“Hope you can be patient with us”: Utah small business owners struggling with supply chain issues

PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4) – Dottie Murray-Small and her husband Robert are selling a product that is supposed to make their customers happy.

As the owners and operators of Utah-based Car Lashes, they’ve enjoyed working together on a car accessory that places human-like lashes around the headlights of almost any make or model of vehicle.

It makes the customer’s car look like it’s straight out of those old Chevron commercials or even the Disney movie, Cars.

“We’re selling a product that makes people happy, Murray-Small tells ABC4.com. “It lifts them up, it makes their day.”

However, if you call Car Lashes’ business number, the message on the other end of the phone is far from a happy one.

“We are experiencing a longer uptime for our customer service and shipping,” Murray-Small’s recorded voice soberly admits on the recording. “Hope you can be patient with us and we will get back to you as soon as possible.”

Murray-Smalls told ABC4.com that the answering machine message was recorded at the start of the pandemic when things were completely on hold. Importing the product, some of which is highly customizable, from abroad was a near-impossibility for the small business. It’s still a challenge almost two years later. With some of their cargo shipments idling just off the coast of California, the couple traveled to the Golden State in an attempt to speed up the process.

They have had a lot of sales, but due to the constraints and challenges of shipping their products, not only to their warehouse in Park City, but also to their individual customers and several major auto parts stores, their margins recipients were very slim.

According to Jim Herrin, who works with companies like Car Lashes in his role as director of the Salt Lake Area Small Business Development Center, this could be the most difficult time ever to own a small business. business.

Problems receiving products, which have already been paid for by business owners, and then fulfilling orders to customers have hampered the cash flow of many family businesses, Herrin says. This could spell the end of some of the smaller local businesses, he fears.

“Cash flow is like the lifeblood of a business,” he explains. “And so when it slows down or stops, it can hurt the business and even kill the business.”

The smaller the business, left on its own without the resources and lines of credit of a large business, the more difficult the problem becomes.

Murray-Smalls and his team have gone to great lengths to find creative solutions to get their products out as soon as they arrive by adjusting packaging, delivery, and other fulfillment. Still, this has been a challenge, forcing them to raise the prices of Car Lashes. It has been difficult for the couple, who appreciate every sale that comes in.

“We try to keep our prices low because we like it,” she says. “We love to create, we love our customers. “

While it may be easier for a buyer to turn to a larger company for their products, which may be cheaper than those of a mom and pop, Herrin says supporting small businesses is vital for the consumer ecosystem.

“We need small businesses to be able to offer variety to consumers, as well as innovation, because innovation most of the time comes from small businesses,” Herrin says. “They are the ones who take the risk and invest the money in new inventions and new products. And once they’re proven and most of the risk is gone, big companies step in and take over sales and distribution.

While many of their products are currently stuck in the quagmire of the supply chain crisis, Murray-Smalls is committed to finding a way to get their lashes out as quickly as possible to keep their business alive.

She feels she owes it to their customers, many of whom have shared how much the idea of ​​a hatchback car applying mascara made them smile.

“I mean how grateful we are that we are still in business and that our products are being purchased by people who are struggling these days. “

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