Intern Zhang Luxi Xiong Jiayi reports from Chongqing
From the disbanding of the team to the “exploding” of orders, Shi Fang experienced a magic moment of 96 hours.
Shi Fang is the actual controller of Xiaowei masks, which is a washable mask with self-developed filter membrane. The third-party test report presented by Shi Fang shows that the mask meets the new national standard GB/T32610-2016A level of protection, which is better than N95.
The core technology of the mask comes from the “polymer melt differential electrospinning nanofiber filtration technology” developed by a university. This technology simply means that the production process does not require chemical solvents and is environmentally friendly. At the same time, after the mask is made, the material is nanometer long. Fibres can both filter extremely fine particles and viruses and wash repeatedly — but the market response has been dismal. “You can’t give it away, you can’t see hope.”
After losing more than 7 million in a row, Shi Fang decided to disband the team and leave no one behind. The reason for this decision is also related to the approaching of the 2020 Spring Festival. She wants to rest first.
The outbreak of the epidemic changed everything. Four days later, the online platform suddenly exploded, and orders came flooding in. Along with the order, there are also worries, soaring courier fees and malicious rights protection, which make Shi Fang exhausted. Her choice was to suspend the online market and turn to major customers, offline major customers represented by state-owned enterprises, which solved the problem of Shifang’s sales.
Inventory is basically cleared, but the loss remains, it is just a matter of thanks to less. But in this extraordinary period of the stalemate of the epidemic, this highly effective protective washable mask faces many opportunities after all.
But Shi Fang was faced with multiple-choice questions, and the high cost of manpower, channels, and scientific research made her terrified. During the more than 5-hour conversation with the 21st Century Business Herald reporter, Shi Fang seemed rational and excited, contradictory and persistent. She was close to bankruptcy, and then caught up again. She is an entrepreneur and a mother of 4 children. She is professional and has all the confusion of middle-aged women. “My ability is not up to par,” she emphasized several times, but she also expressed her confidence in her business ability many times, “unwilling to do so”. To a certain extent, this mask, which has spent four years of money, is like an endless dream for her.
Will she keep going?
48 hours continuous transfer order
On January 16, Shi Fang disbanded all teams. “Maybe there’s a problem with my orientation, maybe there’s a problem with my team’s ownership, and now it’s time to stop and clean the house,” she said.
On January 20, Shi Fang was still selling masks at Peking Union Medical College Hospital, hoping to open the unmanned vending counter channel of Union Medical College, just before the online warehouse explosion. “This thing stopped during the epidemic.”
At 5:00 p.m., the mobile phone tied to the e-commerce channel account started ringing nonstop. By the next day, the orders had reached tens of thousands. At this time, Shi Fang began to decide to recall the employees who had left. “Even if you sell 1 million more, you will still make money, and you have to go after the ‘booty’ is divided.” Shi Fang emphasized to the “former” employees.
Coming to the office on the 21st, Shi Fang, the boss, suddenly realized that after leaving the staff, he did not understand the actual operation of the business at all. So, she had to learn from scratch during the liquidation period. Call the couriers of JD.com and SF Express to learn the most basic ordering, which must be shipped within 48 hours after ordering.
At this time, Shi Fang only had three people in her hands, including herself and two graduate students. After placing the order, she had to pack it, and the shipping time was pressing. The manpower was in short supply, and with various efforts, Shi Fang gathered eight or nine people. The time lasted until 7 o’clock in the morning the next day. At this time, a total of 2,600 orders were placed, and there were still 9,000 orders. The number of orders was still growing. The long-term depression was released, and in the coursing, the physical energy of all the packing companions collapsed.
“I haven’t slept for 48 hours, I have made more than 10,000 orders, and nearly 10,000 orders have not been made, and the risk of infection is still there.” Shi Fang recalled afterwards.
In the end, she closed the online channel “in principle” on the evening of the 22nd, which was an impulse to sell but not sell. “Wandering about whether to close or not, but there are really not enough manpower, and there are still many people who want to go home for the New Year.”
At 5:28 a.m. on the 23rd, Shi Fang returned to the downstairs of the company. She had previously asked employees to arrive at 6:00, but it was dark and no one was there. Gradually, some people came. Doctors and business partners of the R&D center have a daily stock of nearly 10,000 orders, and the process needs to be reorganized. The next day is New Year’s Eve. The last flight of the express company’s cargo airline is at 9:40 pm, and the delivery has to be completed at 7:00. The next cargo flight is on the third day of the Chinese New Year. The consequence of the delay is that customers return goods, Not only has the loss increased, but also a lot of freight. This is the final window.
Fortunately, 46 people were recruited at 9:00 a.m., many of whom were relatives of the employees’ families.
Everything is accelerating. After the modular management, at 11:00 noon, JD.com had placed more than 7,600 orders, and by 4:00 p.m., all the goods were finally distributed – three full days had passed since the first call was received.
Four years of inventory is empty
Shi Fang, who had basically not sold anything in the past few years, was still too happy, and after-sales problems followed, especially the “professional anti-counterfeiting”.
On January 22, someone complained on the e-commerce platform that Xiaowei’s masks did not meet the standards and demanded triple compensation. The logistics information showed that at this moment, the masks had not yet left Beijing. The user ordered 100 masks.
Shi Fang from Hunan was not convinced, so he went straight to Tianjin the next afternoon. “We are the world’s top masks, and we won’t sell fakes. I’ll give you what you want, but don’t mess around.”
