‘The World’s Finest Professional Grade Silicone Toys’ – that is the slogan of Hankey’s Toys. Consequently, silicone plays an important role in our interview with Mike, the founder of the US brand. Among other things, we dispel a myth that has been swirling around the internet. Also, we talk about the characteristics that make his brand unique and his strategy to only work with a small selection of retailers.
Would you mind telling us a few things about the origins of your brand? Since when has Mister Hankey’s Toys been around? Who had the idea for the brand? Mike: I started making toys in Oct 2015, this was after visiting a sex shop in San Francisco with my partner and looking at some of their toys, the toys I was looking at were similar to what we make now but much less detailed and rather boring looking, very basic. I also noticed the high price tags and the lack of competing products in the store. I thought, I can do better than this and I bet I could sell them for less too. This is where the idea came from.
At this time, I was working a full-time job in construction which paid well but not well enough to fund anything extra for the most part. At this time my son was just born, and I began thinking about how I might pay for his college someday. Assuming worst case scenario and using an online calculator, to fully fund college with no scholarships or financial assistance 18 years from the point my son was born, I determined I would need to save about $500/month for 18 years. I knew this would be difficult so I thought – if I could sell enough toys each month, this could be the source of income for the college savings account.
I began playing around with clay and experimenting with moulds, I have no background in this area, so it was all trial and error. Lots of money went down the drain trying to develop the methods and experimenting with different materials. Finally, I came out with a toy – the ‘Mr. Hankey’. I actually just posted that one toy for sale on our site which I decided to name mrhankeystoys.com. Then we sold a toy, then another, then another. I made more toys and they kept selling. At this point, I was working out of my kitchen.
Jump ahead one year and I went out and rented a 12’x12’ office and started working out of there. Rent was $400/month and I was really nervous to commit to a lease because we were not making much money. I would pour toys after work and on weekends, at this point I was working about 6 days a week, going to my day job at 5:00am and staying at my office until about 9:00pm every night. I finally hired an employee, this was a huge decision and again, I was very nervous but I wanted the help. I met a great designer at this point and also met CutlerX who was really great to work with, we launched the CutlerX and began selling to Mr S Leather.
Jump ahead to 2017 and we had moved into a larger warehouse space. I hired another employee, then another, then another. By this time, things started to really explode. I was still working a full-time job and now I was working 7 days a week, same long hours and it was starting to take its toll on my health, I was really burnt out. We kept launching more and more toys and things began to snowball all the way through 2018.
Now, in 2019 we have moved once more, expanding again. We have a total of 3 salaried personnel, including myself, my partner and our designer. We have 3 full-time hourly employees and 2 part time employees. Business is booming for us but we keep things lean and keep our overhead as low as possible. We are able to compete with pricing and still have some of the lowest pricing around based on the weight of our products versus the weight of the competitor’s products.
I have left my full-time job and now manage our shop full time. This transition was probably one of the most stressful events that have occurred in my life, I was heavily over-worked and my stress level was off the charts, it even landed me at my doctor’s office and a therapist too. The long work hours and stress really put a toll on my personal relationships, and it was definitely not an easy road to get to where we are now.
Currently, I can say it was all worth it, you just don’t get anywhere in life without putting in some (extra) hard work. To get anywhere, you need to be persistent, have a vision, have a strong work ethic, educate yourself or get an education (I’m a high school dropout) and you need to work harder than the other 99% of people out there because if you don’t, you will simply have the same results as the 99% of people who all just work their 9-5 job, go home and then go back to work.
This applies to anything in life but I applied it to work. For some people, they really want to be able to just work a 9-5 job, get out of work, go home and lay on the couch and watch TV and not have the worries and stress that comes along with having a business which I can totally respect as it allows for more balance with family, friends and health but it’s not for me – I like a challenge of making it all work, watching it grow and starting from scratch, not just riding someone’s coattails or doing what someone tells me to do all day while I line their pockets with my labour and sweat.
