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Learning from Mistakes: Reflecting on My First Keychain

Starting a small business means making decisions; sometimes those decisions could become mistakes.

I can confidently say mistakes were made, and that was my first Keychain design from the anime "BNA: Brand New Animal". Little rewind: in 2020 Netflix released a new anime called BNA: Brand New Animal. This show was about diversity, discrimination and change based in a world where there were Humans who could turn into 'beast men', Or as we like to call them 'Furry's'. I fell in love with the main character Michiru Kagamori, She is energetic, creative, brave and so much more- That I found myself drawing her and the rest of the cast almost daily

Sketchbook drawings 2020:

I recommended the series to many people, Bought the wig and materials for cosplay and thought the series would lift off the ground-

So I started making plans for merchandise. I signed up for my first con since 2017 Twitch con Amsterdam in 2020 (sadly cancelled and moved to 2021 due to Corona) and I wanted to make a proper comeback!

New Prints, Stickers, Buttons and of course my first-ever Acrylic keychains-

So I started doing research and came across Zapcreatives (NOT SPONSORED), A great company for small starting-out artists who want to make a variety of products.

But here is where I made some mistakes in my first order:

  • I'm terrible at reading.

So for my first Sample order instead of ordering an actual keychain, I ordered Acrylic Charms.

The difference between those 2 is that I had to Assemble them myself. And that went... alright, I bought some supplies like the little hooks, and the ring and then did my best to assemble them.

This only cost me 30GBP or 34.64 EUR. (excluding the material cost for the rings and hangers)

But I did not like the look and got so confused- What would have gone wrong-

I blamed the manufacturer for the quality because it didn't have a protective coating (because I didn't choose that-) and It was white acrylic and not see-through! (also my mistake because I AM TERRIBLE AT READING) So I refused to work together with them because of my own mistakes- so I looked for alternative options: and stumbled upon Alibaba a Site for manufacturers from all over the world- but most of them are based in China as Zapcreatives is based in the UK.

So I searched through the list of people who could help me. And found Kunshan Krell Cultural Development Co., Ltd. (ALSO NOT SPONSORED). I spoke with Alisa who of course chatted a bit in broken English, I was very sceptical at first but they helped me through the process of creating the keychains with the idea that I had in mind. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the amount of keychains I wanted to have- as this was the first time ordering keychains not have any insight on how the sales are when it comes to selling keychains and so on-

Thinking this would become a hit series I wanted to be prepared- So I ordered.. 80 keychains of the main character Michiru Kagemori the first of the 3 designs I wanted to create for the series.

This cost me 128 USD with 40 USD Shipping 168 USD or 155.54 EUR. This means the cost for 1 keychain would be 1.95 EUR. The average keychain at a convention costs between 7.50 EUR and 10 EUR I planned to sell them at a base price of 5 EUR later changing this to 8 EUR.

With this plan, I ordered the other 2 designs from Nazuna Hiwatashi and Shirou Ogami.

The same manufacturer but with a lowered quantity, 40 of each design. this cost me a total of 210 USD - 192.10 EUR.

Putting my total cost for the keychains at: 347.64 EUR.

This was my first BIG investment- and I was so excited when they arrived! I had plans for social media to promote them. Shared it on the BNA Reddit and made my first videos for TikTok!

I was very dedicated to this project-

Now some years have passed, It is 2024 and I've done over 12 Conventions, Switched from Etsy to my website and I can honestly say.

Don't order over 120 Keychains of a show that might not lift off the ground.

  • 5x Nazuna

  • 6x Shirou

  • Maybe 20x Michiru's

In the past 4 YEARS.

I highly overestimated the popularity of the show. Since it deserves so much more love.

I also overestimated my reach on social media- hahaha.

On a positive note, I learned a lot and got over my fear of ordering new keychains, it was such a high investment at that time that I was afraid to make the same mistake again.

I've done more research on making keychains and in 2023 found a manufacturer called (NOT SPONSORED) after it was suggested by other artists. With them, you're not pressured to order in big quantities, Something that felt much more comfortable than with Alibaba. So I ordered a sample pack of their products and had the option to make samples of my designs. They were fast and I fell in love with their quality and service.

so now all my keychains are made with them, and I couldn't be happier.

And guess what: I'll be bringing NEW KEYCHAINS to Dutch Comic Con and Twitch Con this JUNE.

So if you're a fan of #deliciousindungeons ( #Dungeonmeshi) you're going to love these as much as I love them.

Much love,

Shannen Balje

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