Friday, March 13, 2009

productivity, pricing, and why my cousin is the awesomest person ever

My best, most marketable product as of right now is probably my business card-sized wallpaper envelopes. I make my wallpaper envelopes by creating a template on heavy cardstock, tracing it onto the back of the wallpaper sample, and cutting each one out by hand with scissors.

Terribly time consuming.

I'd tried using my Xacto or matknife directly with the template, but always ended up destroying the template and making terrible ugly shredded pieces of crap instead of my near-perfect little envelopes. I tried cutting with the scissors around the templates, but I couldn't hold them still propperly. The fastest thing that yielded up-to-my-standards results seemed to be the "trace a bazillion and then cut a bazillion while watching a movie or listening to This American Life podcasts" method, which was particularly annoying for the envelope shapes that I then had to go back in with Mr. Mattknife and make slits for the top to fold in.
I do these in orders of 50 at a time.

Because my process was so slow, it was never worth it to me to sell them for less than $1 a piece. Anything below that and I was in "screw it. I'm not making them anymore" territory.

This is going back to my whole Econ 101 shtick. Once I've made the envelopes, my costs are sunk and any money I get for them is better than having them sit there forever. But because generally make them to order, I can refuse to make more for any less than my time is worth (in this case, $1 an envelope). In theory the best price for me to charge would be some number that maximizes profit where supply meets demand, blah blah blah, but!!!! having to charge over $1 a piece means that if that magic theoretically shiny perfect pricing number is under $1, I can never reach pricing utopia. Oh the horror! The theoretical econ horror! And, more practically, the getting priced out of ever doing wholesale horror!

Enter my cousin and metal artist/blacksmith extraordinaire, Joshua Gilbert. He's pretty awesome and insanely talented and rescues mangy one-eyed evil cats he thinks are sweet and actually makes a living as an artist/metalworkerperson. In exchange for a bunch of the business card sized envelopes with "thank you for your patronage" cards (that's what he wanted), he made me metal templates in two sizes, plus metal folding templates (something I never even imagined) that make folding the envelopes up into nice right angles much quicker.
Quick crappy photo of the templates and current work in progress on my floor. You get the idea.

Now, I can take my Xacto and whip out a complete envelope, folding slit and all, in the time it used to take me just to pencil trace. Oh, brave new world!

I wonder about all those template cutting tools now, like the Fiskars Shapecutter, if they'd be even faster and better than me and my Xacto, or if they even work on negative image templates...If you know, please comment! Please please please!

Back to the econ question: will I lower my prices? No. Because people don't gasp in horror when I say they're $1 each. $1 seems about right. But wholesale orders and bulk orders? Finally. We can do business. 100 doesn't have to still be $100 to be worth making. So how much would you pay for 100 of them? 1000? A gazillion? Life is exciting.

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