How to Run a Boutique Yoyo Brand - Now Available Worldwide!

How to Run a Boutique Yoyo Business

We have liftoff!

The book is now available worldwide in print and ebook format.

Ebook

Amazon Kindle - See the list below for your country’s link
Kobo, iBooks, Nook and a variety of subscription services worldwide.

Print

Autographed edition is available at raincityskills.com in paperback and hardcover.

Amazon - Take your pick. See the list below for your country.

USA
Canada
UK
Germany
Spain
France
Japan
Italy
Netherlands
Mexico
Brazil
Australia
India

The Convoy

The Convoy is the September release in the year of maddness - 12 months, 12 yoyos.

Quick review:
The Ducc, The Loonie, The Retro-Rocket, The Metalhead, The SETI, The Loonie (American Edition) The Sk8r (SB Edition), The Author.

I’m stunned and delighted that not only have I managed to keep up the rate of releases, but you all have been so supportive! Much thanks!

Onto the Convoy

I’ll get into the backstory on the name below, but we’ll start with the release details.

The convoy is a hybrid ‘0’ shape yoyo. The gap curves out from the bearing area, then flattens out for the rim. This makes for a really comfortable feel in the hand, as well as a unique weight distribution. We opted for 7075 aluminum for this release, a decision I’m very happy with. Aside from the increase in durability, 7075 aluminum can be machined thinner than 6061 and allows for different weight distribution options (Learn more about yoyo materials in my book “How to Run a Boutique Yoyo Business”).

Weight - 64.2g
Diameter - 54mm
Width - 47.5mm
Bearing - Groove Concave

We initially decided to offer 2 colourways. Cory picked a Navy blue and sand fade for the USA, and I selected colours based on the Canadian Red Ensign, Canada’s flag during World War 2. Since September ended up being the release month, it only made sense to release it on ‘International Talk Like a Pirate’ day, Sept. 19. So we added a solid black yoyo with Skull and Crossbones engraving. Waylon Crase did the design for the engraving, as well as the fantastic release logo.

The unboxing experience is exactly what you’ve come to expect from a Rain City release. Cory and I put some serious effort and a lot of facebook discussions into packaging. As alway, I wanted to be able to offer an affordable yoyo with an amazing experience. We decided to deliver your yoyo in a packing crate. A durable craft paper box with a yoyo packed tight with shredded wood for extra protection for those long sea voyages!

The box also includes a bunch of rain city stickers and trading cards, a small wood piece (anchor or steering wheel) and a mini figure. We matched those to the colourways. For the Canadian yoyo I picked a British sailor with musket (old school, right?). Cory went the other direction. I didn’t catch it until they arrived, but he picked a Star Trek figure! Which kindof fit the stereotype of the US military vs Canadian. Of course, there had to be a pirate, so the black yoyo comes with a set including a pirate, treasure, parrot and a skeleton!

You can find the Convoy on September 19th at

raincityskills.com
yoyoexpert.com
yoyosam.com
yoyostorerewind.com

The Story

Cory Gardener (the madman behind Broke Village) approached me a while back. I usually try to relate the theme of a yoyo to something about the people involved. The Sk8r fit Coffin Nachtmahr becuase he’s an avid skateboarder. The Metalhead was a great fit for Thomas Velto becuase he’s a guitar player and a heavy metal enthusiast.

Whilst brainstorming, Cory’s day job (The USA Merchant Marine) came up and there was our connection.

When I was one year old my mom divorced my biological father and moved back up to Canada from the USA. We moved into my grandparent’s basement suite (I’ve go a picture somewhere of me age 3 holding a hammer because I was ‘helping’ with renovations). My grandfather was the main male influence in my life. He is where I get my terrible sense of humour from (allll the puns). One of my must amusing memories of him was the many times my grandmother would be yelling for him across the house. I’d run in and tell him. He’d take a minute to turn his hearing aid back on, then go see what she wanted, muttering about the hearing aid needing a new battery.
Grandpa lost his hearing as a result of his time in the Canadian Merchant Marine during World War Two.

For those who don’t know what that is, the merchant navy was arguably the deciding factor in Britains survival during the war these ships carried supplies across the ocean that kept the English fed and armed in the year before the USA finally joined the conflict. These boats were prime targets for German submarine attacks. According to this article, over 50% of the Merchant ships were sunk. Sailors who managed to survive the initial sinking all too often died in the freezing Atlantic Ocean.

The really crazy thing was that these sailors (including my grandfather) weren’t considered veterans, and thus didn’t receive any of the government support or recognition the rest of the armed forces did after the war. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that my grandpa was recognized and received a small pension. The money wasn’t the issue, it was the acknowledgement.

The United States Merchant marine transports supplies all over the world in support of military efforts. One of the reasons you’ll Cory posting about this yoyo only intermittently is because he’s often out at sea and out of range of internet!

