Like a child coming home after a horrible play-date gone bad, Action Wipes is back home with Life Elements as of today; bruised and battered and not at all ready to come out of the house. As some of you may know, we inked an “exclusive sales, marketing, product development and distribution deal” with Harbinger in 2012 that took effect the beginning of 2013. You have to go here to see that announcement since; ironically, Harbinger removed all traces of that announcement from their site and the Action Wipes site before they handed it back to us. Unfortunately Action Wipes was returned to us by Harbinger with ZERO product inventory so we are not in a position to fill any orders or requests that have been streaming in since Harbinger posted a cryptic note almost 3 months ago on the Action Wipes that there is “no available inventory.” What happened?
In the Beginning
After our launch in 2008, we struggled and fought to get Action Wipes into the hands of every athlete, soldier and traveler we could find. Martha, aka @MarthaVan created and put Action Wipes onto the map through a tireless and engaging presence at any cycling, tri or running event as well as an incredibly successful social media presence, which BTW, was so successful that she beat out Marvell Comics for the first annual Shorty Awards in the Brand category.
Fast forward to 2011 and 2012, when we really started to see some sales growth and solid retail and online sales success. Action Wipes was finally turning a profit, we were number one in organic searches on Google and Amazon and we had some really interesting offers for investment from other partners, investors and even celebrities. But we were really looking for a partner that could offer us strong distribution and international exposure. Along comes Harbinger Fitness, a privately held company specializing in fitness products with global distribution, founded and owned by David McCrane. We were stoked. They loved Action Wipes the product and the brand as well as Action Wipes’ position in the cycling, running, and triathlete markets. We liked their positioning in the fitness industry and their valuable distribution and fulfillment capabilities. We inked the deal and Harbinger took exclusive control of the brand January 1, 2013.
How Many People Does It Take to Destroy a Brand?
Now, mind you that up to 2013, Martha had been responsible for everything from marketing and sales to web development to ordering to fulfillment to trademark registrations to sponsorships to packaging design…and more. Curt helped at trade shows, blog posts and mailing out orders while working full-time. That was it. We did it all. Harbinger had a Manager, Director, or VP for every one of those functions. And yet, while their PR and marketing kicked into full force by mid 2013 and did an awesome job of it, they could not get product into their retail channels – nationally or internationally. Long time sponsorships of events and our passionate and evangelical athletes were dropped. But we had high hopes. After all, Harbinger was a sales machine. Right? Wrong.
By late 2013 and into 2014, Harbinger still had not mastered the supply chain process that Martha was single-handedly able to manage with the same vendors for the previous 7 years (including the predecessor product to Action Wipes). Nor had they effectively fueled their sales engine to get wider distribution for Action Wipes. So they gave up and per our contract, gave us the minimum notice and cancelled the agreement.
The Nightmare Begins
We’re adults and entrepreneurs, and business is business. So what to do? We began the process of getting our ducks in a row to let the many Action Wipes customers know the status, keep the product flowing and get ready for the transition of Action Wipes back to us. We put our list of requests together and sent it over to Dave and the Harbinger crew. We didn’t ask for much and our contract was a relatively simple one (Buy us a drink and we’ll tell you what we learned about licensing deals!) so we figured that things like buying back the remaining inventory and getting the customer lists would be first on the list. Not so fast…Harbinger refused to sell us any of the remaining product AND refused to provide us with any of the customer lists of individuals, retailers and distributors that were ordering product! Both of which we happily supplied THEM when we assigned the rights to Harbinger. WTF?! That’s why you haven’t heard from us! So please—before you go any further (and thank you for getting this far), PLEASE make sure you are on our mailing list and/or send us an email. Tell us if you are an individual user or retailer/distributor.
We are working as fast and hard as we can to make sure the next phase of Action Wipes is successful. The Body Wipe category has exploded since we launched and massive distribution is important. In order to be successful we need a strong investment or licensing partner that understands the sales game to help us get Action Wipes back in the hands of our existing and new customers. Harbinger left us in a hole during the busiest seasons (summer…duh, cycling and Burning Man) so we are gearing up to have product and samples in hand for the 2015 buying season. We will keep you posted on our next steps, so please check in with us on Facebook or sign up for our mailing list. If you are interested or know someone who is a good fit to partner with us, please send us an email and we’d be happy to talk with you.
We are heartbroken over the turn of events these past three months and the lack of product, but it is because of you that we will persevere to get Action Wipes back on track and back on the market! Thank you all so very much for your support.
Martha & Curt Van Inwegen
Talk to HarbingerBTW--If you want to give Harbinger a shout to get their opinion, you can find them on Twitter or Facebook.