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With a contract manufacturer hired and their new company formed, John and Erin of Magnolia Atomworks race to fulfill their first orders. — Gareth

Magnolia Atomworks, part 3: To Market, To Market

By John Edgar Park and Erin Kelly-Park

You may think this has all been fun and awesomeness so far, and we’d have to agree. But wait! There’s also some fantastically boring stuff to do when you start a kit business.

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For one, we had to figure out packaging. After trying some different configurations at home, I went online and ordered a few hundred boxes and padding to be sent to our cutter. ThinkGeek requested a barcode for their internal tracking, so I used an online UPC barcode generator to make a label with a barcode on it. Originally, we were only going to have instructions online, but at the last minute, we changed our minds, so I designed a one-page instruction sheet and had that put into the box, too. These things all cost time and money, although I was happy to be able to use my Maya skills to do the diagrams for the instruction sheet. On the plus side: if you order over $100 at Uline (the shipping supply company) you get a free Hall & Oates CD! No, really. (We let the guy doing the laser cutting keep it.)

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With holiday deadlines looming, the kits were cut, packed, and shipped off to our resellers just in time. With all that sorted out, the fun could begin again. We now had one thing left to hurry up and do: spread the word. Marketing the Mystery Box consisted almost entirely of blogging and twittering. It can be a big challenge to get the word out on a product. That’s why advertising costs so much. By staying close to my maker roots, and targeting resellers instead of trying to sell direct to consumers, we were able to maximize our sales.

Once they were available for sale, on ThinkGeek and the Maker Shed, a friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that she wanted to get a Mystery Box, but would probably need help assembling it. So, I shot a video of myself assembling one. I posted it a few places online and I think it helped with some sales. Both resellers included the video on their respective product pages. It took a couple hours to shoot and edit (including at least an hour of trying to find interesting, royalty-free background music), but it cost us nothing to make. All of this seemed good in theory, but would the Mystery Box kits actually sell? Only time would tell…

Tune in next time for the thrilling conclusion: Part 4: The aftermath, lessons learned, and the future

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In the Maker Shed:
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Mystery Box Kit – The Mystery Box is a clever puzzle box made by our very own John Park, host of Make: television.

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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