This article is going to focus largely on where my experience sits. The ‘boutique’ yoyo brand.
For those of you other than my 6 fans who may not know my history, over the last 8 years I’ve been involved with 3 yoyo brands. I started as a sponsored player with MonkeyfingeR Design out of Calgary (Canada) as a sponsored player. From there I moved onto quasi-manager of King Yo Star Canada. It was an weird position, it wasn’t my brand (It was owned by a toy store owner in China) but I had full authority on promotion, sales and sponsorship outside of China. By the end I had a lot of say over the design as well. Currently I’m running my own brand (Rain City Skills) as the full on head honcho. Between King Yo Star and Rain City skills I’ve now got 9 yoyo releases under my belt.
Let’s spend a moment at the top of the yoyo industry with the giants like Duncan, Yoyofactory and Magic Yoyo. These brands have the spending power to make large runs of yoyos and distribute them around the world. This allows them the option of lower costs and higher profit margins (when making anything, the more you buy the lower the per unit price). It also allows them to work with injection moulded plastics which have a really high initial investment rate but a really good return if you can move enough volume (I’m talking 10 000 units or more). This goes with their brand recognition and reach into actual retail stores. They have employees working for them (although it’s still yoyos, so not a huge number). With financial resources comes the ability to advertise more widely through sponsoring contests and sponsoring the top players, and particularly by advertising to beginners, creating lifelong customers.
1. Design - most people don’t have the time and energy to learn the complex software required to design yoyos. The result is that you usually need to hire someone else to do the job. Some companies that machine yoyos will offer to take your drawing and convert it for you as part of the prototyping cost. One Drop is an example, and from what they told me they have received everything from detailed and accurate digital drawings to sketches on a napkin. Often times though you are looking at paying a professional for the design or at the very least trading a couple of the finished product in exchange.
3. Machining - This cost again varies based on where you are producing (China VS USA), complexity of design (simple is usually faster/cheaper) and quantity made in a run (500 vs 100). A lot of the cost involved is in setting up and programming the machine. Shops calculate costs by the machine hour. If your design is simple and they can pump out 10 parts in an hour it’ll be cheaper than if they can only do 4. Material can be a factor as well, Titanium takes a lot longer per part to create so combined with the cost of the raw materials it’s a lot more costly to create.
Photo Credit CNCcookbook.com
-prototypes - to you from the shop, then to players to test.
-anodizing - shipping from the machine shop to the anodizer back to you. If you are making them in China those are usually hidden costs, you’ll just pay the freight to you, but if the shop is incurring costs you are paying for them.
-bearings, pads and axles - if you are machining in china you can usually get the shop to source them for you and include with your yoyos, but they are added weight and you are paying either way.
-boxes - you can avoid shipping on these if you go to a physical store near you, but it’s often cheaper to order bulk online and you have a better chance of finding something that will help your brand stick out.
-stickers - same as with boxes.
-throws to team members - The small brands main source of testing and advertising
-throws to reviewers - Again, key piece of advertising
-assorted accessories included (string, carry bag, etc)
2. Packaging. Are you going to ship in a specialty box? Including a carry bag? Smaller brands have to set this up for every different yoyo to help them stand out. Bigger brands like YYF can afford to use the same box for most throws, cutting costs by buying 1000’s at a time. If you are a smaller brand trying to make your mark, you might choose one of the more unique options to help sell the product. If you are trying to make an extreme low budget throw, a clear plastic box that costs you pennies, hoping the price point is enough to sell the throw.
3. Stickers - You have design costs. If you are like me and have no artistic talent, it costs money to get a sticker design. I have found an artist whose style I like an who works with me until I’m happy, and he’s worth every penny of the ~$100 per piece of art I spend. The cost of the actual stickers can vary, again due to quantity made. As with everything else cost of setup is the biggest piece once the printers are running the difference between 100 and 10000 is a fraction of the difference between 0 and 100. You can usually get 1000 of a sticker printed for about $50
-Your average small brand has around 5 players representing them, so you send them a minimum of 1 throw each (more if they are competing with it).
-Next you have reviewers. At least 1, sometimes more (I sent 4 gamers to reviewers).
-Contest sponsorship. Smaller contests will allow you to donate product or a combination of product and cash, so you are looking at 2-5 throws from each run, and at least 200-400 cash per year just to sponsor one or two contests. You might pass up this advertising venue, but I’ve always received my biggest bump of ‘fans’ and the associated sales after I attend a contest, even if I don’t have a table.
-For the larger brands there is also the cost of direct advertising on youtube, Facebook or google ads.
Finally: The math
1. Prototype run - $400 per run (shipped), we’ll assume only 1 prototype was needed = $4.00
2. Yoyo parts - $15 per yoyo. $1500 for the run.
3. Axle - $0.20
4. Bearing -$1.50 (decent quality budget bearing)
5. Pads $1 per pair (sourced through an existing company, not custom made)
6. Anodizing (in china) $4 per yoyo for 3 colour splash
7. String $0.15
8. Shipping to North America $120/100 = $1.2 (includes customs duties)
9. Simple boxes $0.50
10. Custom Sticker Art 100 = $1 each
11. Sticker printing (1000 is usually the best value) $50 (shipped) = $0.5 each yoyo
12. Carry Bag $1.5 (Incl shipping from China)
Total that up you get a cost of $30.75 per yoyo.
Lets account for 1 for the owner, 5 for the team, 1 for review and 3 for contest sponsorship. That’s $321.
Divide by the remaining 90 adds $3.57 per yoyo, bumping costs up to
$34.32 per yoyo.
Move to North America? Add $20 per yoyo at least. Have to do a 2nd or 3rd prototype? $5-$10 more per yoyo. Bi-metal or Titanium? Sponsoring a high level player or want a spot at the big kids table sponsoring nationals or worlds? The costs keep going up.
Yes, you can get things made cheaper, the fact that there are metal throws on the market for under $40 tells you that. If you can afford to make 1000 yoyos the price can drop as low as $5USD for the parts, that’s how you can find aluminum yoyos on EBay for under $10, but can you sell that many? What is displayed above is not an unreasonable set of numbers for a short run of made in China yoyos from a reputable, quality controlled shop.
So there. One persons averaged numbers on how yoyos are made. One of the wonderful things about the internet is that you can find just about any information. If you are thinking of making your own yoyos, I wholeheartedly suggest you do some research and see if it’s something you want to pursue. Companies like Magic Yoyo, Vosun and FPM all do yoyos on demand, or if you want to stay in North America hit up One Drop or Foxland Precision and get some prices.
Feel free to comment or hit me up at email@example.com if you have questions on any of this!