Stop Competing with yourself!

12 Months - 12 Yoyos.

It’s nuts. In the short term it’s bad business. There is no question that I'm competing with myself with so many releases. Few people can afford to buy a Rain City Skills yoyo every month. Especially with so many other amazing brands releasing yoyos.

In the short term.

This mad dash of releases is a long-term gamble. I’m trying to do 2 things.

  1. Be active and get seen - a release a month with a wide range of shapes and styles means that there is something for everyone to talk about. I’m also able to collaborate with a bunch of company’s and post photos and content regularly without being repetitive.

  2. Take a page from the Indy Book Publishing industry (see what I did there?) and create a backlist. The logic is this. If I spend money on an ad, or give away a couple yoyos to reviewers and contests to promote a yoyo release, I can quickly spend all the profit from the run of 100 yoyos.
    But….
    If I have a backlist of unique and interesting yoyos available, people aren’t just going to buy one yoyo and move on. They are at the very least going to browse the catalogue. They will see that there is a lot more to offer from this brand they just discovered. They might buy a second yoyo then and there, or they plan to come back and shop next payday.

In preparing for the publication of my books, I dove headfirst into learning about the indy book publishing industry. One of the keys to success seems to be backlist.

-If you spend $5 on ads to sell one book, you are losing money. But if that person buys the first book, and the next 5 in the series, now it's $1 per book and you are making good money.

The idea is next year to release bi-metals quarterly, with some restocks of monometals in between. Then I've got more time to properly promote each release. Once new people buy a yoyo, they'll go looking and find that I've got an available back-catalogue to shop through. I'm sure a few of you have fallen into that trap already ;)

If you have a minute, I’d appreciate it if you’d fill out this quick survey to help me make decisions about the brand moving forward.

CLICK HERE FOR THE SURVEY

The Author, The Sk8r and The book - How to Run a Boutique Yoyo Business

It’s release time! 3 drops today

  1. The Author - The new signature yoyo of Mryoyothrower. - Click here

  2. The Sk8r SB - Jeff Anderson Dye - Click here

  3. The Book - How to Run a Boutique Yoyo Business

    1. Ebook - Free with the purchase of The Author Yoyo

    2. Paperback - Autographed Pre-order

    3. Hardcover - Autographed Pre-order

Add either the Paperback or the Hardcover book to your cart with THe Author and get 30% off the book! Pre-orders will ship mid-late September. Ebook download will be provided by a Bookfunnel download link that will be emailed out shortly after ordering.

Any questions, please find me on Facebook or Instagram @mryoyothrower, or via email at www.raincityskills.com

Happy shopping!

Rain City Skills "Loonie" - American Edition

In February we released a micro yoyo called the Loonie. I thought this would be a fun little release that would catch little attention. Instead it sold out right away. I would have left it at that, but Andre at Yoyoexpert asked if he could carry them, so a 2nd run was in order. I took the opportunity to upgrade the design. Since it’s named after the Canadian Dollar and it costs $1.30 Canadian to purchase an American dollar, I thought we’d do an American version that was 30% wider!

The Loonie is a tiny throw that packs a big punch! Small enough to fit in the pocket, stable enough to work on precision training your combos.

The Loonie was inspired by a YoYo from 10 years ago called the “Littles”. It was a pocket throw that played big. We took that idea and refined it with a unique design modern play requires. We’ve tested through 3 variations to get to this version and we think it’s fantastic!

The Loonie plays best with a thinner string, but works fine with your favourite brand of bulk string.

We like to have fun at Rain City Skills, so the hub of the Yoyo is designed to be Lego compatible. This allows you to throw on some small decorative pieces or bigger pieces to adjust the weight. Each Loonie comes with a pair of lego plates that are great for fingerspins!

Each Loonie comes packed in a small zip up coin pouch including:

-1 Loonie YoYo
-1 foil-wrapped chocolate Canadian Dollar coin
-An assortment of Rain City Skills stickers
-A random selection of Mryoyothrower trading cards
-a few Rain City Skills thin strings.

Release date is June 20th at 6PM Pacific Time!
You can find the Loonie: American Edition at
www.raincityskills.com
www.yoyoexpert.com
www.yoyosam.com
www.yoyostorerewind.com


Rain City Skills Colouring Contest - Win a Prototype SETI

ALIEN.JPG

A colouring contest!

Waylon Crase started drawing up this alien for part of the SETI promo. He got stumped on the arms, then had a bright idea. Let's have the fans finish it!

Prize: a raw prototype SETI.

