Oneka Samet owner of Chou Anime Café, grew up on American comic books like X-Men and the Silver Surfer. With a penchant for reading comics, she sold Anime books and merchandise at booths at Wayne State University’s student center. She also set up shop at Russell Bazaar in Detroit and anime conventions around the Midwest.
These little booths helped prepare her for her future as cafe owner. The decision to open a cafe was made in 2010, when she took a two week vacation to Japan to take in the culture. “I’d always been into Japanese fashion,” said Samet. She spent this time taking in sites and as much Japanese culture as she could. By the time she left she had a desire to bring Japan back home. That’s when she decided to open up Chou Anime Café. You can read Oneka’s full story here.
Here, Oneka shares with us how you can turn your own hobby into a unique business idea.
You have a hobby, but now you need to figure out how your hobby could be of use to others. This is where a business plan comes in. Write down all your ideas. If you want to sell posters that you designed do you need a physical storefront or will a website do? If you like to read and want to start a bookstore do you want to sell books by local authors or New York Times bestsellers? Figure out the best way to make your hobby into a business and organize how you plan to make it happen.
If you’re still in school your university may offer a business incubator where they help you form your business plan. You can also check out Tech Town Detroit. However you do it, get your ideas out and organized.
Creating a business is hard, but fortunately, you’re not the first to ever try. So, find a mentor. If you know someone, great, if not ask around. Your friends or their friends might know someone in business. Once you find someone, don’t assume they’ll do it. Mentoring is a commitment that some people just don’t have the time for. If they say “no”, thank them and continue looking.
If you want to find a mentor that you know is willing, try SCORE. SCORE is an online program that sets people up with mentors.
You should have figured out how much it would cost to start your business when you created your business plan. Now it’s time to get the dough! If you have a job, save up as much money as possible to put towards your new business. Apply for loans, take donations. There are plenty of fundraising and donation sites online like Go Fund Me.
Now’s also a good time to start an LLC, or Limited Liability Company. This is a business that is its own legal entity which means that you as the owner are not personally liable for the LLCs debts and other liabilities.
This can be as small as a booth at a flea market like Russell Bazaar if you don’t yet have the funds. If you do have the funds it’s time to shop for a building in an area that seems suited to your business. Remember that location is important. Opening a hair salon in an area with five other popular hair salons might not be the best. Find an area where the competition is low and offers plenty of foot or car traffic.
Look for upcoming conventions in your field. Conventions are great for networking and getting advice from people who’ve been in business longer than you. Bring some business cards or pamphlets to get your business out there. You may even get a few patrons or customers from the event!