Worst Day on the Job: What Blume COO Bunny Ghatrora learned from losing $30,000 worth of skincare products

Blume co-founder Bunny Ghatrora talks success and failure with her Vancouver-based skincare company

Vancouver-based Blume is a skincare brand that sisters Bunny and Taran Ghatrora launched in 2018. The company uses gentle ingredients to target sensitive and acne-prone skin in younger generations, and its trendy, bright pastel products are now plastered across every Sephora Canada location and 1,400 Ulta Beauty stores in the U.S. But growth hasn’t always been a smooth ride for the small business: COO Bunny Ghatrora has had to navigate several challenges along the way, like the day when $30,000 worth of Blume products went missing.

In early March 2020, we had 15,000 units of our hero product, the Meltdown Acne Oil, going from our manufacturing facility to our warehouse, and the pallet got lost. Then I get a call from somebody who says, “Hey, I think I have your pallet”—but they were at a trade show in Las Vegas.

Somehow my pallet ended up at this trade show and I ended up with someone else’s pallet. The trade show was at one of the big Vegas convention centres, but there wasn’t any one person there who was running the venue—a hired team was in charge, and they had tents set up in a parking lot where all the inventory was sitting.

Days later, the whole world shut down. Everybody who was in Vegas went home and went into quarantine because of the pandemic. So I was just sitting there trying to figure it all out: When is somebody going to go back to the convention centre? When can I get a truck in there? I spent weeks making calls but, alas, I never got my pallet back.

In shipping and logistics, things are going to go wrong. You know the saying “nothing is guaranteed in life except death and taxes”? Well, I like to say that in shipping and logistics, things will get damaged, they will break and they will get lost.

I’ve lost other pallets since then—there has been only one more that I’ve never gotten back, but it was much smaller and much less important. Now when I have a shipment that’s being picked up and deli­vered, I’m tracking it every two to three days or having someone on my team do it. In the Vegas case I had waited over a week, and that was too late.

I also always encourage my team to have a definitive marker on all of our pallets, so that if pallets do get lost, we can say “look for the red ribbon” or look for this  specific thing.

There are also certain processes I use so that if I oversell or if a pallet gets lost and I don’t have inventory, I can find out how quickly we can turn more inventory around and what those lead times are like. I have all that information upfront now because when that pallet got lost, I was out of stock for quite some time. It was really tragic, and to go back and create more product… all of that was a nightmare.

The thing that was on our side was the pandemic. When we did have to communicate shipping delays and out-of-stocks, people were very understanding. And we’re very transpa­rent with our community—we let them know exactly what was happening and what we were doing to resolve it, even though in the moment it felt like it was the end of the world.

We had insurance to cover the cost of the pallet, which is incredible for us as a small business. As things have progressed and I’ve gone through a va­riety of different hiccups along the way, I’ve started building in resilience and realizing that things will always go wrong in the supply chain, no matter how careful we are trying to be and how many protocols we put in place. Now when big issues happen, I can take the emotion out of the situation and just go into  problem-solving mode. Things will be okay, even if it feels like they won’t.

This interview has been edited and condensed.