I have a online store I run as a hobby from my home. Like writing a book, or releasing a CD, this was one of those things I always thought would be cool. It’s been a fun learning experience. Below is a little background on how it came to be.
On a trip to Disney back in 2011, I became intrigued with a collectable series of toys they were selling called Vinylmations. They were 3 inch little statues of Micky Mouse painted by different artists in various themes and designs. The interesting thing about them was their “mystery packaging”. There were 12 in a series, including one that was more rare (1 in 24) called a “chaser”. So you purchase a box and don’t know what design you’ll get until you open it. You could get one you already have, one you don’t like, one you like, or the rare chaser figure. I got to thinking it would be nice to have a store that sold them opened so you could more easily collect a full set and I did the first thing I always do when I get an idea: look for a good domain name.
Researching online, I saw that Blind Boxes was the leading way these mystery packaged toys were being referenced. So when I found BlindBoxes.com was available, I really didn’t have much choice but to give this a shot.
I learned that there were several blind boxed figures available which was a concept that originated in Japan. Some stores had a “blind box” section where they would sell such figures, but nobody was really focusing on them exclusively at the time. Knowing that a niche was key to a successful online property, I decided I’d focus exclusively on blind boxed collectables.
I started by purchasing items online and in the store at a discount, opening them and selling them as open items for a small mark-up. As a hobby that I hoped would pay for itself, the small profit margins were not a concern and I saw some mild success. However, I knew that selling sealed boxes was key and so I worked to establish a series of wholesale accounts with various distributors and manufacturers.
My favorite brand, KidRobot denied me a wholesale account because I did not have a brick and mortar storefront in addition to the online store. This was pretty devastating to the whole project so I eventually reached out to KidRobot creator Paul Budnitz directly and pleaded my case. Thankfully, he helped me to establish a relationship with KidRobot and I’ve carried every blind boxed item they have released since. One condition KidRobot had was that I not sell them opened. I agreed, after all I was only selling them open in an effort to mark up the retail prices I’d been paying. The few open items you see on the site today (KidRobot and otherwise) were from the store’s original inventory and have been slowly selling off for years with no new items being opened for sale.
The site saw a big jump in customers when a popular YouTube channel mentioned they got the toys they were opening from my store. The practice of recording the opening of blind boxed (and blind bagged) toys on YouTube became very popular. Not only were these videos essentially free advertising, but most everyone saw making such videos as an easy thing to do and so was encouraged to have a go at it themselves.
I originally hosted the store on an online storefront system called 3D Cart. It worked well for me but had some limitations that I found frustrating. I moved from the Washington, DC area to the Charlotte, NC area in 2013 and had to put all my inventory in storage and shut the store down for a few months. Before starting it back up, I decided to move the store t a new service called BigCommerce. This seemed better, but I found that there were things I could do on 3D Cart that I missed and one was not clearly better than the other. When BigCommerce decided to change its pricing model, it was going to mean an increase in fees by more than 100% so I decided it was going to be time to move again.
I wanted to establish a blog and discussion forums for the new site in an effort to build a community alongside the store so my research lead me to build on WordPress with a storefront plugin called WooCommerce. Performance has been a challenge, but I’ve enjoyed the fact that there are many plug-ins available that let you customize and introduce functionality to your heart’s content. About this time, I was contemplating creating AppDetails and was leaning toward WordPress as a platform as well so I decided to move BlindBoxes to WordPress as a learning experience. It’s been a good experience.
I enjoy photographing, cataloging– and even packing and shipping orders. I get to play with SEO and marketing efforts too which I also enjoy. Recently I launched a mobile app (a simple game) in support of the store so its a project that has been a continual source of fun which I’m able to give as much or as little attention as I wish based on other things going on in my life.
Check it out: blindboxes.com
It is also rewarding to help people connect with things they love and I’m reminded of this by some occasional (and much appreciated) thanks that comes my way.