The Seventh Year

Celltei testing Made in USA in 2009

Weathering Economic Storms

Happy New Year and Valentines Day to you, you, you and you...!

For many years, you have been sharing with me your story, a little about your life and mostly about that darling dog, cat, bird, pet skunk, ferret, hedge hog and an endless list of special companions. We've earned the trust from these animals and in turn are touched by their devotion every day.

When I walked from pet shop to pet shop in Manhattan with the only design, the very basic Backpack-o-pet carrying Unzhizhi (pronounced un-chi-chi) in it, I was cheered on by most shop owners. Two of them in particular, I am most grateful for their kindness. Pablo, the manager of Pet Market on First Avenue, not only ordered six pieces and complimented on the backpack idea, but gave me suggestions of useful features to add to the design. Anne, a 68 years old groomer in mid-town west, spent a long time showing me all the designs she carried and told me why she liked or disliked each one. It was January 10, 2001. Pablo left the pet industry a few years ago and Anne had finally retired, their warm reception meant so much to this very inexperienced designer and salesman.

In the following years, I attended many pet fairs to learn what people want or need and started doing trade exhibitions to grow the business. I used to recognize people by their name and remember where I met each one. Well, the business has moved to a new direction after we built our own production facilities in the fall of 2003 to turn unique designs into functional products. In winter 2005, we renovated our current premise, acquired equipment and started having certain designs made in the USA. We have successfully trained up staff to make all of our designs but sourcing of materials, availability of talented draftsman (master) and overall high operating cost remain challenges to having all products made here.

Has it really been seven years? When friends called me to complain about the boredom of being a salaried person and lately the demanding corporate environment, I am glad that I am my boss and can listen to public radio during the day. Yet, I do need to work around the clock, worry about not being able to meet employees’ payrolls. When day time sales, invoicing and packing job is over, I have to hurry to catch the next shift working with Production in Hong Kong 12-hour away. Weekend is about graphic, catalog and website improvements. It is easy to suggest a 'professional' to take care of each task, but a small business simply cannot afford the luxury. Oh, don't forget to empty the dumpster every Monday, a fine for over-floated dumpster is $100. The stress to keep the business going is real but there are so much to learn every day and numerous opportunities for you to improve. Like most business, Celltei also feels the economic slowdown. It is also an opportunity for us to slow down and focus on our long term goal of a Design House for pets and THEIR FAMILY too. Unlike a trading business that has no R&D; nor manufacturing facilities or after-sale support service, we have chosen a path that few companies are willing to pursue. We just need to work better and harder and be patient. Being the head of the team, let me learn to be more disciplined and stay healthy with a clear mind.

In view of the recent economic changes, I hope my transformation from a corporate employee to a proprietor can be an encouragement to people who are looking for new opportunity. Before starting this business unintentionally, I had worked for various financial institutions for 13 years, acquired the title of a VP at an established company and traveled globally for due diligence projects. Financial analysis and formulation was my specialty. Although my father was a highly respected master tailor and I did grow up in the workshop, I had never thought I would use a sewing machine to make a living. Here I am talking with people about their lifestyle and discuss their statue, the pet type and size to come up with a product that fulfill all the requirements. In many ways, the steps are very similar. But I feel more accomplished with a beautiful physical product and appreciated by the instant email with pictures showing the happy faces.

I hope Celltei's first seven year can be viewed as a success and show that life is full of surprises. If my dad had lived to see what I am doing now, he would laugh to tears. And he could be very helpful to me too. I was lured out of the corporate world during the dot.com bloom. The business does grow to have a life of its own and opportunities exist because the seeds you planned earlier on.

We thank you for your continuous support to Celltei!

Angie, Trooper, Unzhizhi and the Celltei team in February 2008

p.s. Trooper was found very sick a couple of days before our Hong Kong factory was officially opened in August 2003. He is a very stubborn and self-assured Basset Hound! With a controlled chronic Bronchitis, he flew to New York a few months later and joined the New York team. Trooper became the star of the neighborhood and gave me the opportunities to get to know the predominately male business owners in this industrial zone. He is the door bell for the UPS guy or postman and kept me safe in late hours when I left the office or spending the night camping here. He can take your chair in a split second and leave you sitting with a phone book on top of a folding chair. Just look at this guy ... "What's the matter?" muttered Trooper with a Brooklyn accent in his big boss chair.

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