Posts tagged ‘anime expo’

The Kimchi Kawaii Year in Review!

Happy New Year!

Happy new year to everyone! Hard to believe that we are in 2015.

2014 was an amazing year for Kimchi Kawaii. I was able to meet some long-term goals I had set and had some surprises as well. The business grew a lot as I work towards doing this full time.

I went to eight conventions this year, three of them out of state – SacAnime Winter and Summer, AOD, Anime Boston, Fanime, AX, Otakon and Anime Weekend Atlanta.

At Fanime, I made the jump to dealers hall.

SacAnime Summer I had sales close to what I do at AX (which was amazing since SacAnime is still a growing con with attendance around 13-14k and AX is the largest in the country).

Anime Boston blew all artist alley sales records out of the water. This was my first year there and despite a hiccup with FedEx not shipping 1/3 of my stuff, I still had amazing sales there.

Otakon was another strong con for me – loving these East Coast cons 🙂

2014 saw me jump into the world of crowd funding. I ran two Kickstarters – one in May that didn’t fund and one in August that did. Both were to fund professionally manufactured plush.

The popular Steamed Bun plush for sale at my AWA artist alley table.

The popular Steamed Bun plush for sale at my AWA artist alley table.

I introduced plushies to my line up in March/April. They have totally taken off and I ended up spending most of the year behind my sewing machine trying to keep up with orders. Steamed Buns has been the biggest hit with about 80 sold already (35 came out of the Storenvy shop alone since being posted there for sale in the summer).

I just wrapped up the busiest holiday season ever with sales in the Storenvy that pushed me over the 100 sales mark. Am currently at 161 sales which is pretty good considering I’ve only had the shop for a year and a half. By comparison, I had the Artfire shop for a few years and probably totaled 50 sales over the entire life of the shop.

So what’s up for 2015?

LOTS!

I’ll be kicking off the con season right at the start with SacAnime Winter on Jan. 2nd. Then I’ll be flying off to Katsucon in Maryland for Valentine’s Day weekend. I’ll return to Anime Boston in April, Fanime dealer’s hall in May and will have two tables in the AX artist alley in July. The remainder of my summer cons have yet to post registration, but I’ll be updating the website as I get confirmations. I hope to return to Otakon and AWA.

I’m currently prototyping some more plush. I started two series of characters called Punny Buns – bread based bunnies and Coffee Cats. I’m hoping to have one go to crowd funding and the other to develop through pre-orders. Catpuccino is currently up for pre-order in my Storenvy shop.

I am also working on setting up an email newsletter that will go out once a month with current cons, news and exclusive discount codes to email subscribers. I’m hoping to launch that in January.

Whew! So that’s what I’ve got planned already and as I write this, we haven’t even started 2014 yet. Many of these things have been in planning since this past summer.

I want to close out by saying sincerest thanks to all who’ve helped make this a banner year for Kimchi Kawaii. Here’s to 2015!

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January 1, 2015 at 12:23 pm Leave a comment

Artist Alley Review: Anime Expo 2014

Anime Expo 2014 has wrapped up so once again it’s time for another artist alley review. This was one is best summed up in the words of Charles Dickens – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’. Sales were decent and I exceeded my sales goal, but it was a close one, marred by the insane lines that everyone was complaining about pretty much all con.

AX is the largest anime con in Northern California and the sheer numbers of potential customers is the reason I keep going, however this year was trying my patience and at one point, I wasn’t sure I was going to come back. I thought of getting my badge on Day 0 (something that many cons allow attendees to do so they have the full time when con is running), but I kept hearing horror stories on the lines through my Facebook feed so decided to skip. I heard people waited up to 8+ hours in full sun and 90+ temperatures to get their badges due to sheer volume and numerous technical glitches. I was so glad that AX had a separate check in for artist alley participants so just figured I wouldn’t have an issue the morning of Day 1.

Ha. Hope springs eternal.

Angry plush bunny, steamed buns in the registration line.

Steamed Buns is not a fan of Line Con, especially in the artist alley check-in.

My helper and I got there around 9:30 figuring that was enough time to check-in and have a decent amount of time to set up before the hall opened to VIPs at 11:30. Instead, we stood in one line and then were shifted over to another line that started to snake out the door. No one seemed to know where we were supposed to be going. The artists were mostly left to their own organizing further down the line. I never saw an AX staff person directing traffic. We ended up waiting about an hour to get checked in and then had to work our way through the massive crowds in the lobby to the entrance to the exhibit hall. By the time I got to my table, I had about 30 minutes to set up. I can (and did) do it, but I really hate starting a con like that. I was hot and flustered by the time I finally sat down, just as the general public was let in.

