I am very excited to share with my fans around the world my updates on…
It has been a while since I last posted in the Blog on my site but I just wanted to write and also share and vent just a little of what goes on behind the scenes. When I launched this website at the end of 2018 it was purely for fun and I had no idea if anyone was even going to take the time to visit let alone purchase anything. Boy was I wrong as the Auto Fanatic web shop and product offerings launched out of the gate faster than I could even keep up. In business being overwhelmed is a great problem to have and it has been an absolute dream and adventure to share, influence and speak to automotive fans and customers from all cultures and walks of life.
Life and business was moving along and using my social media platforms has enabled me to manufacture and design some really awesome products for people all over the world. I have worked on custom design projects for major automotive OEMS and aftermarket brands and taken on some cool restoration projects as well. Auto Fanatic throughout 2018- to present has had a worldwide presence with stocking distributors all over the Globe. This was happening at a pace I could not believe and low and behold 2020 came around and kicked everyones ass into a corner.
I have been fortunate to have continued working each day throughout all of this mess but the disruptions and challenges have been the most difficult I ever faced in my life on a personal and professional level.
Most of you guys may not know this but keeping products in stock for the Auto Fanatic Car Care line to even the custom upholstery and other stuff I make has been a constant daily struggle. With the entire globe and manufacturing coming to a screeching halt so did supplies on all levels. What I had on hand was all I had to get me through 12 months of pure struggle
I have discussed this in videos throughout 2020 but I never emphasized the emotions and reality of how bad things really were because I always try to maintain a positive mantra and attitude while the world was depressed and miserable I did not want to add my worries to it all. During the daily grind we suffered shortages of plastic bottles, caps, trigger sprayers, plastic, aluminum, leather, alcantara, adhesives, chemicals and even cardboard boxes. No matter what it was these supplies were just non existent. So what did Phil have to do? Well I had to email and call hundreds of companies all over the globe searching for solutions to this mess. The challenges kept me on my toes daily and let me tell you it taught me a lesson in business that I will have with me for life. I plan to offer consulting services and mentoring one day soon for starting a manufacturing business because I would love to share my experiences and solutions that can help others avoid bankruptcy and build a brand.
As our Auto Fanatic Car Care inventory was dropping at a rapid pace due to high sales volumes of everyone being home and using auto detailing as an outlet I was in panic mode. We literally had no bottles and no chemicals to sell. I was forced into a risky decision of buying 50,000 blue bottles from a new manufacture just to continue on and keep this moving smoothly behind the scenes. I later realized that the material these bottles were
made from was not properly disclosed to our production team and then things literally hit the fan.
As we ran the production run we had thousands of bottles go down the line and break, labels were flying off and it made my products look like absolute garbage. We later investigated this and realized the plastic was the wrong grade. The gram weight per bottle was also wrong yet the broker who screwed me on a full 18 wheeler tractor trailers worth of bottles still wont answer my calls or emails because he knows he screwed me. This was a lesson that I will never forget but I was in a corner of what to do. Do I abandon my brand and hundreds of thousands of customers all over the world or do I take this hiccup and make the best of it.
So we managed to salvage some of this production, kept full stock in our store and on Amazon even though each night I went to sleep I was upset on a personal level that my products did not look how I wanted them to. When you are hands on and a craftsman who strives for perfection in everything you do then you would understand how personal this was to me. I felt defeated, I felt sabotaged I felt like my life was ruined and all I wanted to do was hide and avoid this situation. I felt it was right to mention this in videos and on my IG feed to let customers know that the product quality is the same but the packaging is all screwed up and this is the best we can do right now under the world crisis circumstances we all faced.
The product line that I worked so hard for and was so proud of looked like crap because of these issues with the supply chains. In the end what I ended up doing was I heavily discounted my products that cosmetically had a bad bottle, wrinkled label or some other defect because that was the only thing I had control of at the time. The complaints were marginals except on Amazon. So let me fill you guys in on that debacle.