How to Enter:

  1. Click the button below to download the picture.

  2. Finish and Colour the picture however you want. Be as serious or ridiculous as you want.

  3. Post it somewhere on social media (Facebook, instagram, YouTube, reddit) and use the form below to send me a link. Please use the following tags:
    #raincityskills #setiyoyo #waylian and if you are posting to instagram tag @wayloncrase so he can see your work!

  4. Use the other button to submit the link to your image.

Contest Ends Midnight of June 7th.

On June 8th I’ll let Waylon pick his favourite submission and announce the winner!

Thanks for playing, and have fun!

If you aren’t yet a member of my mailing list, take a moment to sign up. I mail out once per week with valuable links, updates on Rain City Skills releases and the occasional deal or giveaway that is list-exclusive.


May- 12 Months 12 Throws - The SETI

The Rain City Skills “SETI” started life a year ago as a random design inspired by a yoyo Jensen Kimmet handed me to try at Worlds. I came home and messaged Justin to say “We need something with a really big diameter. He sent me a design and I threw it at a new shop to see if they were worth working with. They weren't, the YoYo came back with a bearing seat too narrow. We had an oversized, responsive slimline!

While I didn’t use that shop again, I did throw some old Yoyojam Shims in the prototype and try it out. I was stunned. I was expecting a half-decent, silly YoYo. What I got was a really, really good silly YoYo. It went on the list while we tried to work out a theme.

My first idea was to call it the cereal bowl. Theme it around Saturday morning cartoons. I’d get some custom packaging made in the fashion of old single-serve cereal boxes (the kind you could actually use as a bowl). Perhaps even include a compostable plastic spoon!

Unfortunately (or fortunately) I waited too long and another company released a YoYo called “The Bowl”. I sat on it for a bit. While waiting for just the right theme to appear I sent it off to another shop to test and it came back perfect.

At some point Waylon Crase and I were chatting and he suggested the name SETI, since the shape also resembled a satellite dish. It was perfect! I’d get some alien lego figures, and have some fun with the colourways!

I can’t recall when I had the idea for the engravings, but I suspect it came out of my frustration with anodizers. A far too large percentage of each run of yo-yos ended up b-grades because of anodizing flaws. Solid colours and engravings avoided that issue.

When it came time for packaging Waylon scored again with the ridiculous, almost origami boxes. They’ve been a pain to ship, and I can’t package up the run and shelve it because the boxes are too big! I instead have to assemble the package for each YoYo as it ships out. But they are really cool, so it’s’ 100% worth the extra time!

I’ll leave play and performance up to the reviewers, suffice to say it’s definitely not the YoYo you will win the world championship with. But it is one you’ll have a really good time playing with.

Specs:
Width: 40.5mm
Diameter: 67.8mm
Weight: 67.8g
Groove Concave Bearing

What's in the Box?

2x Rain City Skills Thin String
1x SETI sticker
1x Lego compatible Alien Figure
A grab bag of assorted lego pieces to customize your throw!

You can get yours exclusively at www.raincityskills.com, just follow the link below.

Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list to be the first to get updates and sneak peeks, as well as deals and give-always!


April - 12 Months 12 Throws - The Metalhead

IMG_0025.jpeg

The Metalhead. Last year Magic Yoyo released Dylan Kowalski’s signature YoYo, the Hotdiggidy. Within a week Thomas Velto and I were chatting and decided he needed a signature YoYo as well! The Metalhead was born. I left Thomas to create the basic design. Joey Serrano of 2Sick Yo-yos lent a hand to draw up Thomas’s design. We talked about a nice big, wide performance YoYo.

The first prototype played great, but had too many sharp edges and cuts. It lacked a refined feel. So We worked a little more to round out the edges without compromising the play. The decision to use a traditional hub instead of a Lego hub was actually something of an oversight. I legitimately forgot to add he design feature. When we got the 2nd prototype I brought it up with Thomas. We agreed that we didn’t want to mess with how great the throw played, so we left it. As it turns out that was the right decision, we accidentally ended up with a really good finger spin cup!

The theme. I’ve been wanting to make “The Metalhead” for a while, but didn’t have a YoYo to go with the design. One of the local Yoyoers in Vancouver, Joey Hockin, is also a growing force in the BC heavy metal community. I wanted to make a YoYo he could sell at shows. When Thomas and I started talking, it clicked into place!

I asked Joey if I could share his story, here it is!

My first experience with yo-yoing was in the summer of 2001 when I was 12 years old. There was a booth set up at the Calgary Stampede sponsored by Duncan. It featured future world champion Jensen Kimmitt. I became instantly addicted and spent that whole summer practicing in my backyard. A few years later, around 2008, we had the first Alberta Yoyo club (YORAD) meeting with myself, Jensen, Steve from SPYY, Chris from CLYW and Michael Witteman. I was introduced to the unresponsive style of play and the competitive side of yo-yoing. Over the next couple of year, I placed top 10 at a couple of competitions including western regionals and nationals. I decided to step back from competitions and treat yo-yoing as more of a creative endeavour than a competitive one. This is where I’ve always found the most joy in yo-yoing anyways, as the creative aspects of it align more with my interests. This brings me to the other big hobby in my life, METAL!