I was also frustrated by the fact that the AX system messed up my helper’s reg and had her listed as a general attendee. I brought this to the staff’s attention. They said to change her badge, I had to pay $10 extra as that matched the current reg fees. Many artists who had the same problem were puzzled by this as this has happened in the past and we’ve never had to pay a difference. Also, I don’t think this was fair as I had registered her properly as my helper long before con. But at this point, I was watching the clock tick away and just wanted to get to my table with more than 10 minutes to set up so I forked over the money. I also didn’t want her to get shifted over to the general reg line cause then I wouldn’t see her til like Day 3.

If any AX staff are reading this, please address this glitch that keeps happening year after year in your system. Or don’t penalize the artists for your system’s mistakes. It’s hardly fair.

Day 1 sales were pretty bad, honestly. There’s no sugar coating that. For a con the size of AX, I should have made more than I did. I knew I was in trouble when I barely filled one sales sheet. Normally, I can fill two. I spoke with other artists who said the same thing. Sales were described as ‘slow’, ‘bad’ and ‘abysmal’. The ridiculous lines for pre-reg badge pick up meant that  most attendees were either standing outside or by the time they got their badges, so hot and tired that they just weren’t shopping (or didn’t care). At this point, I was thinking that if the rest of con continued that way, I was going to drop AX from my line up.

Day 2, my helper and I got there earlier so we could walk around the exhibit hall a bit together before things opened. I had a new set up this time to accommodate my plushies which had the added bonus of an easy close and opening. I was able to just clip my sheet over the front. We got to look at stuff before the masses came in and then got down to business. Sales picked up and I had my highest totals for the con that day. But boy was it HOT in there! I don’t remember seeing so many people fanning themselves as I did at this con. The temps remained an issue throughout con. I don’t know if someone forgot to turn on the ac or it just couldn’t handle the crowds, but I found myself really glad that I had picked up the free Hello Kitty fan earlier.

Me at my crowded little table on Day 2 of Anime Expo.

Me at my crowded little table on Day 2 of Anime Expo.

Day 3 also posted strong sales. It was a strange trend though as the customers’ buying habits were a bit like the last day for me where there aren’t as many people visiting the table, but the ones who do, buy higher amounts. I cosplayed as Sailor Mars to deal with the heat, but I still made use of the fan.

AX opens up next year’s artist alley reg to all artists currently selling on the third day at a discount rate. I was told it would open at 3pm this day. So at 2:30, I went to the designated area and waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

I was paying cash for my table for 2015. Apparently, the ONE person who was authorized to handle cash decided to go to lunch around that time. They started filtering us in from the cash only line to the credit payment line which further slowed the lines for everyone. This just smacked of horrible planning and communication. The cashier had all day to go to lunch and everyone knew prior to con that reg was going to open that day at that time. It’s not like it was some last minute decision. I have no idea why they weren’t told to take lunch earlier. Horrible communication. And when they finally got back, registration was marred once again by technical issues which took like 10-15 minutes to resolve for each person trying to sign up. I was the first person in the line to actually have my reg go smoothly. I ended up waiting about two and a half hours to register. I heard that other artists got stuck in that line for even longer.

Day 4 was a partial day (ended three hours earlier) and sales were once again good so I was able to meet my sales goal. Each year, I’ve been able to increase sales totals from the year before. After Day 1, I wasn’t so sure, but strong sales the following three days helped greatly.

I was also aided by my plushies. This was the second con where I had a bunch of plushies (Anime Boston I only had eggplants and fortune cookies as I had just started sewing them). The steamed buns in their bamboo steamers were a hit and some people bought the other mochi buns with steamers as well. I was sold out of nearly all buns by the end of Day 2. The eggplants all went to good homes by the end of con and the Sweet Dreams Strawberries also sold out. This just proved my theory that there is a different mind set in artist alleys that benefit custom plush vs. the dealers hall where I had to compete against mass produced plush from China and barely moved the berries. Sadly, I ran out of time to make my fortune and misfortune cookies which were big hits at both Anime Boston and Fanime. I will have them for Otakon though!

