Starting a Mini company, what does it take? Thank you all in
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  1. #1

    Default Starting a Mini company, what does it take? Thank you all in

    I'm generally a lurker here, browsing through the interesting posts that appear when I can during my work day. But I feel as many of you out there may feel, I eventually want to escape the daily rat race of traditional corporate employment. I've been developing game worlds (as an amateur) for many years and I have recently decided to bite the bullet and bring one to life using the medium of a miniature war game. Now I know that this may be a FAQ located somewhere on this very forum, but with the very specific focus on the miniature manufacturing company what are the steps to get started if you are serious (i.e. willing to seriously invest time and money) about getting your company up and running. If someone is willing take the time to break it down for me and others like me that would be awesome (and probably become an instant sticky)but by that same token if this resource already exists somewhere I would be just as grateful if you were to point me in the right direction.

  2. #2
    Brushlicker gohkm's Avatar
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    I've just started doing this, and it appears that the steps are just about the same as any other company.

    1. Identify a niche your models would fill, i.e. target audience.
    2. Test if there is demand; for example, running a survey or a pilot.
    3. Identify your suppliers - concept artists, sculptors, 3D printers, project managers, casters, etc.
    4. Have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve, as well as on a per-model basis.
    5. Invest the money and have the models done up.
    6. Have a clear marketing and advertising strategy; word-of-mouth is seldom enough.
    7. Build a solid logistics chain - if a supplier drops out somewhere, your production is impacted.
    8. Go get them!

    ** DO NOT underestimate costs, especially shipping.

    Happy to chat more over PM, especially if you have specific questions to ask.
    Models completed in 2016 so far: 16
    Models in WIP: 22

    tp://www.coolminiornot.com/artist/gohkm

  3. #3

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    9. have a back up plan in case not enough people care about your product
    Forgot, that it works again.

  4. #4

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    Thank you for the response and the advice, but I am most grateful for the invite to chat with someone who is on a similar path. On point 2 that you made, I was thinking about kickstarter to serve as a pilot of sorts. Will you be privately funding your company or is this a viable option for you or in general. Maybe I should have asked you this in PM hope it's not to invasive.

  5. #5

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    MAXXxxx that is always sagely advice, but I hope that the public loves my idea. But I guess that's always the case, wish me luck.

  6. #6
    Brushlicker gohkm's Avatar
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    Max is absolutely right - you cannot 'hope' that the public will love your product. There must be some concrete driver for it.

    When I say 'pilot', I mean to create a model in limited run, say, 50 copies or so. How long would it take you to sell that? Do you have adequate recoverability? What is your profit margin (NOT revenue stream)? Could you live on such a profit margin (assuming that you save some for your living expenses and plough the rest back into your business)?

    In terms of funding, I've funded this out of my own savings. I'm confident this will not affect my retirement as I do hold a fairly well-paying job. If you fund your own production, would this venture affect your lifestyle? Your projected lifestyle? Your retirement?

    If you go to Kickstarter, are you planning on raising funds to create the models, thereby incurring a delay in moving product to your backers? If so, have you considered that some backers may simply lose interest (so you get them once, but they won't be recurring customers)? Have you considered that Kickstarter may not fund? If so, what happens next?

    And perhaps the most important thing to ask yourself: at what point do you cut losses and bug out? A great many start-ups fail, and they fail without adequate liquidation or transition plans. What is your exit strategy?
    Models completed in 2016 so far: 16
    Models in WIP: 22

    tp://www.coolminiornot.com/artist/gohkm

  7. #7

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    Another thing to consider which I don't think has been covered is marketing and distribution.

    In terms of marketing what mediums are you going to look at? Are you going to start a web page? Youtube channel? Gaming magazines? Post on forums such as this? Facebook? You've also got to consider the time you invest in doing this. Whilst getting the minis sculpted etc may seem like the main goal, if you don;t regularly update your audience people will get bored and forget all about it. Any time line will have to factor in this exercise.

    In terms of physical marketing are you going to handle this yourself? Are you planning to distribute from your house? (If so again, think of the time this will take - it'l also effectively be unpaid labour). Ship through amazon? Pay a distributer to handle this?

    For sales. How are you planning on getting your product out there? Is it going to be direct purchase from yourself. if so how? A website? Amazon? Will it bring a big enough customer base to satisfy demand?

    Kickstarter - again, will you generate enough demand to fund? Once the kickstarter is done, assuming you;ve funded how are you going to advertise future runs of the existing products?

