When I founded Hoopnotica, all the way back in 2006, I had a vision. That vision included bringing the price of large, sparkly hoops down to a price that everyone could afford, and could be broken down into pieces. We went through an extensive design process with a Chinese manufacturer, and even made a bag for the "TravelHoop" to be sold with. Working in China was fun; exhilarating even. The idea that we could make these hoops in mass quantities, and ship them out all over the world was huge for Hoopnotica....and my ego. Looking back, I was younger, and less experienced. I thought that making products in China would be the very definition of success. I was wrong, and the following is an overview of why.
I remember the first shipment we received. It came in a huge container, and we had to pick it up from the port with a truck. When we opened it up, and I saw all those cheap cardboard boxes with my logo on it, I was overwhelmed with joy. I couldn't believe that the hoops in these boxes had finally arrived; after months of back and forth, and tours of factories, and negotiations...they were finally here!
At first, everything was great. There were some design flaws; the buttons were a bit challenging, and you needed to use a coin to depress them. But they were beautiful and cheap, and were wholesaling like crazy. The income from these products went into spreadsheets, and we saw that we would be able to distribute and grow the company off these profits. It was very, very exciting.
We redesigned the product quickly, and made buttons that would not need a coin for assistance in breaking them down. There were some returns, but we were really happy with the product for what it was: a cheap, pretty, weighted hoop that could fit in a box for retailers, and a bag for our web customers.
Over the years, our relationship with China grew tense; the quality of the products they were sending us dipped, and the price of oil (and plastic) went up. As the cost benefit dropped out of the picture, and the quality of the product continued to be an issue, I wondered if Hoopnotica would continue to do business without our biggest selling item: the TravelHoop. I felt trapped.
Over the years, other companies made other hoops which rivaled ours, but we remained the experts in this type of hula hoop "technology." Hoopnotica's experience having weathered through many redesigns, tests, successes, and failures, gave us a unique understanding of the physics of hooping, and the product needs in order to stand up to daily use. I was even hired as a consultant to design hoops for others, and contribute in studies regarding design.
We had issues with competing Chinese factories stealing our designs, and issues at home with other companies buying the knock-offs. As the founder of this company, I could stand by this product no longer, for so many reasons- not the least of which was customer satisfaction. However, I wondered whether people would be willing to pay the price of manufacturing in the USA? We all want to create jobs here, and support local businesses, but do American consumers really know what it means to the bottom line (and are they willing to pay for it)? In order for Hoopnotica to sustain our operations, and commit ourselves to customer loyalty, the price would need to go up. I wondered whether hoopers would go elsewhere; find a cheaper option, or worse - continue buying knock-offs of my original design.
In the end, I decided that quality trumped quantity. At my "soul level", I did not feel good about buying from China any more, and I was tired of saving a few bucks to offer a product I was unsure about. I loved the TravelHoop, as a symbol of nostalgia for the company I founded. Through the many revisions, I used them all in my work and practice, all over the world. I was grateful for the versatility, the simple beauty... but not the squeak and busted fingernails. I made the final decision several months ago: Hoopnotica would no longer manufacture in China. "Reshoring" is the term associated with this decision, and a lot of US companies are talking about it. I was even interviewed by Ali Velshi of Real Money on Al Jazeera about the decision to become an "American Made" company.
During the show, I became acutely aware that there was a new sense of humility in my role. As I answered his questions, I realized that this decision was coming from my gut, and had less to do with cost than I had ever admitted to. I didn't care if we downsized our business as a result; and I hoped that our customers would understand.
The decision was risky, but I didn't care. Hoopnotica launched a new shopping experience and raised prices, while working on a new, handmade collapsible hoop. The new design, which we do not have a scheduled launch for yet, is the most beautiful, functional hoop we have ever made. I can't wait to share it with you!
For now, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that we are a small company, who takes great care in the products that we make, and the impact our decisions have in the world. We strive for greatness, and we are grateful for your support.
CEO and Founder, Hoopnotica Inc.
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