Hello everyone! We’ve talked a lot about events coming up and new items launched but today I wanted to talk about something a little different.
In our About Us section on the website, you can read a little bit about how the company got started and how we’ve grown. Our story is a little bit different from some of the larger companies out there - we’ve never had outside investment, we’ve never done fundraising for the initial start of the company, and we effectively own ourselves.
What the About Us section doesn’t go into huge detail on is what really makes this company special. Sure, we started out as an artist alley table and built our way up from there, but there’s a lot that goes into the company itself.
Who is Sanshee?
Sanshee originally started with a few different owners. Now, it’s down to two co-owners, with about 8 full-time employees based out of Seattle, WA. If you’ve read the About Us, you know we used to be based in Massachusetts. Why’d we move, you might wonder. Well, aside from the cold weather and interesting driving practices of folks in Massachusetts, it really wasn’t a good place for any of our employees. The office wasn’t located near anything, we were about an hour out of Boston which made attending conventions rough, and to be honest, not a whole lot of people wanted to apply for jobs in the middle of the woods. So, we moved to Seattle.
When I buy a product, where does my money go?
I think a lot of people don’t understand how much money it takes to create a product. Without getting into all of the details and nitty gritty that NDAs cover, there’s a few things to consider when you look at the price of a product and think “wow, that’s pretty high.”
To give you an idea, here are some expenses that all companies will have to pay. This list is not all inclusive, but it does give you an idea:
- Rent for the building your office is based in - rent in cities is often extremely expensive, but why do so many companies have their HQ in expensive areas? Well, it’s extremely hard to hire people who live further away from the city or densely populated areas. For example, when we tried to hire in Massachusetts, just an hour out of the city and just ten minutes away from Worcester (another large city) we would sometimes only get 5 applications for a job. In Seattle, we get over 200.
- Supplies, internet and internal equipment - Your employees need computers, they need keyboards, mice, printers, printer ink, paper, labels, boxes for shipping, art programs, tablets, etc. These items add up quickly.
- Payroll - payroll isn’t as simple as just a flat $X per hour, either. If you use a payroll service, fees go into that per employee.
- Insurance - insurance comes in many forms and depending on your type of business, it can get pretty costly just to have the base level.
- L&I and other state mandated costs - If you have employees, you end up paying the state for various things. For example, there are different rates paid for if an employee is strictly on their computer, or if they touch boxes, or if they do different sorts of tasks.
- Accountant fees - someone to balance your books and make sure money going in and money going out matches up. This is time consuming and expensive, no matter how you slice it.
Specifically regarding Sanshee, however, there are some other fees that people don’t take into account.
- Royalties - When you purchase a product from Sanshee, not all of the money goes toward us. We pay a sum or a portion of each sale toward whichever IP the item is from. For example, when you purchase a plush, a percentage of the money you pay goes back toward whoever created the game. That’s great for big IPs and games, but it’s even better for small ones.
- Minimum guarantees - Sometimes, companies will require you to place a set amount of money down to obtain a license (that is, the right to create, sell and market the products you create for a game/show).
- Item creation - it’s not as simple as drawing a picture, sending it off to a manufacturer and then receiving 1000 of a product, unfortunately. There’s the cost of the artist’s time to design the product, the cost of a sample (usually around 100 bucks per sample regardless of product), the cost of setting the machine up to manufacture it, the cost of revisions (some products can go through 10 rounds of revisions. At 100 bucks per sample + artist time, it adds up!), the cost of paying people to set the product up online, to write the copy, to get photographs done. There’s even more that goes into this, but a single item is extremely expensive to make, once all the parts and pieces add up and that’s before you even sell a single item.
- Booth, hotel, flight, food, and pay for employees. Sanshee differs from quite a few companies that attend conventions in that we believe strongly that if you do something for us, you deserve to get paid. We do not do “volunteer” work where you get a 40 dollar badge for a weekend and then work the convention for us. Conventions are back-breaking work. They’re long hours, lots of customer interaction and a ton of lifting, walking and generally exhausting work. On top of that, there are state required fees for each employee depending on the state you’re in. Some companies opt to do this themselves, but others tend to use an HR service that handles the hiring/paperwork of an employee. Something to note, though - in general, if you’re paying an employee a wage, there are several dollars of additional fees that go on top of it. So if you pay an employee 15 dollars an hour, they’ll generally see 12-13 but a company will usually pay anywhere from 17-19.
- Insurance - Not just the sort of insurance you’re required to carry as a business, or that each individual con may require you to have, but actual insurance for your employees. Every full time employee at Sanshee has nearly the highest level of health insurance that we can provide through our insurance company, but not just that - Sanshee pays 100% of the cost for our employees’ insurance. With things how they are right now (and without getting into politics) Sanshee firmly believes that our people deserve to be taken care of in whatever ways we can.
- Events, donations, non-profit assistance, other work - Sanshee has tried to up its focus on charities, events and other work that is important to us. Whether it’s donating a portion of proceeds to charities that we feel strongly about, or hosting events like Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving, Christmas, TV watch parties, or Kirkwall con, our intent is to be extremely integrated into the community. While some of these things are paid for out of our own pockets, a lot of this is made possible with company space, time and money.
This isn’t even a full picture of the costs of operating a business and what goes into making products for the IPs that we love, but I hope that it helps people better understand why prices are the way they are.
There’s one more thing I’d like to talk about and that’s Sanshee Originals. This name is pretty broad and will be encompassing a lot of different products, features and collaboration work with our community. Some of it I can’t talk about just yet - we’re still in the paperwork phase. What I can say is that Sanshee’s taken a huge risk with creating its own original merchandise, not just creating merch for our IPs. There’s no established audience for it, there’s no data for it, there’s nothing but all of us getting together and creating items while thinking I’d love to see this out in the world. Your support of any of our products is huge and every single purchase - no matter how large or how small - helps us immensely. It pays bills, it pays employees and it keeps us making the kinds of merchandise that we want to see and that we hope you love to buy.
Our intent with making merchandise is the same as it’s always been - make cool merchandise that we love, our clients love and that we hope you love. I hope you continue to support us and I can’t wait to see what the next few months bring! We’ve got a lot of exciting announcements coming up and I hope you guys are just as excited as we are.