Fursona Pins – a fandom success
by Patch O'Furr
Dogpatch offers community access for guests, but steers towards informative stories. That led to a Q&A (rather than a repost) for this submitted article:
Cy’s business, Fursona Pins, has standout quality worth sharing. In under a year, raising over 10,000 followers on their Twitter, 640 Patreon supporters, and a 400-strong Telegram group shows something with demand. It even seems like a successful niche that could support a “pro-fan” career.
Enamel pins look wearable, durable, easily shareable, unique and collectible. (A monthly subscription to get them is smart.) Making a batch has potential unlike single art commissions, and collecting these would be easy (there’s only so much room for art prints). They look like good “swag” and there’s themed ones (like Pride flag character pins) to express yourself.
We chatted about the business:
(DP): Was this a happy surprise or did you carefully plan to get so much interest? What was the startup process like?
(Cy): I began the business out of a desire to make enamel pins for myself and my friends, resulting in the first five designs Fursona Pins produced: Byte (my fursuit by MulticolorBark/AutumnFallings)
I was a big fan of enamel pins at the time and daydreamed about the possibility of trading pins made after fursonas. Back when I played sports, our teams would always get custom pins made and we’d trade them at big regional events, and this was a lot of fun, so the daydream became hundreds of people having their own pins and trading them at cons.
It seemed the idea resonated with the customers: my Patreon grew to over a hundred subscribers in the first month (May 2018) and we launched our first commission opening by filling all twenty slots in less than thirty minutes. It was a runaway success.
Why do people love these pins and what makes a really good one?
People love collectibles. The fact that there are now so many Fursona Pins made of recognizable fandom characters has encouraged people to collect them. With our collection now over 300 pin designs in a little over six months, there are plenty of pins floating around that allow even the most casual collector to amass quite a pile to be proud of.
In terms of what kinds of pins appeal to customers the most, wolves seem to be very popular, as are foxes and dragons. Visually appealing color schemes are important. I’ve noticed a preference among customers for pins that have their “toe beans” showing.
Are there any interesting metrics you can share, like where Fursona Pins stands among fandom businesses, or how many cons have them in the dealers den?
Fursona Pins has gotten to the point where other businesses have taken notice of its success and want a piece of the fun. We’ve had multiple cons approach us to commission custom pins for their con — Motor City Fur Con, Denfur, Anthro New England, Painted Desert Fur Con, and Aquatifur, to name a few.
We’ve also noticed a rising interest from fursuit makers, who like including their mascot enamel pin with their fursuit commissions. Heads & Tails Studio and Skypro Costumes have both commissioned mascots. Some familiar dealers in the Dealer’s Dens of cons have also gotten their business mascots, such as Warhorse Workshop and Soap Pony.
Is it a full-time occupation to run this, or just as much a labor of love?
It’s both. It’s a full-time job to micromanage all forty commissions a month (quite an undertaking!) and ship out over six hundred packages a month to the Patreon subscribers, but at the same time, it’s a labor of love.
I often spend 10-12 hours a day actively marketing Fursona Pins, managing its accounting, shipping orders from our store, planning for new content, communicating with my manufacturers, and networking with the customers.
Do you have any stories about business experiences that were super positive, or difficult, or good for learning?
The Kickstarter was an absolutely positive experience — it was a roaring success, bringing in $23,000 for a 24-pin set. It has shown that prior marketing (and having a solid customer base) can definitely help in propelling a Kickstarter into success.
In terms of difficulty, sending out the Patreon shipments used to be incredibly difficult. Shipping out hundreds of packages on your own can be a real challenge, but I’ve learned a couple of tricks to make life easier: importing Patreon data into Excel and converting it into a readable CSV file for Stamps.com, allowing me to import Patreons by their tier and print them out with one click. I also got my paws on a Zebra shipping label printer, which made label printing a breeze.
These tools are a big improvement in quality of life. I went from taking nearly eighteen straight hours (no breaks!) sending out about two hundred Patreon packages to being able to ship six hundred in about five hours.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start an independent fandom business?
Look for an untapped niche, and bear in mind that the fandom thrives on custom work. There are always business opportunities. Find out the things that people want and need in their life, and never be afraid to try something new. I was convinced nothing would come of my pins, that communicating with Chinese factories would be difficult or impossible. It’s a learning curve, and I struggled in the beginning, but I figured it out.
If you identify something the fandom wants, don’t let challenges slow you down. You just need to take them one at a time and brainstorm some solutions. You can do it.
Like the article? These take hard work. For more free furry news, please follow on Twitter or support not-for-profit Dogpatch Press on Patreon. For a great event, get tickets for Galactic Camp: a Space Themed One Day Furry Con, Feb 23, 2019 on an Aircraft Carrier on the San Francisco Bay. DJ’s, Cocktails, Art, Fursuiting and more!