From Fails to Finished

Yesterday I set up a workspace for the 3D Printer I received the other day. Actually, my wife allowed me to use a small corner of her studio where she makes her wonderful hats. Check out her website- Ningen Headwear for some great winter hats!

I spent a good couple of hours leveling the bed, installing software on our computer, and getting a couple of designs ready to print. The first test design was a thank you to my wife for use of her space. She had made some face masks and wanted one of these to try out. It was technically “Headwear” related- Surgical Mask Strap. I figured it was an easy print and wouldn’t take very long.

Boy was I wrong.

After about half a dozen failed attempts just starting, I eventually got a print that was not at all what it was meant to be. It was missing some layers. Back to the Internet and YouTube to figure out my issue. Turns out I hadn’t set the proper parameters for my brand of printer.

A couple tweaks and we had a successful first print! Followed by two more successes! I could really get addicted to this feeling of accomplishment. But now I am out of my spool of plastic. Time to wait for the Amazon order to arrive. During that time, I plan on getting some more files downloaded and ready to print.

I see how this could become a love/hate relationship with a 3D printer.

Winter Hats

Who makes the best winter hats? Clearly I’m going to tell you it’s my wife! She has been making fleece hats for almost fifteen years. So she knows a thing or two about what she’s doing. She’s the definition of a “Mompreneur”.

What does the Fox say?

As a family, we’ve had so much fun because of her small business. From sporting these great hats to attending a Multitude of Comic Conventions. Nowadays, my wife and I are far too busy to attend those shows, but she still makes hats from her online store- Ningen Headwear.

So while your stuck at home and despising the weather- surf the Internet and check out Ningen Headwear . My wife would be happy to make custom colored hats to keep you warm this winter!

Saying Goodbye

Sunday was the last day of our Convention. I had to say goodbye to all of my friends. It was the last day of Calgary Expo, but also a bitter end to many years of shows. We won’t be returning.

I’m severely saddened by this. But many factors have come into play over the past little while. Last year I toted about My Fandom Family and how great everyone is. I love these people. Even back in 2016 we were hoping to Expand our small business- it just won’t be happening.

Since 2016, sales at Conventions have dropped. To be honest- the sales more like nosedived. What used to be lucrative and profitable, suddenly became, “Are we going to just recoup costs?” We gave it a couple of years, but sadly no increase.

Besides our declining sales, a few other factors have also come into the decision to not return. First, my wife has started a new job. She will be working for a company full time and can’t create stock or take off time for out of town shows. So her Business will be scaled back to just online sales- no more travel to conventions. We can now use vacation time to vacation!

Secondly, our children are getting older. We do not want to take them out of school as their workload is heavier than it was when they were younger. Our oldest has entered adulthood by getting (and loving) her first job, so time off for her means she makes less money. She is now saving up for her next big purchase.

Lastly, after doing Conventions for nearly a decade, we’re a bit burnt out. So many stresses lead up to a show as well as when we are there. We also haven’t done a decent cosplay in a couple of years. There was just too much going on in life. I am hoping to take on a new hobby and just make replica movie props for myself.

Yes, I’m saddened by the fact that I put down in words the finale of our traveling business. And just like that, our convention circuit is pretty much all done. We went out with hardly a whimper. No big fanfare saying it’s over. It’s just over.

Just some hugs and handshakes to say farewell to our friends- with many a promise to stay in contact. All of the conventions were a blast, but now it is time to move on. Let the next stage of life begin.

Break? What Break?

Last week we drove from the Vancouver, BC area to San Jose for Silicon Valley Comic Con. We left on Wednesday stayed one night in Ashland, Oregon before a weekend of nerdiness.  We returned home by leaving at 05:30 on Monday to make it home by 8:30pm the same night.  We only have a couple of nights at home…


And we are leaving again tomorrow morning at 08:00 to drive through the Rocky Mountains and into Calgary, Alberta. We are going to drive straight through and should be there by 8:00pm the same day.  Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo is a four day event beginning Thursday. It’s a hard go, but a lot of fun.  

It’s even harder go to have a day and a half in between traveling.  I’m on vacation from my regular job and when we return from Calgary, I’ll have six days of recovery.  My wife isn’t as lucky.  Her business is always on.  She is constantly working.  Even while selling at these shows, she is often sneaking off to email correspond with online questions.  Her business is her pride and joy and she takes it very seriously.