I started out like most metalheads my age, listening to Linkin Park, Sum 41 and the like back in 2001. I worked my way through every style of heavy music you can imagine until I found my love for European styles of metal. In September of 2009 I was lucky enough to see Edguy, Stratovarius, Dragonforce, Sonata Arctica, Epicurean, Luna Mortis, Viathyn and Kobra and the Lotus all within a week. Since then I couldn’t get enough of that feeling and my life has pretty much revolved around metal since.

Every single year I’ve managed to make it to at least a couple of festivals. My travels have taken me to a dozen different countries to see epic shows and be more a part of this global metal community. After trying to get my own band off the ground I decided it was time to make the move to Vancouver where the metal scene is much more alive. I finally formed my band, Apprentice, and started playing shows in early 2015.

In 2016 I started Journeyman Productions (a logical name to follow Apprentice) and started promoting metal shows in Vancouver. Now we have a small team of people that are dedicated to fostering the growing metal scene. We enjoy every second we spend making sure bands have opportunities to grow and get to play in front of a larger audience. In late 2018 Apprentice finally released our first album “The Strength of Mortality” which is the culmination of the work of most of my adult life. If you get a chance we’d really appreciate you checking us out online at any of our social media. Give our album a listen on pretty much any major platform where you can find music!

I’m unbelievably stoked to have in my hands a toy that brings together 2 of my life’s biggest passions in a high quality package. This will definitely be my main throw. I look forward to introducing yo-yoing to members of the metal community as well as metal to members of the yo-yo community. The similarities between the 2 might surprise you as they both involve a lot of creativity and personal style! So get on your favourite band’s shirt, throw on our album and give the Metalhead a spin!“

Joey gave me a discount on downloads of “Strength of Mortality” so I could include it with the Apprentice engraved edition of the metal head for half price. If you choose a different colour, you can still pick up the album and their merch at

Apprentice - Bandcamp

If you are looking to score a metal head, click the “Buy Now” button below to take you to the Rain City Skills store.

Diamond Yoyo Holsters - a 5 year old brand new product from Rain City Skills

First up - Yoyo holsters
5 years ago while we were in Prague for the world championship, my wife stumbled across a leather worker at a market who was making leather keychains.  She asked if he could make them bigger for yoyos.  Well...she found someone who could be an interpreter and ask for her.  She was told to return the next day and he made a couple dozen. I gave them away, but was inspired.  Andra and I brainstormed design modifications (the original opened wide and risked the yoyo falling out) and came up with the design for the Diamond Yoyo Holster.
I made a bunch, but the cost of materials was high and I didn’t have the necessary brand recognition to market them. 

A couple months ago I looked into getting them made for me. I sourced out a factory that could produce them at a reasonable price.  I tested a sample, told them what I wanted changed (the snap was too week) and ordered 600 (minimum order). A month later they arrived...with the wrong snap.  I negotiated a partial refund, but was left with a big pile of useless holsters!

So i’m back to hand-made.  I’ve decided to strip out the hardware and re-make them to my specifications. I’ve been using this holster design for 5 years myself. I love it because it’s short enough it doesn’t bounce around too much, and is really ease to use one-handed. I think you will love them!

You can grab yours here:

Diamond Yoyo Holster

Yoyo Accesories Brands - Sochi

Luckey Yulin Li is a 4 time Canadian 1A Champion. That’s a heck of an accomplishment. So when he told me he was starting a yoyo accessories brand, Sochi, he had my attention. Sochi sells high-quality bearings, pads, string and axles. To be honest I wasn’t initially sure how successful he’d be.  I mean, bearings and strings are cheap and plentyful. And who buys new axles unless they lose them? But it turns out people are tired of cleaning seized up bearings, fighting with poorly made string, and missing binds becuase of cheap pads.

Luckey is from China originally but has spent much of his life in Canada. He’s travelled the world competing in, and winning contest. He’s tied in to the global competition yoyo scene. In 2018 he organized the first ever Chinese National Yoyo Contest that wasn’t run as an exclusive event by a company. He has worked for years designing yoyos for a number of different brands. He started Sochi because he saw something missing. He sourced out high-quality gear and purchased in large enough quantity to keep the price affordable. I am not a competitor and am a rank amateur in comparison to Luckey, but I can still see the value of a quality upgrade.

Sochi currently sells

Pair of pads: Blue $2.50, Pink $2.99

String: 3 thicknesses, available in 10, 25, 50 or 100 packs. With a 100 pack at only 18.99 it’s easy enough to buy a bundle to try out. The quality is solid and it holds up well.

