What does it mean to be a geek but to have an unusual passion … and to take that passion to new heights? Many of us find our niche by turning our hobby or obsession into a business and that business into a successful, lifelong career.
Such an entrepreneurial spirit took Steve Jobs from his garage to the Fortune 500, after all. Some hobbies are admittedly harder to monetize than others; collecting vintage phone cards can take you interesting places, but it’s unlikely to be self-sustaining.
So it’s essential to be judicious when you’re trying to decide whether you can turn your hobby into a business. If you’re a total comic book nerd, though, you’re standing on a fairly firm foundation.
Open shop and put your comic smarts to work. Here’s what you need to know.
Find a Niche
The comic book shop market may not be saturated, but it’s a peculiar industry in that it fosters community. For that reason, the most successful shops are often ones that fit into a particular niche.
These shops draw a loyal following that can keep a new business afloat. What do we mean by a niche? Consider the Philadelphia-based Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse.
Ariell Johnson opened the shop as a way to help women, minorities, and low-income individuals connect with comic culture. This was a community that wasn’t being adequately served by the current collector and retail scene, so the focus on diversity has been wildly successful.
Use what you know to meet a need with your comics shop: that’s the key.
Many sellers make the mistake of stocking too many comics in too many categories when they open, and this can quickly become a problem for several reasons. First, opening a comic book shop is expensive: You’ll probably need to take out a business loan, find an appropriate space, invest in equipment and stock, and pay an array of legal fees.
Given all these necessary costs, your stock shouldn’t be something that weighs you down. Experienced comic shop owners like Chris Powell of Diamond Comic Distributors suggest it’s best to stock a wide variety of items, but not too much of any item.
That will bring in a wider range of customers and help you get a feel for what kind of clientele is active in the area. Comic readers as a whole are also more diverse these days, so they’ll expect to see a broader product line.
Location Matters … Somewhat
How much location matters for comic book shops is a matter of debate. Some believe that you can put a comic shop nearly anywhere and it will succeed if the stock is good and the staff knowledgeable. Geeks are hungry for community, and the opportunity to trade volumes, flip through vintage material, and check out the new issues.
Others in the industry, however, suggest that affluent areas with a younger population are more promising for comic book shops. It may depend on your niche and what you stock to say which of these is true going to be true for you.
No matter what your niche or neighborhood is, the most important thing you can do if you want to open a comic book shop is network. Attend trade shows and conferences, get to know others in the industry, and talk to them about their experiences.
These conferences are the best place to get inside information on the industry, find out about upcoming trends, and develop support from other shop owners and suppliers. You can’t succeed without a network.
Opening a comic book shop is a great way to share what you love with the world, and comics seem to be undergoing a resurgence. Look at all the mainstream movies that feature superheroes.
It will be hard work, but it will be a labor of love … and isn’t that the kind of career we all want to have?