My wife also has ups and downs but can’t just leave it in the office.  Her studio is only steps away from the side door of our home. She doesn’t get to go on vacation as easily as myself.  But when I’m on vacation and traveling with her- I like to think that I’m alleviating some of her work load.  

And I get to hit conventions!  Have I mentioned how much I enjoy those?

Convention Carny

My favorite part about the conventions we attend? Being a Convention Carny.  And we hit quite a few conventions.


We get to be there before the show opens.  Often setting up a day in advance or sometimes only hours before the public comes in. My wife and I learn the layout of the show floor by wandering around talking with other vendors and artists.


We see all the cool stuff and have extra time to talk to everyone prior to the tens of thousands attendees flooding in.  I try and keep my cool, but sometimes my inner nerd goes all Fan-Girl.  I’ve gotten giddy over the Batmobile, Delorean, and a slew of astromech robots (R2-D2 for those who didn’t know). This show? NASA gives me a bit of a chubby.


I’m 41. Dreams of being an astronaut have long since gone by the wayside. But it’s still fun to see where mankind is going. This weekend I’m planning on attending some of the panels about space and exploration.


The coolest thing for me though was seeing the WordPress booth.  I spoke with some of the staff there.  Most were hired for the show only, not really knowing anything about the app or the website.  I’m no genius when it comes to using this app- but I spoke with them about writing a daily blog.  They accepted my knowledge and in the end- looked me up.


For a moment I was a mini celebrity to about… three people. It felt good. I never expect to have thousands of followers. I write for the joy of it. 

Tomorrow is the busy day.  Saturday.  I’ll be my wife’s “Table Tart” and try to sell her handmade hats and cosplay ears. Mostly in between the guest panels. Come out and visit us at Ningen Headwear table B24 and say hello.  Or buy something.  We like that as well!

Emerald City Comicon: The Sunday

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!  We’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge!

The final day of Emerald City. A sense of relief had washed over the artists and vendors before the day began. We mingled and shook hands and wished each other good luck for the day. We were all tired with sore feet and getting “peopled out”.   We all knew the end was in sight.


Then the crowds entered. The show floor filled with people eager to buy goods. Unusual for a Sunday. Oftentimes people say they will come back & don’t. But it seems many were true to their word, at least for us. The sales were strong throughout the weekend. Our Sunday sales were comparable to our Friday and Saturday sales. In fact, we beat Saturday’s sales making this another successful convention.

Lastly, we did our tear down. Over the years of numerous conventions, my wife has developed a system that gets us packed up and out within 30 minutes.  

We were home a couple of hours after that. It sure will be nice to sleep in our own bed tonight.

Emerald City Comicon: Saturday.

Saturday.
The hardest day of nearly every con is Saturday. All of the artists and vendors know it. We power through the crowds and the overabundance of human interactions in order to have a successful day. Emerald City was no different.

We made it through. A couple of lulls in the crowds towards the end of the day allowed for an escape from our vendor table to visit fellow vendors.  The consensus seemed the same:  The traffic flow was odd.  Many of us attribute it to the fact that they have added an extra day to the show (Thursday).  So instead of a traditional three day event, it’s now four days.  This spreads out the spending from the crowds over an extra day.

My wife did fairly well for the day.  As with most Saturdays at any show- we are limited to the amount of wandering we do (besides a quick visit to see friends nearby).  There always needs to be someone at the booth watching it.  Having both of us there for the majority of the time made it difficult to enjoy the show floor.  This worked in our favor- we didn’t spend much money!


We also didn’t see much in the way of cosplay in our location.  But the cosplay we did see was quite well done.  It made me sad that I didn’t have a plan for this show.  But I have six weeks to get something together for our next show.

After the show tonight, we met up with a couple fellows from my work for dinner and beer.  It was a good way to relax- but knowing we had an early morning ahead of us, meant cutting out early.  Even though we are at the convention, it’s still a business trip for my wife.  

I can’t escape it- Sunday will be all work and no play.

Emerald City: Friday


Our first full day at Emerald City Comicon began as it always does.  Since we are in Seattle, a trip to the Starbucks is in order.  This is so I can try one of their specialty Comicon inspired drinks.  This year’s was a choice between “The Groot” and “Hulk Smash”.  I opted for Hulk today.

