www.facebook.com/riutbag This is a recommendation that you try Freedom Logistics for your shipping into the UK, especially if you're just starting out or running a Kickstarter campaign on your own. Read on to find out why.
How do 14 little boxes of RiutBags get from China to England in one piece without anything getting lost? How do they get from the factory, through Chinese customs, on to a plane or a boat, to their destination port, come through customs at the other end and safely into a place where you - the project creator - can get to them?
You hire an international freight management company, of course! Or so I found out.
8 months ago I didn't know this. I had an inkling that I needed to search for "customs" "import" "support" "small business" "china" and those sort of things. But I had no idea what I was looking for. So I started calling the companies that came up on my searches. Many of them spoke in such thick industry jargon that after 20 minutes neither of us knew what the other wanted.
Eventually, I called Freedom Logistics. This was in May 2014. Chris Houghton picked up the phone. I told him what I thought I wanted to do. From him, I needed to understand whether his company is actually what I was looking for, whether I actually needed something else all together and which other types of company I needed to fill in the chain on either side. We spoke every few months. In real English. He was willing to talk to me even though the RiutBag wasn't even prototyped or funded. It had only moved from my sketchbooks on to the design screens of my prototyping company by this point.
Chris helped me see what I needed to think about. He showed me all the costs involved, all the options, all the paperwork, the codes from HMRC, the time scales I should expect and the risks that arise. And that was before the RiutBags even existed.
The first 140 RiutBags are lucky. None of the possible problems of international freight and shipment arose this time. The RiutBags left Xiamen in China on Thursday 12th February 2015 and arrived in London on Monday 16th February 2015. My factory took the RiutBags from the factory to the port. Freedom Logistics arranged the Chinese shipping company to accept the goods, put them on one of the last freight planes out of China before Chinese New Year, via Luxembourg, and prepared all the paperwork so that the RiutBags came straight through customs and they picked them up and drove them into their warehouse in Heathrow.
I'm delighted. But that wasn't where their service ended.
As a Kickstarter project creator, I had a personal touch to add to my first backers' RiutBags. These backers had supported my project so generously, they were the first to receive the RiutBags and had them signed by me. It's a peculiarity of my Kickstarter project and one I thought might cause raised eyebrows. But Freedom Logistics didn't blink and just helped me. They let me know when the RiutBags arrived, put them to one side and waited for me. I got a warm smile, a hand shake and a cup of tea on arrival. Then, anyone who could offer a hand helped me to unpack the RiutBags one by one, do a final quality check and lay them out ready for me to sign them. THAT is above and beyond amazing client service.
Once the RiutBags were all packed and ready to go, Freedom Logistics also arranged the road freight to drive the RiutBags to the company I'll be talking about next.
Who am I?
I'm writing to you from the eye of the Kickstarter tornado. And it's amazing. I'm Sarah, a project creator running this project alone from the UK. Less than a year ago my idea - the RiutBag with no outer zips for safe, calm city travel - was a sketch on paper. In the last 11 months I prototyped, funded it on Kickstarter, went to China to meet with a manufacture to create the final manufacturable version, got the first 200 made before Chinese New Year and they just landed in the UK. I can easily say this has been the most outstanding year of my life ever.
Until the RiutBags landed here, though, the project didn't seem a success to me. There were too many variables which I might have misjudged. Do I actually have enough savings to live for a year, is there a flaw in my idea I couldn't see until it was prototyped, what if I can't get it funded, what if the funding amount still isn't enough to do it, what if my prototype doesn't translate into something manufacturable, what if I've chosen a dodgy manufacturer that does a rubbish job and what if I completely misunderstood the export out of China, freight and import into the UK?
These are the questions and doubts that have become my friends over the course of the last year: starting a company manufacturing a product for the first time. And many new doubts replace the old ones. But when I got the email saying "Good news! Your RiutBags have arrived from China and they're waiting for you in London" I felt my first sense of real achievement in 11 months. It worked. My made up, novice, no experience plan was good enough that 140 RiutBags are standing in a warehouse in London Heathrow, England. Not in theory. In reality.
Thank you for doing what you said you would and helping at every stage. See you next time Freedom Logistics.