    Through a gaming store - Will gaming stores take on untested games/miniatures? How will you convince them to stock your product? What sort of prices will they be buying at? Will you offer commission on sales?

    Reviewers - will you send out free copies to reviewers to blog/post about advertising your product? At what point will you send them anything. Will an early/incomplete version go out for testing or will you wait until the launch is funded and then give it. Obviously the pro to an early release is that they might like it and direct people to you, however if they dislike it it will have an adverse affect.

    Just some food for thought.

  8. #8

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    Beasts of war recently ran a series of articles called road to kickstarter which might be of interest to you: http://www.beastsofwar.com/search-re...to+kickstarter

  9. #9

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    Been there, done that. It's hard. I've seen very few breakout companies in the last 10 years - every single game you see being played today has been around since before 2005 - Warhammer, Warmachine, Malifaux, Flames of War, Infinity, Dark Age - with the exception of Wrath of Kings, and this is with a major push from us in terms of marketing and development.

    It depends on what your goals are.

    1. Tre Manor has his own line of figures under Red Box games. He's a great sculptor but from what I can see he just about makes a living.
    2. Adam Poots (Kingdom Death) is a brilliant art director, but the game is so expensive it will probably never see wide release. I think his best bet there is the IP itself, it's a compelling world and would probably look great in film. This was an insanely ambitious, multi-year project, and hats off to him - anyone less talented would not have been able to pull it off.

    My advice is don't quit your day job until you know you have traction. If you don't then you can write it off as a hobby. In general I think the market growth is in boardgames with miniatures, rather than miniature wargames. It is generally just an easier sell - everything you need is in the box, play straight away, no real need for continual support.

    The only reason to start with a miniature wargame in the past was because it was easy to make and sell 1 or 2 figures, and slowly build up a line, then release rules etc. No need to pay and wait to have 30 sculpts done before launching, to a response that might or might not be there.

    I think you can still do that, but there was never any realistic prospect of making a living - everyone with the funding is making boardgames instead since that's where all the growth is.
    Last edited by Chern Ann; 03-02-2016 at 01:15 PM.
    I like it firm and fruity!

  10. #10

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    It definitely is a lot to chew on but this is what I think I want for my future. With funding in mind I think I can handle it as the corporate job I spoke of in the initial post, is my gig as a stock broker; not a movie stock broker running the world and flying around in helicopters but I do alright. But I've been teetering between private funding and Kickstarter because at face value it seems to be a great way to market, show proof of concept and lower the overall risk of the entire venture, I'm still undecided though. I found this resource http://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter/ that has been a big help on what to expect and what is expected of me if I go this route. Still puzzling out, margins, recoverability, and exit strategies which are all valid issues I need to address. Thank you kindly gohkm.
    Last edited by surgical111; 03-02-2016 at 04:41 PM.

  11. #11

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    In terms of marketing I've given this a lot of thought because everything I've read and currently know about business rates the ability to drive customers to your product as #1; if they don't know about it how can they buy it. So I'll list some avenues I'm currently considering.

    1. I want to get a blog up and running about 3-4 months before any release to the public. Posting about the game itself, game design and posts that I think would have value to gamers in general.

    2. I'm looking to become more active on relevant sites(forums),blogs, not so much to plug my project but to immerse myself in the community I wish to serve. As I get more comfortable and closer to release I'd definitely want to get the game in the hands of bloggers and other social media reviewers.

    3. Running up to any release I want to look into running some public playtests at Game Empire in Pasadena, CA. It's a monster gaming and hobby store right down the street from PCC(their community college), I have a friend that works their hopefully that will help my pitch. Also at other SoCal gaming and hobby shops with strong followings.

    4. Since I plan on doing direct sales I think a website is a must.

    5. Then I want to go guerrilla style. I have a good friend who is crazy talented and is going to do some killer poster art for me, then I will drag my butt to as many California colleges(with vibrant gaming communities) as possible to post posters and run playtests if allowed.

    I know this is a bit of a mouthful but I want to make sure I give the game the best chance of thriving that I can, thank you so much kingzerno.
    Last edited by surgical111; 03-02-2016 at 04:44 PM.