Despite all this, I went ahead and purchased two tables for 2015. Going from a 10×10 square foot dealers’ booth to a 6’ artist alley table was ROUGH. I was so cramped and I wonder if that was part of the reason some of my items didn’t sell as well – that customers just didn’t see them. As things started to sell out, I would rearrange stuff and then notice that those items would finally start to move. The second table wasn’t too much more and this will give me space to really display my product effectively. I’ll also have more storage space underneath so we aren’t as crammed in.

So, there is my experience of AX in a (rather large) nutshell. I heard that they reached their attendance cap of 85k paid attendees and stopped accepting same day registrations. That’s a whole lotta people, folks! This was my third time doing AX’s artist alley. Customers are starting to remember me and look for me each year now at this con. Sales totals are among my top three highest cons, so I would like to continue coming to this one. At this point, it’s up to Anime Expo to work out their communication, staffing and technical issues to keep me coming back.

And from the chatter I’m hearing on FB, there are a lot of attendees who would agree.

 

July 8, 2014 at 9:03 pm 1 comment

Artist Alley Con Review: Anime Expo 2013- Another case of the good, bad and meh

Got back from Anime Expo last night and took today off to reset and do important stuff like writing con reviews, lol!

So how was AX 2013? Well, honestly a bit of a mixed bag for me. Usually, I come home from cons feeling like ‘THAT WAS TEH AWESUM’ and ride on con vibes for at least a week. This time, I feel mostly tired and just ready to move on to the next one. First off, the good part…

My roommate from college lives down in the Los Angeles area so AX is always a time when I get to hang out with her and we just love being goofy and eating too much. This time was no different. At one point, we did cat bearding pictures (new internet meme that I suggest googling if you want/need a good laugh). I haven’t laughed that hard in ages. We both couldn’t breath and had tears streaming down. I also got to meet up with another good friend from the LA area and see her new baby. Plus, it was just nice to get a break from the triple digit heat wave that had socked in Northern California for the previous week. Had to laugh at the radio weather report one day when they were saying ‘It’s gonna be a good day to head to the beach cause it’s gonna be HOT at 80 degrees in the valley’. Uh, 80 degrees sounds like heaven to me when it’s been 114 where I live! Isn’t that sweater weather? Lol!

Really cool Vanellope cosplay at AX. And her car even moved!

Really cool Vanellope cosplay at AX. And her car even moved!

I was able to get away from my table nearly every day to take pictures of cosplayers in the South Hall lobby where most hung out. I’m always blown away by the costumes that some people come up with. And then you realize that a lot of those are hand made and that makes them even more awesome. Usually, I’m working on stock like mad for my table so I rarely get to make a cosplay, but I really would like to do some super complicated one just to see what I can do. Usually, I’m just wearing lolita at my table 🙂

I was seated next to two artist friends in the AA which was great. Your neighbors can really make or break an AA experience. I didn’t get to talk to one of them as much as we seemed to be busy at opposite times, but did get to talk to the one on my right side. As I get more AA’s under my belt, it’s always fun to catch up with artists I only see online. I also got to talk to this one artist I follow on dA. He was super nice and it was just fun ‘talking shop’ and also flattering to find out that he was already following me on dA!

Ok, and now the meh part….

AX is the largest anime con in North America. I had a certain sales goal that I was hoping to reach and based on previous sales from Fanime, I thought I would reach and possibly surpass that goal. Instead, I made LESS than Fanime. This is rather disappointing as AX has probably a few thousand more attendees than Fanime. More people should mean more sales, right? In addition, Fanime this year was an organizational fail whale (see my Fanime review) for 2013. Due to construction at the San Jose Convention Center, they put the artist alley out in the Tent of Doom called South Hall and despite assurances that they would widely promote the location change, there was minimal signage and barely a mention in the program book. It took some con goers like two days just to find us or even realize there was an AA. And yet, I sold more there than at AX.

I think part of it is due to the size of AX. I think it’s gotten to the point of visual overload. The AA is in the back of the already huge dealers hall. Getting through the dealers area is like being on a Los Angeles freeway in the peak of commute hour with a car wreck on the side. I could barely move there and it was just not fun to go through. My friend and I largely avoided it other than when I had to navigate it to get to the lobby. Any shopping we did there we kept to the early hours before it got super crazy. So by the time you’ve worked your way through the dealers, you’re feeling already overwhelmed and the AA at AX is also huge and by then, you’re kinda walking around with a glazed look and not really taking things in.

