Saturday, April 18, 2020

Puffin Boat Company is The Little Engine That Could

An image of me sitting on my mother's lap is ingrained in my memory.  The book was The Little Engine That Could.  You might be reluctant to listen to a children's story for 8 minutes, but the book is eerily similar to our world today.

In the story, a train loaded with stuffed animals and food for children can't make it over a mountain.  The stuffed animals approach passing engines to ask for assistance to get the train over the mountain so the goods can be distributed to little boys and girls.

That mountain is the Corona virus of today.

Many of the engines that pass refuse to help stating they are too important, too powerful, or too essential to stop and help a train with kid's toys and food.  In short, most of the engines are just plain jerks.

I've always thought about our Puffin Boat Company as The Little Engine That Could.  Since 2013, we've been building Puffin Dinghies.

Puffin Boat Company builds dinghies, but we also have acted as a supplier to some very well-known companies including Vineyard Vines, Old Town Canoe, Hinckley Yachts, Back Cove Yachts, Hunt Yachts, Sea Bags, Bennington, and most recently TJ Maxx.

Last fall we received a call from a woman in Portugal claiming that she was a buyer for Homegoods, and TJ Maxx was interested in purchasing a large quantity of our Puffin Dinghies.  We were in disbelief and skeptical, but it turned out to be true.  In fact, they requested 800 units!  Our annual production of Puffin Dinghies is currently less than 100 units, so you can imagine the emotional weight felt as we discussed our capacity.  Here we are, a tiny 8 person operation just trying to hit our deadlines for our other supply partners.  So, we said no.

But TJ Maxx called back and asked us how many dinghies we could supply in 60 days.  After much reflection, we responded with 80 units.  

Boom...we have a purchase order for nearly 80 units; we did our Puffin Happy Dance (a pretty awkward affair).  As customary, we requested a 50% deposit.  Homegoods was not down with that.  The best they could do was Net 15 after delivery...meaning Puffin had to front labor and material costs during production and wait a full 15 days to be paid after delivery. Fronting cash in January for Puffin Boat Company is not an easy thing to do.  But we dug the change from under our couch cushions and behind the dryer, and we agreed to their terms.  

Puffin Boat Company got to work and a team from TJ Maxx came in to monitor our progress and check the quality of our packaging.

Puffin Boat Company was responsible for packaging the fiberglass dinghies for transport to warehouses all over the country.  That was a challenge in itself:

Katie and Teresa with 860 Seafoam Puffin & Packaging Sample

Teresa Making Final Inspection of First Shipment

First Truckload Being Loaded
"I Think I Can, I Think I Can, I Think I Can..." kept running through my head as the first half of the shipment headed for the TJ Maxx distribution centers across the country.  Then, we counted the days until we would receive the desperately needed Electronic Funds Transfer from TJ Maxx.

15 days went by and no payment.   Hmmm...must be an internal issue.  A few days went by, and then I heard that Homegoods was shuttering TJ Maxx due to the Covid-19 outbreak.  Bad news.

Teresa contacted the buyer from Homegoods, and we were told that all payments would be delayed another 90 days, and by the way...TJ Maxx was cancelling the second half of the order.  There were some tears shed.  That was followed by anger.  I called my attorney.  He told me courts were closing, and we could get in line to pursue action.

The irony of the whole ordeal is that all of us thought Puffin Boat Company would let TJ Maxx down.  We didn't think we were good enough to make the deadlines, or that we were smart enough to figure out how to package the dinghies without causing damage.  Many people even asked us why TJ Maxx would even be interested in our little Puffins.

But here we are, like The Little Engine that Could supplying Bennington, Hinckley, Back Cove Yachts, and Hunt with essential parts and pieces, while the big fancy engine can't even pay their bills.

Due to the cancellation, we have a clearance sale on Seafoam Green and Pink 860 and 760 Puffin Dinghies.   You can purchase direct from Puffin Boat Company, and shipping is free to the Continental U.S.  Overstock Puffin 860 in Seafoam Green


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