Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Amai Aku, Owner of Demonic Cuties, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm in the business of illustrating fantastical pretty boy demons and other mythical creatures doing mundane things! I produce a lot of these original character designs as cute prints, stickers, and acrylic charms and sell them at all kinds of conventions and art markets around Toronto. Each piece has a little bit of back story or something special about the character present in it. And I'd like to think that their little tales are growing with each artwork I make for them.
Tell us about yourself
I've always adored art; I've been drawing for as long as I can remember but what really got me scribbling away at the time were dogs and anime. I only started to pursue art seriously at about the end of high school, but by that point, I was pretty sure I wanted to have a career in life that involved drawing or art in some way! And having visited conventions as an attendee for years, I finally had a little confidence to pursue a little nagging thought that often scratched at the corners of my brain - "Hey, why not try being on the other side of the table?". And with that, I began pursuing the convention artist life!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Honestly, my biggest accomplishment has been just putting my work out there and actually having people enjoy and respond to what I create and the silly characters I come up with. I never expected the response to my work that I have now, and I'm always so proud to have broken through the "what if no one likes this" hurdle, even just a little bit. Though it occasionally creeps back in, it's not as strong as it was before I started out!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I'd say it continues to be difficult to promote and advertise what I have going on! I'm always so focused on just making things that I slip up a lot on the marketing and showcasing side of things. I think that'll always remain a bit hard for me, but posting little snippets of artwork I'm working on and having people vote on which colours on a character's shirt they liked better have helped me try to stay engaged in the 'business' end of it.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Underline, bolded, and capitalized! Get advice from people in the same field! I talked to so many convention artists to gain a better perspective of how it was like selling their work, what their traffic looked like and what things they started off with so I wouldn't get too carried away at the start or flounder too much. Some floundering is still expected!
- Research! I love googling things; I can't stay curious. I even googled other convention tabling experiences to have some idea of what to expect and prepare accordingly. Other people's experiences were invaluable to starting up and figuring out when applications opened up for different exhibiting and convention opportunities.
- Just give it a shot. Obviously, if you're in a comfortable position to spend the money to start, go for it! Give it a try and start small and reasonable. I feel like it's easy to over-invest in something at the start because you're excited to start something new and extremely optimistic. However, often it's slow goings sales-wise, even just a trickle at first, and that can be discouraging when you've put in so much at the beginning and don't see any returns. Personally, I think starting with a small array of products and slowly increasing as you find your audience is the best way to go.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.