Fanime’s AA is also very large at 300ish artists, but we are always in a separate room dedicated specifically to the AA. I think that this can help with the sense of sensory overload. You can do the crazy dealers room which is always a circus, take a break and then go to the AA room when you’re ready. In smaller cons, it helps with driving in traffic when the AA is tacked on to the dealers, but in larger cons like AX, I think it ends up hurting sales more than helping. As I stated above, getting through the dealers to the AA alone is exhausting and then you really have no energy to fully take in what the artists are offering. I also didn’t quite understand why the aisles near the front of the AA were so narrow, but then wider at the back. There have been suggestions of scaling down the AA and while I know that this will make getting a table harder, I think that could help. A lot of people seemed to be just passing through to say that they did the AA, but weren’t REALLY looking.

I heard reports of rude con staff. While I didn’t experience that personally, I did find the ones I interacted with largely misinformed or rather clueless. When I went down to register for 2014’s AA table, I had to ask three people before I found an answer. And on the last day we had a staffer come by and tell my neighbor that artists needed to pack up at 2 cause dealers needed the space for their clean up at 3. They then told her to pass the word down the line. This I found rather rude and annoying. First of all, we signed a contract stating that we had a space to sell at until 3. That last hour is often when people start doing their impulse buys so leaving an hour early could cut into sales. Secondly, something that was that different from what was expected shouldn’t be relying on a game of telephone to get the message to everyone. They should have told each of us. Get more staff if you need to spread the word. Relying on the rumor mill is just unprofessional and a great way to ensure mass miscommunication. Finally, she had to go to the AA kiosk to find out if this was even true which it wasn’t, though they still wanted us semi-packed up and out of there within half an hour of the hall closing. What if she hadn’t been able to get away from her table to confirm if this was true? How many artists took this at face value and packed up early? Staff need to get their facts straight before telling paying customers (cause that is what we are) about some deviation in the printed schedule.

And maybe I’m still tired, but it really made me feel a bit angry cause it kind of gave the message of ‘you’re just the artists, we need this space for the more important people who pay more money to be here’. Thank you for making us feel like second rate people! Yes, I can’t afford the crazy prices for a dealers spot, but that doesn’t mean I work any less than they do. I probably work harder since my stuff is assembled by me and I’m a one woman show here. If I’ve paid for my spot with the understanding that I have that spot for the stated hours, unless there is a legitimate reason for me to leave early, I have every right to be there for the full, expected time. I really didn’t appreciate being told that and in the way we were told either and judging from their reactions, I think my fellow artists near me felt the same way.

So all in all, I rate AX 2013 with a ‘meh’ rating. Maybe my expectations were too high. I was super excited to go to this one and in the end, was just kinda ready to be done and move on. Both AX and Fanime are on a probation status with me now. I will be going to both next year and will see if there have been changes in a positive direction, addressing the complaints that many are posting on the cons’ pages and Facebook walls and then decide if these are worth attending in the future or if it’s time to start looking for greener pastures. So far, SakuraCon takes the 2013 cake for the best organized, friendliest large anime con. If anyone who works for SakuraCon is reading this, pat yourself on the back, you totally out did both Fanime and AX in my book and I can’t wait to go back to your con.

I have a few more cons in store for 2013 before I take a break and focus on promoting my shops for holiday sales. Upcoming cons are Kintoki Con, Japan Expo USA, SacAnime and Anime Weekend Atlanta. If you want to see where I’m off to next, you can follow my Facebook page or keep tabs on my website.

July 8, 2013 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

Hello from Crazy Land!

I know it’s been really quiet here for the last month or so. Since Fanime, I’ve been doing crazy, mad prep for Anime Expo which is coming up in a few days. I’ll be selling at table B28 in the artist alley so come see me if you’re attending. The Storenvy shop is currently in maintenance mode as they don’t have a vacation mode. Zazzle of course, is open 24/7 so no changes there.

Big news is that I just found out that I’m off the wait list and in at Anime Weekend Atlanta’s artist alley! Super excited about that one cause this will be my first time selling on the eastern half of the US and I’ll get to see some of my deviantART friends that I’ve only corresponded with online so far. I’ll post the table number as soon as I have it and hope to see some of you there.

In other news, Zazzle just launched their new site redesign. I went in and formatted all my stuff for banners and whatnot the other night so things are nice and clean. I really like the new layout. I think it fits in well with my website and the whole Kimchi Kawaii brand look. For some reason, I can’t get a picture of it to upload here, grr. I’ve got a laundry list of stuff to get done for Anime Expo and about 6 more hours to do it all in, so I’ll have to figure that out later. In the meantime, you can click on the link above.

July 2, 2013 at 1:49 am Leave a comment


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