Axles: Titanium.

Bearings: Concave or Center Track for $11.99.

The bearings are noticeably better. I really drilled him on what justifies the price and he stressed the difference in the quality of the materials. A cheaper bearing material is going to contain flaws and isn’t going to be as smooth and balanced. When it comes to string, there is a difference between types of polyester and blending the right types at just the right tension makes a big difference.

So I’ve decided to stock Sochi accessories at raincityskills.com. Luckey gave me a deal on a sample pack priced at $15 that will give you a chance to test out his gear.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list for weekly info, release notes, sneak peeks and deals!

12 Months 12 Throws - March - The Retro Rocket

2019 is the year of Maddness at Rain City Skills. 12 Months, 12 yoyos. January was the long awaited production run of The Ducc. February brought the instant hit, The Loonie. Now we have the Retro Rocket.

Over a year ago Daniel Kessler approached me with an idea for a yo-yo collab. My only criteria was that we come up with something unique, something no one else has done. We ended up close, something that, from what I could tell at the teme, no one but me had done (King Yo Star Morpheus was my previous throw with that shape).

The Retro Rocket is an undersized powerhouse. It’s got full size performance in a pocket friendly package.

We tossed around a whole lot of names and themes, but when we stumbled on “The Kessler Run” I knew we nailed it. From there the Retro Rocket theme assembled itself. Daniel drew up a delightfully simple design logo.

We went with 3 colourways based on our favourite shows. The Kessler Run for Star Wars, The Redshirt for Star Trek and the DHD for Stargate!

You can get yours direct at Raincityskills.com

as well as Yoyoexpert.com and Yoyosam.com

Below you can watch a couple reviews and check out one of my latest tutorials!

The Duck: How to Make Them Pay - A guide to the coming Duckpocalypse

So this is only peripherally yoyo related, except in that it's part of the saga of me learning how to publish for my upcoming yoyo book. so if it needs to be deleted let me know.

TL;DR I engaged in amazon book publishing trollery. Buy it if you want, or not. It's mostly there to amuse me.

So it started with this book (https://amzn.to/2T2jpRb) that appears to be a 100+ year old book on how to raise and sell ducks. The review on this was what made it for me.

"Not the Duck Specific revenge manual I was hoping for"

I get a lot of Duck related funny things sent to me (thank you all for the laughs) and this has turned out to be one of the best.

This would not do. I hated the idea of someone so disappointed by a book! So on a whim I started writing the Duck specific revenge manual my new friend (Amazon user eoin) clearly needed.

I got sucked in. It ended up being really over the top. I did a fair bit of reading things on the internet so I could pay lip service to reality. I ended up writing a farcical guidebook/manifesto/conspiracy theory about 20 pages long. It took me far longer than I’ll admit, but it was a hilarious romp to write.

Then it occured to me. I needed to learn how to publish a book independently, so why not do a practice run while waiting for the yoyo book back from my editor (which I received today!)

In any event. If you are interested in reading my little adventure in creative writing and publishing it's now available in print and kindle format. I think I get 30 cents per kindle purchase and about $1.50 per book, so this 100% isn't a push to buy it. It's me sharing a laugh.

Print Edition

Kindle Edition

Closing Down Return Top Shop

Life is Change. 3 years ago I took a leap and decided to start an online store. In the beginning the intent was to provide access to yoyos for kids in Vancouver at affordable Canadian prices, without having to deal with shipping from the USA. The store quickly grew as people across Canada got excited about having a Canadian store. As I branched out and got some interesting different brands into the store, people outside of Canada started buying from RTS. The business grew to the point where it is mostly breaking even. The problem is time. It takes a lot of my time to manage inventory, promotion, shipping and accounting. Time for which the only compensation is the enjoyment I get from interacting with customers who are excited about what they get.

I’ve come to a point where I want to do other things with that time. The yoyo market has been changing. When I started yoyoing 10 years ago, the only real options for buying yoyos were yoyonation.com and yoyoexpert.com with a few smaller retailers. Beginners couldn’t just grab something off amazon or eBay, they had to go to a Yoyo retailer. Now there are a lot more options for online retail as well as the option to buy directly from manufacturers. This means competition, and I don’t have the cash flow to put into the advertising needed. There are more brands than ever before, so the ability to stock enough variety that will sell through is challenging. Brands are selling direct, which means that not only do I compete with the other online retailers, but with the brands themselves. This isn’t a complaint, as with Rain City Skills I understand the other side of the equation, but it’s an additional challenge. What it really boils down to is where I want to put my time.

