From hobby to $500k per year – how Chris Mikulin built one of the world’s best yo-yo companies

Chris Mikulin is the founder of Caribou Lodge Yo-yo Works (CLYW), maker of the highest quality yo-yos in the world.

Tweet: I simply built the company I wanted to buy from - @chrismikulin on building world leading #yo-yo company @CLYW. http://bit.ly/1aS5NBJ Click to Tweet: “I simply built the company I wanted to buy from” – @chrismikulin on building world leading #yo-yo company @CLYW.

Key takeaways from this interview:

  • Complaints are opportunities in hiding.
  • Finding the right manufacturer is difficult, and there are benefits to ‘keeping it local’.
  • “Social listening” can be very powerful for optimising design and production , and also help you build deep relationships with your customers.
  • Every business, no matter how small, can develop internal “silos”. Learn what CLYW did to break down theirs, and what the impact was on their business.
  • CLYW outperforms their closest competitors on social media by 5x; you can do it too.

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Did you know that a yo-yo spins at 8000rpm, and that a professional yo-yo player can distinguish weight differences of half a gram between yo-yos? Me neither. These things are serious business!

Chris Mikulin is the founder of Caribou Lodge Yo-yo Works (CLYW), maker of the highest quality yo-yos in the world. In this interview, Chris discusses for the first time ever, his journey to take his hobby to a $500k per year business.

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Chris refers to himself as an “accidental entrepreneur”. Through listening to him talk it is clear he has the heart and mindset of a winner, even if his journey was somewhat unexpected.

Chris started playing with yo-yos at a young age, learning tricks from a book and competing in competitions. He “got serious with life”, however, put the yo-yo down and became a mechanical engineer. During his work he designed world-record-breaking drilling equipment for a large oil & gas company in Canada.

One day he picked up a yo-yo again at work to show his skills to his colleagues. The yo-yo broke, and whilst looking for spare parts he discovered a massive world-wide yo-yo subculture online. He became deeply involved in forums (this was before Youtube and Facebook existed), and learnt that people often modified their yo-yos in particular ways to perform better tricks. He paid close attention to the complaints people were making about yo-yos available on the market at the time. Chris was also “looking for the ultimate yo-yo” himself, collecting 3-4 yo-yos per week.

Inspiration struck, and CLYW was born when Chris’ colleagues recommended he “build his own” to incorporate the features he wanted in a yo-yo. Using his mechanical engineering skills and the relationships he developed with manufacturers in his industry, he was able to produce a set of custom-made prototypes that included all the features missing from other yo-yos.

He involved the yo-yo community during the design and production phases (similar to what Kickstarter allows people to do today). When the first batch of yo-yos went on sale, there was such a high demand for his product that it crashed the sales website instantly.

CLYW production runs have since sold out consistently in 15 minutes, time and time again.

In addition to manufacturing physical products that require precision of engineering at 3/10ths of a 1000th of an inch, Chris has also learnt a lot about social engagement and community building. He shares some of his secrets for building an engaging community in this interview, which he believes is one of the pillars of CLYW’s success throughout the years.

Thanks for your time Chris, great to have you on the show!

Some of Chris’ tricks:

Resources:

 

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Chris Mikulin

Chris is the founder of Caribou Lodge Yo-yo Works (CLYW), maker of the highest quality yo-yos in the world.

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