Saturday, February 9, 2013

Preparations for Spring, and the Much-Debated Return of the Graduation Exploding Box

Hello! Now that the Valentine rush is coming to a close, it is time for me to start looking ahead to Spring, and all of the fun things I want to make.  My brain is bursting with ideas, and the hardest part will be deciding which ones to go with, since I don't have time to do everything!  I have a neat idea for a flowery spring-themed exploding box card that will be kind of different, and I recently ordered a whole bunch of gorgeous new washi papers that I can't wait to turn in to beautiful cards.

In the meantime, I've been watching my shop stats, and noticed something interesting.  Remember the graduation exploding boxes (here and here) from last year?  One of those was a custom order that I sold at a craft sale, and the other was a custom order that was purchased through my Etsy shop, and even though that was 8 months ago, I continue to get several views on it each week.  I know that it was pinned on Pinterest, because I get some views that come from there, and others come from Google, so it must come up in searches there as well.  Yesterday, there were a record 8 views on it! I'm not sure what's going on that people are searching for graduation items in February, but since that seems to be the case, I figured that perhaps now would be a good time to renew the listing for custom made-to-order graduation exploding boxes.  Since listings last for 4 months on Etsy, the timing is just about right, since June is 4 months away.

 To be quite honest, I debated for quite some time about whether to again offer these boxes or not.  They definitely bring shoppers into my shop, since they are pretty unique, and that's always a good thing.  BUT.  I have to tell cool as these boxes are, they are extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming to make.

Several months ago, I considered making a tutorial on how to create these boxes.  I started constructing one in order to take photos of each step of the process.  I ended up giving up halfway through, because the tutorial alone was so time-consuming.  That made me start to think long and hard about whether it was worth it or not to offer them for sale in my shop.  When I stopped to think about all of the time and labor that goes into making them, I realized that for what I had them priced, I don't even make minimum wage.

Now, I am not out to get rich by selling cards and bookmarks.  Since I've had my shop for nearly 3 years now, I have figured out that there is a pretty narrow market for those things anymore.  The digital age has given us e-cards and Kindles, and I've had more than one person comment on that fact at craft bazaars.  However, I think there are still those out there who like to give real cards, and /or who still like holding a real book in their hand when they read.  I am one of them, and I know I am not alone.  But the reality is that I do have to compete with those e-thingies, and I realize that I cannot charge enough for my items to turn a profit.  My shop is strictly a hobby shop- I like to make things, and I like to share them with others, and my shop allows me to do that while making a little bit of money to support my hobby.  Most of the time, I'm ok with that.  But not with these boxes.

Last year, when I first had the idea to make these, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I had made a couple of the 4-sided exploding boxes and just loved them, and as graduation season neared, I thought that one with a lid that looked like a graduation cap would be cute.  Then I thought...instead of square, wouldn't it be cool if the box was octagonal?  It would look more like a real graduation cap!  So Google and I found this wonderful tutorial on making an octagonal exploding box.  I do not know this nice lady, but I am grateful and indebted to her for her very good instructions on making a basic octagonal box.  I have since developed my own template for creating the layers, but hers was very helpful in the making of my first test box, upon which my own template is based.  The process of making these boxes is complicated.  Everything is cut and assembled by hand- die cutters are useless here.  There are three layers, each with 8 sides, the outer of which has to be embellished on both the back and front sides.  That is 32 panels to be embellished.  Multiply that by 2,which is the *mimimum* number of layers that each panel is embellished with, and you can see that that is A LOT of cutting!  Then there is adhering all of those embellishments to the base layers, and that's just the box base- then there's the cap lid.  What this amounts to, even after doing it several times and getting the process down to a science, is, at minimum, 3 to 4 hours of work.  If the box is personalized with names, logos, and/or other graphics, it adds even more time, plus printer ink to make those.
So, this is why I had to think long and hard about doing this again.  I love the fact that I have come up with a unique product that lots of people think is really cool.  I appreciate that having something like this in my shop brings in traffic.  But I can only give away so much of my time.  For something that is this labor-intensive and takes so much of my time, I feel that I should be adequately compensated.  I realize that raising the price may mean that I will lose some sales, and if that's the case, then I may make the decision to retire this product altogether.  But I ultimately decided that spending 20 cents to list it for 4 months was an inexpensive way to test the, once again, I have listed the custom graduation exploding box in my shop.  Time will tell if it will be a good idea or not.

That said, I may also test a traditional 4-sided graduation exploding box, which takes far less time, labor and materials, and would be more affordable to purchase.  My BFF Kendra made one last year for her nephew, and it was gorgeous, and I've seen a few others out there on the internet, so while it's not exactly as unique as my octagonal one, it may do better in my shop, simply because it's less expensive.

Whew!  Well, I had no idea that that would be so long-winded!  But for some reason, I feel guilty for charging $30 for an exploding box, and felt the need to justify why I feel that I have to, just so that people don't think I am being greedy and/or unreasonable.  And if they still think that, even after this explanation, then I guess I would suggest to them that they attempt to make one themselves, and THEN tell me that my pricing is out of line!

Hopefully next time, I will have some new springy cards to share, because my fingers are itching to get into that new washi paper!

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