We have been reaching out to various folks in the RC community and doing some interviews and it hit us that we have not done one with the folks from 6mmFlyRC, our primary site sponsor. Some of you may know that 6mmFlyRC provides parkjet style kits that are already cut and ready for assembly. Let's get started picking the brains of the folks behind 6mmFlyRC!
First off, what is with the name, 6mmFlyRC?
Ha, that is a question we get all the time actually. You know, when we first got started about 6 or 7 years ago we were looking for a URL, or website address, that was not taken and had something to do with what we were looking to get into. Obviously, no one had taken 6mmflyrc.com. Now, the idea here is that all of our kits are made out of 6mm depron foam. And at the time, depron foam was a new type of building material. The whole thing was pretty much taken to the next level by Steve Shumate. And the "FlyRC" is pretty self explanatory. It's not the easiest name to remember, but it gets the job done. And it's unique.
You mentioned you got started quite a few years ago. Exactly how did you get started..walk us through it.
Another great question. At the time, we were spending a lot of time on RC Groups and saw the awesome designs that Steve Shumate was cranking out. Additionally, we were doing a lot of selling and buying on E-Bay. Well, we had cut out a few of the Steve Shumate designs and actually had built them and loved how they flew. So the idea hit that maybe Steve would let us cut out some kits and sell them. So we contacted him and we worked out an agreement. Then we set to getting some metal templates made. Using some plate metal, we cut out templates and began hand cutting them and selling a few kits on E-bay. That worked pretty well until it got real old. I mean, cutting out model after model was a lot of work. An then by the time E-bay took half the money, it was really starting to be a grind.
So after that, we looked into getting the kits laser cut. We actually experimented a little with CNC router cutting as well, but frankly that was so messy and the results were not the best. But that was a short lived experiment. So we moved onto the laser. Then pretty soon, we had other designers contacting us to kit their designs and so we gave it a shot. Right now, we have designs from several different folks, and we have agreements with everyone too. It's really an unique business model.
After a few years, we started getting requests for upgrades to the kits, things like clear canopies. So we reached out and had some custom forms made and they really add a lot to the models. One of the things that we think is pretty neat is that we had a graphic designer from Australia start putting together a bunch of decals for the different models. He agreed that we could ditribute them for free on our website as long as we kept them free. Sounded good to us. So we have now a full line of decals. It was really neat when we saw someone had used them to put on a custom motorcycle. Others have used them in different forums, like of all things, there is a G.I. Joe modeling forum out there that uses those decals a lot for putting together models. It's really crazy.
Do you have a lesson learned from starting an RC business?
Yes, we have lots of lessons. This won't be that popular to say but honestly the number one lesson we learned is that just because you have some people asking for a product, it doesn't mean it will sell. In some ways, its totally unpredictable. I can't tell you how many people have said they love the BD-5, and when we had it in the catalog, it wouldn't sell. Now maybe it was the design or maybe the price point wasn't right, but either way, it wasn't selling. So we spent a lot of time and energy into getting the model up and created, because we were sure it would sell. And then, nothing. Another one is that you have to keep your costs down. It's very easy as someone who is into the hobby to buy things and justify it because you are working on a new model or something. But really, if you approach it from a hobby perspective, good luck, because it's a very competitive space.
Is it a full time job for you?
Heck no. It's really a part time venture. We try to spend a few hours every day working on it. But if we plan right, the thing pretty much runs itself. The thing is, we have positioned 6mmFlyRC into a great little niche. With all the competition from China, with RTF (ready to fly) models, if we had tried to compete there, we would have failed. Where we set up our space is really where Parkjets is positioned. Right in that space where people still want to build. Not too long ago, if you wanted a plane you had to build it. So we planted our flag into that space of providing builders a little bit of a leg up, a little short cut. We would provide laser cut kits, very precisely cut, with some things like decals and clear canopies that the average modeler can't design or create themselves and see what happens. So here we are!
Why did you decide to sponsor Parkjets.com? I mean, it seems like the two are kind of at odds with each other. Parkjets offers no kits, but we provide over 100 free plans for download. Your site offers those kits from some of the very designs we give away.
Seems a little odd huh? Well actually, we figured the same people would be visiting Parkjets that might like to check out our kits. I mean, there is the whole idea that parkjets needed a sponsor and we truely believe that parkjets is good for the community. But more than that, there is a business component too. I mean, parkjets instantly became our biggest referrer for web traffic. That one banner provides a lot of people check out our site. The Steve Shumate designs continue to be popular on Parkjets and many of our kits are right from those designs, so it makes sense! I don't want to brush over the service that Parkjets provides. What, Parkjets gets something like 3 million page views a year right? So a lot of people use it. Heck, we have used it. Lots. And we figure a little thing we can do to give back to the community is the sponsorship. If it keeps the lights on at Parkjets, we are happy to do it.
That's great. We had no idea that Parkjets was your number one referrer. That's tremendous. Before we wrap up, do you guys have a secret to your longevity?
Secret? No not really. Frankly, we are really shocked that we are still selling kits. With all the change out there in RC, it doesn't seem possible that some of our designs are getting up there in age, but yet, they still sell. I think it has to do with the fact that people are always coming and going in the hobby. And it seems that in the continuum of RC, parkjet style jets seem to cross just about every hobbyist and it grabs them. With everyone's busy schedules, spending a little money to cut down a lot of time and frustration in the form of a kit makes a lot of sense. In terms of longevity, I guess the secret would be to just deliver what people expect. Most people out there are good people and if you just try to treat them right from a business perspective, they will return the favor 10 fold. Most of our customers come from referals from people right out in the field. In that way, we really get connected to the community. We have never even done any advertising and yet we have a steady stream of people coming to our site. Well, if you don't count Parkjets.com as advertising.
Anything else you want to mention?
No not really. I guess the thing is that we love Parkjets.com, keep up the good work. We love that you are adding new plans all the time and working hard to bring more information to the community. We are proud to be the sponsor of Parkjets and wish you continuted success!
Thanks a lot. There you have it. Be sure to visit 6mmFlyRC and check out their kits. They do provide a great product and great time saving way to still build but keep your trips to the hobby store down to a minimum. Thanks!