Updates, Changes, Bonuses and More

Posted by Joel Aguilar on

I want to start this by apologizing to everyone who is still waiting on their custom sticker orders. There have been so many setbacks the past few months. Hardware failures, late replacements, faulty replacements and all around bad luck. This added onto some non business related issues that I can't really get into in this letter have caused massive delays in delivery. I'm sorry this has happened. You deserve better service than this.
To those who have stuck around through all of this, THANK YOU!  🙏
Any custom orders that have not yet been shipped will be receiving a 50% bonus to their order. (If you ordered 100 stickers, you'll be receiving 150 in your order) If you place a new custom sticker order, you will receive a 20% bonus on your order, but please realize that it's going to be about a month before I can get to your order.
At the rate I've been moving with my new help, we should be completely caught up on all custom orders by the third week of January. This includes all orders placed in December. I will send an update email the day I ship the last order.
If you can't or don't want to wait for your stickers, I completely understand. You can cancel your order from your account on the website. If you ordered after November 9th, you can also use the cancel order link at the bottom of your order confirmation email. Please note that the website accounts and affiliate accounts are separate accounts and not linked.
If you don't have an account and don't want to make one, you can send an email to this address with the subject "Cancel Order #yeSxxxx" and your order number. When it's time for me to work on the proofs for your order, this cancellation email will pop up and I'll cancel and refund your order for you.
Most of the changes I'll be mentioning here will be about custom sticker orders, but feel free to read on if you're bored or just want to read the words of someone whose been stressed out and anxiety ridden for months.  
I've been a one person operation this entire time and it's a lot to do alone, especially when things start breaking down. I run most of this out of my bedroom and do the laminating and packaging at the kitchen table after thoroughly cleaning it. I'm a single dad with three kids and the only time I take off of work is on the weekends they spend with me. Even then, I still spend a few hours working after they go to bed and before they wake up in the morning. I spent all my savings on this company and have been doing side work to keep it going and take care of my kids. When the orders started flooding in, I still had prior obligations to finish up before I could dedicate all of my time to this. When the orders kept coming pretty consistently, I quit taking on side jobs and dedicated all of my time to this and have been ever since.
My kids will be with me until Wednesday, January 2nd, so I won't be able to work the 15+ hours/day that I usually do. During this time, I will be prepping and printing the remaining orders that have responded to their proofs emails and sending out proofs for the remaining custom orders placed in October. If you've already replied to your proofs email, your order will be shipping by the end of the week.
I now have someone working with me part time to help make and pack up your stickers, but I'm still doing all of the proofs, prep and setup alone. This has allowed me to work full time on the rest of the process and with much less back and forth transitioning and slowdowns. Hiring a graphic designer to help with these remaining aspects is an expense I just can't afford right now.
As far as communication goes, I was trying my hardest to keep up with all the emails and social media messages, but it was taking too much time away from order fulfillment and has caused much longer delays. I started out spending 2 or 3 hours every day responding to customers and questions. As time went on, it was getting to be longer and longer each day. On the Mondays following the weekends my kids were with me, I was spending the entire day responding to messages and emails...usually until I started falling asleep at my desk. Even then, I was still missing some of the emails or losing them to bad filters. I've been getting flooded with spam/marketing/sales emails from the contact form on the website as well as direct to this address which mostly causes more noise when I'm trying to read legitimate customer emails.  
As time went on and delays got worse, I was spending more time trying to keep up with messages than I was spending actually working on orders. I eventually decided to alternate days so that I was at least making some progress on these orders. I would turn off my phone and spend the entire day making and shipping stickers, then catch up on emails the next day or two. Doing this, I was able to make more progress but was still falling behind. It wasn't enough.
Once I had someone helping with the laminating and packing of stickers, I had to work full time on fulfilling orders so that I could actually catch up. There was no other way to keep up. I know I have lost a lot of orders because of this, but I couldn't see any other way to catch up. I'm sorry for the poor customer service that has come as a result of this. You deserve better and will receive better once I've completely caught up.  
Once I send your proofs, you can keep in contact through that email conversation and it will stay in front of me until I reply. When choosing your proofs, please reply to the original proofs email so it doesn't get lost in the noise.
Current and Upcoming Changes + Reasoning:
Minimum orders have increased. An order takes a minimum of an hour to prep, email proofs and pack up. If there are multiple images, difficult backgrounds to remove, backprints, multiple adjustments or difficult cut lines to set up, this time can increase substantially. Each additional image will take a minimum of 10 minutes to prep for proofs and set up the cut lines if it's an easy image to work with. Anything that requires extra work or complex cut lines that take time to trace and adjust will take a lot longer. On a $10 order, I'm only making a max of $4 profit, mainly due to minimum transaction fees and shipping costs. If you use a coupon and are referred by an affiliate, I'm making as little as a dollar. Spending an hour or more on an order where I'm only making a couple bucks is just not feasible at this point. Even $20 and $30 orders only make me $10 to $15 before discounts and fees. When the prep takes longer than an hour, this profit ends up being well below minimum wage and nowhere near being sustainable. I have spent far too much time on tiny orders with multiple images and backprints that take hours or half the day to finish and I can't afford to keep it up. I liked offering this option to artists so they could try out the service and see the quality of the stickers. I've discovered and had the honor of working with a lot of amazing artists as a result, but I can't keep it up and offer the level of customer service you deserve. I will still be finishing all pending orders in the order they were placed, but that's it.
