From the Shop: I hate doing this.
No, not making canoes. More days than not, I enjoy making canoes. I enjoy the challenges of it, of trying to continuously improve what I do. I enjoy the act of creating something physical. I enjoy seeing people enjoy the fruits of my labor. And paddling them of course. What I hate doing, but I’ve come to terms with, and I’m doing in the “rip the bandaid off as fast as possible” manner is this: I need to raise prices.
Over the past few years, I’ve continued to push Blackfly forward, to grow the business, the lineup, and the market. It’s be a rewarding journey for me. I meet a lot of people who are surprised Blackfly is one guy making boats in his garage (I seem to also meet a lot of people who are surprised it’s my full-time job as well, but I digress). The problem I’m running up against is the low-overhead one-guy-making-boats-in-his-garage model is breaking down. In fact, it’s been breaking down for at least a year now. I’m running out of space to store boats, even after building a new boat shed last fall. If I want to add to the line up, I don’t have anywhere to put the additional inventory. I’m also at the point where I find that every time I need to do a different operation on a different part of the production process, I have to move something to somewhere else in the shop to make room to do whatever is next. I need more space. I also feel myself getting worn down earlier in the season each year, things that aren’t a priority don’t get done. I need help. While I can keep running things the way I have been for a while longer, if I want to continue to grow, the low-overhead model stops working. Thus the need to raise prices. On top of that, I’ve seen costs in materials (especially foam) rise of the past few years. I’ve found ways to cut costs in other places to mitigate the cost increases, but it’s beginning to catch up.
And I crunched the numbers based on current costs and came up with current pricing: Options and Octane 85s are going to $1700. Octane 91’s are going to $1775, Octane 92’s are now $2075. Ions will see the smallest increase, to $1650. The Condor, as a new model, already had the price increase built in when I set the price and will remain at $1850. Overall, it’s a modest increase, and honestly, I feel that I’m producing a better product than I was a year, or two, or three years ago.
So way do I hate to do it? The simplest answer is I want people to be happy paddling my boats. Higher price makes them seemingly less accessible, I want to get people on the river in them. But if you shop around, you’ll find my competitors boats are significantly more expensive. Perhaps sometimes the devil-perfectionist that sits on my shoulder gets the better of me too, and tells me what I’m doing isn’t good enough even though everyone else is happy with it. There was a post recently on Seth Godin’s excellent blog that drove home the point of all this for me. The line that stuck out to me was: “Charge enough that you can afford to actually keep your promise.” I had to ask myself what the promises I’m making. What I came up with was: make the highest quality boats I can and keep improving (because I work too hard to do second rate work), to ensure the boats are available when you are ready to purchase, to continue to innovate, and to support the paddling community.
And finally, to keep doing this, because I love doing this.