Selling on Amazon for the consumer seems all easy to just click and order and your perfect item shows up. The reality is that Amazons warehouses and work ethics are terrible for the sellers yet their customer service policy favors the consumer only. What do I mean by this? Well Amazon FBA mishandles Auto Fanatic inventory, they drop cases of product, they mis pack bottles that explode in transit, they lost pallets of inventory costing me tens of thousands of dollars in headaches that seem to compound daily. So with all of this happening on the backend of Amazon FBA now things get really irritating. Amazon really ramped up their TBA delivery service to limit UPS and USPS shipments in 2020. The issue is these drivers are like UBER drivers and most are clueless. They can not find customers homes so the packages go undelivered. Not a huge deal right? Well it is a huge deal for the seller which is US because each package they do not delivery gets destroyed which means we loose money on every single one of those orders. You would think that at the end of the day a delivery courier would make multiple delivery attempts but that is not how the Amazon TBA system works. This is not fair to the consumer or the seller on Amazon. Oh it gets even more complicated. Throughout 2020 the world was going through the worst crisis of our lifetimes. Shipping was so delayed and things were just slow. People who shop on Amazon decided it was their right to abuse the Amazon Prime 2 Day Delivery Guarantee meanwhile couriers such as Fed Ex, UPS, DHL and USPS all stopped offering any delivery guarantee during these times. What was happening at a level that is just unexplainable was for every order that was placed on Amazon, the FBA warehouse would stock, inventory and ship Auto Fanatic products to each customer. Seems like a fool proof system but once you grasp how messed up this system operates you will understand why so many companies choose not to ever sell on Amazon. The saying that Amazon is the destruction of small business is true. All of these Amazon orders go out each day, customers are excited, I am excited to see sales activity and most of these orders were delivered late by any of the 3 couriers they used. Not a huge deal for anyone who is understanding and conducts life in an ethical manor but now shit hits the fan. Hundreds of customers called Amazon and complained their package was LATE. Meanwhile people around the world were struggling to survive with their health, a deadly virus, food and medical care yet this is what was going on. Amazons customer service would grant these customers a full refund and they got to keep my product. For each of these bastards that deliberately took advantage of the shrill policies Amazon implements the real damage was it hurt Auto Fanatic and me personally. For each of those orders I basically gave away my product and got no money for it. I was charged Amazons FBA fee, Amazon warehouse storage fees and other charges. This was not only happening in the USA but in Canada, India and Europe. Some very evil Amazon shoppers would order a product, drain it out and mail back water or dish soap for a refund. It is unfortunate that this small percentage of people out in this world conduct their lives in such a devious negative manor but in the end their cheating will come to bite them in the ass. I believe in what you put out in this universe will come back to you. I was so tempted to make a Youtube video calling these people out by name because I have a 3 inch thick folder of each of these orders from Amazon. I was reluctant because many people on social media would take it wrong as I am complaining and negative but all I ever wanted to do was let my loyal audience and customers know what I was facing each and every day and how hard this was for my life. This blog post may be read by many or maybe nobody will take the time to read it but it is my form of venting of what is takes to Keep this Brand Alive.
Now let’s get back to more nitty gritty on production challenges. Not only did those blue bottles screw me up and make my product look like crap it also cost me lots of money. You see when I specify my bottles I only use two USA manufactures yet they had zero production going on. Now in consumer products major companies can go to a bottle manufacture and say hey we need 3 million bottles. Well Auto Fanatic is a small niche brand and we do not have the warehouse space or purchasing power of the big boys. As a results I had to pay 40% more for bottles that were pure junk just to keep the shelves stocked and customers engaged. Now comes the trigger sprayers with none to be had. One broker called me one day saying Phil we got 5000 sprayers in black this is all we have do you want them I said yes I need them please ship ASAP. They worked but I hated them but it was all we could obtain and they cost me a fortune as well.
Throughout 2020 many companies were struggling with their own work force because of limited staff and people out sick. Laziness set in at a pace unheard of because people were too comfortable sitting home getting paid or collecting unemployment that they were not eager to work and produce. This threw yet another wrench into the mix by having low paying unskilled factory workers run the production line causing all sorts of screw up from under filling, over filling and labels all over the place as if these idiots were on drugs or drunk. Sometimes in life you need to just roll with the punches and do the best you possibly can especially when things are out of your control.
I later decided to introduce our HoleShot Si02 tire dressing, we also did some other developments behind the scenes on Hydro Gloss, and the New 007 Ceramic, Waterless Washes and 56 variations of soap to release our new Snow Storm Shampoo. I have always reinvested every dollar into production and new product development since inception. The summer months were hectic and the contract packaging partners who would fill, cap and label our product lines locally was so backed up making millions of bottles of hand sanitizer that me and Mrs Auto Fanatic had to crank out thousands of units per week in our home garage working 16 hours a day for months during the summer. Nobody ever knew this but we maintained the highest level of QC throughout because I was finally in control of the process. Not only did this excessive physical work cause me to blow out a lumbar disc but it also caused a severe abdominal hernia that makes driving my Shelby GT350R unbearable anymore and my current daily life very difficult. This was my sacrifice for my brand and my passion and existence. It was a learning experience that I will have for life on how I managed to do this type of physical repetitive stress all out of passion for my brand. What you put into your business is what you get out and the only one who has your best interest at heart is YOU!
