2012: Our year in review (Part 1)

This year has been another fascinating and surprising year for Z&A. We're the first to admit that there is no master plan, that we have let Z&A grow and evolve naturally, that the most important thing for us is that this is fun and that everyone we deal with is happy with what we do. Once again we finished the year surprised and delighted at how much we've grown considering our humble beginnings.

January was a pretty quiet month for us. Antony had a play with the idea of a relay checker, initially as something that would be placed around the shop to help people diagnose any problems they might be having with our products, and then we quickly released it as a free product to help everyone. We did release a couple of products, including a new Punishment Picker and the very popular Z&A Strap-On.

Two big announcements were made that month. The first was our decision to hold a mini-hunt around Z&A to celebrate Z&A's second birthday. The second was the formation of Raven Park, a playground and hangout created out of the older Shackles Femdom (something which, a little later on in the year, was to grow much bigger).

February was a very busy month for us. We released quite a few new products, including a black version of a popular simple throne, along with the catch/hold holding cells and the Quadripod; and then a little later we released two new cells, the Corner Chained range and the Pipe Bed.

This month we also experimented with the idea of having a guest vendor in the store. For this experiment we invited Evelock to place a vendor in our main store. This worked well and Evelock would go on to having a store nextdoor to Z&A's main store (but more on what made that possible a little later).

February saw two very big events, for us. The first, of course, was the birthday mini-hunt. We planned this having no idea how well received it would be. The idea was to have people wander around the main store and the Raven Park playground and pick up a collection of gifts we'd left out. We weren't sure how many people would turn up. We weren't sure at all if it was going to be a massive flop or not. We needn't have worried. It was a very busy weekend that weekend and lots of people turned up and made the whole thing really fun. It was a real delight to see so many people wandering around and exploring.

The second event followed just after the end of the mini-hunt, but had been in the planning stage for about a month, and we'd been busy working on it for a couple of weeks leading up to it. On the last day of the month we deleted the main store building, and the cell store, and replaced them both with a brand new build that would join it all together. This was our biggest and most ambitious store build to date and we made it big enough to last us for a while to come. Hopefully it'll last us more than a year (normally we've found ourselves replacing the store every year, or more). Of course, it didn't quite work out that way, as we needed to build a special sky platform for a new product range, but more on that later...

March, which we'd planned on being a quiet month after all the work running up to the mini-hunt and the new store, didn't turn out to be so quiet after all. Around the middle of the month we were told by our neighbour that they were letting their 1/2 of the region go. We had another long conversation, the same as we'd had before when this last happened, and this time the outcome was different. Whereas last time we decided to just stick with our 1/2, this time we decided to take a risk and take on the whole region, making the other 1/2 available for rentals.

Although slow to get started we're now in a position where, not only is every single plot being rented, we have a waiting list for plots. And we're lucky to have some wonderful residents on those plots. It's worked out really well.

April was another busy month for us. I kicked off with us taking part in two hunts (one build being, we think, the only chocolate RLV cell on the grid), with us being in a third hunt by the middle of the month. Also, around the middle of the month, we released six more cells and two new gags. By the end of the month we released five more products, including the rather popular RLV Force-TP Sentry.

May kicked off with us sponsoring the Femdom Community in SL's Femdom Fiesta. This month also saw Antony playing with a pet project that, by the middle of the month, was released as a freebie known as the Z&A Avatar Radar.

May also saw the release of a product that had Antony all excited as he was building it: The Z&A Police Box Cell. That wasn't the only cell build that we did that month. Towards the end of the month we sponsored a Science Fiction themed dance at The Velvet Thorn. As part of this we built a special cell that was given as a gift to all who attended. This, in turn, would inspire a new small range of cells that would be released in...

June was another very busy month for us. It kicked off with us taking part in the Fetish Love Hunt. Our build for that probably took us as deep into full-on fetish territory as we've ever been and, to this day, we're still debating about if we should release it as a product (as we often do with hunt builds).

A few days later we announced the release of a range of science fiction themed cells, inspired by the build we'd done for the VT dance the previous month. Whereas all our other cells, so far, were very much about doors and bars and walls and the like, this range concentrated on force fields, both visible and invisible. One cell even doing away with any visible door, walls or roof.

June also saw the release of a new Z&A carry restraint as well as the release of two versions of the Z&A Lamp Post -- a build that started life as the gift for a hunt earlier on in the year.

Finally, towards the end of the month, we released two new gags. The mousetrap gag is still one of Antony's favourite gag builds.

And that takes us half way through Z&A's 2012. The review of the second half can be found in part 2.

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