  12. #12

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    Thanks for the insight Chern Ann and true all the market research I've done has revealed that there has been explosive growth in board games, even the solo play ones. My hope is that players that get involved in board games will get the hardcore itch and eventually cycle a back into RPGs and miniatures since a lot of board games are generally just the simplified offspring of both. But I would definitely not pin my future on hopes (I'm a stockbroker for Christ's sake), my game will have a low barrier of entry; literally requiring only one model and the rulebook if the player so desires (and that player will still be truly viable). For scale I'm thinking 28mm that will progress from skirmish to epic battles as Campaigns roll along. It bares aspects of Mordheim , in that it is miniature wargame with a roleplaying component but with true depth and a strong cooperative and competitive engine behind it. So far though my internal playtests (friends and family) it seems to lend itself to gaming groups that number 4-6 members. But all that said I will test the waters whether it's through kickstarter or a privately funded pilot of sorts, before I go all in. Thanks again Chern Ann for the input, you rock.

  13. #13

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    Surgical, no problem. I'm always happy to see new games make it! I used to review new release board games for a site that has sadly now shut (it was bought out by a larger competitor) so i;ve reviewed a LOT of kickstarter games, some failed, some made it.

    I think the key message I learnt from all of them is know your unique selling point (USP) as this will be how you lure people in. As an example one of the more successful model kickstarters (Toughest girls of the galaxy) focused on a shortage of female models for 28mm sci-fi gaming and designed lines to meet this need. Unless you have a highly unique game playing format or exceptionally beautiful models you need to consider on what basis you can push your game.

    For example if you are doing a mordheim-eqsue style game the chances are that most people would be more likely to simply go and buy mordheim. It's a recognised system with plenty of reviews/support etc available in the wider community. You'll need a very strong element to pull people to your game - tbh the setting/time period would be key.

    Without knowing any more about the game obviously I can't adviase/comment on what I consider your USP to be.

    Whilst getting onto college campuses is good, you'll be better off getting into gaming conventions. There will be literally thousands of people there. If you can get a stall/booth there you can run brief games. This lets people test (and then post about) the game as well as having an audience of people who will pause to watch what is happening. If you can get a booth then it's an idea to invite a few known bloggers/reviewers for a game at a certain time. So in terms of a timetable you could have something like

    10-11: Open session game - Max 6 players
    12-1: Open session gaem - Max 6 players
    2-4: Review spectacular - name bloogers - in attendance for a test play (if you can live stream it even better)
    5-6: Open session game

    Obviously gaps need to be left between sessions to cover them running over a little, discussion with people watching/playing, a chance to push the product...

    I've done a "gamer review" play session at a convention and they can pull a crowd! Obviously the more people watching/playing the better. I've not been involved in a live stream one, but I've seen others do it and it's a great way of effectively free marketing yourself to a wider audience.

    In terms of people playing the games, it's a good idea to ask them to review the game. A little score card with some questions after they've played is a good way to do this. Obviously these can then be quoted on any kickstarter/social media page. The more conventions, the more revies, the more reviews the more attractive the game looks.

  14. #14

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    Thanks kingzerno can't believe that I'd omitted the utilization of game conventions, as I fully intend to do so. In regards to the USP (unique selling point) I hope I understand and have adequately addressed this aspect of industry but I would imagine the public will have the last word on that subject... hope they see it my way.

    The game itself I think features a good amount of functional aspects in addition to general tone that sets it apart from Mordheim substantially, but I understand the pitfall you've presented and hope I can deftly avoid it...much respect.

    The hard hands-on knowledge you took the time out of your day to provide is awesome, because I don't have a definitive handle on how I should move in a convention. But I'll drill down on that research sooner rather than later.

  15. #15

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    Games conventions are definitely the way to go. People are there to see new games after all :

    Ah see that right there is a common mistake. It's not up to your audience to decide the USP it's for you. Your USP is how you will push the product, it's the argument you will use as to why someone should buy it. In essence it is the core of what your marketing should be built around. In an ideal world you'll have 2-3 USP's, but just one will do. Your audience will certainly build opinions on what they think makes the game special, but these will obviously change between people. They will be reactions to your marketing/product, not the core message.

    Think of it like this. A good example are car adverts. They try to really plug their USP's - smoother ride, assissted drive technology, free sat nav upgrades...at the end of the day it's a car. But there are lots of car sellers. They are pushing what you get through them that others won;t give you, so they mention all this new tech that to the layman means absolutely nothing. But would you risk buying a car without it, just in case it's really important? That's how they get you.

    Just make sure not to use the word mordheim in any marketing. For one it will annoy GW and two it will instantly have people making comparisons!

    No problem! Just glad I could help. Generally getting into a convention is as easy as finding one, emailing the organiser and paying for a table/booth/space.