The next thing we do is re-arrange our set up.  I have no idea why this happens- but it happens every time.  It’s like we show up, place the merchandise out, and then on the Friday- change it up.  And we end up selling lots of stuff!

Then we head off to greet old friends. As you start to become more familiar with them, you know how to act around them.  

There is one fellow who shakes hands by clasping your hand between his.  He also insists on hugging us. He is super friendly and exudes a pleasant energy that makes the rest of the day joyous.  A great way to get your convention juices flowing.  As we do our rounds, we start to network with more vendors.  Most everyone is friendly and willing to share advice about the con or future events. 


Then the sales begin.  The day rushes past in a flurry of smiles and chitchat until suddenly there’s only an hour remaining.  During that hour is a lot of talking with the nearby vendors about how the day went.  Many have big smiles knowing it was a success.  All of us knowing there is still two days left to go.

Now it’s time for a quiet evening in the hotel.  The next day is the big one.  Saturday.  The day that most people attend.  The day that sometimes increases the attendance by 50%.  The busy day.  The rough one.

Romantically Relaxing at the Roosevelt.

We are staying in the Roosevelt in Seattle for the weekend.  It’s our third time in this hotel in the past three years.  We keep coming back because of the luxury of it.  It’s in the upper price range of most of the locations we stay in for trips and conventions.  Usually you find us residing in a Holiday Inn Express.  But the Roosevelt has much more to it, even if it doesn’t come with a free breakfast.


It’s half a block from the convention center.  It’s also centrally located near restaurants and shops.  The rooms have been updated over the past year and are the epitome of high end.  The view of the city from our room is beautiful.  They offer valet parking and the staff is really friendly.  The staff has suggested many wonderful restaurants in the area, and all have delivered exactly as promised.  Especially Kizuki ramen.  Probably the best ramen I have ever eaten.


It may sound like I’m giving a five star review on *YELP, but we have had nothing but a wonderful experience with this location.  My wife and I are extremely relaxed.  The room is tastefully decorated with only furniture.  No tacky hotel artwork on the walls.  The most artsy thing is the clock radio.  

For a weekend in Seattle, this is a great place to stay.  I’m looking forward to another couple of nights here while we attend Emerald City Comicon.

The Big One

The Big One is happening this weekend and as usual it will be earth shattering.  San Diego Comic Con is the convention that started it all 46 years ago.  It began small and slowly grew.  Then it suddenly exploded in the 21st Century and has continued to gain popularity among movie goers, comicbook collectors, videogame fanatics, actors, film studios, media outlets, and everyone in between.  


Over the past few years, SDCC has reached a new level of importance in the entertainment industry.  Tickets are sought after by fans for access to exclusive merchandise, film previews, actor panels, and seeing killer costumes.  This weekend, most of my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feed will be filled with all things COMIC CON.  Saying that I’m jealous that we aren’t going to be there is an understatement.  However, seeing it through the eyes of those who I follow on social media is probably better for getting an all around feel of the con.  It saves me from waiting 4 hours to get into a panel at the fabled Hall H.  

As much as we go to conventions to sell my wife’s hats (Check out Ningen Headwear), SDCC would have us lost in a sea of vendors that are far too big for us to compete with.  For our little business, we make sure that we sell at Conventions that have an attendance of over 70k people.  That’s a fairly big number.  Our favorite Con: Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo.  Calgary hit over 102,000 in 2015.  Not a bad number at all.  Except SDCC 2015 had 167,000 attendees.  I’m not a fan of crowds of that magnitude.  I am quite content to be able to view everything on my cellphone and still get excited over the news that will come from SDCC.  Ok, I am still jealous of those enjoying the show.

I do love the convention circuit and get depressed if it’s been too long in between shows.  This past spring we crammed in four conventions in just over a month.  That was a tad bit overwhelming.  We are lucky that our children have been attending cons with us for so long and started at such a young age.  They are used to the crowds and what a Comic Con has to offer.  The first convention I ever attended was when I was a teenager.  I went to a Star Trek convention with a friend from school.  It was a one day event and the crowd was probably about 6000 people.  

The struggle is real.