Backprints will incur a $10 upcharge and be added as an option on the order page. I have gotten my backprint process to the point where it usually takes about 10 minutes to set up, but it still takes time away from the printer which increases the time it takes to finish making your stickers and delays other orders. Ink costs are minimal compared to the ink cost for the stickers themselves, but it adds up.
Thursdays and Fridays will be for orders over $100 and reorders. If there are no orders over $100 or there's not enough large orders and reorders to keep the printer and cutter going all weekend, then the next largest orders will be included. Since the setup for a large order takes just as long as a small order, this will give me a chance to get the larger orders taken care of in a timely manner and greatly reduce downtime while I'm working on batches of smaller orders. When I have my kids with me, I can have the printer and cutter going while I'm spending quality time with the kids and then laminate and pack them up when they go to bed or before they wake up.  If you are placing an order for only the images in a previous order, please reply to your original proofs email so I'm aware and can set it to print over the weekend.
I will be posting weekly updates starting next weekend. To keep you informed of changes and custom order status, I'll make blog posts like this and/or post to my Instagram and Facebook stories. I will let you know what the date was on the last order I shipped, so you have a better idea of how close I am to working on your order. It's the least I can do during these delays and I should have started doing this a lot sooner.
Affiliate Accounts:
I will be approving/activating all pending affiliate applications and creating your discount codes as soon as I've caught up to the end of December. If you have already received your proofs, you can respond to that email and I will create your discount code and activate your account.
New designs that have requested to be added to the site with their order will be added once I have finished all the orders placed in 2018. I have templates ready that show your Instagram username over your artwork and will set these up and schedule instagram posts to show off your work like I used to. These were the types of things that brought me joy in my work.
I have other plans for promoting artists, but I'm not sure when I'll actually be able to set those up and work on them. Once I've started working on these ideas, I will reveal them in a future update email.
More from this year:
This is going to be boring or irrelevant to many of you. It mostly pertains to myself personally and my connection to the business. There's not much update info pertaining to your orders or anything else. I used to write when I was stressed just to get the thoughts out of my head so I had room for more positive thoughts. This may turn some of you off from doing business with me in the future, but it's the real me.
My background is in internet marketing and computer programming. I used to write marketing automation software and various types of bots for cash. I was an affiliate marketer for over 10 years before this. There were lots of ups and downs, but I made decent money and could work on my own schedule...which was a crazy one because of my odd sleep schedule most of the time. (Four hours of sleep, eight to ten hours awake) I helped grow a lot of small and medium sized businesses and some people got monetarily rich using my software.
I have only worked a handful of "real" jobs in my life, which seemed super easy compared to what I was used to. The pay compared to working on my own was pretty low, but I could save money and knew there would be a paycheck as long as I kept working. When I got off of work, I was done for the day. I work hard and didn't have to worry about anything work-related once I got off. It was nice, but I knew there was more out there and couldn't shake it.  
When I started working on this idea, I wanted to create something that my kids might be happy to talk about. I thought about what kind of people I could help with the skills I had and how helping them to make more money might translate into them helping others. I've always respected and sort of idolized artists and creators, so I thought this would be a great way to have fun doing just that.
As a marketing guy, I think of stickers as the most efficient printable marketing method. Where someone might just throw out a business card, they're much more likely to either give away a sticker or stick it somewhere where it will be seen by others over time. For artists, this means their art can be seen by many more people than if it was hanging up in someone's home or office for only them and their guests to see, and for a fraction of the cost. For small businesses, this would mean their logo and brand would be seen and shown off more.
In addition to the marketing aspect, my daughters all love art and stickers. My smallest daughter (I call her my teeny tiny) has always gravitated towards tattoos, stickers and complex designs/patterns. At 5 years old, she still barely speaks. Her twin sister, on the other hand, is a little social butterfly. Being able to see the smile and excitement on her face when I give her a sticker to stick on herself or something else is a joy I can't really convey with words. If you have a child or grandchild with autism or another learning/social disorder, I'm sure you know the feeling I'm talking about. It's amazing.
The past year and a half that I've been working on this idea has been a major learning experience. I sold off some collectables and used that plus savings to try and create something my kids would be proud of. I've gone through so many ups and downs with this and always somehow managed to make it through. I invested in equipment and learned over the course of a year that the printer I bought was faulty from the day I got it. Over the course of about ten months, I spent thousands of dollars on wasted ink because the printer was dumping it all into the waste tank thinking the print head was clogged. The printer made some really clunky noises from the day I set it up, but it produced gorgeous prints.