Rain City Skills has been more successful than I expected, and I want to see where that goes. I’ve got other yoyo world projects I want to explore, like more writing, starting a podcast, making T-shirts, yoyo fundraisers with schools and a long list of other things. So it’s time for Return Top Shop to go. What I will be doing is shifting a very limited selection of products to mryoyothrower.com, mostly so I have options for the local Vancouver community as was my original intention. Rain City Skills products will still be available through yoyoexpert.com and yoyosam.com, as well as now through the raincityskills.com website directly. Thank you to everyone over the years who have supported the store, I’d been a fun ride and I appreciated all of you!

The Sk8r - Rain City Skills x Oh Yes Yo

The Sk8r will be available at yoyoexpert.com, yoyosam.com and returntopshop.com for $64.99.  I’ll also be selling extra colouring books at Returntopshop for a limited time, just in case you wanted one to keep as a collectable.  Or give to a friend. Or if you wanted to colour a 2nd one yourself ;)

The Sk8r comes in red, white or black with either purple or black hubs.

Specs:
Diameter 52.95mm
Width 42.2mm
Gap 4.2mm
Weight 62.4g
Bearing Size C Flat
Material Delrin

The Story

Rain City Skills x Oh Yes Yo

      When I approached Coffin Nachtmahr Of Oh Yes Yo with the idea to do a collaboration called the skater, he was 100% on board right away.  His first suggestion was that the name needed to be spelled Sk8r.  From there, designing the yoyo to look like a skateboard wheel was a given.  Justin Scott Larson went to work taking Coffin and My ideas and giving them shape.  The design he came up with was nearly perfect, as always!  What wasn’t a given was finding the right machine shop.  This is the most prototyped yoyo I’ve ever made.  We started this process in the beginning of 2018.


     We started with one shop that I’d worked with before for begleri.  We sent them 2 variations, one 59g, one 63g.  They did a good job of the body, but were unable to make the hardware properly (the hub wasn’t snug against the body, so it tended to slip instead of screwing together tightly).  It did give us the opportunity to bring the prototypes to PNWR in Seattle where we learned that the yoyo community was of no help making decisions.  We had 2 weights options and we left the contest with pretty much a 50-50 split between people that liked one or the other!


     Onto a 2nd machine shop.  This time I used the same shop that made the Rain City Skills ‘Showgirl’.  Again, we tested 2 variations to make sure the hub design would work.  This time they nailed it, fantastic!  Except in the time between ordering the prototypes and actually getting them the shop seems to have run into some trouble.  As soon as I got the prototypes my contact stopped responding.


      Finally we ended up at Yoyoempire.  I really should have started with them, they have made more Delrin yoyos than just about any other brand on the market and have the experience needed to get it right.  So a 5th prototype was made to make sure they had the design right and bam, ready to go!


      In the interim between the various prototypes I was busy crafting the unboxing experience.  This is where Coffin had his chance to shine.  He is a professional artist.  He makes his living with his art and yoyo sales.  He drew up the sticker logo, blending the 2 brands and the skateboard concept.  I hunted and found lego skateboards and paired them with an assortment of mostly horror or science fiction villain themed Minifigures.  There are about 50 varieties spread amongst the 150 Sk8rs made.  Jack from “Nightmare Before Xmas” makes an appearance, the Scream guy, Donald Trump, various mad scientists, there may even be a Sith or two in there.


      The idea for the big ‘enxtra’ came at USA nationals in 2018.  Coffin was drawing up label cards for the Boutique Yoyo Collective table and we came up with the idea to include a yoyo colouring book!  I sent him home with a list of yoyo words (bind, whip, slack, etc) to outline in graffiti format.  So each Sk8r comes with a collectable colouring book that even has a drawing of a Coffin and I!


      The finishing touch was packaging.  Coffin sent me a photo of skateboard wheels shrink-wrapped and pointed out that this was do-able at home.  I popped onto amazon, got some shrink wrap and tested it.  You can do it at home with a hair dryer, but it’s not super effective.  So next stop was the hardware store for a heat sealer and heat gun.  I then spent most of the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend splitting my time between packing to move and shrink wrapping yoyos.  As you can see in the images below, I added in a basic fingerboard that makes a perfect display stand!


     All in all this has been a really fun project.  At some point I’m sure I’ll run out of ideas for interesting themes and accessories, but I’m really digging the creativity that goes with it.  I’m looking forward to my next collaboration and where 2019 takes Rain City!


     Just for fun, The Sk8r drops on October 24th, my birthday!  So if you needed any more incentive to grab one, think of it as my birthday present! 


     

My favourite Yoyo Brand Turned Evil!

So a thing that happens all too often in the yoyo world (In the world of small hobbies in general) is that success if often reviled.  If you are a small operation, pouring your heart and soul into your products for little or no return, you are amazing, the community supports you.  If you get some success, get some sales happening, enough that perhaps you are starting to get compensate for your labour, that’s OK too.  There is a line though.  It’s somewhere between making just enough to keep going, and making an actual income.


