September 23, 2018
October 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 10
Magnolia Floats Above the Competition
Chinese Hacky Sacks Offer Twist on Classic Toy
President and Owner Qi Liu of Magnolia Trading Company revealed to TDmonthly Magazine that she did not have a background in toys before starting the business and importing Chinese toys.
| “You have to do everything on your own.” — Qi Liu, Magnolia Trading Company
“I got my masters in English literature,” she said. But “I grew up in China, so I grew up kicking Chinese hacky sacks.”
That personal experience helped Qi carve out a niche in the novelty toy market.
OPPORTUNITIES FROM OVERSEAS
Looking for a new opportunity, Qi was reminded of Chinese hacky sacks while talking to an old high school classmate. When she researched the toys on the Internet a little over a year ago, she found that organizations such as the USA Shuttlecock Federation were promoting the sport in the United States.
Believing there was opportunity for growth, Liu spent two months converting her idea into a business.
Already a popular sport for centuries in China and recognized throughout Europe, Chinese hacky sack is also known as Jianzi or Chinese shuttlecock. The game itself is similar to the U.S. version, where a player uses his or her feet to kick a small ball and perform tricks.
But while the sport may be similar, the actual hacky sack is not.
LIGHT AS A FEATHER
Unlike U.S. hacky sacks, which are small knitted bags stuffed with beans or beads, the Chinese versions are brightly colored and adorned with feathers.
“Compared to regular hacky sacks, it floats much better … [and] you can do lots of tricks,” Qi told TDmonthly.
Competition-style hacky sacks are the lightest, designed to travel long distances as they are kicked between players. The slightly heavier freestyle versions are better suited for learning artistic tricks.
KICKING DOWN BARRIERS
Qi mentioned that exposure has been her biggest obstacle.
“This is like a novelty item. When you talk about Chinese hacky sacks, people don’t have any idea what it is,” she said.
To counter that unfamiliarity, Qi has taken a hands-on approach by traveling to fairs and concerts and demonstrating them herself, since describing the toy still leaves listeners puzzled.
“It’s better to go out and do demonstrations,” she said. When you are marketing your own company and product, “you have to do everything on your own.”
With the largest collection of Chinese hacky sacks in the U.S. and 1,000 units sold from the last order alone, Qi has encountered very few setbacks.
“When we first started … it was costly to buy them from the agents,” she told TDmonthly.
So now she buys directly from the manufacturers in China, importing the products to her home office to avoid overhead costs.
Those just starting out in the toy industry “need to find the right product,” she advised.
See the products Qi has found to be “right” below:
Sand-Filled Chinese Hacky Sack by MAGNOLIA TRADING COMPANY, LLC
This model of the Chinese hacky sack has a leather sole filled with sand and sawdust like a regular hacky sack. The sole is very round in shape and soft, almost as if it is a regular Western-style hacky sack, but it has five or nine feathers of different colors on top. Chinese hacky sack kicking is becoming a very popular sport in the USA, and it's spreading like wildfire in some middle and high schools,” Owner Qi Liu of Magnolia Trading Company told TDmonthly. Launch date: March 2007. 6/5/2007 (MSRP: $4.99; Age: 5 to 18)
Jianzi - Chinese Hacky Sack/Chinese Shuttle Cock by MAGNOLIA TRADING COMPANY, LLC
This free-style Chinese hacky sack is made of four goose feathers and a rubber sole. The Chinese Hacky Sack, called Jianzi in China, is a special shuttlecock sport. It is a colorful feathered article with a spring-loaded base that should not be confused with the Badminton Sport Cork Ball. The goal is to kick it and keep it up in the air for as long as possible. The Chinese Hacky Sack has a 2,000-year history and provides a great way to get fit. "They are similar to hacky sacks from the West, but more colorful and easier to kick," Owner Qi Liu of Magnolia Trading Company told TDmonthly. "The feathers allow the hacky sacks to float longer in the air and consequently give you more time to perform stunts." Launch date: December 2006. 5/9/2007 (MSRP: $3.99; Age: 5 to 18)
Spider-Like Chinese Hacky Sack by MAGNOLIA TRADING COMPANY, LLC
This traditional style of Chinese Hacky Sack, also known as Jianzi, resembles a spider or flat straw hat. “People used to use hemp and a hollow Chinese coin to make the spider-style Jinzi, but they've now replaced them with synthetic fiber,” Owner Qi Liu of Magnolia Trading Company told TDmonthly. “You can do lots of tricks…it’s a good form of exercise.” 8/20/2007 (MSRP: $2.50; Age: 5 to 18)
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