TATAMATA? Is that a Japanese train name? Or is that some African tribe or something?
And here is our story
After a long 30 years working in the wood industry producing furniture pieces and doing other woodwork for clients all around our country and across Europe.
After many passed miles to deliver furniture pieces and other woodwork products to our satisfying clients that made their everyday life and work better, easier and more comfortable.
Bringing a smile on their faces for years is what made us who we are today.
But still, after all those years we become a little tired of all that time that was spent on the road.
Traveling to deliver and assemble furniture and other woodwork, often on rainy or snowy or too hot days made us a bit tired…
We needed a change
We were thinking of how to avoid those travels and assembling and focus our time only on production.
Our goal was to be able to focus our time on work in our wood workshop and show our best skills in production of finest pieces of wood products for the future clients and at the same time finally change our working hours from chaotic 12-16 hours per day into normal 8 hours shifts so we can spend more time with our family, friends and loved ones.
Our starting idea was a simple one: what wood product we could develop that would interest potential clients in the US and European markets.
A product designed that anyone can easily assemble.
Also, that must be an aesthetically perfect product, but at the same time price must be fair for the clients.
We started to think and research online for the potential product that would fit our working goals and at the same time be interesting to the potential clients.
As we are passionate board game players our aim was a product in that industry.
But because of all the working chaos we rarely head time to sit and play game or two, but we try to do so whenever there’s a chance.
After gathering one evening at our wood workshop, at the end of a long working day, we all decide before going home to sit a bit around the table to relax with a friendly game of cards and share some product ideas.
As we were playing and talking, ideas were flying by from person to person and suddenly someone said: “Why don’t we build a board gaming tables?”
The workshop becomes quiet for a moment… then suddenly everyone starts yelling again: “YES”, “That’s a great idea”. “Yea, we should do that”… and a bunch more yes…
A decision was made
A decision was made, a few days after we started on the design, followed by the prototype of our table for board games that would at some point become a final product.
It had to be the product, that will finally pull us out from the everyday chase from town to town and endless talks with clients for the delayed payments for the products that we already delivered to them.
Chasing the dream product
Sadly here that chase part with clients is part of everyday life and takes the same amount of time if not more as the amount of time to produce and deliver woodwork products that they required and that slows us down a bit in our dream.
Our dream product had to be a real game-changer and to build it we know that it going to take a lot of time and a lot of sweat.
But suddenly we noticed that the board gaming table has become our obsession because we all saw it as salvation and escape from the current working rhythm that was crushing us all, from workers to owner.
That was the sign that something had to be done and that drastic changes were a must.
At the end of 2018, we had to deny some additional jobs requested by our previous client, as the work that was already done for him in the past 365 days was forcing us to spend more than 70 days waking up at 3 am to be able to complete the job.
All his locations were in pedestrian zones where you can’t go by van or truck during the day time, so we had to bring and deliver all the products and tools before 6 am and then after that to do assembly that was taking 10-12 hours a day.
Denying those jobs we got that extra time that we needed for developing our table for board games.
We took this opportunity very seriously, so we call all our friends that could help us and provide constructive thinking in the development of the table.
One of them is my primary school friend that works as a creative director in one of the biggest marketing company in our country and his initiative was toward thinking and deciding on a brand name for the product, regardless that we still didn’t have the product.
Names were flying around, coming and going and many things were in options.
The main idea was to build a board gaming table that will be a beautiful piece of furniture that every woman would wish to have in her house as a dining table and at the same time good toy for the hardcore board gaming geeks.
Keeping all that in mind our starting point was that it should have an elegant design.
Busy busy busy
In the meantime, another part of our team was busy in our wood workshop.
They managed to pull together approximately ten different prototypes and we got to that point that if someone would say that he doesn’t like something you would hear a loud “AAAAAAAAAAAAA” all over the shop.
And again we would go back to the beginning to remove that because our company motto is that everyone’s opinion matters, we are all free to always speak our mind and that suggestion will be put on voting.
Most of the time, as something was put on the vote, changes were accepted because we are a team of creative people and every time someone suggests some changes, he gave a good explanation about it, that everyone understands and accepts at the end.
After some time of prototype development, we started thinking about ways of sales and distribution as we were lacking those.
So it was a back to the drawing board, research, think, look what other companies do…
After all, that decision was made that we should have to show up and present our final product to the audience that is interested in the board gaming so that they can give us their opinion about our product and that distribution should be done to people’s home addresses (door to door system).
The decision was made that we should go to SPIEL’19 in Essen, Germany.
Preparation for (Race to) SPIEL in Essen
We saw it as a good place for us to present our table as SPIEL in Essen is one of the biggest board games fair in the world.
In May we rent a stand at fair and a race against time BEGINS!
As we have not yet had a finished board games tables products.
Spiel Essen sends us confirmation of participation and our booth number.
After checking the fair map where our stand would be, we concluded that we were lucky because our stand was located by the road leading to the restroom where everyone would have to go at some point and near the stand of a local curation service where people would go to send games they bought at the fair.
Two good things near us that attract a lot of people that will certainly boost visits to our stand.
Related to distribution services, that was an easy task and easy agreement with the TNT currier service.
Huh...Why is picking a name so hard?
Meanwhile, Spiel Essen sends us a form to fill with the information on the products that we will present, which brings us back to the unfinished task “Product name”, but we were still undecidable between five names on our shortlist which one should we pick.
