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Electric Eel Wheel Newsletter – September 2022

Electric Eel Wheel Newsletter by Dreaming Robots

My current plan for the EEW Cone Winder is to launch the Kickstarter on October 3rd, right when I send out the October version of this newsletter.  So keep an eye out for that next month.  There will be a great video explaining the product, plus the kickstarter page and several other videos going into more detail about it.

Also I hope people like the new banner image in the newsletter this month.  A designer friend made it for me and I think it’s a great update from the previous one that I made years ago.

New Product Risk Discussion

In this section I’m going to discuss some of the risks I take with new products, and my thought process in this area.  This is some of what goes into running a small business like mine.

The way I make a new product is I spend a huge amount of my time (often over a year) researching ideas, prototyping, and then updating the design so it can be manufactured at an affordable cost.  Beyond all my time, I also have large expenses before I ever can sell the first time.  The biggest pre-production expense is the tooling for the injection molding of my products which lets me keep the cost low when making big batches of them.  This tooling usually means spending tens of thousands of dollars making the molds.  Then there are other tooling costs I need to pay to get other custom parts made (circuit boards, motors, metal parts, …).  All these upfront costs let me get lower prices as long as I’m making enough of my product in a batch.  I really value getting my products in more people’s hands so this workflow is good for me.  However, keeping the prices affordable also means the profit per item I sell is lower and the only way it makes sense is to sell a lot of them.  Usually my initial viability spreadsheets where I calculate rough costs for everything assume that I’m selling several thousand of the product via kickstarter, my store, and through my retailers.

The risk for new products should be pretty clear.  Basically I’m spending all the time and money to bring products to market and if they don’t sell well then I can lose that upfront money and time.  The less I know about a product the more risk there is.  I have been doing eSpinners the longest and understand those markets the best.  So doing a new version of an eSpinner is a lot lower risk than doing some new type of product.  That said expanding my product range helps me grow my business and I absolutely love solving the engineering challenges I find when designing new products.

The first major non-eSpinner item I did was the EEW Yarn Counter.  This was an item a lot of people really wanted because there wasn’t a good affordable solution in the market.  I also knew that this was less expensive to develop than some other new products I wanted to do.  So it made a good product to test how well I could reach out to people in the craft fiber market, but was not part of my core eSpinner group.  I’m quite pleased with how well the EEW Yarn Counter has sold so that gave me confidence to go forward with the Cone Winder, which has been a lot more expensive to develop.  I’ve yet to see if the Cone Winder sales will justify my upfront time and cost, but I’ve been building up to this for years so I’ve done my best to make it succeed.  I also know cone winders users are underserved by the existing options.  In theory I could have run the Cone Winder kickstarter earlier to reduce my risk of finding the audience size sooner, but then I wouldn’t know my final cost to make it.  Also I’d feel pressure to ship it on time which would probably result in a worse product.  That’s why I like to be very far along in development before I allow pre-sales via Kickstarter, and this is the path I’m following with the Cone Winder even though it means I don’t really know how many will sell until I’m nearly done getting it ready for manufacturing.

If the Cone Winder does well for my business there are a lot of other fiber related products I can see trying out.  There are tools like a drum carder, an electric skein winder, or a CSM that would be pretty high risk due to me not knowing the number of people looking for those.  There are also stranger things on my list like a Kumihimo braiding machine or a wireless foot switch for my eSpinners. I actually have over 20 ideas that I could potentially do, which is way more than I’ll probably ever get to.  The good thing is I have a large number of fiber users subscribed to this email and before I decide on any future projects I’ll send out a poll where you can vote for the product you’re most interested in.  The interest of my existing users in that poll is one of the biggest factor in what product I do next; but I also factor in other things like my judgement of how much better a solution I can do compared to existing solutions, how much time it will take to develop, and how much money I expect the project will cost to get to manufacturing.

This may all sound complex or unfun to some, but I’ve slowly grown this business for 13 years so that makes this much more manageable since the complexity slowly grew over time.  I love having to consider these kinds of risks that have no clear “correct” answer, and this is part of what makes it all interesting to me.

EEW Naming Poll Results

Thanks everyone for voting on the EEW naming last month.  Based on the feedback I’ve decided to make no changes to the naming.  It is really helpful though to have the community confirm that my current naming works well for most of you. Over 67% of the responses said you prefer Electric Eel Wheel (EEW) over the other options.  As for adding a clarifying name to the EEW 6+ about 50% said I should just keep it the way it is.  Below are the results of those votes.  I also got a lot of written comments in the poll and I’ve read through all of those and found all that feedback super helpful.  Thanks for taking the time to vote!

Product Updates

Below are just estimates and the dates may change.

  • EEW Nano 2 – Shipping end of October
  • EEW 6.0 – Shipping in November
  • EEW Cone Winder – Current plan is to launch the Kickstarter on October 3rd, right when I send out the October version of this newsletter

I don’t accept pre-orders in my store, but when I get a batch of products there should be enough for everyone.  Kickstarters are the only way I do preorder and I use these to figure how large of a batch to make for new products and to help fund manufacturing that initial batch.  My Kickstarter projects give a discount, but they are for a limited time and generally last around one month.

– Maurice Ribble
(Inventor of the Electric Eel Wheel)

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