With this being my first professional grade printer, I thought maybe this was something that was normal for these types of printers. It wasn't until the printer started getting stuck in hour long cleaning cycles that I started contacting customer support to find out what was wrong. I was already spending $200 to $300 or more each month on ink when I was printing less than $500 in orders the entire month. Each time it would get stuck in these hour long cleaning cycles, it was dumping out close to $200 in ink.  It drained my savings down to almost nothing and I had to find a solution if I was going to be able to keep this going. I was sent a free set of inks, a $700 value, and another maintenance cartridge when I contacted Canon support. After a couple months of trying their suggestions and seeing no positive changes, I was sent a replacement printer about a month before my warranty ran out. The difference was night and day, but I was still pretty much broke by this point.
Around this time, some of my first customers placed some huge orders which helped keep me afloat. I also started taking on small side jobs helping people grow their social media followings and automate their growth. It kept me going through the summer. When I started getting a huge surge in custom sticker orders, I was both excited and nervous. I needed to order more materials, ink, blades and cutting mats. At this time, I was still using a craft cutter and the entire sticker making process was relatively slow but setup was super simple and quick. I was going through cutting mats almost every day and it didn't take very long before the print and cut calibration started messing up. I was wasting a lot of time and materials trying to get it working correctly but it wouldn't stay consistent.
I looked into professional grade cutters that could fit into my workflow and available workspace. I was lucky enough to have an old friend who offered to put it on his credit card in exchange for a monthly payment to him and a small percentage ownership. We had worked together in the past and he knew how hard I work and the potential I had.  
So here I am excited to get going with a new cutter on the way. Some of the earliest orders in this surge were large orders from past customers and I spent quite a long time on them due mainly to the calibration issues. I worked to finish these orders and worked on more proofs while I waited for the new hardware to arrive. The replacement cutter arrived a lot later than expected and took time to set up and learn, but was a massive help with larger orders.
When I looked at the remaining orders, I saw that I had a whole lot of really small orders and figured they would be really quick to get through. I did not expect to have so many of them be orders with 5 to 10 images and requesting backprints. It took a lot longer than expected and this issue continued for months.  
I should have changed the minimum order amount months ago, but I didn't think it would get as bad as it has. I was discovering a lot of really awesome artists through these small orders and was hoping they would then place larger orders as a result, but many did not. It seemed like the more of these orders I shipped, the more of these orders I would receive. I was spending days at a time working on small orders with multiple complex images and making 10 to 30 dollars per day in profit. I've lost long time customers because of the delays, as well as new customers who had placed much larger orders after these ones. I could lose everything because of this.
As the weeks go by, I've been getting more and more stressed and working longer and longer hours. I would respond to new customer emails and messages in between orders and spend a couple hours each night on the remaining emails I had missed. As orders took even longer than expected to finish, I was spending more and more time trying to keep up with customer service and less and less time actually working through the orders. I started alternating days between customer service and fulfilling orders to keep up productivity. It still wasn't enough to catch up as fast as I wanted to, but at least I was able to get through more orders in a day than the new ones that were coming in.
As more and more people cancelled their orders due to delays and slow responses to emails, everything started tumbling down. I couldn't keep up with emails and messages and still be able to catch up on the orders. I got some help with the sticker making process and trained them on how to do what I needed the most help with. It's been a major boost to productivity, but I'm already so behind at this point that I was losing most of the large orders. I've only been sleeping 4 to 6 hours a night and it's caught up to me on multiple occasions. I've been having panic attacks and really low points whenever I get stuck on orders that take way too long to complete and then read my emails and messages to find out someone else with a large order has canceled. The depression was real. I'm lucky enough to have some really amazing friends and family who have talked me through these, and for that I'm truly grateful. My parents have been incredibly helpful with everything, even though they haven't known exactly what I was going through and feeling. I've felt like I was losing my mind but I'm still here.
With the holidays coming and other life distractions, I had to plan around downtime and decide if I would try to catch up on orders or emails. As floods of angry emails and complaints kept coming in, I realized there was no way I could catch up on these orders if I tried to keep up with the emails. Once I had everything working and a good workflow coming along, I basically turned off all my notifications and have been working on orders nonstop. I've made actual noticeable progress this month, but it's going to take a few more weeks to finish catching up on the orders that are left.
Now that I have help making the stickers, my biggest delays are from the orders with multiple images that take hours to set up. A larger order with a lot of images takes just as long to set up as a smaller order. With the new cutter, larger orders can be printed at night and during setup of other orders and set to cut overnight without my intervention. Since most of the larger orders have less complex designs and fewer images, and I have someone helping with the laminating and packaging, most of these larger orders are actually taking less time out of my day than many of the small orders.
While my kids are with me for the next few days, I'm going to spend my days with them and give them the attention they need. I will set orders to print in the morning and work on proofs at night. I will keep updating all of you with my progress each weekend so you can keep up with what's going on. Things should have never gotten this bad and I'm sorry that I even had to write something like this. I'm hoping the weekly updates will be enough to keep a lot of you from cancelling, but I understand if you're not willing to wait. I'm sorry it got to this point.
If you've read this far, I commend you for your patience. I hope you understand. May the new year bring all of you and your loved ones plenty of good fortune and happiness. Thank you for your time and business.
Joel Aguilar

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