Yesterday was my one-year anniversary of working at Nudge. What a wild ride.
Because Nudge was and is still relatively new in the grand scheme of business (and the grander scheme of the industry of collegiate athletics apparel), I was the first full time employee to be hired. Gabe and Brittany managed to steer the ship by themselves, just the two of them, out of their basement until it got to the point where the growth was unmanageable.
Like any good entrepreneur, they did the very most that they could before needed another set of hands. My wife works for Fabricated Customs, our sister business, and introduced me to Gabe and Brittany at their company Christmas party, long before I ever thought that working for Nudge was possible. I began on March 2nd, 2020 after six years of working in Minor League Baseball doing everything from parking cars and cleaning toilets to selling sponsorships and running social media. I was a Swiss Army knife employee, capable of doing a little bit of everything that would translate well to a young start-up. An added bonus to my resume is that I am an absolute madman of a sports fan, consuming as much sports content as I can most hours of the day, so being able to focus that lunacy into my career is a blessing. Now paying attention to sports and the ebbs and flows of collegiate athletics is crucial to our brand's success rather than just another thing that I do that annoys my wife.
I sat at a tiny desk in the back room of their print shop, slowly wading through the world of licensing and familiarizing myself with our products, our process, and our goals. Not even two weeks in to working, though, we were sent to work from home and that was that.
Working from home was extremely difficult at times because my assistant can't tell time and he doesn't know what a t-shirt is.
I am unbelievably fortunate that our business is almost exclusively e-commerce; we have a handful of wholesale accounts, but we don't rely on it enough to the point that I needed to be furloughed two weeks into a new job (and buying a house). I would have been tearing my hair out at any hours of the day, constantly asking myself if I made a mistake leaving the baseball industry. The word 'whirlwind' keeps coming to mind; starting a new job in any condition is a stressful endeavor, let alone not knowing anything about the industry and then being forced to learn it all remotely without being able to ask any questions or learn on the job.
But the stay-at-home order was something of a blessing for our industry; it gave us time to think and regroup and refocus our goals and products and how we go about bringing fans the best experience possible. We started offering cornhole decals, we offered my first ever design, the MSU Relentless design, the night of the first round of the NFL draft (to my memory that was the first huge sports-related event that returned, we thought things would begin to return to normal during the summer. We thought.), and a load of other products throughout the summer.
My first ever design once I finally learned Photoshop. It went on to be our 6th best seller of 2020.
We brought on new universities, such as the US Naval Academy and our new Affinity Licensing partners and new products for our best selling universities, such as the Baylor BU t-shirt, the Army hoodies collection, multiple hoodies for most of our other schools, and loads more in the MSU collection.
We also moved offices twice! Within the same building in Portland, we moved into a tiny corner office (not nearly as luxurious as the corner office that you're probably thinking of right now) that housed all of our inventory and every business operation except for the decals.
The first rendition of our warehouse. My goodness, how far we've come.
We built shelves all the way to the ceiling because we kept growing and then we grew and grew some more to the point that we even outgrew that.
What was previously my office and warehouse is now purely storage and our shipping center.
On Election Day, we moved again to another office in the same building, a huge office with cathedral ceilings that gives us plenty of room for sorting, printing, processing, and shipping, all still with the warehouse and our disposal. We now occupy three of the six ground floor offices (and in all likelihood have outgrown these three but I haven't done a proper clean up in a while, either). We had a record Black Friday and Christmas season, doubling what we sold in 2019 and supplying fans with the Paul Bunyan Trophy shirt, which was one of our best designs of the year.
That's me getting some orders ready for Black Friday. Because of COVID and shipping services being over capacity, we weren't allowed to send anything to Amazon warehouses; we shipped over 6,000 orders by ourselves in December alone.
Shortly after the Christmas season came a thankful quiet period where we could catch our breath and do some deep analysis on where to go from here. We've got big things planned, and as of an hour ago writing this, we just released two new MSU products that I am thrilled to be able to offer.
It has been a wild year. Not many people can say that they started a new job, moved offices twice, and saw record revenue numbers amidst a global pandemic, but I also must say how thankful I am that we were still able to operate at full capacity throughout and also how thankful I am of all the supportive and constructive feedback that we have received from our customers and loyal fans. Without you, we wouldn't grow or even be here in the first place. Here's to my first year at Nudge and what we have in store for 2021 and beyond!