After a small business owner partnered with Starbucks, he used Mylio’s powerful photo organizing tools to boost efficiency at home and on the road.
Interview by Eric Perret
Ulrich Honighausen is the owner of Hausenware, a small business based in Sonoma, California that specializes in ceramic and glass tableware. He founded the company in 1995 with the idea that large retailers would benefit from a design and sourcing partner to execute their unique private-label collections. His customers include Starbucks, Fred Meyer, and Crate & Barrel. They rely on him to source what they need from factories in the U.S. and around the world.
What makes Hausenware unique?
Hausenware has always—and intentionally—operated as a virtual company, with a small operational team in our inspiring rural location near vineyards, farms, and old-growth redwoods. Everyone else is scattered around the country and globe. Which explains why I do a lot of traveling, visiting factories in Japan, Korea, Indonesia, China, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Brazil, and the U.S. Fortunately, I love being all over the place.
But I’ve always dreamed of making a product in this country. In the fall of 2011, I was inspired by [Starbucks’ CEO] Howard Schultz’s call to businesses to create jobs in the U.S. I approached both Howard and the owner of American Mug & Stein and suggested a collaboration. Now, in our fifth year together, we continue to create special mugs for Starbucks.
What made you choose Mylio?
Retail today is so much faster than it used to be. Products are constantly being refreshed and re-imagined seasonally, quarterly, even monthly. I’m constantly collaborating with my customers, and that means continuously showing them reference photos of ideas, products, and processes. Managing all these photos used to be completely frustrating for me.
Two things in particular drove me up the wall: finding things fast and accessing them offline. Apple’s photo product was challenging because I couldn’t organize a lot of photos, nor could I quickly find the picture I wanted. I couldn’t afford to spend an hour looking for a single image! And Dropbox was only good for dumping and storing photos. At some point, I came across an article on the topic and emailed the author. He told me about Mylio. I don’t even remember who he is to thank him. But now I don’t need anything else. I was an early adopter, and I’ve been on it every day since.
How has Mylio made you more productive?
With Mylio, I can be in a meeting with a customer, and if they want to see something from a year ago, I can find it fast. And I can do this offline, which is critical because when I’m in meetings or on the road, I can’t always count on WiFi availability, connection speeds, etc. Using Mylio thumbnail and preview images on my iPhone has also been super helpful. I’ve never had to tell a client, “I have to wait until I’m back at the hotel to email you that photo.” I can be sitting on a subway in Hong Kong and share images from my phone with no problem. I’ve never emailed a thumbnail from my iPhone that wasn’t perfectly acceptable for someone to make a decision.
What are some use cases for Mylio in Hausenware’s product development?
When I visit factories, I take photos and videos of techniques, equipment, product samples, and ideas—say, showing a certain color next to a certain material. I document all this both for myself, and for the people with whom I’m collaborating. Mylio is perfect, because I can work seamlessly both online and offline. When I’m back on the plane, I’ll do my sorting on an iPad, getting rid of what I don’t like, and organizing the new pictures into folders and subfolders. One factory folder may have as many as 25 subfolders. Once I land and get back on WiFi, all my devices sync. I’ll also tag photos and maybe put red tags on the ones I need for a presentation. In the meeting, I’ll open a folder for a particular product, and we can scan 2,000 images super-fast—flip, flip, flip—and if a customer likes one, I’ll add another star. When the meeting’s done, I have my starred images of what they’ve approved.
How often do you use Mylio’s photo editing tools?
Everything we sell to any retailer comes through our office, where we have a little Canon DSLR photo setup to catalog them. Since almost no picture comes out of the camera that doesn’t need touching up, we use Mylio’s edit tools for that as well. I’m not a photographer; I don’t know how to use Photoshop, or Aperture, or Lightroom. They’re too complicated. The settings in Mylio are easy, so I do basic edits and boom—totally presentable.
Was it hard to get started with Mylio?
Photo organizing can become a massive, frustrating time-waster. Other companies get into this space, then get out of it—Dropbox Carousel, for instance—but this is what Mylio does, and they’re really good at it. The support staff is always there with a knowledgeable answer if you have a question. You get a real person on the phone with real answers. And they actually care. It’s a business with old-style customer service, which in today’s world is rare. In the beginning, I had questions, but once I got Mylio set up, it runs really, really nicely. Support hasn’t heard from me in years!
To see the story of how manufacturing mugs changed one Ohio town, check out this short video.