We’ll cut right to the chase – we have decided to retire our Ink Drop ink sample subscription program. It’s been a wonderful 5 1/2 years, but we are unable to continue. It’s very bittersweet for us, as Ink Drop has been a part of our business for almost as long as we’ve been around.
History of Ink Drop
A bit of history…. Ink Drop started as an idea from some folks on the Fountain Pen Network in mid-2010. We were one of two retailers at the time selling ink samples, and we jumped on this opportunity to set up a subscription club. We had been in business for less than a year, just the two of us, and we weren’t even paying ourselves at this point. The Ink Drop subscription was $10/month back then, for five samples per month shipped, and we haven’t raised the price since (except for international folks, due the rapidly increasing shipping rates). It was truly a labor of love, something we could do to get folks talking about our company and get the “Goulet” name out there.
We started out with 79 members in September 2010, quickly passing 300 members about six months later, and at most recent count, we have been hovering around 1,200-1,300 members! We’ve had a lot of fun with it, picking different themes and seeing the amazing artwork and writing samples that you all have done with it.
The Challenges of Growth
As it’s grown, we’ve had increasing difficulty scaling it. We’ve had difficulty getting our top choices for ink bottles in the quantities we’ve needed (especially in our desperate efforts not to repeat colors). One of the big challenges has been the labor – we spend over 100 hours each month putting the ‘Drop together, and this has affected our ability to properly serve the great majority of our customers in getting their orders out the door quickly. We have run into some technology issues and spend a great deal of time just helping manually manage memberships (address changes, billing issues, etc).
The biggest issue has been the total cost though. After several weeks of careful analysis, we concluded that Ink Drop is simply not profitable – we lose money with every member. While we don’t need to make a lot of money to pay the bills, having a product that operates at a loss is hurting the health of our business. We considered raising the price, but it would be such a significant price hike that we didn’t feel it would be equitable to its value (versus purchasing regular ink samples as part of a normal order).
The reason we’re just now coming to terms with this is because we haven’t really ever tracked our total labor in managing the program, because it’s been so intertwined with everything else we do, and it took an intentional evaluation across the whole company to track the true cost of our time. We estimate now that Ink Drop has been losing us money for the last couple of years.
So we’ve come to the difficult decision to retire the Ink Drop program. We recognize it’s been a program synonymous with the Goulet name, and it’s harder for the two of us than anyone to retire it. But we are trying to be more intentional with our time and our money – both precious resources – and this program has served its initial purpose. We are so grateful for all of the members we’ve had over the last 5+ years!
This month, April 2016, will be the last month of the program (our 67th month of Ink Drop!). We’ll be welcoming new members through the end of the month, but effective May 1, Ink Drop will no longer be available for purchase.
All current members can take advantage of their member discounts through April 30 (and we’ve added a few extra goodies in there!). We’ll be sending out the cancellation email notices on April 29th during the work day.
At this time we have no plans for another subscription program. We are looking to create some themed ink sample package sets as part of our regular offerings, alongside the ink sample package sets by brand, color, property, and our team member picks that we already offer. If you’re going to miss the element of surprise, consider our “Surprise Me” random ink sample product, or our discounted package set version. And you can always just pick from any of our 550+ ink colors as individual samples.
Thank you to everyone who supported our Ink Drop program over the last 5-1/2 years!
Rachel & Brian Goulet