, owner (me), managers- we're all paid equal rates for what I believe to be equal work now. We all are motivate to grow the business in a "rising tides raise all ships" kind of way. It's working, too. We're having more fun, collaborating more often and trying new things like never before.

3. We've stopped simply accepting blatant price gouging from suppliers, most importantly. Seriously this was half the battle, so let's break this part down:

Most of my suppliers have been bought out by private equity since 2019. Weird how many of them, actually. Since this past October me and the team have been negotiating, straight up arguing and switching suppliers to obtain more realistic prices & contracts from smaller brands happy to have us. We've called out certain suppliers who couldn't really "pin-point" why their prices went up- in one case we went as far to investigate if their wages for their team had gone up (no, of course they didn't). 

If you're in the maker space and in any FB groups, you know how defeated we all feel regarding the influx of raised expenses. 

In a few cases we were able to sign an agreement on more 2019-esq pricing, for at least the next year or two. In others, we straight up switched suppliers we had partnered with for almost a decade - which has been awesome, and has helped us partner with smaller suppliers who hadn't been bought out by private investors who don't know sh*t about the fragrance & body industry. We've made new friends in the industry who want the same thing we do- to thrive as a small business, and delight our peeps (you, cutie pie). 

Oh and in my personal favorite situation, we called three suppliers up on the phone (soy wax vendors) and had them bid for our business. We ended up with a very local supplier in the process, saving on freight was a huge-huge-huge help. 

So now more than ever, every dollar spent with us stays more local than ever before. As a small business owner, I feel awesome about this. Majority of our vendors are actually in our home-state of Ohio now in fact. In cases where we couldn't get prices to budge, we've switched to a few local (like short drive local) suppliers just to make a damn point & stick it to the ivory tower dwellers invading our industry. 

We did all this without lowering wages or shrinking products- and now, we are passing it on to you, our customers & friends for the last decade. 

Side note, we've also tightened up our marketing budget a bit so sharing really is caring.

 What is happening to the fragrance industry is not unique, though. It's the same reason most grocery stores are now owned by 3 corporations in a trench-coat, with one goal: Insane & endless growth in their profits for stock holders. NOT providing value to local communities. Not prioritizing their customers. Not raising wages. Profit (and immense greed, in my opinion). 

To my business owner friends- We cannot accept blatant price gouging, we cannot allow private shark-like investors and capital companies with business men who've never worked a warehouse/maker job in their LIVES to to capitalize in every industry without a fight. That's silver spoon energy, no thanks.

I'm not saying we won. I'm not saying we did it perfectly. But we kept on it, stayed consistent and now we're getting to do something that feels like a middle finger to the multi-billion dollar investors, stock holders and CEO's; lower our prices site f*cking wide, to price ranges we can be really proud of. 

In the grand scheme of things in this country we are a drop in the bucket, but I hope we can inspire other business owners. This isn't that radical of an idea, when your money stays local your community grows stronger and has more power in the face of invading mega-corps. All it takes is consistency and nerve... sometimes high blood pressure and crying- but mostly consistency and nerve! 

I believe shopping from small locally owned businesses, your neighbor, should still be attainable and for now -  I think we've made our goods considerably more attainable than ever before, during a time when it's needed the most. 

 

Screw this endless inflation & the politicians (on BOTH sides of the aisle) stuck in corporations pockets refusing to do anything about it. We have to get mad, get smart and take action. This isn't world changing resistance, but resistance of all sizes really does matter - and if we can inspire you to take action, and you inspire someone else to take action? Then we have a fighting chance at making real lasting change and ending monopolistic corporate greed.  

 

I hope this news can make your day a little brighter. 

With love, gumption & imperfection,

Brandon Love & the B-Team
Bewilderment.com 
Baltimore, Ohio

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