Hey, folks. Today's update will be a rundown of the ways I've spent large chunks of the Kickstarter money. Toward the end of this fairly long post I also comment on the fact that I wish I hadn't spent money on the ancillary parts of the project (locks, cases, etc.) until the picks were completely made and in hand. That's been one of my biggest takeaways from the project.
I'll have another update coming with CAD files and examples of the current plate configurations for chemical etching, etc. but today's is long enough as is.
So, once the pick designs were solidified and I was headed toward prototyping, I felt comfortable spending money on all the other things I was going to need for the business. The first major purchases I made were locks. In total I bought 6000 locks door locks, primarily because the first batch of 3000 had a major flaw that I knew I would have to meticulously correct. Specifically, the #1 and #2 keypins, with their driver pins, managed to stack completely in the plug of the lock. What this means is that when you are picking the lock, if you manage to set some of the pins, but not actually lift a #1 or 2 keypin, the plug will rotate, trapping the spring between the plug and housing of the lock. This typically destroys the lock, as even if you can extricate the spring and remove the plug, the steel spring will have already cut into the softer metal of the housing, causing lasting damage. Unfortunately this batch of locks was sourced from multiple vendors by a third party as a favor to me, so there was no reasonable means of returning them. The problem is solvable, it's just that it would take a lot of time and effort to solve.
Things were moving quickly enough with the picks at that stage (I know...) that I didn't want the locks to hold me up. Especially because I didn't discover the flaw until I was running my first 2 major training, where many people were complaining of locks seizing up on them. I decided that I would purchase new driver pins and repin the first batch of locks over time, and would have them ready for future sales. With that plan in mind, I went ahead and sourced 3000 locks myself, getting samples ahead of time so that I could verify the same problem didn't persist. The new locks came in several weeks later and were perfect. They were also nearly a dollar less per lock than the initial batch. Aside from some issues that came up during the importing process, I loved every bit of the second transaction. Including fees, freight, etc. on both batches of locks, the total came up just under $19000.
There were a number of other, more expensive locks that I had to purchase to fill out the lock library contributions and to fill out my training materials. This cost another $3000 dollars, but some of the locks procured I'll be able to use in many trainings far into the future, which is nice. They aren't all "consumables".
T-Shirts, stickers, temporary tattoos, manual, etc. cost, total, around $2000
First prototype picks cost ~$500
Mini-mill to produce the cutaways cost ~$1200
Embarassingly, I've also had to purchase a large number of actual lockpicks, for trainings and workshops. The total amount I have spent on picks to date is $3200. Primarily via the fine folks at Southern Specialities, with a few small orders from SouthOrd when they were havings sales. While most of these are consumables, it also includes pick guns, tubular picks, etc. that I've needed for trainings and that I continue to use in workshops today.
The pick cases should have cost around $3000, though I'm not certain of the exact amount. I believe my Mother documented their production well, so I have access to better figures (I'm actually about to go through and update all my quickbooks info, so I'll have those numbers soon.)
Packing materials, which currently fill my basement storage unit, cost $900 - but that's only about a third to a half of what I will need to complete every order.
There were other miscellaneous expenses that I've lost track of, like cases for traveling with the locks, cases for the lock libraries, sandpaper, spot welder, metal samples etc. that I've lost track of, but probably don't amount to much more than a few hundred dollars. I would assume sub $1k anyway.
Travel and accomodations at various conferences, trainings and research, this includes trips by both car and plane. $2000 of it went directly to the Jetblue Bluepass, which allowed me to attend a number of conferences and small group events I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. There were an additional $2000 ($2009, to be exact, but as you can tell I'm rounding) in airfare for other events, trainings etc. I am not including personal travel in this, only locksport/physical security related talks, workshops and events.
Trips by car cost, in fuel and rental fees (had to rent twice, once because my car broke done, the other for convenience), $1375. This includes a trip to Chicago, 2 tours of business, schools and hackerspaces in Ohio, a trip to DC, 3 trips to NYC, and a rental in LA, though I'm not counting gas for that trip, because though it was bookended by a locksport related events, I used some of the time in between for personal driving.
Hotel stays I kept to a minimum whenever possible, often just sleeping in my car or with friends. Total hotel costs were $330.
I paid a third party $2000 for assistance in the production of the picks and there were some incidental costs in the process of working with him as well. Though that didn't work out very well, the larger cost of course was the time that I lost in the process. I should have bailed much earlier, but instead I stuck it out for many months. Each month I had other, non-locksport expenses.
My rent is $765 per month. I live in Central Square in Cambridge, MA. Our rents are notoriously high, but for my location & the space that I have, it's pretty good. I can and will be living in cheaper accomodations at the conclusion of my current lease.
My health insurance is $350 per month. My auto insurance isn't much, but the car did need a few significant repairs before I finally got rid of it a few months ago. Total repairs on the car came to a little over $3500.
I made 3 personal purchases (outside of meals, laundry detergent and all that normal getting by stuff). I bought a TV for $300, first TV I had purchased in years. I bought a $1200 laptop, as my prior computer had died. It was the most expensive laptop I've ever bought, but as I do a good amount of design work and video editing, and I had just recieved the initial deposit from Amazon, I decided to invest in a decent one. It has served me well and comes with me to every talk, workshop, etc. but for workshops I could have gotten by with a netbook or something, so I'm chalking this up to a personal purchase. I also took a vacation with my family that cost about $700.
There are innumerable small expenses that permeate anyone's life. Groceries, toilet paper, public transportation, etc. I don't keep good track of those things. I've also donated a lot of hardware to different hackerspaces, and all sorts of other stuff.
Anyway, all of this comes to an important point for this project and a piece of advice I can offer to anyone else undertaking something like this. As soon as I felt comfortable about the pick production I went ahead and spent a great deal of money on all of the ancillary parts of the project. At the time I thought of it in terms of timing an elaborate meal. That's not how it actually is. I wish I hadn't spent a dime on the locks, cases, anything, until I had the picks in hand. Primarily because everything else can be compromised on, but not the picks, because they are the crux of the project. Instead, when the production process ground to a halt and I had to start over with a new plan, I had spent a huge part of the investment, and while I had tangible goods from that (especially locks) they were just sitting on the floor of my apartment, which isn't the same as having enough money to change partners, vendors and cutting methods in one go. So, to make up for that I tried to get by with friends, family and hackerspaces, but couldn't quite make it work, and every time something didn't work, it was more time gone. Another rent check, another health insurance payment, etc. My old boss, who was a great guy, tried to instill in me that money has a time value to it. And in the case of non-essential stock sitting on my floor for a year, it's made me painfully aware of a lesson I wish I could have learned when he tried to teach it to me the first time.
Moving forward, though, things aren't as dire as they have felt. A good friend and professor at a college I did a lockpicking course at has been helping me get things back together. I've just sent metal and cutting plans to a chemical etcher. When I get the test batch back I should be in business. Turnaround time should be about 2 weeks, hopefully less. The plan as it stands is to simply produce as many picks as I can at a time and start distributing those small batches. A lot of people, my Father included, have asked if I'm going to get a job. The short answer is "yes, probably" the long answer is that I've set a deadline. If I'm still struggling and not making forward financial progress by September, which marks the end of my lease and some other more personal milestones, I'm going to get a job, and continuing putting whatever spare money I have into producing picks.
Additionally, in the intervening time I've fixed the first batch of locks, which means that I have a number of excess locks and I plan to sell those at some upcoming events and put the proceeds directly into pick production.
There are still plenty of uncertainties. And I hate that. But, the picks will get made.