Sweets Kendamas, a company founded by Matt “Sweets” Jorgenson, embraces everything the Kendama sport has to offer. Their trick shot video competitions, website tutorials for all talent levels, and enticing YouTube videos – shows just how passionate they are about the Kendama sport and its community members.
An American-Made Affair
Their newest mission was to find a manufacturer in the United States that would support their American-made Kendama dream called Homegrown. Their current products were being produced in China - but Sweets Kendamas wanted a new product that was made in the country where their journey began.
CEO and partner, Gabe Klemm, spent hours searching on Google for companies that would do custom wood turning and create the Kendama they were imagining. With little to no options in the U.S, and manufacturers not giving them the time of day - he began to lose hope. But in 2010, Sweets Kendamas met their match when Glacial Wood popped up in their search results. Matt and Gabe took a leap of faith and met with John Wuollet, our production leader, to see if the wood turned products they needed could actually be made.
Kendamas were new to Glacial Wood, but Wuollet was up for the challenge and was determined to make it work. The biggest challenge he faced: to produce a Tama that was round and smooth. A Tama is “the ball, which is attached to the ken and sarado.”
A Team that Commits
The Glacial team was the key and most essential part to the Homegrown Kendama project. They are the most important part of the manufacturing process because they actually build the parts. We aren’t your average woodworking company or manufacturer – our people produce 100 percent custom, quality products.
Our first step was to work with Sweets Kendamas to produce an original design – which is one of the toughest parts of the process. Next, we worked together to build a first generation product, and then made tweaks (pointier tip, larger cups, and removing some weight to help with balance) to it, which produced the second generation product. We wanted to make sure that Homegrown exemplified both Sweets’ standards and ours. It took a lot of time and effort from each and every team member to figure out the best way to make the Kendamas – but our hard work paid off.
When Sweets first began with us, they were ordering less than 10 Kendamas, and the process had vast amounts of handwork being done. The demand was low as the Homegrown line was still in its infancy, so keeping up with demand wasn’t too difficult. When Sweets started selling Homegrown more and orders increased to 100/week – our team started to struggle a bit.
We tackled the demand by purchasing custom machinery, jigs and tooling but stayed true to our process. Wuollet knew that we could buy machinery that would crank out 10,000 Kendamas in a day – but the quality would be lost. So, we continued to replicate what we knew about Homegrown and pressed onward with quality, custom products – not mass production.
After we applied lean manufacturing methodologies, we were able to attain 1,500 units per week without having to incur overtime or utilized labor, or machinery that was not specifically dedicated to the Kendamas work cell. But, that wasn’t the only result…
It isn’t Just Another Kendama… It’s the Best in the World
The partnership between Sweets Kendamas and Glacial Wood has been a result that has opened the door to many opportunities. Because of their fan base and popularity, Sweets Kendamas now partners with Arbor Day Foundation and will be planting a tree for every Homegrown sold. Homegrown apparel, worldwide sales and Kendama used by the best players in the world are just a few of the outcomes that resulted from this partnership.
Both Glacial Wood and Sweets Kendamas took a chance on one another – but our partnership and products prevailed. At Glacial Wood, we really care about our customers and focus on what they need in their custom product versus our bottom line. If we can see your vision – we will find a way to create it.
Through our partnership with Sweets, we have exponentially enhanced the repeatability of our production process with custom tooling for almost all necessary parts. This is unseen from any foreign manufacturer to date. Other Kendama companies have validated that our manufacturing repeatability is second to none within the industry – but that isn’t going to stop us from continuing to push our work to be even better. Our next phase in working with Sweets, is to get up to 2,100 units per week. We are working on pulling the trigger to make this happen and will continue to advance our partnership with Sweets and the skills it takes to create their vision.