In the end, she did not meet the “complainant”, but met with grass-roots officials. The Industry and Commerce Bureau and the National Development and Reform Commission have both become “appellants” complaint platforms.
The relevant person in charge of the Industrial and Commercial Bureau later went to Shifang Company. She was not in a hurry. She asked the guests to bring a mask to experience. It is said that she felt good. “We introduced the technical principles to the leader. He heard that he had lost a mess in four years, and he was happy.” Shi Fang said. This “fake” is a thing of the past.
It is worth noting that Xiaowei masks are indeed expensive, far exceeding ordinary masks. Shi Fang revealed that ordinary masks are 29 yuan to 65 yuan each, and top silk masks are 199 yuan. “This is still the price after the price reduction.” To a certain extent, the high price did affect the early sales of Xiaowei’s masks, and also attracted “professional counterfeiters”.
Shi Fang, who was so excited, encountered the cold water of e-commerce again. She found that she sold more than 4 million yuan of goods, but received less than 2.8 million yuan. In addition, she had to pay more than 400,000 yuan in logistics costs, not counting taxes and fees.
Logistics is also crazy prices. “8 yuan, 10 yuan, various companies compete to raise the price, the customer improvises the auction and sends the goods. If the goods are returned within two hours, they have to pay for the goods. If the goods are sent to the consumers, they will be returned. When I come back, I have to pay. If one order is returned and one order is returned, our shipping fee will be 60 yuan. I paid more than 400,000 yuan for a courier.
In addition, online customers have many needs and are not polite, and customer service is under huge psychological pressure. “A customer called to thank us, and we all cried.” Shi Fang couldn’t forget this rare tender moment.
Under the dual pressure of spirit and economy, Shi Fang decided to give up the e-commerce channel and close the store. Things took a turn for the better. On the first day of the new year, someone from a state-owned enterprise approached Shi Fang to buy a mask, but there was an account period, and the payment could not be returned until after going to work. Shi Fang agreed.
Later, orders from the state-owned enterprise system came one after another, and even Shi Fang began to take the initiative to cut orders. “Some unit asked for 800, and I gave it 200 for the first time. Another company asked for 10,000, and only gave 1,000 first.” She said.
The continuous offline orders quickly emptied Shi Fang’s inventory. A total of 150,000 pieces have been sold in the past few days, and the online and offline are basically the same. Four years of accumulated inventories are finally running out.
Better news to come. Multi-level government departments are all interested in Xiaowei’s masks, and she stepped on the wind.
But at the moment Shi Fang is very calm, the way out and the way out are forking.
In 2016, in the tide of innovation and entrepreneurship, Shi Fang joined a postgraduate entrepreneurial team in a university. She saw the commercial potential behind melt differential electrospinning. In her view, air filtration, blood filtration, water filtration, oil filtration, etc., this is a market worth hundreds of billions or even trillions. “The bigger appeal is to be a China’s chemical defense science and technology park.” Shi Fang said. Previously, Shi Fang had been doing business in the field of medical distribution for many years, which made her relatively confident in cash flow.
But doing business is much more difficult than imagined. One of the problems of students starting a business is that they do not understand the market. Everyone has their own ideas. It takes money and time to sort out the company structure. This journey, missed the golden period of e-commerce.
Furthermore, it is a high base cost. Buying equipment, recruiting labor, and venues are all big spenders. Hundreds of thousands a month go out. Continuous production, limited sales, and a vicious cycle of cost accumulation.
In addition, in the wave of innovation and entrepreneurship, the cost of technical talents has soared. “There is a team that feels good, and an annual salary of one million yuan is required.” Shi Fang revealed.
Channel costs have also risen sharply recently. “The cost of e-commerce is now much higher than offline. For example, if you enter an e-commerce platform, you need to return to the monthly store money after reaching 500,000. You have to spend millions to find the operation team, create a website, and take a picture. It will cost more than 100,000 yuan, and there are all kinds of other expenses. E-commerce is a pyramid principle, and traffic can only come in when you reach the top of the tower. How do you do it? Either it is a strong brand, or it is artificially done so-called brushing Single. Offline rent costs are also high. Difficult.” She said.
Scientific research investment is also a bottomless pit. Melt differential electrospinning technology is more like a framework, which is the processing method of fibers, but subdivided into masks, it requires continuous fine-tuning, secondary development, and continuous exploration of scene parameters. Shi Fang admitted that due to the limitation of parameters, the cost of Xiaowei masks could not be greatly reduced. “Every bit of progress is bought with time and money.”
There are many opinions about this technology in the industry. A number of mask manufacturers in different regions of the country told the 21st Century Business Herald reporter that they did not know much about the melt differential electrospinning technology. A mask maker in Yunnan said.
Various factors, like a vortex, swallowed Shi Fang’s cash flow. “My strength and ability can’t match the current situation, whether it is my capital or financial resources, including my own ability (non-chemistry major). I still need to seek support from all parties, such as e-commerce channels, in fact, It’s not that important, the key is that the fundamentals of the company are not enough. Our team, including my own ability, is not up to it, beyond the ability, this is a good thing, but it still doesn’t match, so we need to re-summarize it next. .” She reflected.
The inner conflict still exists. “I’m not reconciled, but I’m still willing to try, but I’m also a mother of four children, each of whom is in a critical growth period and the backbone of the family. I could do this before I was 30 years old, and now I’m in my 40s, can I do this? If you do it, you must be calm and calm, and you must not be impulsive. If the industry is successful, I can even leave.” Shi Fang’s words were still contradictory.