It was a tough few years to get to where we are now but finally things have calmed down for me and we have developed a system that works and is highly efficient. My stress level is in the green and very manageable, my income is back up to where I am comfortable, our overhead is still low, we have some good team of employees, I am exercising and getting my health (both physical and mental) back and I am delegating more of the time-consuming tasks that caused me to work such long hours. I have turned my attention to repairing my relationships and spending more time with my son. I still work pretty long hours and work 6 days a week but I definitely don’t feel the same pressure and stress that I have over the past few years. We have a huge backlog of products coming out this year and into 2020 – we have a new release scheduled every two weeks going into early 2020.
What is the philosophy that guides you in your activities? How do you bring something new to the market?
We aim to bring a variety of products to our shop. We primarily offer extremely realistic toys, typically life castings from actual models and we also offer very unique fantasy toys. There are a lot of fantasy style toys on the market right now, lots of start-ups are basically just attempting to copy what I would consider to be the originators of fantasy toys – Bad Dragon – right down to the bases, designs, colours and name of the toys, so much of it is just copied and regurgitated by these start-ups with no real originality of their own.
Although there is only so much you can do with a dildo with regards to design, we do try to stay unique and we try to avoid launching styles that are too similar to other toys on the market. Bad Dragon is a great company and has really great designs but we are not aiming to be a knockoff brand of fantasy toys, we aim to stand apart from all the copycat start-up’s out there right now.
Square Peg is another really good company and I would consider them the originators of high-end silicone toys; they are a great inspiration and offer great products. They make some very original designs and are very much into creating very well thought out shapes. Again though, we do things a bit differently and don’t offer too many toys that are simply ‘shapes’ – we tend to incorporate a higher amount of detail and intricacy into many of our toys by using specialised moulding techniques and we try to stock a healthy mix of realistic toys along with fantasy style toys. We also offer a very large selection of sizes. We try to appeal to a large crowd within our niche market and try to offer a little bit of something for everyone to the best of our ability.
Lately we have been incorporating products into our shop that may appeal to our customer base such as cockrings, sleeves, etc. We have chosen to work with Oxballs as their products align with our products and customer base very well.
What can you tell us about your products? How many, and which types of products are there to be found in the Mister Hankey’s Toys line?
As of now we have 44 models of toys in our shop. We’ll have 56 by the end of 2019. We offer both realistic and fantasy style toys in our shop along with some ‘hybrid’ toys – with a sort of realistic toy with a touch of fantasy to it. Toys can be customised including colours and firmness levels and customers don’t incur long wait times with our customisation options like they may experience with other manufacturers.
We offer a Hankey’s Toys brand Cum Lube, Elbow Grease cream lube and FistPowder. We offer two strap-on harnesses from Mr. S Leather and one harness from Carmen Rivera. We offer 11 products from Oxballs and are looking to add more, high-end products that compliment our products as we discover them.
Which qualities and characteristics make Mister Hankey’s Toys stick out from the crowd of adult products?
I would say our originality stands out; we are really not like any other toy makers out there right now – we are extremely unique.
Our high-quality craftsmanship and materials are second to none, we spare no expense on materials and we don’t use import materials, we only purchase within the US. Many toy manufacturers import materials, the quality and content of these materials is often truly unknown and highly questionable. We also test our final product and post our testing results on our website; this is almost unheard of. In my opinion, we have so many toy manufacturers out there who say their products are safe but to me – without testing and proof, that’s really just unproven assumptions.
Our customer support is also very unique, I still answer all emails and I live with my phone, sometimes responding to customers within seconds. We are very responsive to our customer’s needs and we are excellent at communication and addressing any customer requests or concerns. I would say our customer service is as good as it gets, I would love to get the same type of customer service we provide when I try to contact a company with a question or concern – so I try to do just that – provide the best.
“Our high-quality craftsmanship and materials are second to none, we spare no expense on materials and we don’t use import materials, we only purchase within the US.”
