Should I Start A Shop?

Last modified by Hypno Harem on 2023/11/26 21:11

Probably Not

Most shops will not "succeed" and there's a good chance that what you are thinking of as success is not what is going to make you happy. Money is a terrible heuristic for happiness. Even if it wasn't, then getting a shop to the point where it can be a full time job means a lot of sacrifice and a lot of risk. You are likely looking at 3-5 years of hard work to get to a place where the day to day feels comfortable, and there will be a lot of failures along the way.

This is not to dissuade you. If you feel ready for it, then here are a few things you should know:

The first thing…

The indie fantasy toy makers community does not put up with creeps and bigots. How you conduct yourself as a professional matters.

Talking about and/or collecting dildos is not consent. Starting an indie company is not a means to gain access to kinky people for you to fetishize. If you want to have a strongly NSFW social media presence, then give people fair warning before they stumble into it, and be careful with playful/sexy banter with anyone you don't know well. If you have a problem with any part of LGBTQIA+, then GTFO. You will not be successful in this space. It doesn't matter how good your designs are or how cheap your products, your Twitter account will be a flaming dumpster of people dunking on you within days.

Respect boundaries and people, and if the community tells you you're doing something objectionable, it may be wise to listen. 

The second thing…

Working in the silicone mines is tough. You're going to make mistakes. BIG ONES. Silicone will get mixed up wrong and ruin a half dozen molds. Week-long 3D prints will come out as a pile of plastic spaghetti and you'll have to roll back a launch date. You're going to try your best to make an awesome product and then have no sales, have an angry customer upset on social media instead of contacting you, or have your credit card processor decide you're “high risk” and shut you down randomly.

Running a small business is hard, doubly hard when it's a business in the adult sector, and triply hard when that business requires a huge learning curve that is both technical and artistic. Getting your butt handed to you is normal. Failing doesn't make you a failure. People will be proud of you if you can get back up and keep on going when you get knocked down, but just as proud of you for saying, “This isn't good for me and it's time to throw in the towel,” instead of burning yourself out.

The third thing…

Don't be alone! Get a partner, recruit your poor unsuspecting friends, ask a parental figure. There is just too much to learn and too much that needs to be managed for a single person to not end up dropping the ball. The majority of successful shops have not been solo operations.

On top of that, you'll need emotional support. You'll be seeing your friends and family the least frequently you have in your life because the business is going to try to eat all of your spare time at first ("at first" means a good three years). Don't underestimate how much you need them. Make a pact with yourself for how often you will get away from the business and recharge with loved ones before you start.

Also: start a Twitter, follow other makers, and interact with them. Makers are all pretty friendly and some even have Discord servers. Other indie shops are not competition to stomp out, but fellow peers you can commiserate and collaborate with. 

What does it take to get started?

That's the real question you're here for, right? There is good news and bad news, and both are that the answer to this question is: “It depends.” There are more ways to build your business than there are ways to build a character in ESO. Let's look at some options (dollar amounts are in USD).

The EXTREME DIYer

"You like that coffee table? I carved it out of a log with my bare hands. You like those chairs? I carved them out of a coffee table."

Quality: ★☆☆☆☆ Very Low, toys will have full length seams, and options to troubleshoot and alter methods is limited

Flexibility: ★★☆☆☆ Low, until you buy more materials

Space Use: ★★★★☆ High, everything can be packed away in a cupboard

Affordability: ★★★★★ The only real “affordable” option

Ease of Learning: ★★★★☆ Just noodling around

BOM

  • Vacuum Chamber (1.5 gallon) and pump - $100
  • Dragon Skin 10 SLOW (1 Gallon Unit) - $200
  • Ease Release 200 (1 Can) - $15
  • Pigments (Silc Pig 9-Pack Color Sampler or similar) - $30
  • Sulfur-Free Clay (Sculptex 4lbs) - $20
  • Disposable Cups and Jumbo Popsicle Sticks - $10
  • Total: $375

Probably the best starting point for dipping your toes in the water. The idea is to minimize the equipment and supplies needed. You can make some fun stuff for yourself and everything can be packed up and stored in a closet so your relatives don't see. Hand sculpt your designs with sulfur-free clay and cast them using a cut mold (instructions here ). Your Dragon Skin 10 will be both your mold material and your toy material. The biggest limitation to quality has to do with the very limited tool set you will have; not due to hand sculpting instead of 3D printing your masters. Some of the most beautiful designs in the indie world are hand sculpted!

The Solo Artist

"I have a room in my house that looks like a tornado of craft supplies blew through and the only way to improve it is if everything in there was also sticky."

