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Hail Mary time ...

Posted by Dave Bull at 2:52 AM, June 16, 2012 [Permalink]

In a post on this Conversations blog back in March, I included an image of a 'Roadmap' for this Mokuhankan venture, showing the kinds of projects I was planning, and sort of outlining how we might get there.

The 'projects' part is easy, as there are any number of things that we would like to do. 'How we might get there' was also basically simple: assemble a group of competent people, and slowly train them to the necessary level of skill. Financing was also pretty straight-forward: pretty much all the revenue from my own printmaking would be put into this venture, as I myself have no need for money beyond the basic level of putting food in my mouth ...

So far, so good. But on that same post - in the Comments section - I added this:

The roadmap is fun for sure, but it basically came together over the past year, during the time I was making the Mystique series. So it assumed the presence of a certain level of support income that I would be able to provide as things moved forward.

But ... the number of subscribers to my own work - whose money is what supports this entire edifice - has stalled far below the level where I expected it to be at this time. When the Mystique series wrapped up, there were around 170 subscribers, but as the new Arts series slowly gets rolling, it has not yet reached 60. I had honestly expected there to be quite a bit more 'rollover', with many (most?) of the Mystique people saying, "That was fun! One more set Dave, please!"

That hasn't happened, and I'm now facing a situation where I have 'loaded up' with new staff and obligations far beyond my ability to pay for them. The next few months - as we approach the point in late May or June where my piggy bank runs empty - are going to be 'interesting' indeed.

It's a simple race against time - if we can use the energy/effort/time/abilities of these new members to actually get beautiful things (prints and tools) into the catalogue, then we have a chance to survive. But if most of their effort can only get utilized in training, preparation and support functions - working for the future - then we're doomed. June is simply too close ...

We're now in June, and that prediction has come true. My own subscriber base has not grown at all, and as I suspected, most of the efforts of the new staff are still being expended towards training, and they are able to contribute only very small amounts to our revenue. And the situation is actually worse than that; because I myself have spent so much time in the training activities (and in the storage case construction, which has ended up entirely on my own shoulders), I am not getting my own prints out the door on the necessary schedule. I sent one in April, and the next wasn't ready until June.

So we're broke. The revenue now coming in from that June print will be enough to pay the staff at the end of this month, but no more. There will be next to no revenue in July. Chatting about this with my parents the other day they both eagerly suggested sending 'something' to help, but although I appreciate their support and concern, that sort of thing simply wouldn't help. I don't need 'a bit to tide me over', because it would only postpone the inevitable. We're losing money every day, and getting a handout isn't going to fix that. We need to get our business onto a more stable foundation.

Now I'm convinced that our basic concept is valid - the wonderful progress made by the trainees, on top of the constant expressions of interest from our customers, collectors and friends in having beautiful prints available tells me so. I think the 'market' will be there, if only we can get a stable production established. But with no capital available to support us until that happens, we're dead. I myself am quite happy to work for nothing indefinitely (and my 'personal' printmaking is under no threat and will continue), but of course the other people here cannot do so; they have families to feed, and will have to leave and find other work.

About all I can do at this point is just what any quarterback at the end of the 4th quarter with only a few seconds left on the clock will do - it's Hail Mary time! But unlike a typical quarterback, I'm going to put two balls into the air at the same time!

Toss 1): You already know a little bit about this one. I wrote back a couple of weeks ago in this post:

In other news, I'm having another interview tomorrow, with a young lady who we met at the Design Festa last week. She's coming to talk about working here ... and this time, we're not talking about baren work, but the other 'b' word ... business!

I offered her a position - giving her full knowledge of our bank situation - and she agreed to come and give it a try. Her assignment is to work up some P/R for a selection of the prints that are sitting here filling my storage drawers - specifically the Hundred Poets series that I produced years ago. Those prints 'carried' my business for more than a decade, but I have completely ignored them in recent years. So we have worked out a new packaging for them, which Yasui-san is now assembling, and we are preparing some pamphlets and other descriptive material. She'll then use this material to have a go at introducing this print set to a 'new generation' of potential fans, beginning with institutional collectors here in Japan. We may shoot complete blanks, or we may find some interest. There is only one way to find out ...

Toss 2): This one is going to take quite some time/space to explain, and right now I have to get back to my carving bench in time for this evening's scheduled webcam 'broadcast'. I'll post 'Part 2' later this evening, or perhaps tomorrow morning ... [Update: it's now posted.]

Please check back then - I'm very sure you won't be disappointed!

 

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