Every once in a while I look around my workroom (aka: my crowded and cluttered basement with glitter on every surface) and wonder how I got here. And I don’t mean like how I got here literally (the stairs) but how Monka! has changed since I started it 5 years ago.
When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I had never expected parenthood to be part of our life stories. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed most of it, including decorating the nursery with a woodland theme. I created my original prototype Monka! wall hooks out of toy animals and everyone who saw them loved them. Since I’ve always been a big fan of the side hustle, I started to manufacture them. I went through paint trials, hardware trials, toy trials (some plastics worked better than others!) until I finally reached a place where I could create a consistent product.
These were the very first Monka! Hooks ever created!
The process was long. I started by cutting the toys, filling them, setting the hardware. Then came the many painting related steps (multiple coats, clear coat, touch ups) and the finishing steps where I added backing. This doesn’t include the social media marketing, Etsy listings, photographs, or shipping. All in all, I was spending multiple weeks on creating a single custom order. This was way more than I bargained for, but my product was popular and I was making sales so I brought in some hired help to take over the painting and finishing portions, leaving the hardware and online work to me.
Business starting to pickup, running out of space (and time)!
I expanded my products to include magnets, drawer pulls, and holiday ornaments. I even had some prototype Menorahsauruses that I was beta testing. About that time we also found out we were expanding our family with baby number two.
I was so glad my painter lived a half mile away because we were always exchanging finished goods for unpainted ones. Her space only allowed her to do 50 items at a time and when I made the move to wholesale products, I realized it was not sustainable or cost effective. Plus I was exhausted. Going from one to two children is not an easy task. I scaled back. I stopped taking most orders. I was at a crossroads. I didn’t think I could continue this business that I had poured so much time and energy into.
My husband (as previously mentioned) works in robotics and we share an interest in new technology. We started to watch videos of 3D printers and realized we could cut so many steps, reduce so much waste (I STILL have HUGE containers filled with animal butts!) and ultimately cut costs by getting one!
So we got three! (Yes, THREE!) I spent the first year of my second childs life learning to 3D print my product (through trial and error (mostly error)). The doors were flung open, my creative options were unlimited. If I could imagine it (and design it, that’s the hard part) I could create it.
My husband branded my printer :)
Test printing candles
It was such a relief realizing that I could continue Monka! in a financially sustainable (and environmentally healthier) way. Now I can offer new products such as my Monka! Letter board words, and giant wall décor which I was never able to create with my previous processes. The number of hours an individual project took was reduced by more than half and I could reduce my (and your) costs while still keeping my product high quality. I have zero regrets about making the change, and please let me know if you’re in the market for toy animal butts.
I still run into issues, but we take care of all maintenance and repairs ourselves.
Now we're pumping out Colorful goodness daily!