I’ve seen this discussed so many times.  “Brand X used to be good, then they started making mass produced garbage” or “Brand Z makes good yoyos, but they are too big now so their yoyos don’t have soul”.  What's funny is that this often translates to “the yoyos are too well made I liked it better in the beginning when “x” brand was still figuring out how to design a good yoyo and was dealing with machine shops that couldn't make consistent yoyos.”  I think there is definitely a tie-in to rarity being a desire able trait.


There is an odd need inherent in Western Culture to root for the underdog.  I’m not sure where it comes from but you see it all over.  There is nothing more exciting in sports than when a team no one expected makes it to the finals.  It might be part of the democracy/capitalism mindset.  The idea that anyone can be anything if they work hard enough.  But at the same time, we seem to want to pull down those that do make the big break.  There is nothing like catching a move star/rock star/politician/CEO in an embarrassing situation, letting the media and the gossips take them down a peg.


So where is the line.  Somewhere between a brand barely managing to sell 50 of a yoyo and being able to sell 5000 of a yoyo. 


Is it because at 5000 of each yoyo you have moved from a guy playing with yoyos to a business manager?  Is it because at that number you are clearly earning too much money to be in it for the love of the sport?  How does one avoid this, or is it even possible?  Is it about maintaining direct community engagement, posting videos of you yoyoing, just to prove you still throw and aren't just in it for the money?

I don't anticipate rain City Skills ever getting big enough to have that problem, but you never know!


What do you think?

The Challenges of online Retail

I’ve had a few conversations lately with different online skill toy retailers. What I’ve been hearing is something I’ve been experiencing as well.It’s becoming harder to make an online skill toy retail store work. There are a number of challenges, old and new that are faced by online retailers.

Inventory choices are the biggest challenge. It’s very difficult to decide what to stock. 

1. Competition: Do I only stock major brands that have brand recognition?  If I do, then I’m competing directly with every other online retailer to sell a product that doesn’t have limited availability. Or do I focus on smalller hard to find products?  Then I’m in the position of doing the leg work to help a new or small brand get recognition that they can’t do themselves on the off chance their stuff will sell.  It’s hard because I want to support start up brands, but have limited funds to tie up in products.

2. Unpredictability of sales:  I have had products from one supplier sell out in a weekend, only to have their next release sit on the shelf for months.  No idea why.

3. Shipping and volume: Generally the markup for retail is 40% in the yoyo world.  Which is less than half of what you are seeing if you go buy a pair of shoes at a retail store. 

What doesn’t get taken into account with that number is overhead.

-cost of freight to the online store

-taxes, duties, paypal fees

-cost of running the website

-shipping costs (very few yoyo retailers actually charge what it costs to ship including labour and packaging)

-promotional costs

4. Dead stock: When I order skill toys for the store, I have to do the mental math of “If I buy 10, at a 40% markup minus shipping and taxes I need to sell 6 or 7 to break even”.  If I only sell 4 initially then I’m sitting on funds that could have gone elsewhere, and often are sitting on my credit card accruing interest.

5. Employees:  Do I do it all myself or hire help?  I don’t have any actual Employees, but I occasionally hire one of the kids from the local club to come in and help with small jobs.  I have paid graphic designers for imagery and support for promotional strategies.  The bonus packs that go into every box that ships out have a cost that varies.  The concrete costs of the bags, stickers and candy are easy, but the time it takes me to package them together is harder. It’s tricky to work all of that into the cost of yoyos, but it is yet another chip away at the 40%.


I think the biggest challenge going forward is that it is so much easier to sell products online than it was even 5 years ago.  I recently switched the store over to Shopify because of how complex yet simple it is. All of the finances, inventory control and shipping are in the Same place.

This means that manufacturers large and small are more likely to sell direct.  Their fans are (quite reasonably) more likely to buy direct rather than through a retailer because they want to support the creative end.  But it makes choosing what to stock a challenge.  I happily stock MonkeyfingeR design begleri because their initial releases include retailers.  Aroudnsquare releases direct first then sells to online retailers, which makes it harder to move their products.  Both brands have solid followings that will buy direct first before they look to returntopshop.  This is pretty consistent across the board.

So where to next?  I’m finding myself in a position of having a few brands I know can sell, a few products that I am willing to spend time promoting and sticking to those.  I know I can sell yoyos that retail for under $30.  Over that, brand recognition is required, and a scarcity market (sells out quickly elsewhere) helps.

Do I put money into bringing more brands in to draw customers?  Or do I put that money into creating original products with Rain City Skills?  Do I switch tracks and put more time and energy into building the local yoyo scene through school demos and public workshops?  Or do I need to put some money and time into advertising?

Either way, it’s a learning experience that I’m really enjoying!

Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments. 

-Jeremy “Mr Yoyothrower” McKay

Why Compete at Yoyo Contests?

Competition is arguably the centerpoint of human existence, if not all life on earth. At a fundamental level we compete for access to basic survival needs of food and shelter and reproduction. Historically it was done through violence, today it’s done through more ‘civilized means (competition for the money required for our basic needs).We compete for fun with our friends, we compete when we play games. It is what brings us together as a team, the striving against ‘other’ even if it’s only for a 60 minute game, or 1 minute on stage at a yoyo contest.

Yoyo contests are a small part of the yoyo world, and the players who compete an even smaller subset of those who attend.  I was reflecting today on what I get out of competing while I was yoyoing at a bus stop.  Since I’ve stopped competing my overall Yoyo skill has diminished (there are other factors, but that is one clear correlation).  I’m not making up tricks as often and definitely not polishing long combos like I did when I was trying to perfect a 3 minute routine.  So to a degree attending and competing at yoyo contests is something I need personally to drive me forward with my skill development.  I don’t put the work in unless I have a goal.  I never had any illusion of being a champion at any level, it was the goal of being on stage with a solid routine that kept me moving.


I still compete casually in 4a.  The other main thing I get out of competing is the love of performing.  When I was in grade 12 our band teacher (yup, I’m that kind of geek as well) gave us the opportunity to perform solo or group songs as part of the year end concert.  I had been playing guitar for a year and a half and decided to do a challenging instrumental song by The Tea Party called The Badger.  I went on stage, played the song with minimal errors and came off the stage determined to do it again.  The rush of having just performed art in front of 500 people was amazing.  For me yoyo contests fill that need to a degree.


It’s my opinion that every yoyoer who is able to should get up on stage at least once, if nothing else than to see if they like the feeling.  It’s not for everyone.  Many people just have too much anxiety or need to be perfect and it’s just stressful, but if you have never tried, there is no way of knowing if it’s right for you!  As well, the time leading up to the contest will take your skill to a new height of polish and drive you to innovate and perhaps explore the sport in new ways!


What moves you to compete? 

`What makes one yoyo better than any other?

What makes any one yoyo better than another?  The short answer is that if they are designed and produced by anyone with an ounce of design sense and based on modern yoyo standards, absolutely nothing.


I have this conversation all the time when I’m selling yoyos, particularly to parents of kids who have just got into the sport. 

“Which one is the best?”

(Hold these 5, throw each one.  Which one do you like?  Then that one is the best)

“Why does this one cost me twice as much as that one?”

(Because it cost me twice as much from the manufacturer)

“I have a Shutter, which one is better than a Shutter?”

(All of them, none of them)


In reality the answer is very much a complicated one.  When I started throwing 8 years ago design was still being figured out.  You had Yoyojam still making their plastic hybrid throws with starburst and 0-ring response, and there were quite a few yoyos on the market that ranged from boring or adequate all the way to downright terrible yoyos.  Manufacturers were still learning the right sizes and shapes for optimal performance.  “Undersized” yoyos were still the norm, I remember when SPYY released the “Pro” it was unusually wide, now it’s considered average width. There was also still room for ‘modding’, the act of taking a yoyo and adjusting it’s design by adding or taking away parts or by physically changing the shape.  Gap widths were still reasonably narrow, you could buy ‘shims’ to widen the gap.


Now things are different.  Few companies can afford to make anything other than a narrow range of shapes and designs.  Yoyos generally conform to established widths, diameters and weights with limited variation, because that’s what sells.  The result is that one yoyo really is as good as the next on a fundamental level.


What does that leave the shopper to work with?  Preference.  Within those narrow acceptable parameters there is still a large range of designs.  Where the weight sits on a yoyo can dramatically affect how it plays on the string.  The curve of the gap can either fit your hand comfortably or not, depending on the size of your hand, how you catch and how you hold the yoyo.  The style of play you choose and the players you emulate will lead you to a shape that works well for a given style of tricks.  If you are like me, a lighter yoyo is preferable.  I don’t play at the speed or level of complexity that more serious yoyoers do, and they often prefer more weight (we are talking a small range, from 62-68g).


Price is meaningless, beyond the constraints of your pocketbook.  Gentry Stein showed that using a $12 plastic yoyo to win a national title.  You can spend $1000 on a yoyo.  Is it going to play ‘better’ than the $12 plastic yoyo?  Probably.  $978 worth of better?  Certainly not.  The cost of a yoyo has so little to do with the design and play of a yoyo as to be insignificant.  You have the choice when buying a yoyo of choosing to spend your money on a yoyo (buying because of what it is), or spending your money to buy a brand name (buying a yoyo because it says Duncan or Yomega on it).


So back to the original question: What makes one yoyo better than the other?


You.