Lets fast forward to 2021, things are optimistic but things are going off the charts with inflation. Every single vendor has raised prices on materials, shipping has gone up 30% and keeping any business operating has been stressful beyond recognition. I still have not raised any of my prices on any of my products and the loss of margins I eat because I want to remain true to my fans by offering superior products at an exceptional value. Of course as prices keep climbing from our vendors we are going to be forced to increase prices soon. This Blog post is intended to let you guys get a glimpse of all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes of Auto Fanatic. I created a brand that is sold in over 165 countries worldwide that it has been tough Keeping this brand Alive. Challenge is what drives me as an entrepreneur since I was a kid. Our local banks were hounding me each day for months to apply for a PPE loan and I said no I refuse to take a loan and even the thought of having any debt would just add more stress to my life. Every expense, mistake and mishap that has gone on running this business all has come out of my money, no credit cards, no loans and no business partners. Call me old fashioned but it is just my belief system on how I like to do things.
During the Holidays we get news that one of our main chemical blenders went out of business, then a major chemical raw material supplier merged and certain raws were not available and now 2021 was throwing me into a corner once again. I would scream in frustration each day as to why the hell am I putting myself through this torture each day and the answer is because I love what I do, I love cars and being a figure in the automotive world is just my life’s calling. I love seeing your cars and hearing from fans around the world who learn from me and love what I do.
Auto Fanatic Car Care inventory was once again running out and we have no raws or a blender to work with. We had to go through hundreds more phone calls, more laboratory testing and development and more hurdles to get this off the ground and get it off right. These struggles led us to the new and exciting changes such as the Hydro Gloss Ceramic Spray Detailer, 007 Ceramic and the new Snow Storm Shampoo Mega Concentrate. One thing I will add to all of this is that no matter what negative challenges you face in life it is the ones who get knocked down and back up the fastest that survive and win. I think I must have watched my favorite movies Rocky 2, Rocky 3 and Rocky 4 a hundred times during these rough months because they are great flicks that remind you to work your ass off and to believe in yourself no matter what life throws into your corner.
Each day continues to throw me it’s own set of challenges as I am working around the clock to overcome these issues that are going on behind the scenes. We just started working with a new contract packaging partner and of course it has not gone as smooth as we planned. Just to let everyone know the label manufacture we use is one of the biggest in the USA for consumer products but they do not physically make the label rolls all they do is print and supply. On our new production run we switched to matte labels because I like the feel better than gloss and the gloss labels were delayed for weeks which would screw up scheduling. I am constantly obsessing over improvements regardless if it’s needed or not. This was the beginning of another love hate relationship. Apparently the adhesive used on our new labels was different due to supplier shortages and we now find out it is not compatible with our PET bottles. This is not the biggest issue because the bottles are perfectly filled, sealed and capped but the labels have some air bubbles in them. I made the executive decision to continue with our production run and stop labeling bottles. What this means is the label manufacture is working on new adhesive options for us for our bottles and when they find a proper solution we will then label our remaining bottles correctly. I feel some sigh of relief that after all of this is settled we will have our product line looking great again.
I hope this Blog post is read and taking lightly but all I want is for whomever reads this to truly understand what is takes and what I go through daily just to not let you guys down. I apologize for these issues that are out of my control but I know you guys understand. I want to also thank each and every one of you who support and understand my passion for cars and everything I have dedicated my life to each and every day. Stay strong, never give up and life is going to be great again for all of us. I can not wait to meet you guys at events and shows and just expand Auto Fanatic further with more exciting awesome products for true automotive enthusiasts. We have exciting news with a new distribution with Auto Fanatic Europe and Auto Fanatic Asia already set in place and Auto Fanatic Australia is in the works so please stay tuned for more cool stuff and I will try to get back on my weekly schedule with creating more content for social media soon once I catch my breath. Auto Fanatic is much more than a brand to me it is my lifestyle. Please remember that everything you buy from Auto Fanatic comes with lots of love, passion and sacrifice thrown in and that is my added value, this is my brand. Auto Fanatic is truly an Automotive Lifestyle. God Bless You All.