Quality: ★★★★☆☆ Medium, there's a lot to learn to get to High

Flexibility: ★★★☆☆ Medium, due to space limitations. You can't have everything and do everything

Space Use: ★★☆☆☆ Low, it's supposed to be just one room, but it won't be

Affordability: ★★☆☆☆ Low, the jump from making a few things to a functional shop is not trivial

Ease of Learning: ★★★☆☆ Medium, just don't try to do everything on day 1

BOM

  • Vacuum Chamber (5 gallon) and pump - $200
  • Mold Silicone (1 Gallon Unit) - $200
  • Ecoflex 00-30 (1 Gallon Unit) - $200
  • Ecoflex 00-50 (1 Gallon Unit) - $200
  • Ease Release 200 (4 Cans) - $60
  • Pigments (Selection of six 4oz containers) - $120
  • Mica (Selection of four 4oz containers) - $60
  • 3D Printer (FDM) - $400
  • Boxes and Packing supplies - $300
  • Bags and Impulse Sealer - $100
  • Work Table / Storage - $100
  • Disposable Cups and Jumbo Popsicle Sticks - $60
  • Total: $2000

The idea here is to buy a 3D printer and make the masters the “right way” so you have a salable product without having to take out a second mortgage on your home. Start with an FDM printer so you can also print mold shells and won't fill your house with (as much) toxic fumes. FDM prints are time consuming to finish, but if you put in the work, they are just as good as an SLA print. You'll likely start out taking a “custom” here or there. They won't come in fast at first, but they will help you build your skills. Once things pick up, switch to drops. It is far more efficient to have your room set up to cast two days out of the week, wash and photograph two days out of the week, bag and list one day out of the week, and ship one day out of the week than it is to try and do all of the things every single day. This is a major driver for most shops limiting the availability of custom orders as they grow.

The FOMO Fanatic

"I have no idea how long this indie dildo boom will last, so I'm willing to bet everything on jumping on it ASAP."

Quality: ★★★☆☆ Medium, quality takes time, there are no shortcuts

Flexibility: ★★★★★ Very High, upfront investments mean more options

Space Use: ★☆☆☆☆ Very Low, 1200+ square feet

Affordability: ★☆☆☆☆ Very Low, the silicone juice alone is no joke

Ease of Learning: ★☆☆☆☆ Very Low, you're trying to learn it all by yesterday

BOM

  • Vacuum Chamber (5 gallon) and pump x2 - $400
  • Mold Silicone (5 Gallon Unit) - $1000
  • Ecoflex 00-30 (5 Gallon Unit) - $1000
  • Ecoflex 00-50 (5 Gallon Unit) - $1000
  • Dragon Skin 10 SLOW (5 Gallon Unit) - $1000
  • Ease Release 200 (1 Case) - $140
  • Pigments (Selection of fourteen 4oz containers) - $280
  • Mica (Selection of twelve 8.8oz containers) - $240
  • 3D Printer x2 (FDM) - $800
  • 3D Printer x2 (SLA) - $1400
  • Shed for printers - $2000
  • Print Finishing supplies - $200
  • Boxes and Packing supplies - $500
  • Bags and Impulse Sealer - $100
  • Stainless Steel Work Tables x5 - $1000
  • Disposable Cups and Jumbo Popsicle Sticks - $100
  • Computer and Label Printer - $500
  • Total: $11660

Everything you need to be a little “Big Indie.” You'll be putting together two casting stations to work from as well as a dedicated shipping station with a computer and label printer. Breaking up the 3D printing into FDM and SLA lets you keep mold shells on the FDMs but saves finishing time by dumping the model prints to the SLAs. Two of each printer isn't to print twice as fast, it's to eliminate downtime by allowing you to hot swap parts between printers to identify problems. The printer shed is a must-have. Plenty of people keep multiple printers in their homes, but those fumes will take a toll on your health worth more than the cost of the shed.

50/50 chance this route's too much to bite off for two people; 100% chance a single person will go mad trying. Consider cutting in half the amount you have to learn from the get-go by hiring designers and master/mold builders and skipping the 3D printers for now. Tell your family and friends what you're doing from day one. If they don't support you, then it will be even more fun to show them all the money in the bank in a few years.

The Suspiciously Wealthy Startup

"I'm suspiciously wealthy which is good because I also have suspiciously specific tastes in toys."

Quality: ★★★★★ Very High, you can purchase from the best in the biz

Flexibility: ★★★★★ Very High, literally anything you want

Space Use: ★★★★☆ High, you're paying someone else to destroy their workspace with silicone

Affordability: ★☆☆☆☆ Very Low, often not a viable business model

Ease of Learning: ★★★☆☆ Medium, you skip most of the steps, maybe all of the steps

BOM

  • Design Service - $1500
  • Print and Mold Build - $2500
  • 1 Dong Casting - $100
  • Total: $4100

You're wanting something just for you and that is totally doable if you know who to contact. The actual cost will run from $1500 to $10,000 depending on important factors like whether you are mean and demanding to the artists, and if is it technically challenging to build the molds. In theory, you could start a business this way. You'll be giving lots of the margins to the B2B services supporting you, but if you think you have a niche and want to test it before jumping in yourself… maaaaybe.

So which approach is for me?

Ultimately, that depends on your skills, budget, and situation. There's no singular answer, and you might find solutions that weren't options for you before might work once you're more experienced and established. Try things out, see if they work for you, and ask for help or advice if you need it.

    

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