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    Yes of course Mordheim would never get a mention in my market media, but since I hadn't given specifics on the project to date it was just a shortcut to grasp the general direction I'm moving in. Its funny you hit the nail on the head though I do have about 2-3 USP's running throughout the game, all of which I've worked hard on and think are in their totality unique. What I was saying about the public is that even though I think I did a good job creating and identifying my USPs, in the end the public would decide which or what truly holds value to them.

    I went to Wonder Con and played Zombiecide, Superfight and a couple of others and they were awesome, can't wait to get to that level on my own project.
    Last edited by surgical111; 03-09-2016 at 06:00 PM.

  17. #17

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    Hi

    I will give my experiences with miniature companies. I have been in one and later I created my own one.
    1- never leave your job, miniature market now is overcrowded and customers cannot buy all miniatures avaible now.
    2- Follow the indications that was given by Gohkm
    3- Be prepared for production.
    Usually people that starts make lot of errors here, if you make by your own with resin, prices will be high . If you make ''lead'' miniatures you have to think that a mould cost around 200 dolars, (I'm lucky and I have better prices), you can put 6 miniatures aprox / mould (28-32mm). If you want to produce with ''lead'' prices are much lower than resin, around 0,8 euros.
    4- Calculate correctly margins.
    A miniature that cost you 0,8...you need to sell it around 8,5 euros. I will explain why. shop 30-35% margin, and distributor have 50-60% margin + TAXES ( YES¡¡¡ they
    win more money than you). But if you want to continue selling you need them (KS or even your webpage... really sells very few, the real money is made by distributors and shops).
    Kickstarter can seem a great thing, but only the big companies win money, usually the small ones get trapped and loose money. And the worst thing is that some distributors don't want products founded with KS. because the product is already in customers, and they will not bother to create followers in their shops t sell 2-3 blisters.
    The other way to create minis is using KS, you create them, sell them, and forget them. If you calculate correctly margins, you can win money, and keep 50 or less copies for your web. That can take 2 years or more to sell.

    5- Cost and benefit: hand design for 32mm (approximately) from 200 euros to 800. 3d design, from 100 to 800 also + print (standard 60euros, 95 good quality (I use the same as Corvus Belli and cost are around 95 to 120 depending on number of parts).

    after an initial cost of 6 miniatures
    design 200* 6 = 1200 euros
    + 200 mould
    200 copies * 1 euro (0,85+ taxes) *6 miniatures = 1200
    package blister + paper inside = 500 euros (that was 1000 blister + paper)

    Total= 3100 euros to make 6 initial miniatures + webpage + painter....

    I have reduced this cost with contacts etc.... but are real prices.

    For example my german officer, design 800 + copies 200= 1000 euros.
    benefit 8,5 pvp---50% distributor + Taxes... real benefit 2,5 euros.

    This is reality with miniature world... so I return to my point 1. Don't leave your job.

    You can consider it a good fun, and a way to learn how to create a company. Also you have to be always prepared for ''NO, I'm not interested in your product'', but every 10 NO there is a YES¡¡.

    About your game, please give some copies to players you don't know, even shops so they can test with people. You will learn lot of things about ''editing'' and ''writing''. because always in our head or friends seems perfect, but always are people that don't understand or find the ''errors'' for their benefit and finally your game falls like a card-house.

    With board games, to really win a little money ( I know people in industry) you have to produce 6 games / year or more. The live of a boadgame usually is around 3-4 month.
    Last edited by NonSenseminiatures; 03-29-2016 at 08:12 AM.

  18. #18

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    Grim tidings but I am always open to and willing to address the truth of a situation, I thank you for taking the time to speak on the subject. And to be quite honest up until this point, I've been very cautious about making sure my game gains a certain level of traction before I'd ever consider leaving my day job. Quick question to everyone reading this is there more profit in selling game rule/supplements or the miniatures themselves?

  19. #19
    Brushlicker gohkm's Avatar
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    Having discussed this with a couple of miniature manufacture companies, the average profit is 20%. There's a company that does 40% profit, but that is split between a number of partners. My own projection showd I will do worse than the norm, so I'm not giving up my day job.
    Models completed in 2016 so far: 16
    Models in WIP: 22

    tp://www.coolminiornot.com/artist/gohkm

  20. #20

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    Make only rules can be profit if you are well known as Osprey. Maybe you can arrive an arrangement with them,.so they can produce your book.
    You will see that lot of companies are giving free their rules.
    Miniatures... is another world. At least in my situation, every one have different, my distributors advice me about my next products, mainly "alternatives" to other big companies with good sales.

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