To say the past two years have been a whirlwind is an understatement. When this blog launched, I had high hopes of it being an ongoing resource to hobbyists, with regularly scheduled content supplementing my YouTube videos and providing a behind-the-scenes look at the business as it continued to grow. However, things rarely go according to plan on the first try.
In the last year and a half, my wife and I welcomed the birth of my second daughter, we moved the entire warehouse to a larger location, and I hired a video editor to help me delegate more tasks and focus on designing and the many other needs of the business. On top of this, like the rest of you reading, we had to navigate the realities of a global pandemic.
Immediately changes occurred in the business, with multiple closures, additional safety precautions, supply chain issues, and package delays. And that's not even considering the many events I planned to attend. During an 18-month period, all travel was canceled, and I attended a grand total of zero Nerf games — I only recently played my first game since this all started in late July.
Naturally, as with many other things, this blog fell out of use as other priorities took precedent in 2020. However, with the help of my team here at OOD HQ, we are diving in once again! We are so fortunate to have made it this far, and we can't thank you enough for all the support you have shown us. I'm really excited for the hobby's future, and I hope you'll stick with us as we continue to build ourselves alongside it as your one-stop foam-flinging hobby shop.
WEARING MANY HATS:
Like many small business owners, I wear a lot of hats. I have a lot of help around here, and I couldn't do any of this without the team. There are however, a multitude of tasks that sit on any small business owner's plate.
Here are a few tasks of mine in the warehouse:
- Product development, 3D Design, Licensing, Sourcing, Ordering, Inventory, testing, product tracking and support
- Social media including Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube content, Video planning, filming, editing
- Sponsorships, events, outreach, advertising and collaborations.
- Website work including app development, product listings, linking, description improvement, updates and photography.
- 3D Print farm management including repairs, maintenance, cleaning, slicing, testing, filament tracking, fail tracking, organization and more.
- IT management, software updates, computer issues, passwords, logins, security, etc.
- Shipping, receiving, cleaning, and general organization.
- Hiring, training, time-tracking, payroll, employee evaluation, and benefits, accounting, bill payment, tax compliance including state/federal and sales tax for multiple states.
- Customer service, e-mails, Facebook messages, IG messages, discord, Facebook mentions, Reddit, and customer reviews.
- General hobby knowledge and tracking, keeping up on current blasters, trends, releases, hobby designs, and more.
THE HOBBY SHIFT:
The hobby has shifted in many ways during these past two years. There are more 3rd party designers and small Nerf-hobby businesses than I can count (we tried). When I started this business, there were only a handful of shops that catered to our hobby, and now we have literally hundreds of great options!
Meanwhile, Dart Zone showed up on the scene, offering some incredible blasters at affordable price points (especially their blasters under the Adventure Force label at Walmart)! Additionally, they continue to test the market with the Dart Zone Pro line, from the Mk-I powerhouse springer to the Mk-II top-notch sidearm and the much-hyped upcoming MK3 flywheeler.
With the events of the world keeping us more isolated, many of us spent the time usually reserved for gameplay focusing instead on modding and 3D-printed designs. I also took advantage of a freed-up schedule, but for me, I missed the moments of inspiration and opportunity that only playing at games can bring.
Not to be outdone, we released a few great new products during COVID. Tarik and I introduced the Little Rocket family of interchangeable-barrel single-shot blasters, including the Proud Papa and later the Crooked Cousin.
We added more products than ever, including several new blasters from Worker: the Phoenix SMG-style blaster, the Cheetah Rival blaster, and the Cheetah 2.0 short dart blaster being just a few examples. Likewise, we doubled the number of spring offerings on the shop!
In addition to product releases, we committed to cutting down on plastic waste. As a small business providing many 3D-printed products, some waste is unavoidable. But, by partnering with Proto-Pasta, a Vancouver-based filament supplier, we could close the loop and send back our recyclable cardboard spools and packaging to be reused. With help from the lovely people at Proto-Plant more than 80% of our filament consumption has been switched to a Proto-Pasta variant. We're even more excited for the next step -- full end-to-end recycling of our failed prints, prototypes, support material and other previously wasted filament.
Finally, in last Spring of 2021, we celebrated the launch of the Proton Pack on the shop. This needs its own video, but I still lack the footage I'd like to include without the large-scale games I usually attend. All the same, this project was years in the making and I'm thrilled with the launch. Many thanks to the beta-testers and James for designing the custom circuit boards! I look forward to when we can get back together and see legions of players with Proton Packs holding off the zombie hoard at up to 20 rounds-per-second.
Now, I don't want to give the impression that all I do is work (though I did that for the first 3-4 years of the business). The most valuable thing in my life are the moments I share with my family. My two girls are incredible, and I'm well aware that they will only be this young once. Never before has time been so obviously marked by their development. This has really made me focus on family now more than ever. I'm excited for a future of gamedays when my 3-year-old is ready to play alongside me. Pamela, my ever-supportive wife, has been key to keeping this business going — without her, I would never have had the time to build this.
I'm so happy to be in our new warehouse home with a wonderful team of employees printing, packing, and answering emails. As time goes on, you'll get to put faces to the names here on the blog.
A few products coming soon; RS187 'Cagefighter' blaster. We'll be the exclusive source for Hardware kits, 3D parts kits, and complete ready-to-fire blasters. This little beast packs a punch in the smallest form factor I've ever seen.
Thank you. Seriously, thank you. Thank you for supporting the shop, my family, and my small business dreams. It's hard to believe how far we've come over the past six years, but I feel so fortunate to be part of this amazing hobby and community. Many people get to run businesses, but not everyone gets to run a business with such a fantastic community. I look forward to flinging foam with more of you in 2022 and growing this hobby over the years to come! Stay safe, help our new community members and have fun flinging foam!