On your website, you state that all of your products are ‘made of the world’s finest 100% platinum silicones’. What are the differences between the various types of silicones?
We do pride ourselves on using the best silicones on the market. We purchase from one of the most reputable companies in the United States and we don’t import.
There are many different types of silicones. Common types are tin and platinum cure silicone. Tin silicone is cheap and inferior. Platinum is the best. But – even within the platinum silicone category, there are more categories. For example, there’s imported platinum silicones that have no testing to show contaminates, there’s medical grade silicone, there’s ISO certified ‘Skin Safe’ silicones and the list goes on.
To put a myth to rest here – Platinum silicone does not mean ‘medical grade silicone’. Nobody sells a medical grade sex toy. Even if you do use a medical grade silicone, the pigment won’t be medical grade. I have never heard of a company that uses medical grade materials. You need to understand the difference here – Medical Grade items are meant to be implanted into the body for a certain period of time. Some medical grade may only be approved to be implanted into the body for 30 days for example, some can be implanted longer – even within the medical grade category there are even more categories.
People searching for a dildo do not need medical grade. You are not removing a kidney and replacing it with a dildo. Platinum silicone is about as safe as you need to be, the toys will be used for a period of time and then removed. Platinum silicone when compared to some of the other options out there is much safer – if you own a cheap vinyl toy, just smell it, you can smell the toxicity as it continually off gasses it’s entire life.
Let’s put it this way – would you allow an infant child to play with chew toys that are made out of the same types of compounds as a car tire? No, you will use a safer material such as silicone and if it’s a good chew toy, it will be made from platinum silicone (surprisingly, even most chew toys made for infants are often not even made out of platinum grade silicones). Are chew toys that are made for infants made from medical grade silicone – no, this is not common. Food grade possibly but not medical grade, it’s just not necessary. The chew toys are not going to be surgically implanted and the same goes for sex toys, they are not meant to replace a human organ.
What’s the difference between medical grade, food grade, etc? Basically, the manufacturing techniques, testing and QC certifications are different but the end product is essentially the same. We do test our fully cured materials and post all testing results; we do ensure that our materials are safe and non-toxic.
I think you get a lot of misinformation on the web, especially from self-proclaimed sex toy experts who simply copy one another, a bunch of clones who get toys for free from companies in agreement to promote their brands, get paid from affiliate sales (yes, we give away toys too – everyone does) and then simply regurgitate false information about materials in their reviews and blogs. Most of these people online actually know very little and sometimes nothing about the materials they are talking about. If you really want to know what’s in the product, talk to the chemist – not the blogger or online reviewer, they are actually very low-level sources to get information from regarding material composition and safety.
Here’s another myth buster – you CAN use silicone lube with a high-quality platinum silicone toy. If the manufacturer recommends that you don’t then you are either dealing with a silicone that is not a true high-grade platinum silicone or the manufacturer is just regurgitating info that’s been circulating the web for years and actually probably does not know much about the products they are using. If you put silicone lube on a high-grade silicone toy and the toys melts or turns gummy – you have an inferior product. All Hankey’s Toys are compatible with silicone lube and I can say confidently (although untested with all lubes) – any lube on the market. Show me one lube that reacts negatively with our toys and I would be very surprised, our materials are bullet proof – show me one that melts when placed in contact with another toy or when using any lube on the market today.
What inspires you? Where do you get the ideas for new products?
When it comes to life castings, well that’s easy – those are exact replicas. With regards to fantasy designs, we leave that up to our designer for the most part, I like him to use his creativity. I may provide some guidelines such as basic dimensions but he typically takes those dimensions and then just runs with it. He prefers fantasy over realistic but we still keep a good mix, he’s great at whatever he designs. We have used other designers in the past but not anymore, after 2019 we will only use designs from one single designer as he’s the best we’ve ever seen.