Immediately I went to call my friend (marketing expert) but he was at that time at a seminar in another country.
He told me that he will be back in 2 days and that we will make a product name decision then.
Chop chop we don't have all day
As we were talking, Spiel Essen send us another email that they need forms filled asap as fair catalogs are suppose to be printed the next day.
I’m locking myself into the office, turning off the phones and start thinking about the name… looking at the sheet of 5 names, thinking about them and how they sound on other languages… and suddenly totally different name came into my mind. I was certain this is it…
Eureka I've got it
The name that came to me was TATAMATA.
Because that is slang in our (Serbian) language that means a person that is super dooper expert in his craft and can craft anything you imagine.
The root of the word is “Tata” which means Dad, so Tatamata is like Super Dad… Father figure in the eye of his young kids that is capable to do anything in the world.
As I decided on the name, I quickly turn back on my phone and send a voice mail to all my friends that live in foreign countries asking them to play it to their friends or people nearby and ask them how it sounds to them.
Replays are coming with positive responses.
Some say it sounds like an African tribe, some that it sounds like a name of Japanese train, but all to all everyone agrees that it’s easy to remember and melodically to pronounce it.
There, all done. Is it?
I filled the form, sent it back to Spiel Essen and checked that check mark as done… but our board gaming table product is not done yet.
We were back to work on the construction of our table, then suddenly it hit me, we did sort delivery process with TNT about delivering the board games tables products to the clients when we sell, but we need to solve shipping tables to Spiel Essen.
We went to our customs broker that we worked with in the past on other projects around Europe, after a short talk with them, they inform us that exporting goods for clients and exporting goods for the fair is a bit different.
Because our country is not in EU we can’t just put stuff in van and drive it to the fair, there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be done, logistics and importing in EU is different than when selling, in short words we are in problem as time is short and a lot of it has to be sorted.
The biggest problem was that tables have to be delivered to someone that is in Essen before fair starts so that we can pick them up and move them to the fair before fair starts otherwise tables may get stuck at customs, so we would end up without a gaming table product to present on days of the fair.
To sort that problem, all of us started calling friends that are in Germany after a lot of calls one of our guys finds a friend that has a friend in Essen and arrange with him to help us out.
Time is getting short, that was another thing that delayed our prototype and we still didn’t have a product ready.
Race against time continues...
As we are going to fair, we must have presentation materials, website and posters for our stand and chose corporate colors.
The website design problem was solved with a friend that is in that industry, so we can check that of the tasks list.
The logo was made in 10 minutes without consulting my marketing expert friend; he got a bit angry about it but next time we went for a coffee everything was sorted out.
Summer came; as we all were super busy we decide that we will go on a week vacation one at the time so that our table project will suffer the least.
My turn came at the end of June and I went to Greece with family.
During the time of our stay there, local bakers had a cookies competition and my wife bought a box of the cookies of the competition winner.
The color of the box was nice to me, quickly I grab the phone and call the guys back in the shop told them about it and we all agreed that should be our corporate colors.
Posters and photos
As soon as I was back from vacation I went to our friend Zoki to print posters for fair.
Zoki is our ongoing partner for more than 20 years, every time we were setting up some client’s store he was the one that would do branding and neon lights ad for them.
At the end of July, the board gaming table was finally ready so we took it for a photoshoot and started testing it with some of the board games that we had.
Everyone was happy with the look and performance of the table but that might mean anything and at the same time it might mean nothing from the sales perspective, real information we will get soon from our first real critics, visitors of the fair in Essen.
Meanwhile, we are working over 12 hours per day to fulfill all the contracts that we made with clients so that after the fair in Essen we can focus on long-awaited tables production and work only in our wood workshop without the additional obligations of transporting and assembling of products to clients.
On the way to Essen
At the beginning of September, our board gaming tables are starting their travel to the Essen to a friend of our friend Miki that becomes our friend as well.
That travel took exactly 30 days.
In short words, we sent tables as exhibits to the 3rd party and German customs had a problem identifying what relationships the 3rd party has with our company, tables and fair.
25 days at customs
It took 25 days in total for them to finally understand everything that he is a friend of our friend that has nothing to do with our company or tables or fair and just help us as a guarantee that tables will be there for the time of the fair.
In the end, they understood what we were doing and released tables from customs… we are very thankful to German customs for all their understanding.
In those 25 days of passing emails back and forth with them, they find out about and understood many things that are normal in our country, but that people in other countries don’t do because their system is easier than ours, that’s why we are forced to do it that way to be able to get to the final goal.
That also helped us to sort all potential headaches to our future customers from EU as now thanks to our initial transport to Essen now all needed customs paperwork is done in one day, cleared with just one phone call and free of all custom taxes thanks to Serbia – EU customs treaty.
Thanks to that now when we ship a gaming table to a customer in EU it arrives at the customer’s address in 5-7 working days.
All too all, this little-big blog post is a bit of the introduction of us to you, to get to know us better and learn a bit who we are, what we do, to show you little “behind the scene” what is going on with TATAMATA, what TATAMATA is and how we started building board gaming tables.
Once again, no it’s not a Japanese train name.
How things went on the fair in Essen you can find out in our next blog soon.
Thank you for reading, feel free to like, share and post a comment.