Happy New Year!
This is a year-end message from Volare Products, where I will try to summarize the last year. Basically, it’s a big THANK YOU to all of my customers, flying buddies, and friends. The flying season just whizzed by – here in Michigan, the season is from March/April through October/November (depending on the weather). I didn’t get to fly as much as I wanted, but I never do!
The business had a fine year, duplicating the success of 2014. I feel that I have about reached the limit with what I can do with a part-time, after-hours business – and maybe some of you have felt that, too (poor communications, delayed receipt of orders). My bout of bronchitis in November and December really impacted my service to you, and I apologize. On the bright side, I was able to put out 7 new laser cut kits in 2015; we are up to 19 different planes now (I think). These short kits are something I really enjoy. Here’s a little description of my business vision about the kits:
Personally, I really never liked cutting formers and ribs – it was a tedious and painful part of the building process. I can draw up parts (yes, it probably takes as long or longer than hand cutting the parts) and produce the “exact” items required. And, unlike hand cutting, that initial time investment pays off in the end, as I can reproduce the parts any time I want.
I can share that ability with my customers. And I can pass on that savings to you. I set my prices at what I believe is a reasonable rate. True, you don’t get all the fancy bells and whistles that come with a beautiful box kit – BUT, my wood is generally better than most kits I have seen AND when I do provide a full kit, the prop and rubber I provide is what I used to get the prototype flying in the first place (not a too-small prop and too-short rubber). And speaking of prototypes, I won’t offer you a kit that hasn’t been built and flown – in fact, I have one kit “ready” except for the fact that the prototypes I have seen fly (built by friends) do not fly to my satisfaction. So that one sits on the shelf until I decide to mess with it and make it fly – which may be never!
Anyway, I hope you think of my kits the same way that I do: good products at a good value.
We tried some new things in 2015, and some of them proved themselves. One thing that is still up in the air; we did NOT set up to sell at the Toledo r/c show last April. I only ever set up on Saturday, and – truth be told – the sales profit that we usually made was likely eaten up by the travel expenses, feeding the crew (before, during, and after) and the discontent of said crew not enjoying the experience. So, we probably won’t be back trying to sell Free Flight stuff at an r/c show.
We bought a 15-foot tall VOLARE PRODUCTS banner to fly at events – that worked out well – the size, shape, and color can be seen across the field and it announces our presence on the flight line. In 2014, I bought a junky old camping trailer to haul my stuff. Well, it proved its worth – I was able to haul all of my flying gear and models, all of my sales goods, and my chase bike to the larger shows. It proved its worth enough that I made a large investment and bought a large, not-junky camper that you may have seen in September at Muncie. I really like staying on the field and being able to fly in the evenings and eat and talk with my flying buddies way after dark.
One thing that we did that we feel was a great success was our Customer Appreciation Hot Dog giveaway. Jack and I did this at the FAC Outdoor Champs in September. I can’t take credit for the idea (AMA/NFFS have been doing this for years at the Nats), but we decided to try it and give back to the FAC and to our customers. We cooked up all the hot dogs we brought, and I don’t think anyone went away hungry, even Don DeCook’s dog had one! We will continue this into the future. It was just a small gesture; I hope everyone knows that I truly appreciate them as customers and as flying friends.
Looking forward – I think 2016 will be a significant year. For one thing, the business is now officially “Volare Products” (registered with the State of Michigan). For those that don’t know, that is the name I used back in the early ’90s when I started selling plans. When I jumped in with both feet and bought Shorty’s Basement, I kept that name for the name recognition. Not to slight Dan and Carole Kane, but I have always had it in my mind to transition their business and create my own name and brand. If I look back at the product line when I took over and compare it to what I have today, there are significant differences. Yes, my product line is particularly focused, but that focus is similar to what I mentioned about the kits – I don’t like to offer and sell things that I don’t know anything about. That’s why you don’t find electrics or r/c or FAI-style or AMA Gas items in my catalog – some, I flat-out don’t have interest in and others I know nothing about. I’m not wanting to stand in front of a customer and sell them something (telling them how great it is) when I haven’t a clue about it.
Future cures for current problems. Any of my regular customers probably have noticed some issues with my website and such: sometimes inventory quantities and stock-on-hand values are wrong and sometimes items are actually out of stock for a long time. Sometimes orders get delayed. This probably bothers me more than most of you. However, it’s a pretty shabby way to run a business. The problem is, this business is run by one guy alone – after he gets done with a real 40-hour job in the evenings and weekends. I truly appreciate everyone that accepts that and tells me “no rush” and so on. But part of my plans for 2016 are to change that. If everything goes per design, I will be able to dedicate may more hours to the business after June 2016. I will have served the Department of Defense, as a civilian, for 35 years in June and will be eligible to retire. So I expect to be able to work this business in a much more dedicated manner in the second half of the year. And maybe I can get more of those short kits made up; I’ve got over a dozen designs in process or planning now and there’s always more models to build!
Small things on deck: keep refining Superior Props, possible tissue printing templates for download, new how-to videos, new “today at the flying field” videos, who knows what else might pop up!
Thanks again to everyone out there in cyber-land. Thanks to the Flying Aces Club and to the Cloudbusters. And thanks to my family: Patricia, Jackson, and Tristan – they support me every day. Happy New Year everyone; don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or suggestions. Email is most efficient!
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