Making different choices

Our financial year end for our 8th year came to an end March 31, 2015. We’re still finishing up the books, but as always this time of year makes me wonder about the business and the choices we’ve made. Over the years, we’ve tried a lot of things – some that didn’t work, some that did and have left even more roads unwalked. Reflecting on the past is often just a waste of time, as the ‘what if’ game is useless but sometimes it can be useful to consider for what you intend to do in the future.

For us, the biggest decision point recently was deciding not to become a full B&M store, instead moving to a new warehouse to facilitate growing a second business (Fortress Geek). I’m still uncertain if that was a good idea, though the 2nd business has finally gotten some decent traction and sales. It’s been a bit of a learning curve there, and we’ve still got a lot more to learn and grow but we’re developing the business and our customers there.

For Starlit though, not being a B&M store has cut us off huge areas of the ‘gaming’ industry. We can supply RPGers without a problem, but CCGs and Miniatures are large sources of revenue, but neither of those are properly supported by an online store. We can supply the product, but both niches require tablespace and opponents to play with. Neither of which unfortunately an online store can provide as much.

Add the fact that Magic is the juggernaut in the gaming trade and we’re basically trying to build a business with 2 out of 3 legs cut off. Sorry RPGs – you just no longer provide enough revenue that you are considered an essential part of a gaming business. Don’t get us wrong, it’s certainly possible but more difficult and it means the ‘pie’ is smaller than it could be.

Another road we’ve not taken is that of investors. So far, we’ve been financed entirely from profits and my personal funds. Investors would allow us to grow faster, take more risks, push marketing harder – but they also come with their own burden of regulations and requirements. It’s something we’ve considered occasionally, but giving up ownership of the company is something I have refused to do. So far, anyway.

We’ve got a couple of years on our current lease (before our extension option kicks in) and it’s interesting to consider what we need / might / should do in the future. I know for certain that we’ll be fine till then in this space, potentially longer – but perhaps we do want to move and make another big change in 2017. It’s nice to plan and think about, and sometimes the roads not taken previously is the way to go. Or perhaps those roads weren’t taken for a reason.

Kickstarter Fulfillment at Starlit Citadel

We’ve recently been inundated with a slew of Kickstater Fulfillment quote requests, both for the US and Canada due to a post by Jamey Stegmaier.   It’s kind of fun doing these posts, talking to creators and providing what information  and help we can, though I sometimes wonder about the actual profitability of doing so.  It’s one of the reasons why I always disliked doing consulting – the sheer number of times I used to do proposals to actual hiring was on a ratio of 1 to 7. 

It also reflects the cost that has to be built into each quote. If we value our time as say $25 per hour, then each successful quote has to reflect at least $175 of cost that has nothing to do with the actual shipment of the product.  Otherwise, you’re just losing money even offering this business (at least, if you, like us have something more valuable you could be doing with your time).

On the other hand, if you glance at the Kickstarter Price List, the chances of including $175 of actual cost in any single quote is nearly non-existent.  We charge CAD$2.50 for each shipment generally.  In that, we have to take out box cost (on average about $1 we’ll assume), so we actually make $1.50 per shipment.  Most Kickstarters are in the 30 – 50 Canadian backer range, so we’d expect to make…. $75 at most.  In that, we’d have to pay for the time taken to ship these orders out too.

You can see why we’ve never really pushed the entire Kickstarter Fulfillment Service.  It’s great if the Kickstarter’s were in the 100 – 300 backer range, but being Canada, most of the one’s we’ve done have been in the 30 – 50 range at best.

The loss time effect is also a great example of why people like plumbers and consultants all have prices higher than what you’d expect – the extra quotes, the loss / wasted time all have to paid for somehow.  Of course, there’s the other side of the equation – if you increase your quotes too high due to potential lost time, then you will lose out more quotes than you would at ‘rock-bottom’ pricing.  There is always a balance that has to be struck, the question of course, is where.

To help short-circuit the process and reduce the number of quotes, we’ve attached our Policy Pricing List and a little Excel Pricing Estimate Document here:

Kickstarter Fulfillment Policy Price List

Kickstarter Pricing Estimate