[Hooping.org's Editor Philo Hagen on the value of hoop making.]
by Philo Hagen
The other day I was listening to a hooper rant that all hoops should be free for everyone, that those who make and sell them for $40 are ripping people off. It’s not the first time I’ve heard such a thing. While my first hoop was given to me for fun and for free by a happy hooping hippie on a mission of spreading the hoop love, not all of us can afford to be so financially feckless with our favorite avocation, at least for the long term. After making and giving away scores and scores of hoops myself in my attempt to pay it forward, it dawned on me one day that gifting hoops was making quite a serious dent in my already thin wallet. And inevitably I decided, as so many of us do, that perhaps hoop making itself could be a smart way to supplement my otherwise meager income. I was making hoops anyway, why not get paid for it? And I thought of a sure fire way to get a jump on the competition too. I would sell my hoops for less. After all, who doesn’t want to spend less? The thing I never really took into consideration though was how much it actually costs to make a hoop.
While there are those out there, like my ranting friend, who figure the cost of a hoop to be somewhere around a buck, the real price tag for making a hoop can be quite a different story. For starters, standard polyethylene tubing comes in cumbersome and rather heavy 100 foot rolls, or larger. You have to get somewhere that you can buy the stuff to begin with, and you need to pull into the parking lot in a roomy enough vehicle to bring a few of those routinely dirty rolls back with you or the price of the gas it took to get there is hardly worth it. During my brief stint as a hoop making entrepreneur I regularly drove 45 miles each way, from San Francisco to Livermore, just to scores some pipe. Chances are you’re going to have to travel too since most cities don’t make a habit of selling farming irrigation tubing where there aren’t, y’know, any farms. And while you might be able to score a roll online for $30, if you wind up paying $35 to have it shipped to you that’s hardly a bargain either. Connectors aren’t terribly expensive, but a sander to grind off the edges can be. A good PVC pipe cutter will also set you back another $20. Anyone who has ever purchased hoop tape knows how quickly a few rolls can really add up too. If you want to have a good selection of colors and styles and sparkles for people to choose from, then you’re definitely making an investment and you haven’t even started selling them yet.
Initially hoop making for most of us is fun and exciting – when you’re making hoops for yourself that is. There’s nothing better! A hoop you’ve made for yourself is a deliciously powerful thing indeed. It’s like a rite of hooper initiation to make one and I encourage everyone to do so if you haven’t tried it already. There’s something about spinning it up with a hoop of your own creation. It can be fun to make hoops for your friends too. Helping them figure out what colors they really want and what the perfect size hoop for them would be in regards to their height and weight is truly special. When I turn something I love to do into something I have to do, however, my experience has been that some of the shine starts getting lost along the way. While I am sure there are those out there who love to tape hoops because I’ve met them, within a few months of starting my hoop making entrepreneurial adventure I found myself spending hours in front of the television taping hoops while watching programs I was barely interested in, all in an attempt at making the hours spent wrapping plastic tubing in magnificent color and trying to keep it all in perfect alignment 100% of the time from driving me completely bonkers.
Then the day came when a friend of mine who is a whiz at math and accounting asked me how much I was making with my hoop making business. I told him I didn’t know, to which he asked me a series of questions starting with, “How long does it take you to make a hoop?” I told him that it usually took me about an hour to make and tape a single hoop, sometimes longer if the tape job was complicated. Then he asked me detailed questions about costs and pricing and preparing things to mail them and supplies for that and we figured out that while I had the luxury of working for myself, which is truly a luxury indeed, my boss wasn’t paying me much of anything at all. In fact, when we calculated my hourly rate I was making less than minimum wage. It had never occurred to me that my time had any value.
Throwing in the towel was a relief for this hoop maker, and that’s why I whole heartedly applaud those out there who continue to spin up beautiful hoops for those who want them. I salute you for valuing your time, your energy and your expertise. Blessed are the hoop makers for they are the truly gifted angels of the circle who put tremendous smiles on people’s faces every day. And when a hooper spins up that shiny new hoop that is perfect for them and finds their inner child, discovers their bliss, spins their way into flow and loses a few pounds – and they start to become the center of their own rotation for quite possibly the very first time in their life – who can really put a price tag on all of that anyway? While I really didn’t have it in me to make another trip to the hardware store or the post office, there are those out there who go the extra mile every day to spread the joy of hooping in one of the best ways possible – by making a hoop for someone who wants one.
(Photo courtesy of JasonUnbound.com: How To Make a Hula Hoop)
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.