We’ll also be launching a tube site here in 2020, the tube site will only feature videos of people using our toys. This will allow customers to watch videos before they purchase, while they play or to simply see what others are doing. It will be searchable by sexual orientation and also by model of toy – for example, if you want to see all videos of people using our toy the ‘Goliath’ you would simply click on ‘Goliath’ to watch those videos. Our tube site will not include videos of people using toys other than ours.
Who’s the target audience for Mister Hankey’s Toys? What expectations does this audience have towards your brand and your products?
Our core base of customer’s is what I would describe as a rather seasoned, experienced group of people. People who are serious about sex-play and are willing to invest in high-end products that will last their lifetime. These are people who enjoy sex and can think outside the crowd, they aren’t the same people going into some junk sex shop and purchasing a piece of garbage that’s hanging on the rack for $20.00.
These are people who, whether solo by themselves or with other partners, have an active sex life that they value and enjoy. Many of them have enough experience to already know what they want. We do get more newbies nowadays and because of this we have expanded our size range to include smaller toys with each new release but our core base are still people with more knowledge and experience with sex and sex toys than your average person.
What can you tell us about the pricing of your products?
Yes, we are proud to be able to still offer our toys at a competitive price. Silicone toys are not cheap. The materials are not cheap to buy either – high quality platinum silicone is extremely expensive.
Fortunately, we have been able to keep our pricing low in comparison to our competitors. As time goes on, we expect to be even more competitive as we continually seek to better pricing and achieve better leverage through larger purchasing power. One unique thing about our pricing, we don’t mark up a toy more simply because it’s larger. Many competitors do this, they may sell a toy that weighs 1oz at a relatively low price but then they sell a 1lb toy for a disproportional higher amount.
We do not do this. We have our pricing which is ‘per gram’ pricing. When we release a toy whether it weighs 1oz. or 1lb. your pricing will still be set at our ‘per gram’ price multiplied by the weight of that toy, in grams. We don’t add on an additional cost above our ‘per gram’ pricing simply because the toy is larger or unique or whatever – our pricing is consistent, fair and extremely competitive when based on weight.
Which channels of distribution do you use to market your products?
We market our toys through advertising campaigns, we have many models and people who support us on social media, we sponsor events in the community, and we sell to some niche and high-end sex/fetish shops.
Where can the European trade get your products? Are there distributors and wholesalers you are working with? Or are you doing business directly with the trade?
Yes, we sell to Clonezone, Prowler, and others in the UK. You can see our complete list of retailers at www.mrhankeystoys.com/contact.
We are very particular about who we sell to and we regularly turn down requests to sell our products in stores. In order to sell our products in a particular store that store must align with our customer base and must be a high-quality shop. Our goal is not to wholesale our product, so we keep our list of retailers short – it’s not easy to get our toys sold in just any sex shop, we choose wisely.
What qualities are you looking for when choosing your distribution, wholesaling, and retail partners?
We seek partners who represent high quality products and brands. If a retailer is just aiming to sell as much garbage as possible at the lowest rates to produce sales, then we are not interested. The retailer must be unique, niche is best. They must be high quality and have a good reputation. We are not looking to mass market our product, we do not want to be in your local chain sex shop that sells cheap pink fuzzy handcuffs next to our toys – that’s just not our style.
What are your plans for the future? Do you want to expand your product line?
We are going to continue to be pretty aggressive with new releases through the end of 2019 and even into early 2020, it will taper down to 1 release per month after this. We will most likely expand our selection of items that compliment our products such as we did with Oxballs. We are working on offering some custom-made larger sizes suction cups and even a cum tube option, this will most likely be coming in 2020.
Our tube site will be a big release and we expect that to do well and allow our customers one single source to search our toys that are featured in videos in one single site rather than searching the entire web. Basically we are growing about as fast as we want to grow right now, it’s a good pace and challenging to keep up with – we could not grow much faster and would not want to, we are doing very well and expect to be expanding our lines and are excited for the future – it’s definitely looking bright for us and our fans! Visit www.mrhankeystoys.com for more information.