In a couple months, Alien3D will have been in existence for 3 years. 6 Months from now, 3 years since the first UFO shipped. This month, 3 years since I purchased my first 3D printer. It’s been quite the ride. Ups and downs, good and bad… and I’m, thankfully, still here.
This month marks the first month that UFO orders have surpassed 250… 263 to be exact. Maybe not a huge number to write home about compared to the other subscription boxes out there (I also have 408 cancelled subscriptions lol) – but to me, being a relatively unknown company still – it’s a huge accomplishment. Especially after this past year. I don’t really market myself, I just interact with the community on Twitter and a friend of mine copies my posts to Facebook for me – yes, those on Facebook who think they’re talking to me, it’s not me lol. Sometimes it’s my friend, sometimes it’s my mother.
I know in my last 2 State of the UFOs I told you all that I am working on not falling behind anymore and trying to get ahead – and thus far have failed to do so. I am still working on it lol. I have made a lot of progress behind the scenes – it used to take me 11 hours per 250 samples with my old sampler machine I made, but I am now making 250 samples in about 5 hours. That’s sampled, bagged and labeled. So I am doing more in less time. It’s still a bit overwhelming at times, because in the end I am still doing everything on my own and still have a day job that I count on to pay the bills. Alien3D does not make me much money, though it has been getting better – I still occasionally lose money on the UFOs trying to pack in the most for the buck. I do have help coming up with project and accessory ideas – and thankfully even some subscribers are starting to make and suggest projects to me, this year I already have projects planned out through May.
As for late UFOs – I do not want to make excuses, though here they are lol –
1) boxes. Because I do a custom box each month, I cannot order them months ahead of time. I take the previous month, add some to the order based on previous months growth, and order them early in the month and hope they get here on time – lately, they have no been getting here on time =(, and this month I had an unexpected growth so I will have to reuse left over boxes from previous months for some. I truly apologize for that, but my box company said they couldn’t add to the order since they were already in production. I am trying to find reasonable priced box companies that are local and more apt to a quick custom order – but that’s a process that has taken longer than I had hoped.
** I wanted to add a bit of explanation here as I have gotten some suggestions “Just put a sticker on the box” “Just put something custom inside the box” – it basically comes down to costs. If I can figure out a way that’s cost effective to do something different, I absolutely will. I have to have custom sized boxes made no matter what. On the months where the UFOs weight over 1lb, I need a box that maximizes available space, but still fits in a flat rate legal envelope. This saves me on average $2 per UFO. It only costs me an additional $0.30 per UFO to have the custom design printed on the custom sized box. Sleeves or stickers or maybe a special post card or tri-fold to put in the box exceeds that $0.30. Yes, it would solve the problem of having boxes on hand that wouldn’t matter how many orders I’d have each month, but creates another problem. It’s something that I shall continue to evaluate options on =)
2) projects and accessories. Again, because projects and accessories are fairly unique to the UFO, there is a lot of guestimation. As with the boxes, I plan based on previous months numbers and growth, otherwise if I order too much, I lose money. If I order too little, I’m scrambling to try to find extras. It’s a bit stressful lol. But I order them monthly, sometimes they arrive quickly, sometimes they are delayed – especially with slower shipping times the last year.
So yes, I have excuses – but I personally believe they’re valid excuses. I leave it to you to decide if they are lol. I’ve taken on a couple extra clients on my day job to try to get some more money in to attempt at doing some box and project part orders more in advance and hope it doesn’t bite me in the booty =P. Additionally, this year I think I may actually be able to accomplish what I’ve been trying to accomplish for over 2 years now – disposable/recyclable mini spools to pull all of the samples on. I don’t know exactly what month this will start yet, but it should happen within the first 6 months of this year. Which also means I’ll need to design a new machine to handle using those spools instead of the samples being nekid and ejected off my sampler. Probably won’t be fully automated the first round, but my intention is to fully automate the process eventually.
Also, this past year there were a TON of Arduino Nano based projects. This year there will also be some, but I am going to try to do some more projects that aren’t – like I did in the first year. Some accessories also may get repeated this year from my first year when I didn’t have many subscribers. Though I will need to balance things a bit better this year so that I’m not going over budget. Expect some expensive accessories and cheaper projects, and some expensive projects but cheaper accessories – it will vary month to month.
As for filament – I am trying to mix things up as much as possible, some months this past year I did all from the same brand – mainly because companies approached me to help get the word out on their offerings, which for me is something that helps not only them, but me as well. As a small company, I try my best to also support other smaller companies. I also want to try supporting more makers this year, try to get some exclusive models like I did with ChaosCoreTech’s marble run files. But not as projects, as bonuses. I know I’ve been lacking on getting bonus swag and coupon codes this year – again, a bit overwhelming at times for 1 person to handle all of the logistics and processing… again another excuse, and I am sorry for excuses lol, but I just hope y’all understand that I am absolutely trying my best, I fail often – but always give my best attempt. All of my customers mean the world to me – even my non-customers that still support me on social media and who hang out with me in streams and discord – you’re all my family and friends and this community has always been number 1 to me, business 2nd.
Other than UFOs, over the last year I’ve expanded what I offer here at Alien3D – printers, replacement parts, upgrades, filament – about half I carry on hand (Alien3D branded stuff, E3D, Bondtech, MicroSwiss, Captubes, Gloop, Magigoo, OctoPi’s, Artillery Replacement parts, resin mixins and casting tools) and the other half is drop shipped for me. Drop shipping really helps me out, as I am small and don’t have a lot of working capital to use to stock everything. One day… lol. Also, for those who don’t know… all of my stock is in my living room, a walk in closet, and my hallway – I run the business out of my apartment, I’ve replaced my couch with a recliner just to have more room for everything lol. I’d love to be able to get some small warehouse room or a physical location in town one day, maybe this year depending on how things go. I plan on doing more marketing this year, continuing to expand my offerings with some more unique products – and doing my best. As I mentioned earlier, most of my growth has been simply from word of mouth – so for those of you spreading the word – THANK YOU!
I’ll end this ramble with only one promise – I promise to keep giving all that I can in every way I can. Please everyone, if you don’t love each other – at least tolerate each other. There’s way too much division in the world, we are all human and that is all that should matter. Have different opinions, but be civil with each other. Don’t attack each other, support each other – or if you have nothing nice or truly constructive to say, ask yourself – does it really need to be said?