I loved it.  The costumes were classic Star Trek and Star Trek:TNG mostly.  Same with the merchandise being sold.  There was some other Sci-Fi memorabilia and trinkets for sale.  At age 14 I only brought $20 with me.  It was hard to decide what I needed to buy.  I couldn’t afford a tricorder and forking over $4 for a Star Trek Federation lapel pin was really difficult.  Most boys my age were hanging pictures & posters of girlsor cars on their walls.  The other big purchase at my first convention was a $12 six foot tall door poster.  It was sexy in all of its glory.  It was of the Xenomorph Alien breaking through the door.  I kept that poster for years as a fond memory of that introduction into a world that made me feel like I fit in.


Now it seems that the Geeks shall inherit the earth.  It is prevalent when looking around and everything is nerd based & mainstream.  SDCC is even hosting a Pokemon GO event in the coveted Hall H this weekend.  Perhaps we shall see a sighting of a rare Pokemon!  I’m also excited about the possibility of some teaser Star Wars and Marvel movie clips.

Expect me to be buzzing with joy all weekend, even if it’s just in spirit.  Enjoy SDCC 2016!

Closer to Home

We are getting ready for Con number three of the spring season.  Emerald City Comicon has been a roller-coaster ride for us over the years.  We had a great first year, terrible second year, and a great third year.  The convention circuit is fickle.  The company that runs Emerald City Comicon changed at the end of last year’s con so we had to jump through some new hoops and re-think our merchandise layout.  Every convention is different, and each presents its own challenges.  Some conventions, we are in the Artist Alley, sometimes we end up in The Vendor’s Hall, at WonderCon we were at The Dealer Tables.  Emerald City Comicon is a great convention, don’t get me wrong.  It’s huge and fun and there’s plenty to see and do.  It has become so large in fact, that they have added an extra day and expanded the gaming area into the hotel next door.

We do this Convention because it is fairly close to home.  We have taken the kids with us, but have since decided not to.  Seattle is an expensive city to visit.  My wife and I are taking a weekend to ourselves this time around.   Today is our crazy packing day.  We’ve been home for only a week and are ready to go back out again!  I love helping my wife out with her business.  She makes her products and I do the sales (generally).  It’s a good way for us to travel, meet people and generate some extra income.

As usual, I am promoting her business.  She doesn’t like to self-promote, so I try and get her out there every chance I get.

Banner 2016

If you can, take a moment and “Like” her page on facebook & follow her on Twitter.  She shares her adventures and pictures on Instagram as well.

And if you wish to purchase or request a custom hat, contact her through her website: Ningen Headwear or through her shop on Etsy.

We hope to see everyone at one of the next couple conventions!  If you’re at Emerald City this weekend, stop by and say hello!

Faded dragon Thanks2015

Running a Home Business 

My wife has a small home based business.  She creates fleece hats and hair clips in a small studio off the side of our home.  Shameless promotion here: Ningen Headwear

Her business started about eleven years ago as a way of making some extra money while our children were toddlers.  My wife attended craft fairs and sold on eBay from 2005-2010.  Etsy showed up in 2009 and she began selling there.  From that point on, she made numerous contacts and began focusing her products towards a specific genre.  We attended our first Anime Convention, and thus began a new way of life.

My wife’s business pays for our trips.  We incorporate vacation time with the Comic Cons.  As a family we love the Convention Circuit.  The kids are often dressing up in Cosplay, having photos taken, meeting celebrities, meeting fantastic artists and just having a good time.  It doesn’t feel like work when we are there.  But building stock and merchandise, that feels like work.

 

Inspirational view and sewing machines.

 

Last year I finally completed my wife’s studio.  Up until this point, our dining room and spare bedroom was where she worked 11.5 months of the year.  We only ever packed up for the two weeks at Christmas to make it feel like a home again.  Now she walks out the door and enters her own world.  She puts in full time hours but it feels like part time pay.  That’s the cost of running a home business.  No one tells you it will take twice as much time for half the results.

In my spare time, if I’m not doing housework or general home repairs, I try and help her.  I don’t know how to sew.  I don’t know how to measure and cut fabric.  I do know how to update her website.  I know how to sit at her embroidery machine and thread it (thank you movie theater experience for that!)

 

Busy making fan favorites!

 

My wife’s home business isn’t going to make millions.  But it does make her happy.  My wife makes her customers happy as well and their feedback is phenomenal.  That’s a job satisfaction that comes with taking pride in your work.  Her business also keeps us traveling.  Which allows for us to spend quality time together.  That is worth more to us than any amount of money.

Running a home based business isn’t easy- but it sure can be rewarding.